Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

SADNESS WITHOUT WORDS, PRETTY WITHOUT KITTY

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I woke up this morning with those words going through my head. So … blog title! I’ve been sad and depressed a lot lately. I think it’s mostly a reflection of sad, I’m sad while awake, sad while asleep. I took the above picture outside my house last night. Ran inside to grab my camera, took pics, somehow the camera failed. So the above is from my crappy flip phone camera. A blue searchlight? A crack in the sky one friend asked when I sent the pic? I never saw anything like it before in my life. It persisted for a good ten minutes before fading away. That’s what I love about reality, always cool new shit to see. As for what it was, pretty sure it’s what is called an anticrepuscular ray. It was  exactly opposite the setting sun at sunset. Just the perfect condition in the sky to only see the one blue stripe. I like seeing things in the sky. Saw a sunspot with my naked eyes once. No UFOs yet though.

Yes, I have been writing a lot lately. The plan is to write and post every day until President Trump leaves office. Of his own accord, frogmarched, dragged kicking and screaming, whatevers. What if he gets reelected? Or conquers the world? I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it, anything is possible. I wasn’t one of the gobsmacked when Trump won the 2016 election, her majesty Clinton seemed determined to alienate any but her faithful. I’m writing every day because the most horrifying election of my life is going on as Covid-19 rages essentially unchecked across the land, the most horrible event of my life. America is burning. A chronicle of a terrible time for future and foreign readers.

Speaking of Covid-19, it broke out in Vietnam again. A big breakout this time, their first deaths. Ten died so far. In other words there have been plenty of nursing homes in the US hit harder by Covid-19 than Vietnam. Vietnam was, and is, one of the big success stories in the pandemic. They went into full shutdown and lockdown mode in January, keeping cases down to a few hundred with no deaths. And in the past few months basically resumed normal life. Then, poof, a huge outbreak in Da Nang. They don’t actually know how it got back in the country, the best guess is that it didn’t, that it was quietly circulating asymptomatically locally. The lesson here, this is one ferociously infectious virus and only strong national action can control it. Da Nang has been completely sealed off and shut down now. Meanwhile in Sturgis, South Dakota, America, what pandemic? Sigh.

When I wrote “America is burning” above, I had yet to hear about the rioting in Chicago. Sadly I think it’s just the beginning. People are desperate. Poor communities have been hit particularly hard economically by Covid-19. And with a disproportionate number of deaths too. And there’s not only no relief in sight, neither political party seems terribly interested in offering help to the poor and downtrodden. This is America? And Trump is not exactly a great unifier who will try to calm the nation. He will be sending in waves of cops and soldiers. It will almost certainly get uglier.

How did we get here? Lebanon is actually a good example of what the problem is. America has divided into two tribes, who view everything through a political ideological lens. (While the rich have stolen everything and continue to loot even as the nation burns.) The idea of the common good has been completely lost, it’s everyone for themselves, with loyalty to one’s own faction trumping all else. Everything is seen through a political lens. Unfortunately, as I have pointed out before, Covid-19 is utterly immune to partisan politics. Anyhow, this article about Lebanon articulates it better than I can: Beirut’s Blast Is a Warning for America. In this country, as in Lebanon, everything is now politics. I know it’s behind a paywall, open in an anonymous browser window to read, it’s worth the trouble. Just for this insight:

“This trend is not only hurting us, it’s literally killing us. The reason Trump has utterly failed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic is that he finally met a force he could not discredit and deflect by turning it into politics — Mother Nature. She is impenetrable to politics because all she consists of is chemistry, biology and physics. And she will do whatever they dictate — in this case, spread a coronavirus — whether Trump affirms it or not.”

And that’s the optimistic article. Here’s another good one, no paywall here: America’s Death March. Regardless of the outcome, the election will not stop the rise of hypernationalism, crisis cults and other signs of an empire’s terminal decline. This one basically makes the case that America has reached the end of the road, this level of wealth inequality, corruption, and oligarchy never ends well. I hope I’m wrong, but for what it’s worth, I think I’m living during America’s big fall. Sooner or later believing logical and scientific nonsense like “Global warming is a hoax (or worse.)” was going to lead to actual catastrophe. And here we are, defeated by a germ.

Stay safe everyone. I know people now who are simply not following the news because they don’t want to know. Yeah, I can do that after I’m dead. A reminder for new readers who just wandered in here, six months ago a terrible new disease started spreading. It’s not the Black Death, but it’s still the worst thing to come along in a century. It can be fought and defeated, reason and science are the way.

