Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

IRAN, UPDATES, TRUMP, LIFE, SHEESH

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OK, Sunday night, Iran admitted their people accidentally shot down the airliner from Ukraine. Sadly not the first airliner accidentally shot down in a war zone, almost certainly not the last. The first was a Chinese DC-2 airliner shot down by Japan over China in 1938. (Image above, the Kweilin Incident.) The plane made a safe water landing in an attempt to escape, but the Japanese planes strafed it for an hour, so Japanese claims that the plane had “acted suspiciously” were not terribly credible. Big deal at the time, Japan’s image in the US suffered. The shoot down was likely an attempt to kill the Chinese president’s only son, but he had flown on another flight.

I literally just stumbled on Kweilin searching for the world’s first airliner shoot down. There are clear parallels to Trump’s recent targeted killing of an Iranian general. Japan was at least at war with China, Trump’s assasination, not so much. In any case, both were attacks on civilian targets under pretense of military necessity. Both were BS state extrajudicial killings. Maybe nothing will come of this, and it’s just another of America’s endless war scares with Iran. At the very least, it’s made me think.

Especially since I just read a great book about the Battle of Stalingrad, the largest battle in Earth’s history. The book made me realize the one great parallel between Trump and Hitler, the parallel from which all other parallels flow. In both cases, their rise to greatness was largely due to a happy combination of faith and circumstance. IE they were people whom history paved the way for, and they brilliantly took advantage of the opportunity. Neither of them was born to power, but they achieved it nonetheless. If one can’t give credit for that, you’re probably not a reader of my blog.

Moving on, when the German Sixth Army was surrounded and trapped at Stalingrad, Hitler was still a God to most Germans, including Germans who should have known better. And they just blithely assumed Hitler knew what he was doing, since so far his results had been spectacular. By the end of 1942 Hitler’s Nazi Empire stretched from France to North Africa to Stalingrad, deep in the heart of Russia. He was the greatest military genius of all time, what could go wrong?

The ugly truth was that Hitler had no freaking clue what to do, since the Russians hadn’t followed his playbook and collapsed. And the whole story and its ultimate horror for the German Sixth Army is a post or two for another day. Today, the parallel I’m pointing at is that Trump’s missile strike really does signal that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I don’t think the repercussions will be as ugly as Stalingrad, but I don’t see any good coming out of it.

So, here is what I wrote before Iran admitted their forces shot down the airliner:

“At least Trump isn’t a warmonger!” Technically true, and a wonderful example of damning someone with faint praise I suppose. So yeah, whole Iran thing is still a mess. An airliner from Ukraine possibly shot down a few hours after Iran’s missile strike on US bases. Trump is now claiming the Iranian general he killed was going to attack four US embassies. And killing him prevented these attacks. The scary thing is that lots of people will believe it, even though it makes no sense on multiple levels. Sigh.

So the airliner, likely shot down by accident by an over alert AA military unit. That’s easily the most likely event. There are other possibilities, all unlikely and all scary. Scary because anyone who would kill a plane full of innocent people on purpose is scary. Governments tend not to do that. There have been shoot downs of commercial airliners before. The one over Ukraine a few years back, and the USS Vincennex shot down an Iranian airliner by mistake over the Persian Gulf in 1998. The later incident seems fairly straightforward, the Ukraine one less so.

Kind of odd that this shoot down involved a Ukrainian airliner. I suspect clarity for us worms will be hard to get on this one. Iran is paranoid and secretive, with every reason to  be so, and the Trump administration plays fast and loose with the truth. Let’s hope things calm down, way too many people dead for wa war scare, God rest their souls. 

Back to the topic on hand, Trump isn’t a warmonger, but that’s not saying much. He’s certainly appointed plenty, given the Pentagon free rein, and his cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal and subsequent pressure on Iran got this all rolling. You talk to Trump though, the Iran deal was a bad deal, and Iran was going to use it as cover to acquire nuclear weapons. All of the other major powers on Earth were fine with it, including our allies. American exceptionalism on steroids.

