Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

TRUMP WINS WORLD WAR TWO, CURES CANCER, CATCHES THE ZODIAC KILLER AND GRATEFULLY ACCEPTS A THIRD TERM FROM AN ADORING NATION

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Today is Juneteenth, a holiday the freeing of slaves in the USA is celebrated. June 19th, 1865, the Union army freed the slaves in Texas. (Though it wasn’t quite the end, a few border states still had slaves until December.) So, Happy Juneteenth to my black friends and readers. I’m going to write a Black Lives Matter post one of these days. It’s hard because trying to write something that will reach the people who need to read it is tough. The people who think whites are a persecuted minority, blacks are for the most part thugs, and BLM is a terrorist organization devoted to killing all whites. Sigh. I miss the America of my youth where we all watched the same news and lived in the same reality, even if we disagreed about how to navigate it.

Remember Christopher McCandless? How about the movie “Into the Wild”? Basically after hitchhiking around the country for a few years, he hiked into the Alaskan wilderness in April 1992 with minimal supplies planning to “live off the land.”  Four months later he was dead of starvation, though poisoning may well have contributed to his death. A tragic story, made famous by a book in 1996 and more famous by the movie  “Into the Wild” in 2007. Subsequently the abandoned bus Mr. McCandless lived in became a tourist attraction. And this is where it gets even more tragic, since 2007 numerous people and parties have had to be rescued trying to get to the bus, and two people actually died. Apparently a lot of people watching the movie missed the message, don’t travel into deep wilderness unless you goddamn know what you’re doing. So now the DNR and the Alaska National Guard have removed the bus by helicopter to a place of safety. It will likely go on display somewhere where people can go look at it without risking their lives. Humans. “Buy them books and send them to school. What do they do? They eat the books.”

So the above illustration is a shamelessly copied image. Failure of central government illustrated? These are western democracies similar to the US in many respects. Get to some of those dirty commie countries, the comparison is worse. Cuba, 85 deaths. Vietnam, 0 deaths. And I’m being, what, sarcastic, facetious, when I say dirty commie countries? Drawing attention to the truly sick idea that there are “good” and “bad” government ideologies. No, there are 300 plus countries, each and every one of which is a unique case. Yeah, reality is complicated. My point here with this illustration is that the US federal government’s response to Covid-19 has been dreadfully inadequate by all reputable measures. The “pro-life” party running the country has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, wtf?

And what is Trump doing to fix this? He’s holding a huge indoor rally this weekend, his first since he belatedly recognized Covid-19 was a big deal. Is there a vaccine? No. Has herd immunity been reached? No. Will the participants all be wearing masks and practising safe social distancing? No. Is a robust national test and trace program in place to deal with and shut down the Covid-19 outbreaks that events like this are almost sure to cause? No. So what the hell is going on here? Today’s theory remains unchanged, Trump pretty much only has one schtick, self-promotion, and it’s all he’s got to deal with this crisis. He’s a one trick pony so to speak. Will this weekend be the start of the Trump Pandemic? Maybe. Will he announce nothing but the great things he’s done? Probably. Will future historians be baffled.Definitely.

I’m baffled. The weirdest thing about the summer of Covid-19 so far is that we can’t talk about it except within those who share our social beliefs. During the run up to the invasion of and the subsequent occupation of Iraq after 9/11 I had a lot of engagement with people on the other side of the coin, both in real life and online. Today, essentially none. I guess I should call one of my oldest friends, he was a Trump stalwart last I checked. I’m afraid to know, it’s like we’re on different sides. I guess Lincoln corresponded with Davis during the Civil War, so maybe I should email him.

So hey, gentle readers, enjoy the good times if such is happening, that’s what I’m doing. (Drinking a craft beer and eating cheese with a homemade biscuit as I type.) A third of America is going to Trump rallies and thinks things are fine. The other two thirds, well, a lot of them don’t grasp how bad it is, and/or believe ridiculous conspiracy theories. Some of us are trying to make sense of it all, me included, comments/shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Used without permission. New York Times, claiming Fair Use, etc. I’m a subscriber and support them FWIW.)