Ain’t gonna happen, we’re hosed. Stay tuned. Comments, likes, shares appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An anti-crepuscular ray over my street yesterday sunset. Credit: Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

August 10, 2020 at 8:28 pm

LIVING IN THE MOMENT

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Finally, the first real rain in a month or more. .6 Inches (1.5 cm) of rain, so I got to use my rain gauge for the first time. I saw several of the neighbors wander over to check it as well. There’s not much to do during quarantine. At least those of us quarantining. Huge numbers of Americans, whole states really, more or less pretending it will all go away. Trump’s been saying that from the beginning, “It will all just go away!” Still saying it last I hurt. And if one’s house is on fire, yes, eventually the fire will go away. If it’s my house though, I think we should fight the fire, not wait until it goes out.

In local news there’s been a noticeable uptick in property crimes. Burglaries, car break ins, shoplifting. The only thing surprising about it is that so many locals can’t understand why this is suddenly happening now in our sleepy almost crime free town. Let’s think. Millions of people around the country have lost their jobs. A lot of them need money desperately and have fewer scruples than most. We live in an isolated little affluent resort town, nobody locks their stuff up, and there’s easy freeway access. This is one of the sorts of things I was talking about the other day. As massive change sweeps the land, there will be cascading changes triggered by all the changes. More property crime is pretty foreseeable, it will just get worse as people get desperate.

And desperate they will get. Trump and company are talking about a “V” shaped recession. IE yes the economy is in free fall, but it will hit bottom and bounce right back. Yeah, pretty much like thinking the Titanic was going to only sink so far. So lots of benefits are ending soon, Congress has been unable to come up with anything except blaming the other party. Great political strategy during peacetime, catastrophic fail during a national and global crisis. (And actually it’s a pretty crappy strategy during peacetime, it’s just crappier when the nation faces a fight for its life.) Trump signed a few executive orders, but they don’t seem to be much more than empty gestures.

Seeing in some quarters the idea that “We shouldn’t be paying people not to work!” There are a number of problems with this statement. Millions of people don’t have jobs to return to for one. Huge numbers of small businesses have gone under already. The amount of money we are talking about is trivial on a large and small scale. Lastly, what the hell do people think will happen to the money given to unemployed/poor/sick people? They run out and spend it! Consumer spending, the thing that drives the economy, right? Well, the poor have just been cut off in the US. I can’t imagine it will turn out well.

People sometimes say: “If you’re not offering a solution, you have no right to complain.” Yeah, no. I don’t know how to resolve the split between left and right in the US. For decades too many on the left have assumed a supercilious smarmy superiority over the right. The right has decided anyone not on their side is a liberal bent on destroying America. These are not positions conducive to debate and compromise. I’m still open to debate with Trump supporters. Fifteen years ago when I started this blog conservatives and liberals debated in numerous online forums. Now they almost never do.

I saw an amazing sight in the sky tonight. I got a few pictures. I’ll post them tomorrow. A shorter than usual post, but it’s Sunday. I can take it a little easy on a Sunday. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Stay safe readers. The world you grew up in is dead. Enjoy.

#StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Random Facebook image, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 9, 2020 at 8:11 pm

LIGHTS OUT IN WASHINGTON, Part II, “Protesters dispersed with Tear Gas so Trump can Pose at a Church.”

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Well, that headline sure sums up Trump in a nutshell. While he was giving his “law and order speech” yesterday,  police used mace, rubber bullets, and horses to disperse peaceful, lawful constitutionally protected protestors so he could walk across the street and pose waving a bible in front of a church. A church that vociferously objected, never gave permission for their church to be so used, and supports the protestors. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, responsible for the church that Trump visited said: “The Bible teaches us to love God and our neighbor; that all people are beloved children of God; that we are to do justice and love kindness. The President used our sacred text as a symbol of division.” Apparently Trump doesn’t have to obey the law even while he is insisting he’s the “law and order” president. It’s nonsense like this that makes the aliens fly right by. I should also note that if the president of one of our designated enemies did this, the GOP would be howling in outrage at the perversion of democracy.

Sigh. Notes in the margins so to speak. Observations and thoughts on the nation’s travails, struggling with a pandemic and widespread civil unrest. In a nutshell, police brutality has been an ongoing problem in the US for decades. The police kill like a thousand people a year in the USA, under 100 in Germany, France, and the UK combined. It’s a horrible level of police violence for a self-styled developed country. As long as that continues, protests and calls for change are going to continue. If someone’s cause is just, that some violence is done in its service doesn’t magically delegitimize the cause. And it most certainly doesn’t legitimize calling on the troops and police to quell the disturbance, as if people angered by decades of unjustified police killings and violence were somehow the enemy of the state.