So I finished this book about the Battle of Stalingrad. Fascinating on so many levels. One of which is one of the parallels between Trump and Hitler. One of the parallels with most (all?) leaders who make it big time into the history books. A lot of their early, if not all, of their success is too to a combination of fate and circumstance. And if that gets one too far, the clash with reality can be painful.  

And we’re back to Trump and Stalingrad parallels. 2019 was a hell of a year, both personally and globally. 80 years since 1939, the year Hitler’s invasion of Poland set the world on fire for the second time in a century. The few people alive today who still remember 1939 were children at the time.

What a time to be alive. Of course, that pretty much always goes with the “I’m freaking alive!” thing, but still. Many of the humans since the invention of civilization have lived gruelling lives of backbreaking labor on an inadequate diet. I’ve managed to avoid that for the most part due to a combination of smarts and privilege. Which is why I am able to write this nonsense. And because I didn’t toil harder, I’m a failure in some eyes.Go figure. Writing is hard work too, as is all art. Another blog for another day.

Have a great week everyone. God bless.

I wrote the above a few days ago. Then life intervened. I still think we may be on the run up to an ugly war, stuff is still happening. A lot of it absurd

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: DC-2 being salvaged after the Kweilin incident. Credit:No idea, got it from this fascinating site. Because of its age and origin, going with Public Domain under US copyright law. )

Written by unitedcats

January 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm

SO FAR SO GOOD, HAPPY TO BE WRONG, KNOCKING ON WOOD, etc.

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Well, last night it seemed pretty sure Trump’s war with Iran was a done deal, now looks like cooler heads may be prevailing. Granted we’re not out of the woods yet, but Trump seems to have taken Iran’s retaliation for Soleimani’s death in stride. Iran apparently warned ahead about their missile attacks, and took other precautions to avoid casualties. Hopefully satisfying their need to retaliate without escalating the situation any further.

In more good news, the Philippines has approved the planting of Golden Rice. This is a GMO variety of rice designed to have extra Vitamin A, as large parts of the poor rice growing areas of the world suffer from serious Vitamin A deficiencies. Killing and blinding enormous numbers of children every year. Anti-GMO activists are outraged, but for once science and common sense won out. And Golden Rice is free to use, it was developed purely as a humanitarian concern. Basically ant-GMO activists don’t have a leg to stand on, and have been reduced to claiming Golden Rice is some sort of Trojan Horse. An insidious  plot to save millions of children from death and blindness to show GMOs are safe. I can live with that plot. So will millions of children.

Seeing a lot of anti-windmill propaganda on Facebook. It’s somewhere between funny and infuriating. Funny because the things they come up with don’t pass the laugh test. Infuriating because people innocently share them and spread misinformation. No, wind power doesn’t mean one can’t watch TV unless the wind is blowing, that’s not how power grids work. And yes, old wind power plants go into landfills. Of course they are completely non-toxic, and the space they fill up is beyond inconsequential compared to the staggering amount of toxic waste the equivalent in coal powered plants produce. And the good doctor covers the bird issue, basically the number of birds they kill is minor, and by being green, wind power saves far more birds than it kills.

Slow news day. Slow day in history too. The Battle of New Orleans was on January 8, 1815. This was where andrew Jackson got his big start to fame, as news of his victory and news about the end of the war reached the East Coast about the same time, forever associating them in people’s minds. The fact that the war was already over when the battle was fought, well, details. It wasn’t much of a battle either, the British commander was in early stage Alzheimers. He basically marched his troops straight at Jackson’s well fortified troops, who obliged by blowing them away. In any event the war ended because the Napoleonic Wars had ended, so the British were no longer drafting sailors off of American ships. And the real reason for the war, an American fantasy about bringing Canada into the United States, had failed miserably. So neither side was inclined to keep fighting, and the war ended officially as a draw.

