Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘enviroment’ Category

LIFE HACK: BE EXTREMELY RICH AND HAVE AN ARMY OF LAWYERS. PLUS OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY.

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Well, no surprise here, it’s what the blog title references: Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Conviction Overturned By State Supreme Court. It was the correct legal decision, can’t fault the court. Just another example of how the legal system protects those with money and power. The evidence that Cosby is a sick fork who drugged and raped women is overwhelming, plus plenty of other testimony that he is a creepy control freak in general, for example: Reporter Who Interviewed Cosby in ’92: He Was ‘Intimidating and Menacing’ He’s the darling of racists though: The Pound Cake speech.

It’s been a strange few days. Here’s a good one: The ‘Biblical view’ that’s younger than the happy meal. Basically the idea that the Bible prohibits abortion and says life begins at conception dates from about 1980. Before then evangelicals felt the same as everyone else, it’s not a person until it’s born. And now that’s completely changed, largely driven by politics. People love to think they are making up their own minds about things, when in fact most of them are easily manipulated into believing all sorts of things. A problem that’s getting worse as the sciences of advertising and propaganda learn new ways to manipulate people constantly.

OK, a nice nature story. (Snort.) The ‘ecological hate speech’ developed around wildfire. Basically the logging industry and their subsidiary, the US Forest Service, have totally controlled the narrative about forest management. And lo and behold they’ve created a widely believed narrative which justifies maximum logging at terrible environmental cost. Greed is the most powerful force in the Universe. Read the article for the details, but it’s hella depressing. Especially how Trump fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

Speaking of politics: House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens to strip members of committee assignments if they join the Jan. 6 investigation, reports say. We can thank the Dems for weaponizing this, I predicted such after the Dems voted to deny MTG her committee appointments. Congress was already an ineffective partisan farce, now it’s sunk deeper into irrelevancy. Though to give them their props, sometimes they get things right: House Votes to Remove ‘Grotesque’ Confederate Statues from Display in U.S. Capitol. The Confederacy was the greatest crime in American history, their revolt cost a million freaking lives. And they revolted because they wanted to keep human beings as property because of the color of their skin! No sheet the leaders of this treason shouldn’t be on display in the U.S. Capitol.

And the National Guard is apparently now guns-for-hire, a junk-car billionaire is paying for the deployment of 50 National Guardsmen on the southern border: Willis Johnson, Junk-Car Billionaire, Bankrolls Kristi Noem’s Border Deployment. This might technically be legal, but it certainly shouldn’t be. I think it’s safe to say that the astute reader could see how having the military undertake missions at the behest of billionaires could lead to major problems. Usually slippery slope arguments are bogus, but in this case, no, I don’t want Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos deciding where the US military gets deployed. I don’t think anyone does.

Sigh. A few missed holidays. June 30th was Asteroid Day. A UN sponsored day to spread awareness of asteroids and the risks they pose. June 30th was chosen because the Tunguska Event occurred on June 30th, 1908. This was a ten to thirty megaton explosion in the sky over a remote part of Siberia. That’s like a really big nuclear explosion, vastly larger than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fortunately it was over such a remote area that maybe only three people were killed. And it was so remote that it wasn’t scientifically investigated for decades. And even when it was investigated, well, there had been a huge explosion, but no impact crater! What the hell?

It was quite the mystery. And in fact (no surprise here) lay speculation included aliens and other such nonsense. We now know that a rocky asteroid (or possibly a comet) about 100 yards in diameter heated up and exploded in the atmosphere before hitting the ground. Similar to the smaller Chelyabinsk meteor explosion in 2013. Here’s a good article about it: 1908 SIBERIA EXPLOSION: Reconstructing an Asteroid Impact from Eyewitness Accounts.

And other Holidays. July 1st was Canada Day, the Canadian parallel to America’s Independence Day. Celebrations were a bit muted because a third mass grave near a residential school was found: Nearly 200 unmarked graves found near Canada residential school. Hard to celebrate a nation that forcibly put children in essentially concentration camps for purely racist reasons. And the Brits are upset that some statues of British monarchs who were on board with this were toppled. Fork them.