Written by unitedcats

June 19, 2020 at 7:38 pm

THE PHONEY WAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

April 29, 2020 at 8:36 pm

RANDOM ARCANE COVID-19 THOUGHTS AND IMPRESSIONS

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There are some parallels between Trump and Hitler. In late 1942 the Russians surrounded the German Sixth Army in Stalingrad. This was an incipient disaster of epic proportions, however, all was not lost. The Sixth Army easily still had the supplies and ammunition to fight their way to safety. Hitler however, rather than authorizing this sensible action, listened to Herman Goering, a sycophantic toadie eager to get himself back into Hitler’s favor. He swore that his Luftwaffe could airlift enough supplies into Stalingrad to keep the Sixth Army afloat. This was pure, unadulterated BS, and several people desperately tried to get Hitler to look at the numbers, the Luftwaffe simply didn’t have the capacity to do this, period. Hitler refused to listen to anyone but Goering, ordered the Sixth Army to hold on, and the Luftwaffe would save the day. Reality won of course, the Luftwaffe was only able to deliver a tiny fraction of the needed supplies, and the Sixth Army quickly starved and ran out of ammunition. Surrender soon followed, a catastrophic loss the Germans would never recover from. I see parallels between Hitler’s refusal to listen to experts and Trump’s refusal to do the same over Covid-19. Magical thinking illustrated by both, both Hitler and Trump listen to people who tell them what they want to hear. Not a good trait in an emergency requiring a rational response.

As I’ve said before, Trump is no Hitler. I don’t see Trump hunkering down in the White House till the end. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if he resigns soon. He has a long history of walking away from failures and letting other people clean up the mess. He wanted his legacy to be Space Camp and a supercharged stock market, not hundreds of thousands of dead Americans and a devastated economy. The sooner he resigns the easier it will be to spin it all as a plot by his enemies, and the easier it will be to convince himself he was brilliant, it was the country that failed him. We needed a Lincoln, we got a Jefferson Davis.

Wait, what? OK, history lesson here. When the South seceded and the US Civil War started, what did their respective leaders do? Lincoln took the bull by the horns, and seized national power to organize a national response to the crisis. For example, he put the entire North’s railroad grid under central control, thus making the massive coordinated movement of troops and supplies possible. The Confederacy, being wedded to the idea of “State’s Rights,” did nothing of the sort. Lincoln raised a huge Union Army, and deployed it as needed. Lee led, the Army of Northern Virginia, yes, the Confederate states each raised their own army! And in numerous other respects, Lincoln formed a united force to promulgate the war, while the Confederates cooperated but did not centralize and coordinate. It was a big part of the reason Lincoln won the war, the Confederacy had enormous advantages, but they squandered them by not having a centrally coordinated war effort. And we have the same today, Trump for all purposes practically stated that he thinks state governors should be responsible for the Covid-19 fight, not him. Jefferson Davis lost the war with the same thinking, Trump is losing to Covid-19 the exact same way. You are not only no Lincoln Mr Trump, you do not even appear to understand the concept of leadership, it’s doing what’s best for the nation, not yourself.

And just to reiterate, the senators and such who used their inside information to protect their wealth should be tried for treason. Using your government power to enrich yourself at the expense of American lives is treason. That’s what treason is, hurting the country to help yourself. Just to give a historical example, we all should be studying history now, Jane Fonda’s trip to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War was not treason. Yes, what she did hurt Americans, it was misguided, stupid, and a propaganda victory for North Vietnam. However, and it’s a huge however, she was trying to promote peace, not benefit herself. Not treason. Using your position in government to protect your wealth instead of protecting America, treason.

Historical meanderings aside, I ventured forth today. A new world. Empty shelves in the markets. Many businesses closed or with altered practices/hours due to Covid-19. People were friendly but wary of each other and mostly kept their distance. Gallows humor prevailed, my grocery checker sneezed, and I said “Sneezes are OK.” A lady in the next aisle laughed, she got it. In any event, I’m going to be posting more random thoughts and observations during the Covid-19 outbreak.

One last thought, boy, global pollution levels are plummeting as the world goes into a shutdown. This is a good thing. And a message from reality (or God,) that we need to clean up our act. If shutting down non-essential services makes such a difference, and we all win when pollution plummets, why were we polluting so much in the first place? Because a small number of people profit from burning oil and passing the pollution costs onto the public. We can live without that, nu?

And Trump is still thinking his hunches will save the day. Yeah, no, reality rarely works that way. Latest rumor is that Trump is going to declare martial law and shut the whole country down for two weeks to halt the spread of Covid-19. Well, that will be intense. A Hail Mary pass by Trump. Could he try that? Maybe. Will it work? I would have to review what pandemic experts say to even guess. Is it a good idea? No, it’s a shallow simplistic idea that could have all sorts of negative unintended (or even intended!) consequences. Stay tuned I guess.

Oh dear. It’s a hell of a time to be alive. It’s 1914. It’s 1939. It’s 1941. 1776. 1521. 1453. Stay safe everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych.

(Image: Destroyed German He-111 during the Battle of Stalingrad. Credit: Unknown, a wikipedia image, public domain as far as is known.)