Desperate for a story, I checked out an article about a Polish village where no boys have been born in a decade. It came to the world’s attention when they sent an all girl team of junior firefighters to some national event. Fame and fortune have followed. Well, minor fame, no fortune. I was intrigued, what scientific mystery could account for this? Then I read the story. Over the past decade, all girls. Yes, a whole dozen of them. Sigh. What are the odds of flipping a coin a dozen times and getting all heads or tails? A few thousand to one. In other words, there’s no mystery here, just a statistical fluke. People get excited about the silliest things.

In personal news, walking last night I noticed Venus was particularly bright in the sky. I stopped to gaze at it, and there was a bright flash about a Moon’s diameter away from it. I thought it was a plane for a moment, but no, just one flash. Never saw anything like it before. All I can imagine is that it was a small shooting star coming straight at me, so I just saw a flash, not a streak. It was right after I heard the news about the Iranian missile strike, so it was a bit unnerving.

And speaking of which, waited all day, looks like the shooting war has been postponed. Phew. The Iranian response to Trump’s attack was proportionate, and Trump seems to have accepted it. Him and his administration lied about all sorts of stuff, but that just goes with the territory. If nothing else happens, I’ll write about other stuff. Using the cool picture I found (above) in hopes that I won’t need it to illustrate a post. Flaming optimism.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Painting, The Apotheosis of War 1871 Credit: Vasily Vereshchagin 1842-1904 Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 8, 2020 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Trump, War

TRUMP’S INTERNATIONAL SUCKER PUNCH, WHAT’S NEXT?

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Iraq_seaborne_crude_oil_exports_by_destination_in_2017_(31760972217)

Trump has threatened Iraq with terrible sanctions if they ask US forces to leave Iraq. Yes, America, our commitment to respecting democracy and sovereignty only extends to those who do our bidding. Nothing new here sadly. It should be pointed out, again, that sanctions hurt the people, especially poor people, of a nation first. So they are a form of collective punishment. And if anything they increase support for the hardliners.

Also, Iraq’s oil goes to a lot of countries, not sure how they will view sanctions. A lot also goes by pipeline through Turkey as well, the above chart is just oil tankers leaving through the Persian Gulf. We are talking the world’s 12th largest oil producer, so sanctions are going to hurt the world economy. I can’t see sanctions as being good for America either.

And it’s reported that Soleimani was on a diplomatic peace mission between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I don’t even know how to parse information like that, it certainly could be true. Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia benefits if there’s a big war in the Persian Gulf. Nobody does. I don’t trust any particular news sources now. It goes without saying that anything the Trump administration or the Democrats say should be taken with an oil tanker full of salt.

Again, this raises the question, what is Trump trying to accomplish? I’m still not clear on that. I am not sure he is clear, though it’s clear that acting tough and bullying seem to be part of his plan. It’s not clear to me that he needs a distraction or is making some calculated move to get re-elected by being tough on Iran. It might energize his base, but it’s certainly not going to get him a lot of support on the general street. The majority of Americans are tired of our endless wars, Trump’s (now broken) promises to back off on them are part of the reason he got elected.

To simplify, Trump’s attack was basically outright war. Now we’re just seeing what happens next. The US started this, since at least the early fifties the US has been messing with Iran. This article has a factual timeline, even if the author’s attitude annoys me. Little countries don’t start wars with powerful countries, though powerful countries often claim their chosen victim started it. Germany claimed Poland attacked Germany in 1939. Russia claimed Finland attacked it shortly afterwards. The US and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The list is endless.

There’s now a rumor the US ordered an Iraqi pullout, being denied now. Or it was some sort of draft letter. One wonders what Trump will do if Iraq formally requests our departure? Will we invade again? The Bush invasion of Iraq was one of the most botched invasions in history, I find it hard to imagine Trump’s team will do better. I’d wonder about Congress maybe doing something about this blatant disregard for the Constitution, but with the Senate in Trump’s control, I can’t see anything big there. As for Americans taking to the streets in millions, not yet.