It’s not like there are no reasonable solutions. How about cops being trained to much higher standards, like the rest of the developed world does? How about reversing the militarization of the police, bipartisan efforts are already under way in that regard. They’re freaking police, not an occupying army for God’s sake. How about admitting there’s a problem and trying to address it? Apparently that’s too subtle or too complicated for the great thinker in the White House to come up with. “The riots must be being orchestrated by my enemies, so they must be crushed.” Never before had a president in my life who made everything about him. Narcissism illustrated.

I had a thought I don’t recall being pointed out anywhere. The original George Floyd incident. OK, I spent decades going to little liquor stores in sketchy neighborhoods. And yes, a few times a customer tried to pay with a stolen credit card or some shit. The store owners refused to honor it and booted the customer, end of story. In this case, the clerk took obviously fake money, gave George his purchase, and then called the cops? Wouldn’t it be easier to not honor the counterfeit money in the first place? It sounds like the store owner was trying to create a confrontation and a problem. And this is the shit black people have to deal with regularly, people call the cops on them at the drop of a hat. This time the wrong cop showed up, though with his history of violent complaints, one has to wonder why he was still a cop? This gets back to what I said above, why the hell can’t we hold cops to a higher standard? And why the hell don’t cops support such efforts, though granted there are those that do.

One of my biggest fears now is the chaos engendered by Trump will “break” the system, and we will get a military coup or some such. IE there have to be all sorts of Dick Cheney’s working in the shadows, people perfectly willing and capable of using Trump’s chaos to further their agenda. Trump would make the perfect martyr to install a Christian theocracy for example. Scary days. Paranoid nonsense? IDK anymore. We’ll see how it plays out, but I don’t see any lights in the tunnel yet. At least none that aren’t train wrecks rushing towards us. Boy, just a few months ago I thought the Iowa caucus screw up was the big story of the year, if not the decade, that I would have front line seats to.

Let’s see, May brought us murder hornets, a horrible police killing, and the worst civil unrest and police riots since the 1960s. Still waiting for June’s treat. Asteroids? Ebola outbreak? Tigers? Whatever it is, I’m sure it will generate some hysterical memes. If things keep humming along, I might post every day for a while. To say I am upset and my concentration has been affected would be an understatement. I watch the news, I rage, I write. Rinse and repeat.

Stay safe, stay sane everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Antififa activists storm ashore June 6 1944 in the beginning of the end for One of the world’s most evil fascist tyrants. How we got from all Americans  knowing fascism was bad to a POTUS defending Nazi flag waving thugs and demonizing anti-fascists is a mystery to me. Credit: Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 2, 2020 at 1:58 pm

LIGHTS OUT IN WASHINGTON

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OK, for the past several nights there have been growing protests across America against the killing of George Floyd in particular, and injustice and violence towards blacks in general. Last night demonstrations outside the White House got violent, property damage, fires set. There was skirmishing with the police, the police might even have started it, I wasn’t there. Trump turned out the White House lights and hid in a bunker. I’m underwhelmed, a real leader would have emerged and addressed the crowd.

Be that as it may, today Trump gave a short speech about how he’s going to respond. It was pretty simple, I will recapitulate. He started off by saying how terrible the killing of George Floyd was, and he wants his family to get justice. (I wonder if the four accused cops ever watched Breaker Morant?) Then he went on to say how terrible the violence was, with Trump’s trademark cherry picked list of victims. And then he claimed it’s a law and order problem, blamed all the violence on his designated left wing enemies, and said he’d send in the troops if governors didn’t get the situation under control, using the National Guard if they had to. Basically framing it all as a law and order issue vs leftist thugs, and he was going to crack down and fix.

I’m sure Rush Limbaugh and hard core Trump supporters ate it all up. They live in a world where there is no right wing violence. No police riots. All violence is from the left. Even Hitler was a leftist. Covid-19 and now this is all a Democrat plot to bring down Trump. Sigh. I don’t know what to say to such people, but if any are still reading, hear me out. Let’s deconstruct Trump’s speech.

OK, yeah, justice for George Floyd. Great. However, and it’s a huge however, George Floyd’s killing was just one of an endless series of blacks being killed with no consequences by cops and civilians. Implying that this single injustice is  what the violence is all about is either ignorant or disingenuous. Then his cherry picked list of victims. All real no doubt. It just excludes victims that don’t support his “law and order” narrative. There’s absolutely credible reports of police riots and police attacking news reporters. And credible reports of right wing instigators trying to start a “race war.” Bad people come in a wide array of persuasions, welcome to Earth.