Written by unitedcats

March 21, 2020 at 7:58 pm

THROUGH THICK AND THIN: 21 FEBRUARY

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When it rains, it pours? I hurt my hip and have been crippled with pain for days, although it is getting better. Probably my drunken late night snow shovelling. And one of my oldest best friends is fighting for his life in the ICU, which hasn’t helped my state of mind any. So physically and mentally I was a wreck this week. Which, oddly enough, interfered with my writing. I’d say some day I’ll get the hang of being human, but at this point, maybe not. At least I’m secure in the knowledge that pretty much everyone is faking it, and the more outwardly successful they are, likely correlates nicely with how fake they are. I hung out with hippies for awhile in the eighties, and eventually noticed that the guys with the most hippie Zen Buddha personas … were the ones that beat up their girlfriends or otherwise had rage attacks. Same deal.

So writing, I’ve got at least two almost done posts that I am pleased with, but trying to finish them in my muddled state of mind and body would not yield happy results. So here I am winging it with another random post. We’ll get Trump out of the way first. I’m pleased to see that at least some in Washington have realized that attacking Trump directly is a waste of time. Deflecting deserved criticism is what con artists do best, and he’s the ultimate grifter pulling the con of the century. No, what they are doing now is goading him to overreact and start firing his staff. The latest silliness about Russian interference in our elections being a case in point. The truth of it doesn’t matter, it’s Trump’s reaction that matters. The more he goes all apprentency with his “You’re fired!” schtick, the more his administration will collapse from within. Just too bad they waited till now. Still, pass the popcorn.

In world news, the madness continues on all fronts. Popcorn sales in our neck of the galaxy are no doubt at historic highs. A racist loser shot a bunch of people in Germany because they had skin darker than him. He was an incel to boot. No surprise, anyone whose thinking process goes “I can’t find a girlfriend, so all women are fucked up” probably has disordered thinking in a number of areas. In this case leading to mass murder. Sigh. God rest their souls. In another case of multiple murder, a guy set himself and his wife and kids on fire in Australia. And a detective investigating the case has been relieved for saying the killer was “being driven too far by issues that he’s suffered”. Yeah, no, not a smart thing to say. It’s called victim blaming, it’s what abusive men say to justify their violence against their families. Sadly western culture promotes the idea of “righteous rage,” we need to address that, not use it to excuse acts of horror. Again, God rest their souls.

The Coronavirus continues to spread, though the death toll remains modest. I kinda think it’s with us to stay at this point, and at some point the annual flu shot will include the latest Coronavirus vaccine as well. No doubt driving the anti-vaxxers to new heights of child killing. Anti-vaxxers are my least favourite type of science denier, though I suppose in the end it’s the climate change deniers who will get more people killed. There at least some people are promoting it to make piles of money, greed is a powerful motivator. I’m not quite sure what drives the anti-vaxxers, but I’m sure there is scientific speculation.

On February 21 in history, a few odds and ends. In 1885 the Washington Monument was finally completed, 37 years after construction began. It’s the world’s tallest predominantly stone structure, and for a few years was the world’s tallest structure. Predominantly stone …in other words, sooner or later there will be a modest earthquake in Washington, and down it will come. So if you’re ever in the vicinity of the Washington Monument and an earthquake starts, run away! You want to be the person taking the video of it falling, not the people being crushed in the video. Another helpful safety tip from Doug’s Darkworld, I do what I can.

In 1918 the last Carolina Parakeet died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo, 4 years after the last Passenger Pigeon died there.  I could probably make some morbid joke about the connection, but I’ll leave that to my regular readers. We killed them of course. There’s at least a possibility it could be brought back existence, there must be similar birds that could bear their eggs. And there’s still wild habitat, it was a very widespread bird. Since it’s flesh was often poisonous, cats would die after eating one, I’m surprised the cat haters haven’t started a gofundme. Or maybe they have, the idea of reviving them has been thought about.

I guess that’s another safety tip, if the gentle reader takes their cat time travelling, don’t let it eat any Carolina Parakeets. As for future historians and time travellers wondering what was up with us wiping out entire species, my bad, we’re really sorry. Have a great weekend everyone, please share.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Baltic Sea at Kolka Cape Credit: Italas at Lithuanian Wikipedia. Released into the public domain by same. The image came up when I searched  <rage> on Snappygoat, it just looked so nice compared to the Arctic wasteland outside my windows I thought I’d share.)

Written by unitedcats

February 21, 2020 at 9:33 am

THINGS THAT GO POOF IN THE NIGHT

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Another week gone, poof. And another theory of planetary formation gone, poof. Actually, theories don’t go poof very often, and when they do it’s generally because a theory that better explains the evidence comes along. In this case, the original theory of planetary formation posited that planets were formed by violent collisions between clumps of matter in the disk of dust surrounding the Sun after it formed. It was never a super strong theory, because other star systems where planets are now forming are way too far away to get a good look at. The theory was largely based on computer modelling.