Well, I hope all are doing well these strange and terrible days. Canada is burning. The ocean caught fire. Strange new forms of Covid are arising. The Pentagon says angels and demons “can’t be ruled out.” OK then. Stay safe, gentle reader.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: View from Kirensk, two seconds before the explosion. (400km, 250 miles away.) Painting © William K. Hartmann. Used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 3, 2021 at 8:13 pm

HEAR THAT POPPING SOUND IN THE DISTANCE? THAT’S EVANGELICAL’S HEADS EXPLODING …

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Because: Nevada pageant winner to become 1st transgender Miss USA contestant Saw this posted on Facebook, the outrage in some comments was, sadly, predictable. Something that quite literally has zero effect on them or society is somehow personally enraging to them. The nation and world has all sorts of terrible ongoing problems that are most definitely impacting everyone’s lives in negative ways … but they are outraged because a Miss USA contestant was born with male genitals. Go figure.

Might have linked this before, but it’s worth another look: Why Biden’s American election meddling comments in Geneva were such a bad look Basically Biden lectured Putin on election interference, claiming it made Russia look bad. Apparently Biden was utterly oblivious to the fact that it’s the USA that is the world’s number one meddler in foreign elections. Pot calls kettle black in other words.

A good article about France hopefully coming to grips with sexual abuse and pedophilia: Omerta in France. France has a long proud history of romance and seduction, but a lot of it is actually pretty nasty.

Another one from the trending “I’m going to change the facts to fit my narrative” file: Horses in Pre-Columbian America. Horses became extinct in North America something like ten thousand years ago, and didn’t return until the European conquest began after 1492. However, three modern groups are disputing that. One is some native groups, basically based on oral traditions, and the fact that they aren’t comfortable with the idea that the horse, which was such a central part of plains indian culture, originated with the European invaders. Hey, I can understand that. Second, by wild horse aficionados who want wild horses to get protected status, which is only granted to native species, not invasive species. Their hearts are in a good place. Lastly, the LDS Church. Because … the Book of Mormon written in the 19th century clearly claims there were horses in the New World in Biblical times. And of course since they claim it was written by God or such, it must be true. Right.

They’re all wrong of course. Well, wrong so far as current science understands it. Scientists do make mistakes though, that’s why scientific research is ongoing: It’s OK to be Wrong | NeuroLogica Blog. There was some thinking in the mid 19th century that science was on the verge of discovering everything there was to know and soon humans would have God’s creation all figured out. Ah, the folly of youth. Interestingly enough science is now able to find DNA in soil layers and determine what animals were around when the soil was deposited: All the major players spent time in the Denisovan cave. This is actually going to revolutionize archeology and paleontology. Not to mention putting the final nail in the coffin of such imaginary animals as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

Speaking of imaginary creatures, the much awaited Pentagon report of UFOs came out. Oh, wait, they’re UAPs now because UFOs have such a bad name. Of course the report contained absolutely nothing new, because UFOs are one big nothingburger. Great for scaring up defense dollars though: UFO Report Provides No New Information But Plenty Of Fodder For Cold Warrior Policymakers. I know some will say, but reliable people have seen them! Um, when someone sees something in the sky the human eye cannot determine how big it is, how far away it is, or how fast it is moving. Then there’s the fact that UFOs have only been reported in modern times in regions with a history of UFO sightings, no one has ever hit one, none have ever crashed, and no one has gotten a good picture of one.

When I was younger people would say, no one ever got a picture of a car crash either! Well, decades later, we have lots of car crash pictures, still no UFO, Bigfoot, or Nessie pics. And of course SETI has come up with absolutely nada, and they’ve tried a lot of promising approaches. If alien intelligent life is ever discovered, I will of course be thrilled, but right now the overwhelming evidence is that UFOs are mythological, sociological, and psychological constructs like ghosts and angels.

Getting more random here: ‘Dragon man’ claimed as new species of ancient human but doubts remain. Long story short, during WW2 Chinese laborers found a weird skull, didn’t want the Japanese occupiers to know about it, and it was hidden until just recently. And lo and behold it’s one of the most unusual ancient skulls ever found and some are claiming it’s a new human lineage like Denosovians or Neanderthals. Yeah, one skull, no context, no DNA. Let’s not get carried away, maybe it was a Denosovian Andre the Giant. Neat find, and our understanding of just how complicated the human lineage is grows all the time, but we are not going to be rewriting textbooks on the basis of one skull.