And then his claim it’s all a “law and order” issue, and that’s what America is all about. No mention that peaceful protest is constitutionally protected. In a nutshell, Trump refused to address the underlying issue, and claimed he’s going to use force to make it all better. Yeah, I don’t see this working, police violence is the problem, not the solution. He promised to magically make Covid-19 go away, and we are the worst hit country. I doubt his promise to fix this will work out any better, simplistic ideology driven solutions make problems worse, not better.

So I’m going to post this tonight, and maybe add to it in the morning. The worst civil unrest since the sixties, anything could happen tonight. I’m sick at heart over all this. I have friends going to protests as I type. I pray for their safety. I pray for peace. I pray for justice. I pray Trump’s response doesn’t make this worse, but I think threats and encouraging violence isn’t going to help. I don’t think this is a problem troops will solve.

We’ll see, G’night and take care all. Crazy times.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Used without permission. Claiming Fair Use, historically important image, widespread viral image.)

Written by unitedcats

June 1, 2020 at 7:01 pm

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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I’m writing a post about Palestine and Trump’s “Deal of the Century” offer. It’s hard going though. Trying to condense a book’s worth of background into 800 words is a challenge. Trying to write so that readers of all stripes can follow it is also a challenge these hyper-partisan days. I have to write though, it’s both a compulsion and a necessity. In any event, while I write my dedicated posts about Palestine and other things, more ‘Through Thick and thin’ posts!

The Wuhan Coronavirus is getting more serious. No reason to panic, hell, no matter how bad it gets there’s no point panicking. The good doctor covers it well. The CDC has good advice for those who may be exposed. Basically wash one’s hands a lot, try not to touch one’s face when out and about, definitely washing the hands when one gets home. Good advice for avoiding all infectious diseases, who wants to get sick? Handwashing also reduces the risk of a flesh eating bacteria infection, that alone keeps my hands squeaky clean. And also of course, being this is a human inhabited planet, rumours and misinformation are flying. The Indian government recommends homeopathy as a preventative measure, not even sure what to make of that. And then there’s what this guy’s girlfriend did

In today’s Trump tidbit, the Trump justice department has redefined domestic assault using 1950s standards. A win for the abusive men of America, now as long as they don’t leave bruises or draw blood, all other forms of abuse are OK. It’s frustrating, people that think the 50s were “the good old days” and we just need to go back to then and America will be great again are living in a “Father Knows Best” fantasy world. No, America wasn’t great in the 1950s, by all objective metrics there were terrible social failings under the wholesome veneer. And some, like legal discrimination, were out in the open.

The longest tunnel ever has been discovered under the US border with Mexico. Nearly a mile long, over 50 foot underground. Quite the achievement really, it took a lot of money to build this. These sorts of tunnels are all too common, and they will just get deeper and more sophisticated. They are a symptom of our failure as a society, and a reminder that barrier methods of solving social problems are only so effective. The war on drugs has created fabulously wealthy gangs (not to mention corrupting everything from police departments to entire governments,) without actually diminishing the drug problems in our society. A program that enriches criminals, corrupts police departments (And we’re not just talking Mexican police departments here,) and fails to fix the problem it is putatively addressing … is a fail. This is America though, where actual results no longer matter.

A new kind of shoe is giving runners an “unfair” advantage. So the sports body that regulates such things is coming up with new standards. Ultimately their efforts are like sweeping back the sea. Sports is so infused with big money now that every conceivable technological (not to mention biological) enhancement has big bucks to exploit it to the hilt. Means athletes with money can buy improvements to their performance. Hardly sporting. Commercialization poisons everything. And another sign of how screwed up our priorities as a species are. Babies are dying all over the world for want of a few dollars in food or medicine … while staggering sums of money go into things like sports shoes.

Reminds me of a moral dilemma. Say someone is drowning, and a bystander can save them if they jump right in. But the bystander refuses to do so because it would ruin their new $500 pair of running shoes. Most people would find that appalling if not actually evil. Yet spending $500 on a pair of shoes when giving half that money to life saving charity would save lives isn’t even on the radar. An example of just how blinded we are in the west to the hideous inequality that exists on Earth.

And since I started writing this, the Wuhan Coronavirus has been declared a global health emergency. Yikes. Yeah, I did the math, if half the planet gets sick, and 2% die … that’s 80 million deaths. 6 million in the US. Let’s hope this isn’t the start of “The Stand.”

Stay healthy everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: 1918 Spanish Flu Death Chart. Credit: Unknown, but contemporary to the 1918 Flu. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.)