Well, about 15 years ago an astronomer came up with a new theory, that the collisions that formed planets during the Solar System’s formation were gentle, not violent. Computer modelling suggested this. Until recently we had no solid evidence one way or t’other, until January 2019. That’s when the New Horizons probe flew by Arrokoth, a trans-Neptunian object in the Kuiper Belt. Arrokoth is the furthest object yet visited by a probe, it’s basically leftover junk from the formation of the Solar System. And after a year of study, some scientists say it’s clear that Arrokoth supports the gentle collision theory of planetary formation.

Granted I suspect the issue isn’t fully settled, since we’ve only examined one object like Arrokoth. Still, this is how science works, it changes as evidence and understanding evolve. It’s just annoying now how Religious Right in their anti-science crusade always uses stuff like this to claim all sorts of science is unsettled, and if scientists were wrong about this, they could be wrong about anything! As if improving our understanding of the Universe is some sort of flaw in science. It’s the opposite, that science can and does correct our understanding of the Universe is one of science’s great strengths.

Speaking of things that go poof, 75 years ago today the Allied revenge bombing of the German city of Dresden was under way. The city of Dresden wasn’t a military target, and about 25,000 civilians were killed. Though at the time much higher estimates were floating around, encouraged by German propaganda. It was the first time there was serious criticism of the war effort against Germany, I mean, the Allies were claiming to be the good guys. How does one justify such an action? In February 1945 the war was over, organized German resistance was collapsing, the bombing of Dresden didn’t bring the end of the war any closer.

I say revenge bombing because if anything it was vengeance for the Nazi bombing of Coventry early in the war. Plenty of German cities had been carpet bombed already, seriously hampering Germany’s war effort. So it wasn’t a unique event, but the timing and the fact that Dresden was mostly known for its cultural heritage made it tricky to explain. And since war is the gift that keeps on giving for generations, today’s Nazis and Hitler apologists have seized on Dresden as a cause celebre for their efforts to demonize the Allies and make out Hitler and the Nazis as victims. History may be written by the winners, but the losers often manage to rewrite it anyhow. Like a certain nineteenth century armed rebellion in the US that is still glorified in some quarters.

Lastly, no going poof, but definitely in the night. On this day in 1990 the Voyager 1 probe took the famous “pale blue dot” photograph of Earth. Earth is a single pale blue pixel in the photo. It was taken from beyond the orbit of Neptune, part of a series of photos taken of the Solar System that day, the Family Portrait photos. There was no scientific reason for these photos, they were taken after Carl Sagan proposed the idea and campaigned for it for years. I agree with him, it was a great idea to inspire wonder at our place in the Universe, and to highlight the amazing progress science has made.

In an era of growing and increasingly sophisticated science denial, looking back at the 70s is sad. I never suspected Americans would go backwards and celebrate ignorance in my lifetime. At least not without a nuclear war or some such. Yet here we are, one of the loudest voices driving us back into superstition gets the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Go figure.

Have a great weekend everyone. Shares and comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: “Dresden, partial view of the destroyed city center on the Elbe to the new town. In the center of Neumarkt and the ruins of the Frauenkirche.” Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-041-07 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. You are free:

  • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
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Under the following conditions:

  • attribution – You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
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Written by unitedcats

February 14, 2020 at 2:44 pm

THROUGH THICK AND THIN: FEBRUARY 8TH

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I have been busy helping a friend who is recuperating from an operation. As well, I have been working on a post I really want to get right. Life, always something. OK, February 8 in history. On this day in 1904 Japan launched a surprise attack against the Russian Pacific Fleet anchored in Port Arthur, Siberia. It was more or less a big fail, with a number of ships moderately damaged or either side. No Russian ships sunk, despite what is shown on the Japanese poster above. The world outlawed such attacks in 1907, and since then no nation has ever launched a surprise attack on another nation. Whew. After the battle above, the Japanese were able to repair their ships, while the Russian repair facilities in Port Arthur were very limited. Japan went on to decisively win the war.

In a more positive event on this day in 1945, ten Russians in a German concentration camp escaped to freedom by stealing the camp commandant’s He-111 and flying it to freedom behind Soviet lines. The Germans failed to intercept the plane, and they were hit by Russian anti-aircraft fire, but they all made it. The escape was organized by Russian fighter pilot Mikhail Devyatayev. I’d never heard of this, but it was a big deal in Russia. Sadly Stalin’s Russia was not a happy place, the seven enlisted men were promptly reassigned to a rifle company, where five of them died before the war’s end later than year. And even though the three officers provided valuable information about Germany’s rocket program, they lived under a cloud of criminal suspicion until after Stalin’s death. In 1957 though, their heroics were recognized, and Mikhail Devyatayev was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. He lived happily ever after, and wrote his memoirs recounting their escape.

