Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

9/11 WEEK

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Today is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the USA. My thoughts and observations in some particular order. To say the attacks were a big deal at the time would be an understatement, in terms of immediate impact they were easily the biggest events of my life. In living memory they were rivalled by the Kennedy assasination and Pearl Harbor, but those were both before my time. I was living in rural Oregon, watching “The FBI Files” the morning of the attacks. My housemate wandered through the room, noticed some text scrolling at the bottom of the screen, gasped, and flipped to a news channel. By then both towers had collapsed, and it was a shocking sight. Very briefly I thought maybe this was some War of the Worlds thing, a movie trailer that somehow had been mistaken for the real thing; but I quickly realized it was in fact real, and that thousands of people were dead and dying. A freaking nightmare.

I had strange dreams earlier. First I was walking down a long country road, a city skyline in the distance. There was a ragged barbed wire fence with weeds alongside the road. Beyond the fence was an expanse of dust in a pile about six foot high. Tan dust, maybe fine sand. I remember thinking in my dream it might be fun to slide down the side of the pile, and I was looking for a gap in the fence to get to it. Then the dream morphed, and I was huddling in the corner of a basement with some frightened people, we were sheltering from an explosion of some sort. Then I woke up, went in and started my day like any other. Until my friend changed the TV channel. Was there any connection between my dream and the events that were even then unfolding on the other side of the continent?

Beats me. I wasn’t as affected by 9/11 as some people, no one I knew worked in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. It was still shocking as hell. So many people dead and dying. And the jumpers, oh my God, I can’t imagine. Turns out a good friend of mine was in Manhattan that day. Hell of a thing. He said after the first plane hit people just thought it was some terrible accident and were trying to get a better view. So he was watching when the second plane hit, and then of course people knew it wasn’t just some terrible accident. He’s upset by it all to this day, and can’t watch any of today’s coverage. I can’t imagine. At some point later I read some transcripts of 9/11 calls made from the towers before they fell. I wish I hadn’t.

So it was awful, and I feel for those who lost friends, family, and loved ones. God rest the souls of those who died that awful September morn, God grant solace to the survivors. In retrospect there was at least one item of good news that day, and I’ll end this post on that note. In the middle of the second tower to be struck was the largest tenant of the towers, they occupied 20 floors. When the first tower was struck the on site manager told everyone to just get out and go home as quickly as they could. Not out of any prescience, he just knew that no work would be done that day, and he wanted his employees to get clear of the towers before throngs of emergency vehicles and rubberneckers jammed all the nearby roads, etc.. Shortly afterward the second plane struck right in the middle of those 20 floors … and they were all empty. Every single employee survived. And I bet that manager hasn’t had to pay for a drink when out with coworkers since.

More posts about 9/11 will follow, they will be (or are) linked below. Hope all are having a good, if somber, weekend.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The first tower just as it started to collapse. Credit: Unknown, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2021 at 4:28 pm

AFTER THE DELUGE

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Well, I didn’t expect flash flood and tornado(!) warnings in NYC while visiting, I thought tornado warnings were an Iowa thing. No tornadoes here in NYC fortunately, but yes, they did have one in New Jersey. Yeesh. I spent much of my childhood in New Jersey, I sure don’t remember tornadoes ever being an issue. Above is a normally busy freeway near where I am staying in NYC. The car in the center was trapped by flooding in front and behind. Behind two partially submerged cars are visible. These folks got to walk home through pouring rain, heaviest rain ever recorded in NYC. More than 40 people dead in the US northeast, hell of a storm.

This of course was the tail end of Hurricane Ida. Killed more people in the northeast than it did on the gulf coast. More people living here, less prepared for this kind of extreme weather event, though that’s just my speculation. What’s not speculation is the huge increase in extreme weather events over the past fifty years: Climate and weather related disasters surge five-fold over 50 years, but early warnings save lives – WMO report. What would save even more lives is if nations took serious measures to combat global warming, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. International cooperation for international good is only a fantasy no matter what governments say.

Covid really made this clear. There’s a great article in the New York Times about it. Since it’s paywalled, I’ll sum it up. Basically it points out that to date there has essentially been no international cooperation in fighting a global pandemic, and essentially every nation including the world’s richest nations only took care of their own, leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself. Well, almost none. The one thing they did do was cooperate to make sure the international finance system kept running smoothly, so while most people on Earth suffered from Covid one way tother, the rich continued to get richer.