Written by unitedcats

January 30, 2020 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Crime, Philosophy, Trump

WUT R WERDS

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In other words, the post I was working on isn’t finished yet, so I’m going to wing it this morning. There’s always something to write about, old or new. I’m watching an old movie for example, ‘Dances with Wolves.’ I tried to watch it when it came out, and couldn’t plod through it all. Not enough explosions for my younger self maybe? Halfway through now, and plodding definitely covers it. Plus somehow Kevin Kostner makes my skin crawl now, that’s a new experience. I will finish and report on by Monday. Two other famous (in their time at least) movies I couldn’t get through were ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Amadeus.’ I don’t believe I will be reattempting them, unless I lose a bet I suppose.

In India four men were accused of raping and murdering a woman. Made the news big time. Then the police took them to the scene of the crime for some reason, where they attempted to escape and were all shot and killed by the police. Rejoicing and celebration in the streets. That’s at least the gist of it from what I can tell. Well, they won’t be raping anyone else. Not sure really what to think of it all. Sort of sounds like an extrajudicial execution, I mean really, all four? I hope they were guilty, sort of, what an odd thing to hope for. Violence against women does appear to be a major problem in India, although it’s pretty much a problem everywhere. My only cogent thought on this is that I simply don’t know enough about India to have cogent thoughts about this. Other than rape is one of the ultimate evils, and it’s often treated far too lightly in the west. The story just got me, and a lot of people I suppose.

In other unfinished business I really tried to get through the Longmire books. I really liked the show. I liked the characters in the books too, but every book introduced a new cast of secondary characters. Worse, each book, at least the last two, used a narrative style where the damn book was half flashback. Two stories intermingled into one, sometimes each with its own cast of secondary characters. I finally gave up, I couldn’t keep  track of who was who when and where and what now. And wasn’t that a tortured turn of phrase, but it expresses how I feel. The dent in the wall where I threw the last book also expresses it.

An anti-vaxxer has been arrested for mass murder in Samoa. I wish. No, but he was arrested for ‘incitement against a government order.’ Samoa is in the midst of a measles epidemic that has killed 63 so far. Samoa has a population of about 200,000, about the size of Salt Lake City, so 63 deaths is a big deal. And anti-vaxxers spreading lies about vaccines are playing a huge negative role. This guy was telling people that vaccines are dangerous, and measles can be cured with vitamin C and papaya leaf extract. Right.

Worse, the anti-vaccine movement is getting more militant and effective in their global campaign to bring back deadly diseases humanity vanquished long ago.  Here’s the whole Samoa story in great detail, it’s freaking infuriating. I’m starting to wonder if the anti-vax movement is secretly run by extraterrestrials seeking to quietly depopulate the Earth. Probably a science fiction B film in there somewhere. More likely though it’s what most human failings can be attributed to. We’re not really an intelligent species.

And since its Friday, I’ll end on a positive note. A cute animated story about a little girl who writes a letter to Santa. Aw. But misspelled it ‘Satan.’ Uhoh. It goes downhill from there. Enjoy it here.

As always, remarks, queries, and, well, thesaurus.com couldn’t come up with a good synonym for shares. All still enjoyed and acknowledged. Enough lame thesaurus jokes.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A tweet. Credit: Tweeter or Tumblr thescalexwrites? Maybe this fellow? Used without permission, but since it’s floating around Facebook I hope I can be forgiven.)

Written by unitedcats

December 6, 2019 at 9:42 am

TRUE HALLOWEEN HORROR

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This is a true story. A story so gruesome and horrifying that it puts Hollywood to shame. I saw it on Forensic Files and was like, well, there’s my Halloween post for this year. Not for the faint of heart, but doubt many of my readers fall into that category. Still, didn’t want anyone to read what they couldn’t unread. Fair warning: Gruesome content ahead.

So, middle aged man wakes up one morning. Goes to the bathroom, shaves, usual morning routine. Goes downstairs, packs a lunch, loads the dishwasher, signs checks to pay off his son’s parking tickets. Goes outside to get the newspaper, locks himself outside, but is able to retrieve the hidden house key and let himself back in. Then, as the photograph above shows, fell down and died in his front hall.

OK, so what did he die of? Well, during the night a fire axe wielding maniac (more than likely his sociopathic son) attacked him and his wife while they slept. Cut them both up pretty badly. So when he woke up in the morning, the only parts of his brain left functioning were the ones than were running on habits. He simply didn’t register the bloodstained bed, his mutilated (but still alive) wife, or the head injuries he had sustained. He just started his normal daily routine like he did every day, while he slowly bled out and died from his injuries.