I’m surprised no one has made a movie about this escape,  though sooner or later I am sure. We’re on the cusp of an age where computers are going to be able to make realistic movies about anyone or anything in history, dispensing entirely with such expensive extras as actors, cameras, sets, etc. Granted this might still be a few decades away, but just a few. Human creativity will still come into play, this will just mean anyone who wants to write and direct a movie will be able to do so on a level playing field. At some point even the creative aspects will be generated by computer, though I make no predictions about when that will happen. Think of it though, infinite episodes of any TV show in history could be produced, indistinguishable for all intents and purposes from the original. It’s gonna be wild.

In other words, if the fans don’t like the last couple of seasons of a crazy popular show, they can just change it any way they like. <cough> thrones <cough> Think about it. One rents a popular movie, and before watching it one just tells the dvd player to make all the characters black. Or female. Or cats. Or nude. That will probably be at the top of the menu bar, given my understanding of human nature. Anything about the movie will be changeable. Or one will be able to insert themselves into any movie or show and experience it first hand in virtual reality. And this line of thought inevitably leads to … maybe we’re already in such a simulation? Beats me.

And on February 8 1963 President Kennedy made it illegal for Americans to travel to or conduct business with Cuba. This was on top of increasing sanctions. It rankles me to this day that our government claims to be defending our freedom, but then prohibits us from, say, travelling to certain countries. I mean, if America were at war with a nation or some such, maybe. We aren’t at war with Cuba, this was almost entirely because Cuba nationalized property owned by American corporations in Cuba. Overlooking the fact that how American corporations acquired large amounts of property in Cuba is shady at best, this is something to be dealt with under international law, not unilateral sanctions that only hurt the people of Cuba. Things were looking up under Obama, but Trump backtracked on that Obama policy too. Claiming that relieving Cuban sanctions was a “one sided deal.” Pretty much like someone who is repeatedly punching someone in the face claiming they won’t stop because “there’s nothing in it for them.” As if that justifies the punching, sigh.

Well, I had intended to cover a few “today in history” tidbits and then comment on current events. Got carried away with history. Let’s see, now that Trump has been acquitted by the GOP, he’s purging his administration of “enemies.” One of the biggest controversies over his SOTU address was that Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of it right afterwards. In other words, ‘all style, no substance’ still rules in Washington. The coronavirus is still spreading, but hopefully it won’t be the end of the world.

And on a personal note, plans for a podcast or two are underway. Someday I might even get a smartphone. Have a great weekend everyone, comments and shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Print, 1904, Japanese battleships exchange fire with Russian battleships in the Battle of Port Arthur. Credit: Torajirō Kasai. Public domain in the United States. It varies in other countries but as the creator and year are listed, so it’s use is apparently legal. It’s in the Library of Congress and on Wikipedia.)

Written by unitedcats

February 8, 2020 at 11:37 am

“IT IS WITH MUCH EMBARRASSMENT THAT I RETURN.”

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24 January, 41 AD. Roman Emperor Caligula is walking through Rome with his friends and cohorts, guarded by the Praetorian Guard, the Secret Service of their day. They come to a pedestrian tunnel, and the guard insists on separating Caligula from his cohorts while walking through the tunnel, for security of course. Then in the middle of the tunnel, the guard drew their swords and killed Caligula. Let’s just say Caligula wasn’t very popular. He had a nightmarish upbringing, so no surprise he turned into a monster. He only reigned for about four years, and was 28 when he died. The Praetorian Guard then proclaimed Claudius the new emperor, not the last time they would kill a caesar and appoint a new one.

I went and saw the latest Jumanji movie. It was what I call a parts movie. IE it had all sorts of good parts, good actors, good special effects, decent writing, all fun to watch. But it didn’t add up to anything, it was all basically formula. They took the previous movie, jazzed it up a bit, and ran with it. Modern sequels all just kind of blur together. If one likes Dwayne Johnson movies, or the previous Jumanji movie, lots of fun. Note it’s not a kids movie, at least little kids.

January 24th 1900, the Battle of Scion Kop. Part of the Boer Wars. One European colonial army conquering another European colony. The British of course. They got a lot of their empire by conquering other empires’ colonies. Hyenas feeding on jackals, colonialism is really ugly if one thinks about it, but so fully normalized in western society that the ugly bits are overlooked. Anyhow, yeah, bad day for the Redcoats. I don’t think they were wearing red in 1900 though, but I could be wrong. The British climbed to the top of a hill at night, made a disorganized and poorly planned attempt to dig in, and in the morning found themselves in a very exposed position. Which the Boers were happy to exploit, eventually driving the Brits off the hill with heavy losses. Speaking of Redcoats, the French went into World War One with their soldiers wearing bright red trousers, because, you know, that’s what Napoleon would have wanted. Turned out to be a bad idea on a modern battlefield.

