Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘current events’ Category

SHARPIEGATE

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OK, this story is shocking to me. And boy, Trump has set the bar really high, but he managed to outdo himself once again. Sharpiegate.

Let’s review. On Sunday Trump tweeted that Georgia, the Carolinas, and Alabama, will be “Hit harder than expected” by hurricane Dorian. Very shortly afterwards the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted in response: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.” So … Trump made a mistake, no big deal, we’ve all done similar. Admit you erred, move on. Right?

That’s not what happened. Trump basically doubled down several times in the days that followed, insisting that early projections had put Alabama in Dorian’s path. Long story short, he was refuted at every turn, there were never any projections that Dorian would affect Alabama. Warnings were issued for numerous cities on the East Coast up to Canada, but none in Alabama. Trump was simply mistaken.

On Wednesday, Trump showed the projected path of Dorian on a chart, claimed it showed Dorian affecting Alabama. And ranted about how the “fake news” owed him an apology! So, was Trump right after all? The astute reader might notice a problem with Trump’s “proof.” Hell, a vegetable or an alert mineral might see the problem. The line that included Alabama appears to have been drawn with a sharpie! I mean, the original of this projection is publically available, and the black loop including Alabama is conspicuously absent. It’s not even in the same league as a good photoshop, it’s so obviously doctored as to be pathetic.

So the facts of the case aren’t in dispute in any reasonable way. Trump tweeted that Alabama was in danger at a point when it wasn’t. Even if very early projections included Alabama, not relevant. Trump was in error when he tweeted Alabama was in danger, and instead of admitting his mistake and apologizing to the people of Alabama for unduly alarming them, he doubled down on his error. Facts matter.

The question then is what to make of this. This is not adult behaviour, an adult would have admitted their mistake. This is like a disturbed child trying to lie their way out of a situation where they were caught red handed. Or a case of extreme narcissism, Trump said it, so it must be true. I am curious what a good psychologist makes of this. Are any of my readers so skilled? Enquiring minds want to know.

I suppose it’s possible Trump is just trolling somehow, but even that doesn’t really make sense. No purpose is served by it. The whole idea that Trump is some sort of genius hiding his smarts under an endless parade of saying dumb things is pretty hard to swallow at this point. Especially since he’s yet to say or do anything particularly brilliant. And this doesn’t even fall under the rubric of “trying to look dumb.” This is “trying to look like a disturbed child or a pathological liar.” How does that make America great?

So I see no way to parse this that isn’t, well, scary. What’s going to happen when Trump makes a mistake that has repercussions if not corrected? I now dread the idea of him having to deal with any sort of major crisis. I suppose there’s some hope in that potential rivals are going to tread carefully because Trump is unpredictable. Still, I’d rather have people respect us because we have a competent leader, not because we have a petulant child with nuclear weapons in the Oval Office. And even if people like Russia and China are treading carefully, there’s a lot of Mikheil Saakashvilis, Saddam Husseins, and Osama Bin Ladens out there. Here’s to hoping the rest of Trump’s presidency remains calm and doctored weather maps are the worst of the series.

On the plus side, Sharpiegate has certainly inspired a lot of memes. Well, sort of a plus I guess. OK, not really a plus, since most of them are mean spirited, and no matter how amusing to some, I don’t see that as helping. In any event, moving right along, I’ve reached a personal watershed with Sharpiegate. This shows Trump really is unfit for office. He either engendered the infantile deception himself, or worse, fell for it when some aide presented it to him. Is there any other interpretation that doesn’t require layers of special pleading? If there is, I can’t think of it. Any readers that want to explain Sharpiegate away are welcome to comment.

Alternatively, if anyone has a recipe for simple whole wheat ‘hamburger buns,’ I could really use that. The Interwebs failed me in this. There’s only 18 hours in a day at best, and I could easily triple that and still keep busy. This is why I look forward to eventually uploading myself. At electronic speeds, I’ll get thousands of hours a day at least. I bet I would still need sleep though. There’s a great scifi movie idea, AIs always go insane until it’s discovered that like a human consciousness, an AI consciousness needs to sleep. Maybe sleep is an integral component to consciousness. I expect royalties and a credit line if anyone uses it. ;)

I wonder what bugs think too. I’m hopeless. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Trump’s doctored map. Credit: Facebook meme? Claiming Fair Use since it’s an historically important image, it’s not being used for profit, and there is no better image for illustrating the event.)

Written by unitedcats

September 6, 2019 at 4:06 am

TRUMP TRIES TO BUY GREENLAND, WORLD CRINGES

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Once again, President Trump has outdone himself. This is regarding his planned visit to Denmark. Denmark was one of the founding twelve members of NATO in 1949, so it’s been a US ally for a long time. As an aside, Denmark is one of the few countries in Europe that managed to get their Jewish citizens safely away from the Nazis. Pretty cool, but that’s a story for another day. They are a modest country with a population of just under 6 million, similar to Wisconsin or Maryland. Greenland is a territory of Denmark though, and it’s important strategically, and may well have a lot of natural resources. So Denmark is an important US ally, even if not in the same league as the United Kingdom or Japan.