Well, a few more links, but tomorrow! Or whenever. Interesting time in my life indeed. So the pics above! Both were taken in the 1930s. The one on the left is a group of Soviet Young Pioneers. Kinda Stalin’s equivalent of Hitler Youth. On the right, a Mickey Mouse Club meeting. The similarities and differences are telling. Even by the thirties American youth were living in a fantasy world.

So final nice story and segue. During Kristallnacht, a Jewish family was in their home as a mob came up the street burning and looting Jewish homes. Just before it got there, their 17 year old neighbor ran into their house wearing his Hitler Youth uniform. When the mob arrived he yelled out of an upstairs window that the home had been sold to a good German family, and the Jews were gone. Saving their home and valuables, and ultimately saving their lives as it left them with the resources to flee Germany before the war.

Stay cool and safe everyone. #getvaccienatedcovid19 #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Described in text, both are Public Domain images to the best of my knowledge.)

Written by unitedcats

June 29, 2021 at 7:48 pm

SCIENCE TUESDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

February 9, 2021 at 7:39 pm

BORDERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

January 29, 2021 at 9:36 pm

TREPPENWITZ, AND TRUMP’S WHITE HOUSE DIET COKE BUTTON

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Ah, treppenwitz. Or esprit de l’escalier, the wit of the stairway. When someone claimed that having tens of thousands of troops in Washington for the inauguration was like being in a third world country, I should have replied: “Like one of those countries where the president incites a mob to attack the capitol to overturn a free and fair election?” The same person would have been apoplectic if the mob had been a BLM/Antifa mob.  Of course they don’t think it was a fair election, because how could their anointed by God leader possibly lose an election? Especially if he insisted he’d been cheated? I and many others have said it before, Trump supporters are now living in an alternate reality. Here is a great example: Sen. Graham calls out Biden administration’s claims that ‘everything is in shambles’. No Mr Graham, this isn’t the Obama playbook, Trump wasn’t a particularly good president, and after the election he basically ignored the exploding pandemic and everything else to concentrate on his fantasy quest to overturn the election. And his administration’s essential refusal to coordinate with the incoming Biden administration was historically unprecedented in modern times.

To back my point up, here are three of Trump’s most unqualified and corrupt appointments, all fired by Biden on his first day in office. The information comes from Slate.com, but since it’s paywalled, I’m rephrasing it here:

Michael Pack. He was appointed in June to run the U.S. Agency for Global Media. The Voice of America international broadcaster. He tried to transform it into a propaganda outlet for Trump, despite a  mandate that prohibits such political interference. He purged the staff of the VOA and sister networks, replacing them with Trump loyalists, insisted on pro-Trump coverage, and unconstitutionally punished reporters who didn’t toe the pro-Trump line. He also illegally fired the board of the Open Technology Fund, which promotes international internet freedom, and replaced them with Republican activists. After whistleblower complaints, the U.S. Office of Special Counselfound it very likely that Pack had broken federal law. After being fired by Biden, he whined that his termination “was a partisan act,” talk about self-owning irony.

Kathleen Kraninger, confirmed as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2018. She had no previous experience in consumer protection. She scrapped a rule that restricted predatory payday lending, insisting that her staff downplay the harm to consumers. She refused to enforce a federal law that protected military personnel from predatory payday lending, basically allowing them to be defrauded by said lenders. She also approved a rule allowing debt collectors to harass Americans with limitless texts and emails. Charming, appointed to protect consumers, instead she protected predatory lenders.

Lastly, Peter Robb. Confirmed as the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel in 2017. The NLRB’s mandate is  to enforce federal laws that protect workers’ right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining. Mr Robb is brutally anti-union. He tried to limit employees’ free speech, gave employers more ability to practice wage theft, crippled unions’ ability to collect dues, and helped prevent employees from organizing unions. He also tried to seize total control of the agency by demoting regional directors and consolidating power in his office, giving him unheard of power to bust unions and prevent new ones from forming. Biden fired his sorry a** after he refused to resign.