In other words, when Reagan once speculated that humanity would pull together in the face of an alien threat, he was laughably naive. Covid is most definitely a global alien threat, and humanity is most definitely not pulling together to face it. Even crazier, the cost to do so would be trivial and easily affordable, and the cost of not doing so will be staggering. This bodes very ill for future global threats, in fact by letting Covid run rampant, there’s a good chance it will mutate into a much more terrible threat. Fun times. Read the article if one can: Opinion | What if the Coronavirus Crisis Was Just a Trial Run?

And the global media isn’t helping. Most of it’s not really even journalism anymore, just clickbait infotainment. When not actually repackaged government/corporate propaganda. Critical thinking not welcome. In this vein, I came across an article on the Today site. I’m not familiar with the site, but superficially it appears to be a “legitimate” news and information site, not some sort of Onion knock-off. They are reviewing a documentary from the History Channel: History Channel doc reveals key discovery in Bermuda Triangle. First of all, the idea that a legitimate news site would take the History Channel seriously is bad enough, but here’s the first two paragraphs:

“It’s a mystery that has endured for 76 years in a fabled area that many sailors and aviators have long said contains supernatural forces we don’t understand.

On Dec. 5, 1945, 14 airmen flying five World War II torpedo bombers called Avengers took off from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale on a routine training mission over the Bermuda Triangle and were never seen again. The U.S. Navy even sent a Martin Mariner search plane out at the time to find the missing aircraft, and that plane and it’s crew of 13 also disappeared.”

Um, how to say this, all bollocks? The only mystery is why anyone thinks there’s a mystery. Millions of people including countless aviators and sailors travel through the Bermuda Triangle every single day without giving it a second thought, let alone invoking supernatural hogwash. The disappearance of Flight 19 was well investigated and well understood at the time, and only became a “mystery” in the 1960s when an author invented “The Bermuda Triangle” and simply made up all sorts of details about Flight 19 to make its loss seem spooky. Ending up with a blatant lie, the Martin Mariner caught fire, crashed, and exploded shortly after takeoff. The Martin Mariner’s not-so-affectionate nickname was “The Flying Gas Tank,” so catching fire and exploding was a not uncommon occurrence. No cause of the fire and explosion was ever determined, but this was 1945 and the black box wouldn’t be invented for another decade. There’s no reason to assume anything supernatural occurred, it was just another plane crash in an era where planes were nowhere near as safe as they are today.

End rant. Well, I’ve got more links, but I guess that’s enough for now. I also had an epiphany a week ago that completely changed my worldview. Still processing it all, but I suppose it’s worth writing about at some point. It caused me to lose all desire to drink for one thing, which in and of itself is a very strange feeling. Life, you grow and then you die. Though frankly the growth part seems optional for many people. C’est la vie. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Freeway near NYC. Credit and Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

September 3, 2021 at 4:25 pm

“THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES” PLUS THE 2021 NONSENSE CONTINUES

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I saw a classic movie the other night: “The Best Years of Our Lives” It was a 1946 movie about three servicemen returning from World War Two and the difficulties they had re-adjusting to civilian life. Surprisingly, to me at least, it was quite watchable. I find it fascinating how some old movies become pretty much unwatchable after even a few decades, while others become timeless classics. Partly personal preference I am sure, but I am sure there are other factors at play. It was also interesting in that the movie took a very honest look at what we now call PTSD, these three veterans had serious issues. I’m sort of stuck on the idea that prior to 1980 or so most movies portrayed an idealised “Father Knows Best” view of American culture, so it was refreshing to see one with a more honest take. Unfortunately they all worked out their problems in the end and lived happily ever after, which is a far cry from the realities of PTSD.

Still, a movie I really enjoyed. As did the people at the time, it was a wildly popular movie, and won nine academy awards. Including the first time a non professional actor won an academy award, Harold Russel; and the only time a performer won two awards for the same performance, Harold Russell again. I guess it’s a good thing that a movie about people dealing with personal demons was so popular, even if the demons were unrealistically vanquished. It’s Hollywood, happy endings are what they are all about. Hey, even I, who recently lost all faith in humanity, liked it.