So, some time back Queen Margrethe II of Denmark invited President Trump to visit Denmark. He agreed, and preparations were made. Nothing other than a polite visit between heads of state to express solidarity between allies, the US and Denmark had no issues to resolve I am aware of. Then it comes out a week or so ago that Trump has entertained the idea of buying Greenland from Denmark. Apparently discussing it with aides etc. It made the news and the people of Greenland and Denmark were a little concerned. And the government of Denmark stated very politely that Greenland was not for sale, and there was no need for further discussion of the issue.

OK, already pretty weird, but here’s where Trump went off the rails. He cancelled his visit to Denmark, stating it was because Denmark had “no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland”. And that the idea of the US purchasing Greenland “was essentially just a real estate deal.” He in fact tweeted the above image saying that “I promise not to do this to Greenland.” There’s so much wrong with this it’s hard to know where to start. Some have even cast doubt on Trump’s sanity because of this. No, it’s not insane. It is however clueless, self-centered, and immature on an epic scale.

It’s like someone being invited to someone’s house for a friendly supper, and then speculating aloud that they would like to buy part of the host’s yard. And when the host politely declined to discuss the sale of the yard, the invited guest refuses to go to the meal in a fit of pique. Hard to imagine a host that wouldn’t find that insulting. Because it is insulting. It’s childish and insulting.

And beyond that, it’s also clueless, arrogant, and insensitive on a grand scale. It really shows just what disdain Trump has for regular folks. 90% of the population of Greenland are native Inuit. Apparently Trump is still living in the nineteenth century where the western powers bought and sold territory with zero regard as to what the inhabitants of said territory. White privilege on an epic scale. Trump really does think that money can buy anything.

I considered going into some of my Trump social media sites to see what his supporters think. I couldn’t stomach the thought. Some combination of insulting and belittling socialist (gasp!) Denmark no doubt. There are limits to the research I can stomach.

As an aside (I like asides) Green was colonized six times that we know of, but only two of them succeeded. There were two pre-Inuit people in ancient times, both failed. Then the Inuit tried, it failed. Then along came the Norse, shortly followed by a second try by the Inuit. The Norse Greenlandic settlements famously failed, still one of history’s big mysteries. The second wave of Inuit settlers did succeed, their descendants still live on the Island, though quite a few live in Denmark now. And the Norse returned in 1712, which is why Greenland is a Danish territory. It is home ruled though, and more so all the time.

In any event, I apologize for the late and extemporaneous post. I was going to write last night, but a friend’s plane was late and I didn’t get home until after 11pm. When I was young I could stay up till 6 AM, catch a few winks, and make it to a 9 AM class. Yeah, my health is improving, but those days are never coming back. I have a number of posts I am working on, and barring disaster will start posting normally again on Friday.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A Trump Tweet. Credit: Donald Trump. By US copyright law anything the President says or tweets is Public Domain.)

Written by unitedcats

August 21, 2019 at 10:46 am

Posted in current events, Trump, World

JEFFREY EPSTEIN’S DEATH IS AN ILLUSION

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Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in his New York jail cell. He tried to do so once before, and was placed on a suicide watch. That apparently was lifted recently, but that seems to be unclear at this point. So all we really know is that he’s dead, an apparent suicide. Suicide by prison inmates is sadly all too common, their suicide rate is 1 ½ to 2 times the rate for the population at large. And it wouldn’t be the first time that someone in his position killed himself rather than face the music and more than likely the rest of his life behind bars. So at this point, since utterly no evidence to the contrary has been raised, there’s no reason to think his death is anything more than it appears to be.

Yes, there were certainly people who wanted him dead. Yes, there are people breathing easier now knowing Epstein can’t implicate them. Yes, people have been murdered to prevent their testimony. However, none of this is evidence. It’s certainly an excellent reason to investigate his death thoroughly. It is not in any way, shape, or form proof of anything. Yet I have already heard from people who are already convinced that their must be more to his death. Convinced that foul play is the only possible interpretation. And that anyone who doesn’t get this is an idiot.

Sigh, thus this is where we separate out the people prone to conspiracy ideation, and those more inclined to rational thought. I knew the minute I heard about his death that the conspiracy mongers were going to have a field day, and they wasted no time at all. From big to small, from both sides of the political divide. “Ocasio-Cortez demands ‘answers’ after Epstein found dead in jail cell.” And “Trump promotes Epstein-Clintons conspiracy theory, the latest in a pattern of baseless claims spread by President.” Yes, bipartisan dumbfuckery. So much of it that even the BBC reported on it.