Grizzly enough? It gets worse. Yes, he shaved, brushed his teeth, and carried out his normal routine. With his lower jaw sliced off. Best not to even to imagine him shaving or brushing his teeth. The gentle reader was warned.

We really are creatures of habit. In this case Mr. Porco was essentially an animated corpse. Not unlike Miracle Mike, the headless chicken. I suppose if he had gotten medical attention, he might have “lived” longer, but who knows. No happy endings here. His wife lived, but disfigured, missing an eye. And convinced her son is innocent, even though he was convicted of the attack with good evidence.

And what a horror story for their friends and loved ones. It could have been worse I suppose. Mr. Porco could have been in the habit of sending selfies.

Have a great Halloween everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The unfortunate Mr. Porco’s legs, deceased. Credit: Crime scene photo, public domain in some states from what I can tell. I got it from this site, copied without permission. RIP Mr. Porco, may your friends and family find peace and healing.)

Written by unitedcats

October 31, 2019 at 9:08 am

Posted in Crime, Halloween

DOG LEGGED GATES, MYSTERY SONG, MURDER MOST FOUL, AND APE SCIENCE

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I started writing about Iraq, but it got really depressing. So maybe I will finish it later, for now, random comments on random news items. Bernie Sanders had a mild heart attack. Will be interesting to see if he bounces back. I’m rooting for him, he’s the best of a bad lot. Trump is still hanging in there, though showing signs of strain. He really wasn’t cut out to be POTUS, granted few people are. I’m wondering if his fellow Republicans in Washington are starting to turn on him. Ships, sinking, etc. He’s not exactly a consensus builder. I could see him being driven out of office one way or the other in time for Pence to step up and run. If the Dems self-immolate, again, Pence could win. Fun times.

In music news (No, I don’t think I’ve ever typed that before) I came across the curious story of an unidentified song. As in, no one knows who wrote it, played it, sung it. Recorded it. And this isn’t something from ancient history, it originated from around 1984. I may once have been a demo by some Eartern European band.  It got played like once on some English radio station, and it’s only a fluke that a recording came to light. And at this point the search for the originators has gone viral and still no one has a clue. It does sound hauntingly familiar, as many have observed. Anywise, read the story and listen to the song here.

Another experiment has indicated that some apes have “theory of mind.” A long time favorite topic of mine, as my two or three long term readers might remember. How to explain theory of mind? Well, if someone realizes a mirror reflection is themselves, they are self aware. Humans, apes, elephants, porpoises, some birds seem to be self aware, theory of mind is the next step, knowing that not only you exist, but that other people are also equally self aware. It means the ability to “put yourself in another’s head,” to think about what other people are thinking. It’s actually devilishly hard to pin down in experiments. Most lay people seem to think apes have theory of mind, and apparently the scientific consensus is leaning that way. I’m still unconvinced. Read about it here.

In today’s “Um, that doesn’t sound right” file, Joshua Brown, a key witness in the Botham Jean murder case, has been ambushed and shot to death. OK, Amber Guyger was a white Dallas police woman who ‘accidentally’ went into a neighbour’s apartment thinking it was her own. She encountered the occupant of the apartment, Botham Jean, a black man, and shot him dead. She was recently convicted of murder and sentenced to ten years in prison. Joshua Brown’s testimony helped convict her, he was a neighbour of them both. Joshua was an upstanding man, and his killing seems senseless. So many people have concluded that Joshua was murdered by the Dallas police in revenge for helping convict one of their own. Sadly it’s all too possible, a wild west mentality is still deeply entrenched in parts of America. Something Canadians, Western Europeans, and others probably have a hard time comprehending. And, frankly, America’s penchant for gun violence is hard for many Americans to comprehend.

While going through Hieronymus Bosch paintings, always a great source of images for Doug’s Darkworld, I came across the image above. It looked strangely familiar, something about the gate. Turns out I’ve used written about it before. The gate, not the painting, in “The Mystery of the Dog Legged Gate.” Nine years ago, sheesh. I was such a fool then. Now I’m an older fool. There’s less of me now though, by a stone or two. So does that mean my fool density is higher? Or does fool density remain the same despite body size, so I’m a stone or two less foolish? Why does science never tackle important questions like this?

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Sorry about the short post, decided best to post on time rather than scramble for something, anything, I could segue to from dog legged gates. Have a great week everyone. (Every time I type that now a little in my head screams “But I’m not a Trump supporter!” Sheesh.)

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: ‘The Wayfarer’ painted circa 1500. Credit: Hieronymus Bosch. Being painted over 500 years ago the copyright has long expired. Unless Congress has changed copyright law to benefit corporations once again. Knock on wood.)