In politics: The utter ridiculousness of calls for Joe Biden to resign. It really is transcendentally absurd. 13 Americans die, and the GOP falls all over themselves claiming Biden is unfit to lead and should resign. Were there calls for Roosevelt to resign after Pearl Harbor? Reagan to resign after the Beirut Barracks bombing? Trump after Covid killed hundreds of thousands of Americans? Bush to resign after 9/11? Maybe, but not by mainstream leaders of the opposition party. This really shows just how out of touch with reality the GOP has gotten, because they refuse to accept Biden as the elected president, that somehow that translates into he’s unfit to lead. Give me a break. And whatever criticism one wants to aim at Biden, he successfully pulled off one of the greatest airborne evacuations in history, over 150,000 people evacuated in two weeks.

Not surprising, manufactured outrage is all the GOP has. They’ve been spreading a story that Biden repeatedly checked his watch during the ceremony as the US dead from Kabul were unloaded. No, he didn’t: Did Biden Check Watch 13 Times During Transfer of Fallen Soldiers? In fact he may once have glanced at his watch, though that isn’t even clear. No worries though, Fox News replayed the video at half speed to exaggerate the glance and make it appear more than it was: Fox News manipulates its own video to spread allegation that Biden looked at his watch during transfer of fallen troops. Kind of like how the British during World War Two edited a film of Hitler to make it look like he was dancing a little jig after the surrender of France. Of course Britain was at war with Germany at the time and making Hitler look bad was a very reasonable propaganda exercise. Um, is Fox News at war with America? Apparently, if they are happy to alter a film to make Biden look bad. Nonsense like this not only destroys the mainstream media’s credibility, it’s a big factor in tearing America apart and making it ungovernable. And Fox News isn’t the only one, but they led the way.

Sigh. A good article about China, Taiwan, and the US. More accurately, just how nation states are adamant about not letting provinces secede. The US paid a terrible price preventing the Confederacy from seceding, and if anything the Chinese are even more adamant that Taiwan is a part of China. For the US to go to war with China to prevent it reunifying with Taiwan is utter folly. Still, nations have gotten into stupid wars for no good reason throughout history, just hoping this doesn’t turn into one of those wars. Good read:  American Civil War and the Lesson for China and Taiwan.

And then some of today’s truly whacked nonsense. A man who no doubt thinks of himself as a patriot and a Christian calls for tens of millions of Americans to be literally starved into supporting Trump’s “Stop the Steal” lies: ‘You Get Nothing’: Josh Bernstein Calls for Democratic Voters to Be Starved Until Biden Resigns. This would of course include millions of innocent children, not to mention millions of Trump supporters. This is called “collective punishment,” and is a human rights violation and war crime of the first order, something only the most hideous authoritarian governments do. (cough) Nazis (cough.) And unlike the Nazi’s who would massacre villages for supporting insurgents, he’s talking about collective punishment for people exercising their right to vote. And once again I apologize for my prior claims that comparing Trumpism to Nazism was overblown, I was wrong.

And for dessert: Christian Preacher: If Trump Isn’t Reinstated, Your Wives May Be Raped. The title pretty much speaks for itself.  Thoughts and prayers to those impacted by Ida. And I am doing something about it, I write about Global Warming constantly to fight the fossil fuel industry lies that are making the consequences of Global Warming far worse than they needed to be. Hope all are having a good week, stay safe and dry everyone.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Hitler jig photo, taken at the surrender of France to Germany on 22 June 1940. It was from a film that was altered to make Hitler dance a little jig, but I couldn’t find that online. Credit: Unknown, likely Public Domain under US copyright law, claimed as Fair Use in any case.)

Written by unitedcats

September 1, 2021 at 4:35 pm

MYSTERY PHOTO, THE WHITE MAN’S BURDEN 2021, PERFORMATIVE PROGRESSIVISM, MASKS WORK, MARS PHOTOS, AND NONCONTRAFREELOADING CATS

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Yes, covering a lot of bases in this post. Leading off with a mystery photo, what the hell is going on here? I’ll leave for the gentle reader to ponder, answer at the end of the post. What a week it’s been. The situation in Afghanistan is ugly, no doubt about it. Not sure I can add anything new, so enough of that for now. As is so often my format, a few interesting links I’ve stumbled onto, and my observations about them.

Well, OK, maybe something peripheral about Afghanistan, this link: As Joe Biden walks America away from the world stage Europe is left exposed. I offer this article because it is a great example of the colonial bias that infects the mainstream media. The implicit idea that somehow running the world is America and its allies’ business. The modern version of “The White Man’s Burden.” Truth be told it would be harder to find a part of the world with as little strategic importance to the west as Afghanistan, America’s withdrawal from it is about as strategically unimportant as it gets. The only real mystery is why the USA under the aegis of Nato stayed there as long as they did, the weird pronouncements in the article about how Europe was somehow affected by America’s withdrawal notwithstanding.