I’d link to the original Slate article, but I’m going to try to avoid linking to all unreasonably paywalled articles, what’s the point? I doubt very many of my readers subscribe to Slate. By the same token I unsubscribed to the New York Times today. I love many of their guest editorials, but I can’t share them with my friends and readers, so what’s the point? And boy, they made me jump through hoops to unsubscribe, further increasing my antipathy towards them. I swear, a lot of modern marketing seems to have avoided, I dunno, actually asking real people what they thought?

In any event, these and so many other examples show Trump not only broke his promise to drain the swamp, he was possibly the worst president ever for appointing industry lobbyists and Trump loyalists to posts where they were supposed to regulate said industries in a non-partisan way. Sigh. Hey, Trump University, a scam to cheat poor people out of their life savings shows what Trump really thought about poor and working class Americans.

So far Biden is at least paying lip service to the idea he is serving all Americans. He cancelled the Keystone Pipeline, which was interesting. Basically the pipeline only benefited the rich, had very serious ecological concerns, defiled sacred native land, and would have only provided a trivial number of jobs. IDK, this certainly seems to indicate that Biden won’t completely be a slave to the oil lobby. He also is going to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, which despite its flaws, at least acknowledges that human caused global warming is real. Which it is, the scientific debate ended decades ago; there are certainly questions about how best to deal with global warming, but pretending it’s all a hoax and continuing to pump CO2 and methane into the atmosphere to protect fossil fuel profiteering isn’t one of them.

Predictably, Fox News and the rest are already screaming in outrage about Biden. Apparently condemning white supremacy is an insult to Trump voters: Fox News upset over Biden’s denouncement of white supremacy – because it might offend Trump voters. Frankly, anyone who is upset about Biden denouncing white supremacy can go jump in a lake. Or jump in a time machine and go live in Hitler’s Germany. Hell, a QAnon congresswoman is already filing articles of impeachment against Biden. Yeah, gonna be a fun four years.

Lastly, I just found out that Trump had a button on his oval office desk that when he pushed, a butler would bring him a Diet Coke. Really. To me, that’s kind of grotesque, especially on the taxpayer’s dime. I can’t imagine even having a butler, just have a freaking mini fridge in your office if you need Diet Coke available 24/7. I would have made a very poor lord I guess. The button is gone now, Biden had it removed.

Have a safe and warm weekend everyone. The above meme references the explosion of Bernie in mittens memes after the inauguration. All good fun, though I’m sure Trump supporters, wed to the idea that Sanders is Mao reborn, are horrified. Think of the Children! Or some such, idk. Trump has zero sense of humor, and apparently his followers don’t either. I’ll keep blogging as long as I can. Comments, suggestions, shares, and especially patrons appreciated. I’ll never paywall my blog, but donors are incredibly appreciated. Thanks in advance, thanks for reading in any case. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Meme found on Facebook, attribution in image, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 22, 2021 at 9:00 pm

MURDER HORNETS, RIGHT WING VIOLENCE, AND OTHER FUN TOPICS FOR A FUN YEAR

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The first murder hornet nest has been found and destroyed in the United States. Scientists just sucked it out of a tree with a big vacuum. Sometimes the old ways are the best. The first time they vacuumed Westminster Cathedral 12 cartloads of vacuumings were hauled off. I digress. The murder hornet nest wasn’t unexpected, they’ve been in British Columbia since last September. Obviously they survived the winter, which tend to be mild at low elevations there. Despite all the hype, in the greater scheme of things this is relatively minor. IE people will learn to live with them, just like they live with other hornets. And beekeepers can protect hives by surrounding them with wire mesh. Finally, despite their reputation, murder hornets are actually a beneficial predator of insect pests.

The headline says it all: FBI: Far-Right Extremist Posed As BLM Protester, Fired On Minneapolis Police Precinct. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to point out that a right winger posing as a left winger to commit violence is right wing violence. Most political violence this election season has been from the right, though I doubt they don’t mention that much on Fox News. A lot of fear mongering from the right, So scary election season 2020 continues.

And this scares me. Will my marriage survive? It’s up to the Supreme Court. Several sitting justices have signaled they might revisit marriage equality. Why does this scare me? First of all the weird logic of “Your marriage takes away my religious rights.” Your religion says you can’t get gay married, great, don’t. When your religion tells other people they can’t get married because of your religion, that’s not religious liberty, it’s religious tyranny. Secondly, if they do this, half a million families are dissolved in the eyes of the law. More chaos and pain in already troubled times, to placate their God? There are zero logical or scientific reasons to outlaw marriage equality, any more than there were good reasons to outlaw miscegenation, laws which weren’t struck down until 1967. Wanting to dissolve consenting adults marriages is purely driven by religion, if not simple bigotry and intolerance.