Here’s a good article that covers stuff not seen on MSNBC or FOX. Here’s another one, long but interesting read. I can tell from the BBC and what is coming from my housemate’s room that the situation is still critical. I’m still out of sorts. Arms company stocks are up, and if my current reaction is common, beer sales are up. It’s not my imagination, Trump’s attack is a big deal and it’s likely to lead to bad things.

And if the Trumpers are right and somehow the US and the Middle East end up much better off because of this targeted killing I’ll eat my words. Stranger things have happened. That’s the beauty of reality, it’s not obligated to conform to our expectations. Keeps me guessing.

Your thoughts and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Iraq oil tanker oil graphic. Credit: From Wikipedia, Public Domain in one fashion or another.)

Written by unitedcats

January 6, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Trump, War

WAR DRUMS

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Well, so much for writing fun sciency or history posts. Stuff just keeps happening in Trump’s confrontation with Iran. I will write on and off during the day, updating when necessary. The first development is Trump threatening to attack 52 Iranian sites if Iran retaliates for the US’s targeted killing of a popular Iranian general. Hundreds of thousands have turned out for his funeral. The general’s, Trump is still with us. And Iraq just voted to expel all US troops from Iraq. Gee, they don’t want any part of Trump’s war with Iran, and they certainly don’t want it fought in Iraq. Who would have guessed? And just now, Iran rolled back the 2015 nuclear deal.

I’m not sure what Trump is trying to accomplish by making threats. It’s bizarre that his airport attack is presented as some sort of defensive move or preventing a war. Now if anything happens, he has backed himself into a corner. And gave Iran cover for rolling back on the nuclear deal. Which isn’t going to make our allies happy. And how will Trump respond to that? It’s not like harsher sanctions are an option. Worse, anyone who wants war between the US and Iran just has to fake an Iranian backed terrorist attack. If it’s spectacular enough Trump will really be on the hot seat. I can’t see any good about a war with Iran, but some organizations and even some governments would. Certainly I’m seeing people saying Trump is Israel and Saudi Arabia’s puppet, there’s some truth to it for sure.

It should be pointed out that Iran is closely aligned with Russia and China, which again highlights the absurdity of “Trump is Putin’s puppet” codswallop. And the administration idea that general Soleimani was some sort of American murdering terrorist plotting to kill more Americans doesn’t seem to have any evidence backing it up. Staggering amounts of nonsense all over Facebook and the media. At least we seemed to have backed down on Trump’s threat to attack cultural sites.

Trump should be happy, he’s destroyed the 2015 Nuclear deal with Iran, one of Obama’s signature accomplishments. Hopefully that’s the worst of it, but sadly burning oil facilities and a worldwide economic jolt are still very much an unpleasant possibility. Bombing Iran isn’t going to fix anything, nor will it engender regime change in Iran. Not exactly sure what Trump is trying to accomplish, if he manages to bluster through this without making it worse he’ll get my approval.

I am just trying to get my thoughts down and published. Some of my friends are refusing to watch the news, it’s all pretty depressing now. I have no idea what’s going to happen now, anyone who says they do is deluding themselves. “Everyone is loyal to the nightmare of their choice” though, as the good colonel said in Heart of Darkness. This often leads to bad things. I hope it all blows over and I can go back to blogging about cats.

I’m reading a book about the Battle of Stalingrad, some light reading to distract me from the news. Hope everyone is having a great weekend. Thoughts and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Digital art. Credit: Pixabay, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 5, 2020 at 5:03 pm

GENERAL SOLEIMANI’S DEATH, THE ARCHDUKE FERDINAND ASSASSINATION OF OUR DAY?