Written by unitedcats

October 7, 2019 at 4:28 am

Posted in Crime, gun control, Science

THE AIRPLANE GAME

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I have first hand experience with The Airplane Game. Don’t Google it yet. This was in the late 1980s. Ancient history to anyone born after 1985 or so. The pre-Simpsons era. (Eventually our dates will be BS or PS, Before Simpsons or Post Simpsons.) A friend was involved and invited me to a meeting. What the hell, I was curious what it was all about. And it was a big pot luck, who knows, maybe a way to meet interesting women.

So, nice suburban home in El Cerrito. We all ate in the yard, lots of nice people, great food, great fun. Then we retire to the living room, two people were running the show. A cute bubbly high energy woman, and a black fellow wearing Africanesque clothes. First they asked the crowd like three times if “Anyone was a reporter or worked for law enforcement.” Showmanship basically since, guess what, neither reporters nor cops are required to identify themselves under circumstances like this.

Then they launched into their presentation. And a lovely presentation it was. Lots of slides about Africa. And Africans. And how it was a cultural tradition in Africa for friends to pool their money for a friend to start a business. It brought tears to my eyes. OK, no, it didn’t. It certainly made a favorable impression though, because let’s face it, this is not a cultural tradition in America. The country that brought us the “Me Decade” and “Greed is Good.” So we’re all feeling positive and inspired. A big part of the crowd were witchy nature loving lesbians, the pitch was clearly tailored to the crowd.

Then, the various “captains” retire to different rooms. And my friend, who was a captain, used a chalkboard to show her “passengers” and potential passengers how it all worked. And to my dismay, she sketched a classic pyramid scheme:

Basically the captain recruits two friends, as the two co-pilots, then they recruit four people to act as crew. Then eight passengers. Everyone pays to join of course. When all eight “seats” are full, the plane splits in two and the captain finally gets paid. Hundreds to thousands of dollars. Then the two co-pilots become captains, and each set out to find eight more patsies. And patsies is the word. The vast majority of the people who buy in never get paid. Pyramid schemes are illegal in America and elsewhere because they are scams.

This scheme pretty obviously had essentially zero similarity to the African stuff in the presentation. I wasn’t particularly tempted to buy a seat. First of all, I knew it was a scam. Secondly, I knew that if had gotten down to trying to recruit me, who had no money and knew it was a scam, that the pool of patsies was just about exhausted. I went to two more much smaller and more desperate meetings before the whole thing fizzled out. Didn’t meet any interesting women either.

So, the question is, why do people fall for stuff like this? Why was my friend involved? In point of fact I found out some years later that her involvement was a key factor in her lover leaving her. Mostly I think it was she was just naive and wanted to make some easy money. I suspect that’s the case for most of the people involved. The prospect of easy money, naivety, and rationalizing that no one is forced to sign on.

The Dashiki Guy and Bubbly Lady, yeah, con artists. Criminals preying on the naivety and greed of the average Jill. There’s a school of thought that people have no one but themselves to blame if they get conned out of money. That’s the preschool level of morality. An adult knows there are huge numbers of people who for one reason or another are very vulnerable to scams. And while society obviously can’t prevent people from falling for them, it can at least try to minimize the harm. This is why usury laws exist. Why pyramid schemes are illegal. Why professional (the house takes a cut) gambling is illegal. Why lotteries are illegal. It’s called civilization, protecting the vulnerable from those who would harm them.

Note the US fails on all of these but the pyramid schemes, and even those are OK if you turn it into multi-level marketing. I’m not optimistic about the direction America is heading, who would ever have guessed? And this latest post from the good Doctor Novella is even more distressing. Fake news can create fake memories! And you better believe the powers that be are exploiting it to the hilt.

Yeah, we’re doomed.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image 1: Pyramid house in Clear Lake, Iowa. Credit: Ken Ratcliff. Some rights reserved, used legally under a Creative Commons License.

Image 2: “Airplane Game” pyramid scheme. Credit: Wikipedia User:Stannard. Released into Public Domain by the creator.)

Written by unitedcats

August 28, 2019 at 3:52 am

THIS IS WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

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Another mass shooting in the USA. In a mall in El Paso, just over the border from Texas. 20 dead so far. The shooter was a white man from Dallas. Who, oddly enough, was captured alive by police. The shooter released a nativist diatribe online shortly before he began his massacre. He was apparently targeting Latinos, some authorities are investigating it as a hate crime. These appear to be the salient facts as of my writing this. I used to hang out in that mall, so this hits close to home.