In American politics: California recall looks like a disaster — and the state’s top Democrats paved the way. Yes, the GOP might well win the recall election they instigated in California. Why, isn’t California a mostly Democratic progressive state? Yes, yes it is. However, the government of California, like the Biden administration, isn’t really progressive, all they have is performative progressivism. IE they talk the talk, but when it comes to getting progressive policies established, they sell out to their corporate masters every time. Great way to inspire Democratic voters to stay home.

Granted, the GOP is into performative Christianity and performative conservatism in the same fashion, but they have been vastly better at stoking the outrage that drives Republican voters to vote. (I mean they kind of have too, they don’t actually stand for anything anymore, so fearmongering and stoking outrage is all the GOP has.) And science is really starting to get a handle on how social media amplifies outrage without even trying: Social Media Outrage | NeuroLogica Blog. So no surprise here. Trump is in fact particularly good at stoking outrage, in social media and off. I mean he stoked outrage to the point where he got a mob to storm the Capitol, gotta give the man his props, when it comes to fear mongering Trump is in a league of his own. Well, maybe shared with another world leader who was a master at stoking outrage, but he left the world stage some 76 years ago.

In Covid news just another reminder that despite all the flaming BS in some quarters, masks do indeed work. As the good doctor puts it: “It is nothing less than shameful that we are still bogged down in the basic question of whether or not wearing a mask during a deadly and increasingly infectious pandemic is effective. The science is in – masks work.” Here is the article: Masks Work | NeuroLogica Blog. The doctor is far more diplomatic than me. There’s governors and legislatures and such actually outlawing mask mandates, because freedumb? Covid has really fucked up public discourse: Seven Cognitive Distortions Poisoning COVID Debates

— Our society is more and more incapable of debating real issues.

Sigh, OK, a few science links to cleanse the palate. The next link is primarily of interest to science nerds and especially Mars nerds, it’s still amazing to me that when I was a kid all we knew about Mars was a few fuzzy telescope pictures, and now we have robots galore exploring it: See some of the most intriguing photos from NASA’s Perseverance rover so far. And cats, breakthroughs in cat science are always exciting. Turns out cats are the only known animal so far that doesn’t exhibit contrafreeloading.

Wait, what’s contrafreeloading? Well, say an animal is given a choice between freely available food, and food they have to do something to get. This was first tried on rats, a colony of rats had a choice between a bowl of food, or identical food they had to push a lever to get. Most of the time the rats went for the food where they had to push a lever to get. And follow up studies found this in every animal they tested, the animals had a preference for food that they had to do something to obtain. Wild animals, domestic animals, they all exhibited this behaviour, which was labeled contrafreeloading. And frankly, scientists still don’t know why animals have this preference, it seems counterintuitive, why not go for the easy food?

And to make the situation even more confusing, exactly one animal doesn’t exhibit this behavior, our beloved moggies: Cute Experiment Reveals How Your Cat Probably Wants Its Meals Served. Obviously since science can’t explain contrafeeloading, they are pretty much at a loss to explain why cats don’t exhibit this behavior. They’re pretty sure it’s not because cats are simply lazy, though one can be forgiven for thinking that. My theory is they’re just smarter than other animals, but I think that of cats no matter what. Cat science marches on.

So, the mystery pic. A man holding a bird outside a tank, yes, that’s a World War One tank. Fast food delivery? Peace offering? Some demented tanker’s idea of a joke? Nope, that’s a carrier pigeon. The interior of the first tanks were so noisy that the crew inside had to communicate using hand signals with each other. And since it was so noisy, radios couldn’t be used to communicate with the outside world. Yet the tank still needed to be able to communicate with HQ. The solution? Each tank carried two carrier pigeons, and there was indeed a special hatch for releasing them. Carrier pigeons were widely used in World War One, and interestingly enough, one such message was discovered recently in France.

Have a great weekend everyone! Stay safe and cool. Looks like the hurricane is going to miss New York, maybe I’ll publish a bonus post this weekend.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: World War One tank and carrier pigeon. Credit: Unknown, but Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 20, 2021 at 6:12 pm

AMERICA’S SAIGON MOMENT IN AFGHANISTAN, A WAR THAT LASTED NEARLY ONE THIRD OF MY LIFE ENDS IN A DAY.