I find it hard to get my head around the idea that there are people who think they know what’s good for everyone, and will gladly use the state’s power to enforce their religious beliefs on them. The very same people terrified of sharia law being imposed on them, have no problem enforcing evangelical law on everyone. Except it’s not that hard to understand, I’m a reformed bigot. It’s actually pretty simple, people that disagree with you are less than human in some ways. They are others, the enemy, not of the tribe. And they should get with the program and be grateful for it, or get out.

And a lot of these people are really angry now, urged on by Trump. 9 days until the election of my lifetime. Anything could happen. One positive thought, the captains of industry so to speak, must be a little alarmed at the prospect of an actual civil war or widespread civil unrest. Yes, so far Trump and the pandemic have been fabulously profitable for the ultra rich, but a country gutted by partisan violence? They wouldn’t want that, right? They’d do what needed to be done to keep the situation under control? LOL. Yeah, right. Kruppes and Mitsubishi rolled through WW2 without a peep even as their nations’ were being bombed flat. We’re fucked.

Here in northern Iowa, the atmosphere started freezing and falling to the ground today. As a friend said, anyone who likes winter never had livestock. Looks like we will get at least one more warmer spell next week, but still, we’re about a month ahead of the average first snowfall of an inch or more. Well, 2020 has been consistent so far, why not an early hard winter? Hope all had a good weekend. #WinterSucks #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(image: Murder hornet. Credit: Gary Alpert Used legally, details here.)

Written by unitedcats

October 25, 2020 at 7:44 pm

NO, THERE IS NO DEBATE ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING. PLUS VACCINE THEATER AND LIFE ON VENUS.

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America, land of denial. Trump has visited the fire ravaged West coast: US West Coast fires: Row over climate change’s role as Trump visits. Western governors are pointing out that global warming is a big part of the fire problem now raging across the west. Trump claims it’s poor forest management. Both are right and wrong, though as usual Trump is wronger. (Is that a word? It is now.) Yes, poor forest management is definitely a big part of the reason. Apparently Trump is overlooking that over half of forest land in the west is under federal management. So Trump is literally admitting to a big share of the blame. Since Trump is never wrong and never takes blame, only credit, I doubt that will get much mention in the circus that passes for the mainstream media in the US.

And no, the debate about global warming ended decades ago, Earth is rapidly warming up, and human activity is the cause. While we’re on the topic, the debate about evolution ended around 1870, the debate about creationism ended around 1830. I digress. This is America though, where if a powerful interest finds some scientific finding might hurt its profits, the science of science denial has made great progress in recent decades, and they are quite capable of creating “debate” where there is no debate. That American politicians are basically for sale to the highest bidder doesn’t hurt either. Welcome to Global Warming World, Northern Hemisphere summer was hottest on record, scientists say, where it’s just going to get worse and worse while Washington fiddles.  

Oh, wait, Trump is going to save us all. I missed this, but he declared he’s the greatest environmental president since Teddy Roosevelt! Trump Declares Himself “the No. 1 Environmental President” Well, he’s consistent at least. He’s also declared he’s been the best president for blacks since Lincoln, and the best president for LGTB rights ever. Basically, he’s the best at everything. The fact that all three claims are not only wrong, they are in complete opposite of the facts of his record is irrelevant. Some close to him say Trump apparently can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. Psychotic is a term one acquaintance used. Beats me, but someone who literally spent his term gutting and cancelling every environmental law and regulation he could is not an “environmental” president. If he actually believes it, then it’s partially true, he’s mental. 

Trump officials rush to introduce untested vaccine tracking system. Yes, Trump’s gonna be distributing a vaccine just before the election! What a guy! Trump’s gonna save the day! Sigh. No, this is pandemic theater. The date was chosen for political reasons, the chances a safe and effective and well tested vaccine will be available then is almost zero. You’d think that the fact that Trump keeps saying everything is going to come up roses … and it doesn’t … might cost him support. No, at this point Trump followers are committed, they’ve built their whole world view and identity around Trump, there’s nothing so blinding as deciding a leader is the Messiah. Look at Jim Jones and his followers.