The problem I see in all this is that it’s further blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. And reinforcing the already ridiculous conspiracy theories like Qanon and the Clinton Body Count. And most of all reinforcing the utterly illogical thought process that leads from “well, that was convenient for some people” to “you’re an idiot if you think Epstein killed himself.” Plus there are all sorts of problems with even the idea of a murder. Anyone with the power to pull something like that off also had the power to make any Epstein revelations go away. Not to mention the very considerable risk of exposure such a murder would involve. I’m not seeing any thinking or analysis though, just lots of people leaping to conclusions.

I know I write about the modern disconnect with reality I see a lot. I try to look at it from different perspectives. It’s changed so much since when I was a kid. Back then the TV news was produced by independent companies, and for the most part tried to portray the news. And almost every night there would be fresh footage of Americans fighting in Vietnam. When was the last time we got to see that in the news? Seven wars and counting, against mind numbingly poor countries on the other side of the globe, all to protect our freedoms?  Among so many other whoppers that pass for reality these days. In the post 9/11 world all our overseas wars all but disappeared from the TV. And what passes for news is produced by one of the handful of mega corporations that own more of America every day.

That aside, what now? If there was any actual funny business with Epstein’s death, I expect it will unravel fairly quickly. Political assasination among the top ranks in the west is unknown for a reason. If someone was so stupid as to do so, doubtless they did a bad job of it, and evidence will sooon emerge. Huge crisis then, if it turned out Trump or Clinton ordered some sort of amateur hit, that would be a deal breaker for a lot of people. Especially a lot of very powerful people who were peers of Epstein, it could easily get as ugly as Watergate, the 9/11 of politics of this decade. Woohoo. I will have lots to blog about if he was murdered. Fun times.

I kinda expect this will be like Russiagate, birtherism, pick your conspiracy theory. It will be pumped up by parties that benefit from it, but otherwise just make future historians scratch their heads. No actual evidence will be presented, but that hardly matters these days. Or it will be things like, “Look, the prison guard who gave Epstein his last meal grew up in the same state as Chelsea Clinton!” Or “They changed the font on page 2345 of the investigation report, numerology translates that into Chelsea backwards!” OK, the second one is far fetched. Hopefully the gentle reader can parse what I mean, it’s my only hope.

There’s also the possibility that some other unlikely event chain will unfold. The future is like that, anything can happen. It will turn out the queen or someone equally unlikely was involved. It will turn out Epstein was a spy for the CIA. Or the Moonies. Or Putin. Or Kim. Epstein was secretly a love child of Walter Cronkite and the Queen. Or he was secret leader of the KKK. Or he was a Lizard person or an alien. Granted some of those possibilities are so unlikely that they probably wouldn’t occur in the lifetime of multiple universes, but nothing is impossible. That’s how science rolls people.

What we know won’t happen, what we can predict with absolute certainty, there is zero chance of: The investigation determines that Epstein died just as it looked, a nasty loser killed himself out of shame or whatnot. And everyone breathes a sigh of relief and moves on with their lives. Ain’t gonna happen. nope. You can bet on that one.

Have a great week everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image:A Facebook meme. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. Will attribute or remove as needed should the copyright holder contact me.)

Written by unitedcats

August 12, 2019 at 4:02 am

THIS IS WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

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My_Lai_massacre

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

JULY 4

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Ah, July 4th. A big day in the US. Lots of celebration. Go team. I put my flag out, though considering the storm that just rolled through, not sure it’s still flying. It’s the thought that counts though, right? And what thoughts are those? All sorts of them. Holidays were sure a lot easier when I was a kid. Christmas was about presents, July 4th was about fireworks, Bubble Wrap Day was about bubble wrap, etc. Now I have both a brain and access to social media, and it’s more complicated. Especially regarding July 4th, a holiday of mixed origins and increasingly hijacked for propaganda purposes. Trump’s gonna drive a tank for God’s sake, how does one explain that to school kids? Or adults?

So yes, 243 years ago a group of white American businessmen declared themselves to be in open revolt against the crown of England. IE their legal government. They enjoyed the support of 40-50% of the white population. The Loyalists were supported by about 15-20% of the white population. About 70-80,000 Loyalists fled the country during or immediately after the American Revolution. Which is a tiny fraction the number I remember from my college days, my own personal Mandala Effect, but I digress. My point is that not everyone thought rebelling against the crown was a great idea.