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They don’t call Afghanistan “The Graveyard of Empires” for nothing. While a Taliban victory was imminent and inevitable last week; today, 15 August 2021, the provisional  Afghan government fled, and the Taliban marched into Kabul and seized effective control of Afghanistan. America’s longest war is over. In the vulgar vernacular: “It’s over. We lost.”

Historically this looks to be a big deal. It’s a freaking big deal in Afghanistan for sure. In America, if Facebook is any indication, Afghanistan is essentially non news. The forgetting is already in place. Or misdirection, Trump and the right are already proudly proclaiming it’s all Biden’s fault and they could have prevented the Taliban march into Kabul. And a third of Americans don’t get that this analysis is both infantile, ignorant, and not helpful.

If we’re gonna be political, at least Biden had the balls to get out of an expensive and counterproductive war. Reagan was the last president with that kind of stones. And Trump was the one who set the ball rolling in Afghanistan for freak’s sake. He signed the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, Biden just followed through.

And in America it’s all compromised because ignorance about Afghanistan and its last fifty years of history is rampant. Even worse, most Americans believe stuff about Afghanistan that just ain’t true.The US didn’t ever fund the Taliban for example, the Taliban didn’t arise until 1994, and they arose to fight the mujahideen the US had supported to drive out the Russian invaders.And no, this is not a religious war. Yes, the Taliban are inspired by their faith, but their war against the US was about driving foreign invaders from their land.

“The question I never hear asked. Where would Afghanistan be today if the USA had never been there?” My answer: Run by a stable, popular, Pashtun, and remarkably uncorrupt theocracy. And they would be an isolated impoverished sanctioned pariah state like Cuba, North Korea, or Iran … because that was US policy before we invaded. Good question.

Hell if I know really. The fact that no one has ever been much good at predicting history, how many peeps predicted the Taliban would roll into Kabul today, shows that the future can’t be predicted. This is true retroactively as well.

Today was a turning point in history. Or it isn’t. What now? Anyone who says they know is a liar or a fool. I can only hope that the bloodletting remains low, so far so good. The Taliban are not ISIS. For good or for ill Afghans now control their own fate, as it should be.

I’m freaked about this turn of events. Stay safe everyone, have a great week.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A US helicopter evacuating the last few people from the US embassy. Attribution unknown, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law as it is an historically significant photo.)

Written by unitedcats

August 15, 2021 at 7:28 pm

THIS IS AMERICA

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July 4th 2021. America celebrates its Independence Day. 245 years ago today a group of wealthy white male property (and slave) owning Americans declared independence from Great Britain. Yes discerning gentle reader, if one wants to read a fawning celebration of an imaginary America, this isn’t the place. There were some great things about America and its founding: the idea of Constitutional government, indivisible human rights, and representative democracy. Sadly these are more honoured in the breach than in the observance. So today a few somber reflections. First a poem:

Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

That’s the first three stanzas, the entire poem can be read here: Let America Be America Again.

The poem reminded me of this: Childish Gambino – This Is America (Official Video). What can I say, there are great things to celebrate about America. There are however terrible things, ongoing things, things that are horrific compared to the rest of the world. Pretending otherwise isn’t patriotic by my way of thinking. Pretending that in some mythical past things were better is even less patriotic.

Lastly, I was hoping Trump would come through with some July 4th pronouncement I could use to end this post. Alas, no. However, Trump junior came through! He posted the image above. At the very best, this is weird as fook. On so many levels one could write a book about it. If immortality is discovered and available to me, maybe I will.

Until then, happy Fourth. Patriotic BS aside, at least people and families came together on this holiday. I did my best, weirdest Fourth ever, but at least I honored it with this post. (Criticizing America is honoring it, claiming that dissent doesn’t honor it … is literally the ultimate way of dishonoring America.)