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Trump ordered the assasination (murder, killing, execution?) of a powerful and popular Iranian general, blowing him up at Baghdad’s international airport. I will be the first to admit, this event has upset me to no end. Even writing about it is hard. I’m also afraid that further developments might make what I write irrelevant even before I publish. My old friends will say I freak out easily, and I suppose they are right. It’s been a long time since anything freaked me out this much though, the American invasion of Iraq being the last time I was this upset. In both cases my gut was convinced that terrible things were going to follow. Well, my gut was right about Iraq, I can only hope it’s wrong this time. So in the hopes of making some sense of this all, my current thoughts on the topic, unorganized as they may be.

Reasons why I find this so upsetting. This could easily be the start of a big war. My comparison to the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand was not made flippantly. Ferdinand’s death set into motion a chain of events that quickly led to World War One; and while I think a world war is unlikely, no one thought Ferdinand’s death would lead to a catastrophic war either. And whether or not this attack leads to a wider war, it will radicalize a lot more people. The US doesn’t need more enemies, this is going to make America and Americans more hated in both Iraq and Iran, and to a greater and lesser extent throughout the Muslim world.

I am also horrified by how much support the idea of war with Iran is finding in Washington and the media. So far only Bernie Sanders is unequivocally condemning the idea of a war with Iran. I can’t see any good coming out of this attack, Trump has Palestinized Iraq now. By that I mean we are simply waging war with whoever we want inside Iraq, murdering our designated enemies at will. This is what Israel has done in its occupied territories for decades, and Iraq is a lot bigger than Israeli occupied Palestine. Israel has been whacking Palestinian leaders for decades, hasn’t brought peace any closer. And then the absurdity of Trump claiming that this utterly illegal act of war is about defending America.

Many people though are in fact believing the official narrative. “General Soleimani was a bad guy who killed hundreds of Americans, and whacking him was a great idea.” The Marvel comic book narrative. Even if it were true, Trump started the war with Iran when he pulled out of the nuclear agreement with them (which they were in complete compliance with) followed by devastating sanctions. Trump started this latest round of problems with Iran, and has now escalated it to outright war. Killing Soleimani isn’t going to make the war go away. “Revenge is not a strategy.”

I see a lot of memes to the effect that this attack is about Trump getting re-elected. I find that analysis facile. Trump’s been mindlessly hostile to Iran since before he got elected, this is just more of the same.  The bitter irony is that Trump partly got elected by claiming Hillary was the hothead who would get us into a war. If Trump does get us into war, he joins a proud legacy of Democrats who promised peace and delivered war, such as Wilson, Johnson, and Clinton. Now it can be a Republican tradition too! Isn’t bipartisanship great?

I’m also upset because my bunker isn’t fully stocked yet. Sort of a joke, sort of not. I hope I wake up tomorrow and cooler heads have prevailed. Peace is good, war is bad. We don’t need anyone else buried in Arlington. Right? Have a great weekend everyone.

Shares, comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image:Arlington Cemetery. Credit: Public Domain image from Snappygoat.)

PS: I’m afraid to sleep, a nightmare before the US invasion of Iraq haunts me still.

Written by unitedcats

January 3, 2020 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Propaganda, Trump, War

HAPPY NEW YEAR

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January first, New Year’s Day. Oddly enough starting the year on January 1st is a relatively new thing. In much of Europe it wasn’t until after 1500. In the Ottoman Empire it wasn’t until 1918. And in Thailand not until 1941! Yes, there are Thai people alive today who remember when New Year’s Day wasn’t January 1st. Before then it was April 1st. So that means there must have been an extra long year or an extra short year when they made the switch.  Must of been a huge hassle with contracts, birthdays, and such. The legal equivalent of when Sweden switched to driving on the right.

So, any interesting history on January 1st? A little, there’s always something. The Chenogne massacre in 1945, where American troops in retaliation for the Malmedy massacre killed a like number of German POWs. I’m of a mind that events like this should be taught in school. On the same day the Luftwaffe launched its last air offensive, Operation Bodenplatte, an attempt to destroy a crippling number of Allied aircraft on the ground in Belgium and France, giving the Germans control of the skies over the then raging Battle of the Bulge. It was a catastrophic fail, destroying easily replaced Allied aircraft and losing many irreplaceable trained and experienced German pilots. So it was the Luftwaffe’s last gasp as an organized force, and through the end of the war the Allies completely controlled the skies over Europe.