And yes, as several friends pointed out, the creation of the United States is not exactly something blacks and American Indians can look back to with joy. The United States almost immediately began the conquest of Indian lands, making Indians second class inhabitants of America. I say inhabitants, because American Indians were not given American citizenship until 1924! And of course early America’s treatment of its black citizens was shameful. Slavery was peacefully outlawed in the rest of the developed world by the early nineteenth century. It persisted decades longer in the US and took the bloodiest war in America’s history to end. And black’s treatment after that remained and to a large extent remains shameful. So yeah, I can understand many seeing July 4 as little to celebrate.

Then of course there’s the increasing militarism and military worship that characterizes modern America. And the 4th of July has been very much co-opted as a part of that process. Every time I hear “The troops are fighting to defend our freedom” I want to scream. Sometimes I do. No, they are fighting to defend war profiteers and the Empire the war profiteers created. The last time American troops were fighting to defend our freedom was World War Two, and even that’s debatable. Our whole democratic system is debatable at this point.

In any event, here in my little corner of Iowa, July 4th is the biggest celebration of the year. A carnival is set up in Central Park with all the local exotic food delights like Funnel Cake and Chicken on a Stick. Iowans are a simple people, in all the good ways. Live music and fireworks are also on the schedule. Lots of fun, especially for the kids. And boy, kind of neat how they can have things like 60 foot tall ferris wheels that fold up into a semi trailer. I’ll go out later and get some pictures to publish on Friday.

In other words, blogging wise, “I’m back bitches!” I’m ashamed to admit it, but I like that quote, but almost never use it. I thought it was from ‘Breaking Bad,’ but while Jessie Pinkman was fond of the word “bitches,” he apparently never uttered that particular line. I don’t like to use it, because comparing human beings to animals is misogyny or racism. It’s just plain racism in many instances, like Trump’s son’s recent utterance. Trees, apples, falling, etc.

Oh, yes, we will be having a parade here in Clear Lake too. No tanks though. Right past the window of where I am staying. My friend wanted me to help her hang a political banner off our roof. My job was to draw sniper fire. Alas, the landlord prohibited it and locked the door to the roof. Well, it is his building. And speaking of parades, came across the above image in my usual quest for the perfect image to illustrate the post. This one seemed perfect  in several ways.  Back when we were proud of our democracy and industry. Neither is what it was back then, for good or for ill.

Happy Fourth everyone. Celebrate or not as the spirit takes you.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Fourth of July parade around 1915-1920 Credit: Bain News Service, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 4, 2019 at 6:41 am

ARE WE AT WAR WITH IRAN YET?

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British_supply_convoy_in_Iran,_headed_by_Soviet_BA-10_armored_vehicle

OK, taking a break from my vacation to write two posts. First, about the Iran/Trump kerfuffle, because it is a scary situation that might blow up into an actual shooting war. Second, more on Russiagate, due to popular demand. (I never should have started that Facebook group.) Plus I like writing, I had fun with the new cat species post.

So, Iran. the US has been playing brinkmanship with Iran ever since they overthrew the US sponsored dictatorship that ruled Iran with an iron fist for decades. The nerve, if a nation’s government is good enough for the US, why, it’s good enough for the nation’s citizens! Yes, I’m being facetious. In any event, I will discuss several features of the current situation, primarily the drone shoot down, and Trump’s supposedly cancelled attack. I don’t know how long this article will remain current as the situation is rapidly evolving. Another reason for a quick break from my vacation. In any event the biggest codicil to keep in mind is no one in either administration can be trusted to tell the truth at times like this, so us worms can speculate endlessly and still not know what’s going on. Still, it’s fun to speculate. It’s what worms do.

So, Iran shot down a US drone. That’s about all we know for sure. Was it an unexpected shoot down? I’ve heard this type of drone was designed not to be shot down by the type of missile that hit it. Does this means the Iranians are more capable than expected? Or did the US point the drone at Iran, turn off its electronic countermeasures, and wait for them to shoot it down? Who knows. It wasn’t just any drone either, it was a $100 million plus spy drone, which would argue the drone shoot down was not part of US plans. The only thing that can be safely said is that this isn’t something to get excited about, let alone go to war over. Alas, I have seen a number of “Bomb the Mullahs!” posts and comments on Trump supporter web sites.

Then Trump’s claim that he authorised an attack and then called it off at the last moment. I can’t think of anything good about this one. If true, it’s sort of good news, but it’s also crazy. What if some military assets didn’t get the stand down order? Or maybe the Trump administration was just trying to scare Iran? Maybe, but it’s not like Iran is unaware of imminent US threats, and it’s not like the US has exercised restraint when it comes to bombing people.

Which leads to, why is Trump doing this? The idea that Iran is being aggressive or is behind the tanker incidents literally doesn’t pass the laugh test. Trump claims there will be new sanctions “to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.” Newsflash, Iran gave up their nuclear bomb program long ago, and their peaceful nuclear program is heavily monitored by the international community. That’s what the freaking treaty with Iran did, the treaty that Trump pulled out of!  So dunno, maybe Trump’s usual mindless hostility towards any Muslims not in America’s pocket. It’s the Saudis waging war on their neighbours and destabilizing the region, not Iran. Maybe Trump just wants to drive the price of oil up.