Speaking of ultimate: The Ultimate Showdown [4K Remaster]. Safe and happy Fourth everyone.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Posted by Trump Jr, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 4, 2021 at 7:21 pm

Posted in History, Politics, Trump

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

CANADIAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS FOR CHILDREN, CRITICAL RACE THEORY, WW2 TRUTHERS, HISTORY, AND OTHER NEWS OF THE WEEK

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Fun headline recently: Canada: 751 unmarked graves found at residential school. This is the second such mass grave found in recent months, 215 graves were found earlier. Residential schools were government funded church run schools where native children were forcibly relocated in order to convert them into good little English speaking Canadians. The schools were expressly for the purpose of wiping out native culture and “assimilating” natives. The schools were by all accounts horrible places, with children dying regularly of disease and abuse, and then buried in unmarked graves. Apologists like to claim they are ‘unmarked graves’ not ‘mass graves.’ Whether you kill people all at once and shove them into a pit, or kill them periodically and shove them into individual pits makes no difference, it’s still a mass grave.

Horrors of the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries? Nope, the last residential school closed in 1996. Growing up in Canada I was exposed to a lot of racist attitudes towards natives, but I never imagined things like this existed. Now at least it’s coming out, but my image of Canada as some sort of positive force in the world is now finally and completely shattered. And the Canadian government’s more or less tepid response confirms it. This should be investigated and prosecuted with all the vigor of any gross human rights crime, but it won’t be. Baby steps I guess, it is good that things like this and the Tulsa race massacre are getting dragged out of the shadows, but we’ve got a long way to go.

In the US this is particularly the case, with the GOP and religious right fervently opposing even discussion of these sorts of crimes or the removal of monuments to criminals. That’s what the whole hysteria over Critical Race Theory is all about, preventing even discussion and education about the role that race played and plays in American. The evangelical right does this by pretending that CRT is about teaching white people that they are bad or guilty because of the color of their skin. And by pretending that removing statues of Civil War traitors is somehow erasing history. No, it’s about unwhitewashing history so people can understand and move on together. I mean, the paranoia in some quarters is frightening. Nick Fuentes: Making Juneteenth A Federal Holiday Is ‘About Furthering The Genocide Of White People’

It’s why I write, but I feel more pessimistic all the time both globally and nationally. Nationally it’s a mess. Biden is like Bush 41 was to Reagan, he’s an uninspiring copy of Obama. He’s basically undone a few of Trump’s more egregious nonsense, but otherwise it’s already clear he’s not going to rock the boat. And yet Biden is being portrayed as some sort of secret commie who is destroying America. Some of this stuff is just crazy: OAN Host Calls for Execution of Anyone Who Stole the Election and Tucker Carlson: Critical race theory will lead to the genocide of white Americans. These aren’t fringe people either.

So I guess I will try to get past my dismay and writer’s block by commenting on the news. George Floyd’s murderer got sentenced to 22 years. I’ve heard progressives claim he got off too lightly, conservatives outraged it was so much. I’m just glad there was a trial, there should be a trial pretty much every time a cop kills someone. My way of thinking has always been, would it be OK if the killer was a civilian? And all too often the answer is “Sheet no.” Qualified immunity needs to end, cops should be trained to not kill people. Bidens is adding more cops so, problem fixed? Snort.

A terrible building collapse in Miami. There’s actually footage of it going down, which I won’t link to  because it’s too horrible. It’s clear from the video, they did not all die quickly in their sleep. How did this happen? Safe to say the Swiss cheese model will unravel it all. A chain of events happened, and they all lined up like symbols on a slot machine. God rest their souls, and my heart goes out to friends and family, I can’t imagine. Hopefully after investigation we will learn something from this tragedy that will save lives down the road.

Like the Victoria Hall Disaster in 1883. 1500 kids were in a theatre to watch a magic show, and after the show hundreds of kids in the balconies tried to rush down to the bottom floor where candy was being tossed to the children (very few adults were present.) The stair down was blocked by a door bolted almost closed with an opening only big enough for one child. Likely to facilitate ticket collection. Long story short, there was a crush in the stairwell, and nearly 200 children died. A nightmare remembered to this day. On the plus side, a child in the town became so determined to prevent it from ever happening again, he eventually invented the first “push bar” door openers. The handles we have in almost every public building in the world, especially on exit doors, just push on the bar from inside and the door opens. This invention has saved thousands and thousands of lives.