An interesting article: Why Are Right-Wing Conspiracies so Obsessed With Pedophilia? Short version: “They’re baby killers!” is really effective propaganda, has been throughout history. They go into the McMartin preschool case, where one obviously not-quite-right-in-the-head mother claimed her son had been abused. (The fact that she kept her kid in the center even after making the allegations should have tipped people off.) The police interviewed a bunch of preschoolers, and oh my, the stories they told. Underground tunnels, animal sacrifices, satanic rituals, the whole works. They even sacrificed a giraffe! (Again, someone should have said, wait, what? Where would they get a giraffe?) 15 millions dollars of investigation later, multiple lives ruined, and it was all so much nonsense. Turns out preschoolers are easily encouraged to make stuff up to please the friendly policemen questioning them. A giraffe? Oh well, interesting read.

In some good news, life on Venus! Well, that came out of the blue. However, let’s not get carried away, like so many headlines: A gas found on Earth that signifies life has been detected in the clouds on Venus. So no, actual life detected, not quite. Phosphine, a nasty smelling swamp gas produced by anaerobic bacteria has been detected in Venus’s atmosphere. Entirely by surprise I might add. The reason scientists think this discovery might signify  life is because no one knows of any other way Phosphine could be produced. We’re likely not talking surface life, the surface of Venus is hellishly hot and unlikely to support life. Some of the cloud layers are quite temperate though. In fact it’s been seriously suggested that Venus is one of the best colony spots in the Solar System: Our Future in Space. Why pray tell? Because Venus has Earth normal gravity, unlike anywhere else in the Solar System but Earth. It’s the one thing that can’t be easily artificially created, and at this point it’s pretty clear for long term habitation, Earth normal gravity is likely essential for healthy human life.

I digress. It is exciting news, Venus is close, much closer than Mars. No doubt sample return missions are already being sketched out, don’t even need a lander, just a probe that swoops through the atmosphere and then returns samples to Earth. The discovery of life elsewhere in the Solar System would be a huge leap in our understanding of life. Essentially there are two possibilities. It’s related to life on Earth, which means panspermia is possible and life is likely all over the Solar System. Or more exciting, it’s not related to Earth life, which means life arose independently in two places in the Solar System. Which pretty much means life is all over the Universe.

Which then brings us back to, if life is everywhere, where are the aliens? Good question, hope there’s an answer in my lifetime. Stay safe everyone as we spiral into an insane election. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #InsanusTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved. 

(Image: Facebook image of unknown attribution, used without permission. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 14, 2020 at 8:27 pm

AMERICA, THE SICK MAN OF THE WORLD?

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And yet there are people still thinking Covid-19 is no big deal. If we keep finding long term problems with Covid-19 sufferers, America is setting itself up for a very bleak future. A future where tens of millions of American have long term health problems and shortened lifespans. The costs of this to America would be staggering. And add to that the costs of endlessly fighting Covid-19 outbreaks and all the other economic costs incurred by a country with a pandemic essentially running out of control, and America in a few years is going to be a dystopian nightmare. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not seeing a whole lot of encouraging news.

And now the Republican Convention. For all practical purposes Trumpland has declared independence from the rest of America. Hell, they’ve declared war on the rest of America. The only message I’m seeing from them is “If you don’t support Trump you’re an enemy of America out to destroy it.” They’ve also declared independence from reality itself. It’s not going to end well, global warming is real and Covid-19 isn’t going to magically go away no matter what Trump says or how many people believe him. So the only question is how much damage will occur before reason prevails. A lot, judging from the current mess. What a time to be alive.

To be fair, Congress has also completely dropped the ball, too concerned with partisan bickering to actually do their job. And now they’ve gone on vacation: The Senate Is on Vacation While Americans Starve, Thirty million households didn’t have enough food in the last week. Only the Fed has acted forcefully. The GOP blames the Dems, the Dems blame the GOP, the rich get richer, the rest of America is on their own. On the plus side, I have endless time to write, lots to write about, and I’m getting pretty good at growing food.