Or possibly this is all cover and distraction for “The deal of the century” in Palestine. That would be where Israel effectively annexes the West Bank, bypassing the Palestinian Authority, by signing a “treaty” with some Palestinian businessmen. In other words, Israel will buy off a few prominent Palestnians to legitimize the final elimination of any possibility for independence and justice for the Palestinian people. Occupation forever. Shades of American treaties with the American Indians. A big enough crisis in the Middle East could give Israel all the cover it needs.

The scary thing about all this is that no one knows how a war with Iran would play out. In the infamous Millenium Challenge 2002 wargame run by the Pentagon, Iran launched a preemptive attack, sinking over a dozen US warships with at least 20,000 dead. At that point the Pentagon halted the wargame, and then rewrote the rules so the US was guaranteed to win the rematch. Not the first time in history that a military leader has cancelled results he didn’t like in a wargame. In the wargame just linked, the Japanese proceeded with their plan despite the wargame outcome, and went on to suffer a crushing war-changing defeat at the Battle of Midway. Could Iran win a war with the USA? Not bloody likely. Could a US attack on Iran go catastrophically bad and lead to major losses to the US? Sure. I certainly don’t want to see the Russian theory that 70 cruise missiles fired at a US carrier would sink it put to the test.

So, the situation continues to unfold. The US is now claiming they launched a cyber attack on Iranian weapons systems. Which would be an act of war of course, but the US has no qualms about waging war and claiming it was justified somehow. In this case it’s especially ludicrous since none of the accusations of Iranian “aggression” are particularly well founded. Our aggression, we brag about it but call it anything but aggression. In any event who the hell knows what is really going on, “The first casualty of war is truth.” Trump is playing with fire though, I can only hope it ends with a whimper, not a bang.

Mostly just another manufactured crisis to distract us while our pockets are picked. It saddens me how over the past few years we’ve been trained to think of the world as being primarily made of threats. It’s not a healthy outlook, but it sure sells weapons. One last link that seems to have a decent overview of the situation. And, you know, should nuclear war breaks out, this is what to do.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: British supply convoy with Soviet escorts in Iran, part of the 1941 Anglo-Russian occupation of Iran. September 1941 The west has been invading and meddling in Iran for a century, this is just one of the more egregious instances. Credit: Unknown. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 25, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Posted in current events, Iran, Trump, War

FIGHTING THE WRONG FIGHT

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glyphosate

I see ads on Facebook now: “Do you or a family member have Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)? Call our lawyers now, big settlement awaits!” Yes, if someone with NHL was ever within a hundred miles of a glyphosate application, bingo, they just won the lottery! Their disease could be worth as much as 2 billion dollars! Hundreds of cases have already been filed against the makers of glyphosate. Monsanto will finally be forced to pay for poisoning the planet with Round-Up, the trade name for glyphosate. Ecowarriors are celebrating everywhere.

Me, I scream and pound my forehead bloody on my desktop every time I see one of those ads. Because the only people getting rich are lawyers and a tiny number of NHL sufferers. And the makers of glyphosate will just pass the additional costs on to the consumer, so ultimately farmers and consumers get to foot the bill. Even worse, this wave of lawsuits might ultimately result in glyphosate bans, resulting in the use of far more dangerous herbicides.

All of this cashing in is because of a freaking hoax. Or lie if more accuracy is desired. Or misunderstanding if I’m going to be diplomatic. My frustration is because glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer! Let’s review: Glyphosate can’t be absorbed through the skin. If ingested it’s less toxic than salt and quickly breaks down into harmless organic components. It doesn’t bioaccumulate in tissue. In fact its only biological effect is that it breaks down exactly one specific enzyme. An enzyme found only in plants. Add that to the fact that decades of studies have found no link between glyphosate and any health problems. Which is not surprising because no one has even proposed a plausible mechanism by which glyphosate could harm animal tissue in any way, let alone cause cancer.

In other words, science is not decided by court cases. Because juries have been bamboozled into huge payouts for Glyphosate “victims” doesn’t actually mean glyphosate is dangerous. Science says it’s safe beyond any reasonable doubt. In any event, here’s a link about how this nonsense about Glyphosate got promulgated through society. And another about Glyphosate’s safety. And no, no one at the links works for Monsanto, nor do I.

It’s infuriating because lawyers are making piles of money because in America if you get sick suing is often your only option, unlike civilized countries that take care of their citizens’ health. And of course now the idea that glyphosate causes cancer will become even more established. Farmers may even be prohibited from using glyphosate, forcing them to use more dangerous alternatives. And no, the global agriculture system that feeds humanity can’t switch over to organic farmer, that’s as realistic as giving up cars and going back to horses. Organic farming has its place, but it’s not a magical solution to our problems.