In 1947 Canadian citizens became Canadian citizens instead of British citizens. I didn’t know that, but it was more a formality and legal nicety than any big change. Going back further, in 1804 “Haiti becomes the first black-majority republic and second independent country in North America after the United States.” That’s from Wikipedia. I guess the hundreds of Indian nations in the Americas didn’t count as independent countries? In 1801 Ceres was discovered, the first and largest asteroid discovered. It was considered a planet for some time, then an asteroid, and now a dwarf planet. Science marches on, if confusingly sometimes.

Back in the here and now 2020 rolls in with a new crisis. Iraqi protesters swarmed the US embassy in Baghdad, causing damage, but no deaths or hostages yet. My first thought on hearing the news was, wait, what, isn’t the US embassy inside the Green Zone, the huge fortified crusader complex the US built in Baghdad? How did protesters even get to the US embassy? Turns out the Iraqi government let them in. Sigh, what a mess. Trump publicly blamed Iran, claiming they orchestrated the attack somehow. At least he’s mastered that aspect of Neocon World Middle East, if anything we don’t like happens, it must be Iran’s fault! That the US airstrikes against Iraqi militia forces killed dozens of people and just might have enraged Iraqis, nope, not relevant, it’s Iran! 

Even if Iran did have a hand in this, it’s just another indication of how America’s hard line policy towards Iran is failing. And he’s threatening Iran that they are going to pay “a very big price.” It’s not like he can sanction them further, so I’m not exactly sure what he means. He’s going to bomb Iraq some more? And no, our embassy wasn’t attacked because Trump has made people around the world not respect us. Good chance most of the protesters don’t even know who Trump is, but they do know America has brought nothing but suffering and death to Iraq for decades.

That’s one of the most frustrating things about Americans, most of them are now oblivious to the carnage and subsequent ill feelings our endless wars in the Middle East are causing. Somehow they are all habituated to it, like it’s normal to be dropping bombs on poor people on the other side of the planet. If some other country routinely bombed the USA Americans would most definitely be attacking their embassy, Americans would be outraged.  Do as we say, not as we do, the imperial disease illustrated.

In any event here’s hoping cool heads prevail, the last thing Trump or the nation needs is another war. Even watching the impeachment show is preferable to seeing another war on TV. Speaking of which, I did see a great movie recently, ‘Long Shot’ with Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron. It was as funny as ‘The Hangover’ and ‘Game Night,’ to give the gentle reader an idea of what movies I find funny. And now I will never hear the word ‘cracker’ again without giggling. I hope everyone had a safe New Year’s Eve, welcome to 2020.

Comments and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Haitian revolution: The Battle of Palm Tree Hill   Credit: January Suchodolski 1897-1875. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1924.)

Written by unitedcats

January 1, 2020 at 5:41 pm

US HOLDS IRANIANS HOSTAGE FOR 26 YEARS AND OTHER NEWS

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I had planned to write more about the Iran hostage crisis, but life got in the way. Life does that, it’s as if reality has volition of its own that transcends my carefully laid plans. Who knew? So I’ll just be quick, this link, and pointing out that the US installed and supported a brutal dictator in Iran from 1953 to 1979. So no surprise that the people of Iran deposed him. And since the coup that installed the Shah was plotted and conducted from the US embassy, not a surprise that militants occupied the embassy after Jimmy Carter foolishly let the Shah come to the US for medical treatments, fuelling rumours that the US planned to reinstall him by force. All of course unknown to most Americans, who have simply erased pre-revolution Iran from their minds.