I guess one good sign is that moderate Republicans are starting to desert Trump and endorse Biden: More than 70 former GOP national security officials wrote an open letter backing Biden, calling Trump corrupt and unfit to lead. Not surprising, Trump’s, cronyism, nepotism, out of control spending, and corruption are well documented outside of the Rush “It’s just a cold folks!” Limbaugh and Fox News Universe. And especially Trump’s decision to fight Covid-19 using magic: How Trump let Covid-19 win, Trump’s magical thinking couldn’t beat the coronavirus. America is stuck with the consequences. It’s a nice overview of a horrifying topic. The rest of the world is fighting Covid-19 with various methods, some more successful than others; all more successful than Trump’s “thoughts and prayers will do the trick” approach.

Here’s another one that just shows how grotesque Trump’s “management” of the country is: How a Plan to Save the Power System Disappeared, A federal lab found a way to modernize the grid, reduce reliance on coal, and save consumers billions. Then Trump appointees blocked it. It will make any right thinking reader sick to their stomach. Basically a federal lab did a study and figured out a simple way to massively streamline the nation’s antiquated power grid, making it far more friendly to renewable energy, greatly reducing our dependence on coal, thus saving consumers billions of dollars and countless lives. Guess what, Trump has a hard on for coal for some reason, and his appointees quashed the study. This is insanity, the rest of the world is moving into the 21st century and modernizing their power grids, we’re sticking with 19th century technology with horrific ecological and health costs … because coal barons have Trump’s ear.

Yeah, the Ottoman Empire in its long decline was known as the Sick Man of Europe. If America stays in its current death spiral, will we be the Sick Man of the World? I think the next six months is really going to be crucial for seeing where America is headed. Will the slogan for the 2024 election be “Make America Liveable Again?” Stay safe everyone. Shares, comments, likes appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #UtMelioremPeiusAnteTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An image found on Facebook. Credit: Claire Jordan on Quora Used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US Copyright Law. Properly attributed, I thank her for her insight and hope she would be cool with me using her thoughts here.)

Written by unitedcats

August 25, 2020 at 7:02 pm

HUMANS ARE CAUSING GLOBAL WARMING AND IT’S A BAD THING

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retreat

Global warming. There’s been a lot of bad news about it lately. Not surprising, no more surprising than damage occurring when a building is on fire. The difference of course is that when a building is on fire, people band together to fight the fire. They don’t stand around arguing about who set the fire, or claiming that the fire really is a good thing and people should just let the house burn down. Especially if it’s their only house. There is no real doubt humans are causing global warming, but because science deals in probabilities, not certainties, it makes it really easy for deniers to claim there is controversy where there isn’t any. And there’s no doubt global warming is a bad thing, the only complication is there’s uncertainty as to how bad.

This is a favorite tactic of deniers of all stripes. Biblical literalists love to claim there is debate about evolution, evolution is just a theory, evolution is a theory in crisis, etc. In point of fact the scientific debate about evolution was over by about 1870. It’s a bedrock theory in biology that has been demonstrated in the field and in the lab countless times. Until someone comes up with a theory that better explains over a century of experiment and observation, evolution is fact for all practical purposes. Or even something as solid as the Sun coming up tomorrow. Scientists cannot say for certainty that the Sun will come up tomorrow, just that the probability that it will do so approaches certainty. That subatomic sliver of uncertainty is all deniers need to create the illusion of controversy.

It’s frustrating to say the least. In many areas it doesn’t really matter what people believe no matter how unscientific, flat earthers or Moon landing deniers aren’t going to cause any real problems. (Knock on wood.) Global warming deniers, yeah, major problem. An extremely well funded industry, fossil fuels are the world’s number one industry, is literally putting humanity’s future at stake in order to keep raking in profits. It was bad enough when industry did the same regarding cigarettes and leaded paint/gas, this is far worse. Granted global warming isn’t the only thing humans are doing to destroy Earth’s habitability, but it’s easily the worst.

And one of the most frustrating things about the situation is that human caused global warming is really simple. It doesn’t depend on obscure theories, complicated models, or rocket science. A freaking fourth grader can understand it. Simple physics and measurements, neither of which is debatable. We know that the huge increase in atmospheric CO2 the past two centuries is caused by humans. And we know this is warming the globe. There aren’t any alternatives, this has been settled science for decades.