Possibly the thing that annoys me most is all the energy activists waste on this, when there are plenty of other corporate practices that do cause harm. The fossil fuel industry being the biggest one. And CAFOs, OMG I wish more activists were fighting CAFOs. If all the activists wasting their time on opposing glyphosate, GMOs, and cell phones spent their time fighting climate change and CAFOs they might make a difference. Or not. The older I get the clearer it gets just how much common knowledge is just plain wrong, the more I think the world really is a hopeless mess. And all I can do is try and spread the gospel … science and logic are wonderful things, we just need to embrace them.

In local news, my housemate turned on the radio last night and a man was saying: “A tornado is on the ground, take shelter immediately.” Possibly the creepiest thing I have ever heard on the radio, fortunately the tornado was one county over. Iowa does get a fair number of tornadoes, my little town has a tornado alarm that goes off occasionally. I made sure to sleep with the window open so I could hear it, just in case. Living on the surface of a planet is hazardous, but what is one to do?

And yes, I did slip GMOs and cell phones in there. Same as glyphosate: no evidence of harm despite widespread use and good studies failing to find any ill effects from exposure, combined with a complete lack of any plausible mechanism by which they could harm animal tissue. Back to science and logic again. Happy to debate anyone that wants to contest my understanding of the topics. I can change my beliefs if presented with logical argument and evidence.

I hope so at least. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Glyphosate model. Credit: Public Domain image from Snappygoat.

Written by unitedcats

May 31, 2019 at 8:53 am

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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game-of-thrones-starbucks-coffee-cup-mistake-fb6Photo from this website.

This one really is an extemporaneous post. It’s Thursday night, exhausted from a long day of physical therapy, treasure hunting, and politics. The therapy went well, I am slowly but surely recovering the use of my left arm. The treasure hunting, great exercise! Sunshine! Good company! Treasure, no. A 1982 quarter and a rusty 60s matchbox car. Oh well, it was a proof of concept treasure hunt, so in that sense it was a success. The politics. Sigh.

So, I went to a water quality meeting. It was depressing, but at least people are doing something. Or trying to. In a nutshell, Iowa’s environment is being destroyed by out of control factory farm growth. A wonderful example of how capitalism has failed, or been hijacked by moneyed interests, in the USA. In a nutshell, factory farms pass terrible environmental costs onto the public, destroy property values, destroy quality of life, and destroy jobs and family farms. All so a tiny handful of people, often foreigners, can profit. And that a tiny number of rich people can basically screw 3 million Iowans shows just what a farce our “democracy” has become.

Speaking of failed democracy, Alabama has passed the most restrictive “Strip Women of Their Rights” bill yet. It claims it’s about preventing abortion, but of course does nothing of the kind except make abortions dangerous and expensive. If these self styled “Christian” lawmakers wanted to prevent abortion they would pass bills calling for comprehensive sex education, birth control on demand, and Planned Parenthoods everywhere. They don’t, just Evangelical Christians trying to force their medieval beliefs on everyone. Fortunately the law is blatantly unconstitutional so unlikely to ever go into force. And for the record, no, having a heartbeat no more makes a fetus alive than it makes a person alive. One’s heart can be beating just fine while they are legally and actually dead. It’s a functioning brain that makes someone alive, not a heartbeat.

Trump continues to ratchet up tensions with Iran. Even our allies are confused. Hell, I’m confused. Not sure why Trump suddenly got his knickers in a twist about Iran. Nothing has changed I’m aware of. The Mueller Report and other political distractions are no more a danger to Trump than they ever were. Trump’s not going to be impeached, and even if he is, the GOP will be calling all the shots. IE a Trump impeachment is far more likely to benefit the GOP  than the Dems. If Trump somehow gets forced out, we get Pence with a wildly invigorated base willing to rally round him in 2020. The Dems already forming circular firing squad won’t stand a chance.

The big struggle I have been having with my blogging lately is truth decay. I find myself living in a world where facts and opinion have been increasingly conflated. A world where (just for example) a major political party and tens of millions of Americans reject global warming and evolution. And there’s so many others these days, flat earthers, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers, birthers, etc. I don’t want to ridicule or put down such people, I don’t see how that helps. Plus I like having friends and readers. I suspect I have my blind spots too. I guess I am going to resolve this issue by being honest about the facts, and be open to debate if someone wants to challenge them. We had some great climate change and 9/11 truther debates on my old blog. Certainly open to suggestion.