Maybe there’s some really smart kid somewhere now so horrified by the state of the world that they are determined to fix it. And they will come up with a solution, a global push bar of sorts. A man can dream. Hope all are having a good weekend. #getvaccienatedcovid19 #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Photographic proof that World War Two was faked! Hell, if you’re gonna deny the holocaust, why not go whole hog? Actually, no, modern reenactment of the Battle of Osuchy, one of the largest battles between Polish partisans and Nazi troops during WW2. Will there be Trump rally reenactors someday? Credit: Adam Niedźwiecki, used legally: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Written by unitedcats

June 26, 2021 at 6:33 pm

WHAT DO AIS AND DATING SITE SCAMS HAVE IN COMMON? PLUS JUNE 22ND

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So I’ve been checking out some dating sites lately. They’ve come a long way since I last looked. And I’ve been there the whole time, I did computer dating in the late 1970s. And that was one computer nerd who wrote a program and advertised it locally, in Davis, USA. Worked for me, it hooked up my housemate to a girl I dated for years, was friends with for decades. Now, it’s much more sophisticated. And the scammers are as well. Well, scammers and sex workers. Neither of which I have a problem with. Hey, poor people in the second and third world want to scam gullible Americans out of their money, go for it. And sex workers can’t advertise openly and safely because this is Kristian Amerika, so they have to do so subtly on dating and rental sites. I digress.

So seeing as I have no interest in sending money to scammers or seeking the services of sex workers, I need to figure out how to filter out same. The sex workers are pretty easy, if their pics involve T&A shots with a sparse profile looking for hookups: sex worker. The scammers, boy, they have gotten a lot more sophisticated. The best ones have very real looking profiles. And when messaged, the responses can be well written as well. They tend to have a cut and paste look though, IE neat message, but only superficially at best a response to my prior message. And when I suspect a scammer, I ask a very specific question. Or better yet, say something completely nonsensical. Jeez, sent a nonsense response to one, got an obvious cut and paste message to the effect of “Wow, thanks for sharing that information with me.” Busted.

So, I realized I am essentially running a variant of the Turing Test on possible scammers. The Turing Test is basically the idea of interfacing with a subject via text exchange and determining if it is a human or a computer. Brilliant concept really, because it doesn’t concern itself with whether a computer can become conscious and self aware, it limits the question to, can a software program fake human responses enough to fool humans?

And we’re real close folks. We are close to the point where it’s going to be hard to tell if we are interacting with a person or software. Phone a business, will one be talking to software or a person? And think about this. How many professions are essentially ‘talking to people?’ The ones that can run remotely, a Zoom image or whatever works as well. The image of a person on a video feed is just pixels on a screen, all manipulable by software. AIs are going to put a lot of people out of work, every telemarketer on the planet for starters.

As for pixels on a screen, that’s what movies and TV series are, right? So why couldn’t an AI create movies? It’s just a more sophisticated chess calculator. Or series. There have to be an infinite number of possible ‘Simpsons’ episodes, right? So why couldn’t software write new ones? Think of it, every TV show or movie the gentle reader ever liked available with countless computer generated sequels/episodes. Young Sean Connery could star in thousands of James Bond films. Peeps will be able to buy software that will create movies or series to order.

Will this happen soon? IDK, technology was running ahead of application during the US Civil War, the gap has increased since then. Is there as yet some human component to creativity that AIs won’t be able to surpass? Maybe. One thing we can say for sure about the future, no one has ever accurately predicted it.

The past though, we can see how predictions went wrong. June 22nd 1941, eighty years ago today, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa, the greatest invasion in history. Tens of millions would die as a result. Exactly three years later, June 22nd 1944, the Soviet Union launched Operation Bagration. AKA “The Destruction of Army Group Center.” Germany’s Army Group Center. The greatest defeat ever suffered by Germany, and the fifth bloodiest campaign in European history. No one predicted that, most thought that Germany would easily conquer Western Russia, and who knows what would happen then. A crushing German defeat with Soviet Armies steamrolling to Berlin three years later, couldn’t happen.

Could an AI have written that plot? Maybe. Did an AI write that plot? Could we be living in a 23rd century computer game program on some kid’s Qpad? Am I a software routine writing a blog that will only be read by other aps? And do we evolve as a result? Hell if I know, but I’m going to explore the idea more.

So, yes. My blogging has been limited because of … personal … issues. I think I’m going to write about speculative weirdness to see if I can break through my writer’s block. Stay safe and sanish everyone. #getvaccienatedcovid19 #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Two destroyed German tanks during Operation Bagration, including dead German crew members. There are still people alive who remember the horrors of Germany’s invasion of Russia. I can’t imagine what they lived through. Credit: Unknown, public domain image under all known copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 22, 2021 at 7:55 pm