Speaking of colonialism, here’s a wonderful example of the colonial mindset in action. Greta Thurnberg suggested maybe people shouldn’t invest in the fossil fuel industries that are knowingly destroying the climate for profit. A suggestion up there with saying maybe don’t invest in industries that use slave labor, IE one of those no-brainer suggestions. So the US treasury secretary suggested she go study economics before offering her advice. No need, letting the fossil fuel industry destroy the planet’s climate is going to be very bad for the economy. No economics degree required. Here’s a tip. Any time someone says “It’s going to be bad for the economy” what they mean is “It’s going to mean slightly less obscene profits for the rich.” Can’t have that.

“It is with much embarrassment that I return.” 24 January 1972, Shoichi Yokoi is discovered hiding in the jungles on Guam. He was a Japanese soldier in hiding since 1944 when the US recaptured Guam during World War Two in the Pacific. Mr Yokoi was among the last three such holdouts to be discovered. Guam is only like 10 by 20 miles, so hiding for 28 years is impressive. A replica of the cave he hid in is a tourist attraction to this day. The quote is something he said upon his return to Japan, it apparently gained some popularity there.

There were a number of Japanese holdouts after World War Two. A subcategory of “people hiding from civilization.” One could write a book I suppose. A family of Old Believers discovered in remote Siberia. The Bounty mutineers. The Australian aborigines I blogged about. A handful of stone age tribes. The guy who hid in the woods in Maine for decades. I’m debating it myself. I have no family, and my friends hate me. And I have lived in a cave before. On the plus side, I’m a moderately successful blogger. Life, always full of decisions. I guess when you’re dead, no more decisions. The appeal of suicide suddenly becomes clearer.

But no. As a friend once said, you’re gonna be dead a lot longer than you’re alive. Have a great weekend everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An 1887 painting of a famous Old Believer being arrested. Credit: Vasily Ivanovich Surikov 1848-1916. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 24, 2020 at 10:19 am

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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It’s funny how memory works. I got a housecoat for Christmas, the first I’ve had in decades at least. (And how did I get to an age where I can say “decades at least?”) Putting it on this morning I suddenly remembered as a child I had a red housecoat. And I used to wear it and pretend I was a Redcoat, a British colonial era soldier. Something I haven’t thought about since I was a kid, but the memory was still buried there waiting for something to trigger it. I think I read once that smell was the best sense for triggering old memories, and a quick Internoodle search confirms it.

Speaking of Redcoats, 141 years ago today, over 700 of them had a really bad day. The famous Battle of Isandlwana, where an army of Zulu warriors surprised and overwhelmed a British force of over 1,000 regular and colonial troops. Warriors armed as seen above, vs trained British troops with modern rifles and cannons. It was the worst defeat of British forces to an indigenous force in history, over 1300 dead. Basically the British had wildly underestimated the Zulu’s capabilities, and had split their invading forces into a number of columns. And this particular column was more or less a reserve force, commanded by a guy who had no real combat creds. Who had set up camp without any thought that it might come under attack. So when the Zulu main army was spotted a few miles away, they had little time to set up proper defences before 20,000 guys with spears and a bad attitude showed up. This defeat ended the first British invasion of the Zulu Kingdom. They shipped an even bigger army south for the second invasion, that did the trick. Whew, can’t have independent African Kingdoms, it might give people the wrong idea. Brown people that is.

A few days ago was the anniversary, well, two anniversaries of the sinking of two British submarines. K-13 sank on 19 January 1917 and K-5 on 20 January 1920. The K-class submarines were an ill starred design, a number of them sank by accident killing hundreds of sailors, none was lost due to enemy action. Basically the K-class were big submarines designed to keep up with the battle fleet, the idea at the time being that submarines would take part in major surface warship battles. It was a bad idea that never worked well in practice. The feature of these subs that really got my attention was that they were 103 meters long (huge for a submarines of the day) but their maximum safe underwater depth was 60 meters. In other words if they dived too steeply, their bow would be at crush depth while their stern was still at the surface. The astute reader can guess why so many were lost accidentally.

In my continuing adult education program, I went to see Andrew Yang speak last night. I was impressed, in fact I may get a MATH hat. I already hung a MATH sign in my window. MATH is Yang’s thing: Make America Think Harder. Can’t argue with that, thinking appears to be a lost art in America. He makes a big deal about making giant corporations pay their taxes, because it’s insane that Fortune 400 companies get away with not paying any taxes. And he points out that giving money to poor and working class Americans and cradle-to-grave health care would be tremendous stimulants to the whole economy, not just the economy of the rich, the economy Washington has been stimulating for decades.