Game of Thrones is almost over. And yes, a Starbucks cup was left in a scene. Meh, these sorts of errors are far more common than most people realize. We just don’t notice them because we aren’t looking for them. No worries. Season 8 is getting some shade though, a lot of fans find it too rushed and shallow. A petition has been launched. They’re kind of right. A huge amount of time was spent setting up a bunch of characters and their character development/story arcs … only to have them come to abrupt squishy ends. Me, meh, the good way outweighs the bad, so enjoying immensely. Looking forward to having it be done so can talk about it.

Tim Conway and Doris Day passed in the last week. I quipped to my housemate that “celebrities always die in threes, I wonder who is next?” I regret my flippancy as I see we lost another celebrity this morning. Grumpy Cat of Internet meme fame as died. RIP little cat, you brought smiles to a lot of faces for seven years.

Shares appreciated. Have a great weekend everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

May 17, 2019 at 6:30 am

SABRE RATTLING

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MersadScene during the Iran/Iraq War. Photographer unknown, public domain image.

I was writing a lovely post involving tanks and Hitler, can’t go wrong with that combination, but realized there is a topic in the news I have been sidestepping around. Two intertwined topics really. This would be Venezuela and Iran. intertwined in that in both cases the sabre rattling coming out of Washington and the Pentagon is reaching unhealthy proportions. Several small species have already been driven to extinction by it. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but with headlines like “US Warns Iran Might Attack Commercial Ships as US Military Buildup Continues” and “Guaido ‘Open’ to Accepting a US Offer to Invade Venezuela” there is room for concern.

Sigh. I sigh a lot lately. Beats rage. Well, so much for Trump backing down on our overstretched imperial ambitions. At least he’s consistent, he’s broken all his populist promises and then some. So here we are threatening two countries that essentially pose zero threat to the USA. I’d say it makes no sense, but alas it makes perfect sense.

Let’s break this down. First, there is the Washington version. These countries are undemocratic dictatorships, being ruined by their respective governments. Socialist on one hand, Muslim theocracy on the other. Their people yearn for democracy, and to boot, Iran is a big regional threat and cause of regional instability! In both cases US military action may be required. In Venezuela to restore democracy, and in Iran to prevent them from attacking US allies and interests in the region. Yes, we’re the good guys defending the world against evil.

Sigh. (see?) Pernicious nonsense. The reality is both far more nuanced, and not nearly as flattering to Washington. Basically Washington’s function is to defend the petrodollar as the world’s reserve currency, and American business interests. Fossil fuels and weapons sales being the number one and two. It doesn’t mean there isn’t some concern for democracy, human rights, and defending America in some Washington quarters either. And I’m not advocating Illuminati conspiracies or 9/11 truther nonsense, just pointing out that the function of national governments is to protect the wealth and property of the rich. Has always been the case, likely always will. Washington is no different, shining light on hill nonsense to the contrary.

How do I convince people of that when I can’t sway flat earthers or anti-vaxxers? Just to name two widely held beliefs despite mountains of evidence and logic showing them to be, well, in error. Reminds me of when a University did a study, they wanted to study people who believed stuff that just wasn’t so. And as one of their study cohorts they chose people who believed they had been abducted by aliens. To their amazement, a lot of people got very upset at this, because alien abductions were very real!

So, I won’t. Not my job to change people’s minds. Not directly at least. All I can do is present info and let the discerning reader decide. In Venezuela, we have a country that broke from the US orbit, and did quite well with their “socialist” policies for a decade or longer. Then a collapse of world oil prices, corruption, and mismanagement destroyed their economy. Encouraged subtly and not so subtly by the US. And now the US is backing an opposition leader, wildly exaggerating his legitimacy, and threatening to install him by force. The US has also been encouraging a military coup, because that’s a tried and true method of getting rid of inconvenient governments with a thin veneer of legitimacy. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I will point out that “humanitarian interventions” have like a ten percent “success” rate, so this path we are on likely leads nowhere good.

In Iran in many ways it’s worse. Iran is a major regional power with 80 million people. And a country the US has a shameful history with. In 1953 the USA had the democratically elected government of Iran overthrown and installed the Shah, who ruled as a brutal dictator until the Iranian revolution in 1979. And then from 1980 to 1988 the west blatantly supported Saddam’s invasion of Iran. Let’s see, decades of US supported dictatorship, followed by a US sponsored war that killed hundreds of thousands. Just maybe they might have some ill feelings towards America in Iran? In any event since about two minutes after the Iranian revolution the US and Israel have blamed Iran for every problem in the Middle East, plus claimed Iran is “about to get” nuclear weapons.