There’s a lot to say here. I will try to be clear with my facts. And hopefully clear with my reasoning. There is always room for reasonable people to disagree. Alas, we live in an era where stringing together logical fallacies passes for reason in many quarters. There is one thing we know pretty much for sure, nothing will be done, nothing will change. After the required period of hand wringing and finger pointing, America the Paralyzed will continue on to the next atrocity..

Mass shootings like this didn’t used to happen so frequently, it’s not normal. It’s very rare in other countries. That alone makes it very difficult to parse these events. What has changed in the past few decades? What is it that makes events like this all too common now? It’s not the availability of guns, guns have always been widely available in America. And they were used, blacks and native Americans were all too often massacred. Entire villages, neighborhoods, towns were killed. By white people I should add. Then it tapered off and from the mid twentieth century until about 1980 we saw a big downturn in mass violence. Things like the Texas Tower Shooting were rare events. Then the uptick in mass violence by individuals took off, and here we are today, mass shootings on a regular basis.

How the hell did this happen? My guess is that it’s a combination of three things. The economy stopped working for the poor and working class around 1980. Military style weapons designed for mass killing are easily obtainable. And a huge rise in, well, hate rhetoric. The combination of the three has been pushing unstable loners over the edge. A culture that glorifies violence and retribution hasn’t helped either. But there’s no way to deal with these issues, because most Americans are in denial about them.

Granted liberals have their own reality testing issues, but by God the right wing echo chamber is so filled with nonsense these days it’s hard to know where to start. The El Paso shooter’s manifesto goes into a lot of his “thinking” in great detail. No thought involved though. He goes into the paranoid right wing theory about how the Democrats want open borders so they can flood the country with immigrants who will vote for them. Um, if this is the Democrats’ plan, it has to be the stupidest plan ever invented. And look how well it’s working out for them, the GOP controls about 2/3rds of state legislatures, the Senate, and the White House. I’ve yet to meet a Democrat who wanted open borders either. The whole theory is embarrassingly stupid.

And then the idea that the country is being “invaded” and “white culture is being replaced.” Waves of immigrants have been landing in America for centuries. Takes about three generations for them to assimilate, but assimilate they always have. Yes, it’s possible to get good Mexican food almost everywhere in the country now. This is a problem? Were gangs of Mexicans forcing our shooter to eat tacos against his will? Was his fruit picking job taken by an immigrant? No, the people who have been making life hard for the average American the past four decades are in Washington and Wall Street. They are the ones sending jobs overseas, giving tax breaks to the rich, and turning America into one big company town.

Sadly at this point even debate with people who hold such beliefs is pretty much out of the question. Decades of Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones saying “Liberals stupid and bad, conservatives smart” have raised a whole generation of people who think anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot. There were plenty of “America, love it or leave it” people when I was a kid, but with the rise of the Limbaugh/Fox News echo chamber the attitude has gotten far more hostile. Worse, political leaders perfectly happy to pit Americans against each other while their corporate overlords destroy the middle and working class are in power all over the country now. I’m in a few conservative online groups, and no debate is possible with them..

There are perfectly reasonable measures that would make it harder for unstable losers to get their hands on AK-47 and M-16 type weapons, but the GOP won’t allow that. Might cut into gun and ammo sales. There is exactly zero chance the Dems are going to try and take away people’s guns, but fear driven agendas are what the GOP is all about now. Fear of immigrants, fear of gun control, fear that whites will end up being discriminated against minority. As if. White males still own the goddamn world for Christ’s sake, and America is their ultimate stronghold. Because gay bashing is now a crime doesn’t threaten anyone’s rights.

Anyhow, here is the link to the El Paso shooter’s manifesto. It’s mostly just sad and misguided. Like a moldy fruitcake. And factually challenged on many levels. I’d deconstruct it further, but why bother. Those that can still think logically will have no trouble spotting the obvious problems. What a whiny little loser the guy was. And yet some people are defending him. Yeah, gunning down defenseless Americans while they shop at Walmart makes the shooter a big bad freedom fighter. Snort. That Americans cheer the slaughter of Americans is appalling. That leaders try to turn Americans against each other for political gain is beyond appalling, it’s evil incarnate.

So yeah, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Steve King,  and all the others fomenting hatred and intolerance, you’re the problem. You all have blood on your hands. Disagree? Change my mind. (Hint: Calling me stupid followed by a string of logical fallacies won’t do it.)

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Civilians killed by US soldiers during the My Lai massacre. Frankly I think images of the people killed in El Paso and other massacres should be front page news, might wake up a few folks. Credit: Photo taken by United States Army photographer Ronald L. Haeberle, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 5, 2019 at 4:34 am