One thing he pointed out that really made me think, is that life expectancy has been dropping in the USA the past three years. The last time life expectancy dropped in the USA was over 100 years ago during the 1918 global flu pandemic which killed over 500,000 Americans. And no, life expectancy continues to climb in the rest of the developed world, can’t blame a global epidemic for this one. And if Trump was really doing the bang up job he claims he is, how does he account for this? How do his supporters account for this? And if it’s not Trump’s fault, what is he going to do to fix it? Snort. I’m not holding my breath.

And speaking of global pandemics, the Chinese Coronavirus continues to spread. It’s not time to panic yet, but it is getting a little worrisome. The ugly truth is that letting people travel all over the planet willy nilly is a really bad idea, and sooner or later it means that the next global pandemic will be completely out of control before we can do anything about it. Another one for the “We’re not really an intelligent species” file.

There’s still all sorts of stuff going on in the Middle East, but that’s for another day. Comments and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Zulu warriors in 1882. Credit: Unknown, Public Domain under US copyright law. It is from a book whose copyright has expired.)

Written by unitedcats

January 22, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Elections, History, Trump, War

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ETC

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The year end holiday season is upon us. This will be my last post until after the holidays barring some news event I feel compelled to blog about. Knock on wood, it would be nice to go a week or two without rending my garments. And in that vein of thinking, I wrote a list of garment rending topics to quickly touch on in this post. And now, after a beer and fondue party, I will attempt to expound on them. The cheese fondue course was followed by a chocolate fondue course, so I am feeling no pain on multiple levels.

Australian fires. Yes, Australia is on fire. Two sad truths here, the first being that outside of Antarctica, Australia is the continent least suited to western style civilization, and such is making it even less habitable. Jerrod Diamond is where I got this nugget, so likely lots of codicils. Still, people have been living there for forty thousand years or more, and never found anything better than hunting and gathering. (Which is actually an underrated lifestyle.) And now, all the fires. Welcome to global warming, sad truth number two, which is exacerbating and increasing the droughts and such that are exploding the drier parts of the world. In our lifetime global warming is going to make large portions of the planet essentially uninhabitable, but we can’t do anything about it because it would hurt the economy. Go figure.

Generational conflict. So, yeah, some people are blaming the boomers for the state of the world. I chatted with one today. Yeh, right. (As an aside, love the English language, where a double positive can be a negative.) Give me a break in other words. Saying the boomers made the world today is like saying people in the past made the world we live in. Hardly a new or helpful observation. The world we live in is a mess, but hardly because a single generation screwed it up. Divide and distract is what the people running the world want us to do, so welcome to generational conflict. It’s not the hyper-rich families and corporations who have been running the world for centuries who screwed us over, oh no. It’s our parents and grandparents! A suggested fun topic with family over holiday meals.

And speaking of crazy pointless controversy, Merry Christmas! Apparently it’s a sin now in some quarters to say anything other than “Merry Christmas.” News flash, Christianity doesn’t own the calendar. So no one is required to say “Merry Christmas!,” nor is Christianity insulted in some way if one says otherwise. And if someone does get their knickers in a twist because someone wished them happy holidays or what not, it’s their problem. People wishing other people a good time is a good thing, duh.

This faux controversy is just a sign that the times have changed. When I was a kid, Christmas was treated essentially as a universal. It was just assumed and promoted in a million movies and TV shows that Christmas was an integral part of America, and the fact that millions of Americans didn’t celebrate Christmas was simply ignored. And we’re talking white, Jesus centered, heteronormative Christmas to boot. And now a lot of people would rather not be obliged to celebrate, or they want to celebrate it in their own way. None of which affects Christians who want to celebrate Christmas in any way, but lots of them like to pretend it does. And thus the faux “War on Christmas” was invented. Myself, I try to be polite to people in public. It’s worked so far, I recommend it.

Lastly. The 1914 Christmas truce, image above. World War One started in August 1914, And by Christmas the western front (where Germany was fighting France and England) was a line of opposing trenches from Switzerland to the Atlantic Ocean. 440 mi (700 km,) millions of men facing each other in a bloody struggle that had already killed half a million. There had never been a war like it. And on Christmas day in numerous places on the opposing trench lines spontaneous cease fires broke out. In many cases just so the dead could be retrieved. In many cases though the soldiers fraternized, even famously playing a bit of informal soccer. One of those historical events that was long forgotten, now resurrected by the magic of the Interwebs. All dead now, such is history.