Then of course the US sanctions against Iran, effectively an act of war. American has surrounded Iran with military bases, endlessly threatened Iran, and done their best to scuttle the nuclear deal that was painfully worked out between Iran and the west. Frankly the Iranians have been remarkably patient despite these endless provocations. I’m not exactly even sure what the goal of all Trump’s sabre rattling is. The chances the Iranian people will rise up, depose their government, and install a US friendly one is about as likely as Charlie Manson being elected president of the US. And the chances the US could do the same via invasion are even slimmer.

So I guess the whole point is to justify the US military presence in the Middle East while giving Israel a free hand. I find it hard to believe that in either country the US is seriously contemplating war. Hopefully it’s all just sabre rattling. Sabre rattling sometimes leads to wars. Wars are a bad thing. That’s the point of the illustration, wars destroy things and kill people. Point of the post really. Calling for peace and restraint, not war.

Have a good week everyone!

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All Rights  Reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

May 13, 2019 at 8:09 am

Posted in current events, Iran, War, World

IT’S FRIDAY!

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East_and_West_Shaking_hands_at_the_laying_of_last_rail_Union_Pacific_Railroad_-_RestorationPhotographer: Andrew J. Russell Public Domain under US copyright law.

A BBC presenter, Danny Baker, has been fired for being a racist poopy head. He tweeted a picture of a British royal couple with their child … the child being depicted as a chimp. Baker apparently missed the memo: Depicting POC as monkeys is racist, no exceptions. He did his best to weasel out of it with the ever popular “It was just a joke!” line. So not only he is a racist, he thinks people who point it out to him are stupid enough to fall for that? No, Mr Baker, it wasn’t a joke, it was a racist troll cartoon, exactly what you intended. And you got what you deserved.

And another “What the hell is wrong with our society and when are we going to fix it?” story repackaged as a “feel good” story: Colorado School Shooting Victim Died Charging Attacker. Thank you mainstream media for helping us feel good about living in a country awash with guns and the attendant senseless gun violence. Don’t worry, nothing will be done, so stories like this will keep coming. Jesus wept.

Denver, CO, voted to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms, aka magic mushrooms. Good, it’s a remarkably safe drug that doesn’t cause any social problems I am aware of. Long past time to treat recreational drugs as a medical and social issue on an individual user basis; prohibition is a strategy that not only failed, it actually makes the situation worse. Made a lot of corrupt cops and corporations very wealthy though, welcome to America.

Oh man. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joe Dunford, speaking to the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee on Wednesday,  insisted that US troops should stay in Afghanistan “As long as an insurgency continues.” I am assuming it takes years of special training to say something like that without smirking or giggling. 18 years in, the insurgency is worse than ever, and no one had a clue how to defeat it. But “stay there forever” is what the Pentagon wants. See last sentence of previous paragraph, replace <cops> with <soldiers.>

In the “Who does he think he’s kidding?” file the Pope has made it mandatory for clergy to report sexual abuse and cover-ups to the church. Wrong on so many levels. If someone discovers criminal activity in their organization, especially something as horrible and criminal as sexual abuse … they call the effing police. Child sexual abuse is a crime, there is no other acceptable course of action. Letting the church hierarchy decide how to respond to such allegations is how the church became a haven for pedophiles in the first place.

Speaking of medieval, in the “Are time travellers from the Middle Ages among us?” file we have a state representative from Texas checking all the hate boxes in his profile. Hates gay marriage, thinks marital rape is OK, adamantly opposes the ungodly evils of vaccination. OK, I understand the twisted interpretation of Christ’s teachings that lets people hide their obsession with other people’s genitals under religious concerns. I get it, you see a married couple, their genitals don’t match your religious preferences, so it’s icky. So, you know, Christ must have been against it. And marital rape, the Bible says it’s OK in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. Granted there are other Bible verses that say otherwise, but hey, if I know anything about bible worshipping Christians is that it’s their God given right to pick and choose what parts of the Bible to obey.

How Mr Stickland got his anti-vax views from the Bible, that’s a mystery to me. Pretty sure Jesus had nothing to say on the topic. In fact safe to say the Bible has nothing to say on the topic, being as vaccines weren’t around 2,000 years ago. So somehow this life saving medical treatment is bad, but other stuff doctors do is ok? Basically we have a political leader urging citizens to deliberately spread disease in the name of his God. The Muslims got nothing on our Christian crazies.

End rant. I have nothing against religion, being Episcopalian and all, but people using Our Saviour to spread hatred and lies, yeah, I have problems with that. Today’s post is an extemporaneous post, as the post I was writing Thursday ran aground so to speak. I probably have dozens if not hundreds of abortive posts. Preserved forever on the Interwebs for future historians to mull over.

The picture, yes. 10 May 1869. The USA’s first intercontinental railway was completed in Utah. 150 years ago today. What a great picture. There’s almost certainly people alive today who would have known people in this photograph. This is the sort of stuff I think about. Have a great weekend everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by unitedcats

May 10, 2019 at 5:32 am