Wait, how do we know these are facts? As follows. The huge increase in atmospheric CO2 the past two centuries is beyond dispute. It’s simply a matter of direct measurement, I don’t think even the hardcore deniers dispute this. And we know it was caused by human activities. How? Basically there are two types of carbon, C-12 and C-14. C-14 is an unstable radioactive isotope of carbon that is created by cosmic rays striking carbon atoms in the atmosphere. It’s created at a certain rate, and it decays at a certain rate, so the percentage of C-14 to C-12 in the atmosphere is basically constant. And since living organisms get virtually all their carbon from the atmosphere, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 in living tissue matches that of atmospheric carbon.

This is how carbon dating works, when an organism dies, it stops absorbing Carbon. The C-14 in its tissues continues to decay into C-12 though, so the older organic tissue is, the less C-14 it contains. Thus the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in organic tissue tells us when the tissue died, making it very useful for dating organic artifacts. Well, all the new carbon in the atmosphere contains no C-14. There’s only two possible sources of carbon devoid of C-14, human activity or volcanoes. Burning fossil fuels produce only C-12, the carbon in them having been sequestered in the ground for millions of years. And volcanoes can only account for less than 1% of the new carbon in the atmosphere, they contribute about 200 million tons of C02 per year. About 29 billion tons of new CO2 is added to the atmosphere every year, and burning fossil fuels are the only other possible source for this. Both these numbers are gotten from actual measurement, again, no room for debate.

So it’s a slam dunk that the huge increase in atmospheric CO2 in the atmosphere is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. The second part of the picture is even simpler. Different gases reflect heat at different rates. So one can go outside, point a spectroscope at the sky, and determine what gases are reflecting heat back towards the ground. And turns out there are five main gases that account for almost all of the heat trapped by the atmosphere: CO2, methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide, and ozone. We’ve known this for like 200 years, simple measurement and physics. Increase the amount of these gases in the atmosphere, and the amount of heat trapped by the atmosphere goes up. Solid, well established science.

Backed up by over a century of increasingly sophisticated measurements. Earth is warming up, and it’s warming up at an unprecedented rate. Sure, the CO2 has been as high as it is now in the distant past, and Earth was wildly warmer then too. Neither fact in any way, shape, or form implies that humans aren’t behind the current rise in CO2 or global warming. Worse, sometimes deniers like to claim “It’s been like this before, what’s the big deal?” The big deal is when it was like this before the Earth was a wildly different place, the oceans were hundreds of feet higher, and the tropics and continental interiors were uninhabitable.

So we are literally racing towards global calamity, all so the fossil fuel industry can keep raking in the profits. I thought about naming this post “Global Warming for Dummies” but decided against it. I want to engage the deniers, not insult them. And sadly conspiracy ideation is no indication of lack of intelligence, smart people can be anti-vaxxers or Moon landing deniers. Our brains are simply not wired for logic, and thus easily get led astray. I sometimes think that if formal logic was standard school curriculum, maybe someday progress can be made out of the scientific Dark Age we are sliding into. Still, we can’t even get teachers to stop hawking their religion in schools, let alone get them to teach logic.

So make hay while the world burns I guess. So far the effects of global warming are running considerably ahead of the worst case models, and there’s no reason to think this trend won’t continue. Unfortunately the American Empire, the new Roman Empire, is sustained entirely by fossil fuel exploitation, so it’s not going to willingly give up its oil addiction. Many actually seem to think it’s no big deal. Yes Mr Pompeo “The climate’s been changing a long time. There’s always changes that take place.” Unfortunately for your facile “analysis” Mr Pompeo the changes that took place over the past 11,000 years or so have been mild, and the Earth has enjoyed a very stable climate regime. The changes taking place now are extreme, unlike anything the Earth has seen for millions of year, and it’s only just begun.

Oh well, like always, half the reason I wrote this post was to increase my own understanding. So all I’ve done is depress myself. Our only hope is that the future is mutable, it looks grim now, but maybe our civilization will evolve to meet the challenge. We have come some ways since the Roman Empire, and despite all the parallels, at least wholesale politically motivated murder is no longer practised in Rome. I mean Washington. Those Emperors were a homicidal lot. Tell me this is an improvement. Please.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: I put together the above image from images I found on Wikipedia. Credit: Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 10, 2019 at 6:47 pm

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