And shamed by this spontaneous outbreak of goodwill between enemies, the leaders of both sides sat down and negotiated a peaceful end to one of history’s stupidest conflicts. Snort. No, they issued orders making damn sure something like this didn’t happen again, and on subsequent Christmas days the slaughter continued unabated. Phew, close one.

Happy Holidays all, have a great week whatever you are doing or celebrating.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: World War One newspaper front page. Credit:The Daily Mirror. I guess they’re still around, but I believe this image is now Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 23, 2019 at 7:41 pm

ON THIS DAY: APOLLO 17, SPINNING PRINCES, AND FATAL FALLING SOUP KETTLES

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On December 11, 1972, 47 years ago today, humans landed on the Moon for the last time. Two men of course, women were still pretty much at the back of the bus then, Eugene Cernan and  Harrison Schmitt. Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans remained in orbit, as well as five mice. Upon return to Earth they were all dissected, their consolation prize being they got to go down in history. The mice were dissected, not the men.

Of the three men, only one is still alive. Evans died young of a heart attack in 1990. RIP. The other two got to live lives as minor celebrities, morphing into their later years spent punching Moon landing deniers. Cernan passed in 2017, but at 84 Schmitt is still with us, faithfully carrying water for the anti-global warming crowd. Sigh. The gentle reader can be forgiven for any thoughts this may inspire. Schmidt claims global warming is all a hoax to increase the government’s size and control over Americans. Louder sigh. Dude, they don’t need a hoax to do that, our ruling parties have been doing both in spades for decades, no excuse asked for or given.

Moving right along, mission highlights are about as exciting as one could expect on a lifeless airless rock. Longest time out of the lander, furthest distance travelled on the surface, the greatest distance away from the lander. They utilized the LRV (Lunar Roving Vehicle) for these. They collected a lot of rocks and gravel. They also partially solved the light flash phenomena reported by previous lunar explorers, astronauts reported seeing flashes or streaks of light averaging 2 per minute while inbound, outbound, and in lunar orbit. Most noticeable when they were lights out and falling asleep. One of the astronauts on this mission always wore a cosmic ray detector, and thus as suspected, turns out the flashes were caused by cosmic rays. How, exactly, these cause visual phenomena is still unknown.

As for the Moon landing hoax people, they’re still going strong. I’m sure them and the flat Earthers have joint conventions now. I’ve pointed out the absurdity of both “theories” before, nothing new to add. Social beliefs, and pretty sure these fall into that category, are strongly resistant to logical argument. I’ll just relist this link for those that want to delve deeper into this silliness. The moon landing hoax no doubt inspired by this movie, notable for co-starring O.J. Simpson. In the movie he’s a murderee, not a murderer.

Well, that’s about all I can extract from this topic. What else happened on this day? In 1282 the Battle of Orewin Bridge where England crushed the last formal resistance to English rule in Wales. The Welsh leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, wasn’t at the battle. One of the reasons it was lost. Worse, he arrived back at the battle scene just in time to be killed. He was the first and last Welsh Prince of Wales. No doubt he is spinning in his grave about Prince Cha Cha holding his office now.

In 1602 according to legend a cook in Geneva noticed armed men scaling the city’s walls. Thinking quickly, she dumped a pot of boiling vegetable soup on them, causing a commotion and helping to rouse the town. The falling pot itself killed one man. So this was the only known battle in history where the first salvo was boiling soup. Legends aside, the Catholic Duke of Savoy had sent a force to launch a surprise attack on the Protestant city. Roused by the soup commotion, the citizens of Geneva sallied forth and fighting side by side with the town militia, defeated the attackers. A number of prisoners were taken, several of them high born. To their dismay, since the Duke of savoy had repeatedly pledged peace with Geneva, they were summarily hung as bandits the next day. And until this day the city celebrates the festival of L’Escalade on this date. (Escalade is the scaling of defensive walls.)

And finally, on this day in 1962, Arthur Lucas became the last person to be executed in Canada. And with the abolition of the death penalty, major crimes spiralled out of control in Canada. Because we all know that fear of harsh punishment is the only thing keeping us in line. Snort. That was sarcasm. The death penalty is to satisfy blood lust, it’s deterrent effect is minimal to non-existent. Hell, a well publicized execution breifly raises the murder and suicide rate. Go figure. When informed that he would be the last person to be executed in Canada, Lucas said “Some consolation.”

As ever, comments, suggestions, and shares are appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Eugene Cernan driving the LRV. Credit: NASA, as such it’s free to use as long as it doesn’t imply sponsorship by NASA. No such sponsorship is meant or implied. Photo details here.)

Written by unitedcats

December 11, 2019 at 12:15 pm