Reminds me of an anecdote by one of the hostages. After nearly a year in captivity, one of the hostages snapped, and yelled long and hard at one of his guards about the injustice of holding him and his fellow hostages prisoners for nearly a year. The guard listened to it all, and when the hostage was done, the guard simply said: “America held our entire country hostage for 26 years.” The hostage had no reply to that, because, what could he say? Alas those 26 years don’t exist for most Americans, last time I checked the CIA’s official history of Iran … starts in 1979.

I came across a curious article about how science denial works. The short version is that science denial “works” because a lot of people engage in black and white thinking. In this type of thinking ideas (or scientific theories) are either 100% proved … or false. And since nothing in science is 100% proven, there is always something for people to latch onto to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I definitely recommend the article. The only thing I would add is that unfortunately now there are very powerful interests at work exploiting this tendency in human thinking to promote egregious nonsense like ‘intelligent design’ or ‘global warming denial.’ How to get through to such people? Beats me. Teaching critical thinking in schools would be a start, but the very same interests certainly aren’t going to stand for that.

Interestingly enough in this next article on the evolution of bipedalism, one can easily see how black and white thinkers could fool themselves into thinking that the incredibly complicated and as yet not fully understood evolution of humans is flawed. Especially if one was already wedded to the simplistic idea that Fod snapped his fingers and magically created the Universe out of nothing 7,000 odd years ago. No need for complex theories to explain the amazing complexity of life and evolution.

Not much in the news today. Or same ol same ol to be more accurate. So … science! A NASA engineer has come up with theoretical propellantless engine that could reach 99% of the speed of light. Wait, no propellent? Isn’t that basically a perpetual motion machine, thus violating the laws of the Universe? Pretty much, but his idea somehow takes advantage of a loophole in special relativity. My understanding of special relativity is weak, so I basically have no clue about how he claims his ‘helical engine’ concept works. Still, good to know people are thinking about how to get off this freaking rock.

Well, this was interesting. Turns out the Black Plague was killing people thousands of years before the first pandemic, the Plague of Justinian which devastated the Eastern Roman Empire in 541-542 AD. It killed as many as 50 million people in the two centuries that followed. And it all appears to have been the same strain, so why did the plague not cause pandemics prior to the first outbreak? Possibly it did, but so far there’s no historical or archeological evidence for such. So scientists are trying to figure it out. Crowded cities? New rats? Lack of exposure to horses? Wait, what, how is exposure to horses related to plague outbreaks? Apparently they may be naturally resistant to plague, though how that helped prevent pandemics is a little unclear to me. In any event, interesting speculations, read about it here.

Here’s a last fun science headline: ‘MIT’s ‘virtually indestructible’ Cheetah robots can now play soccer.’ Great, indestructible robot cheetahs. Black Mirror tried to warn us about this, but did we listen? Nope. Another sign of the coming apocalypse.

Stay warm everyone, our lake froze this morning. So much for Indian Summer. Hell, so much for fall.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A hunter-killer metal dog from Black Mirror’s episode Metalhead. Credit: Possibly Edemol Shine UK? Used without permission, but since I am plugging their show, hopefully I can be forgiven.)

Written by unitedcats

November 13, 2019 at 6:04 am

Posted in History, Iran, Personal, Science

THE BLITZKRIEG OF OUR TIME? IS TRUMP UP THE CREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE?

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Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor_Japanese_planes_view2

OK, one last time. All week I have been checking the news obsessively, hoping that the situation with Iran hasn’t deteriorated. And trying to get my head around the Saudi Arabia Abqaiq–Khurais oil facilities attack. I still think it represents a sea change in the region, if not globally. I am also starting to think the attack was brilliant both tactically and strategically. That’s the main reason there has been no response besides threats and power blaming. I’ll likely repeat some things from earlier posts on the topic, but will try to keep it short and to the point.

A year ago Trump effectively went to war with Iran, imposing on Iran the most draconian sanctions ever imposed in peacetime. And Mark Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, presented Iran with a list of twelve demands they must comply with. If they comply,  maybe the US will think about lifting the sanctions. The demands are outrageous, the sort of demands one imposes on a vanquished enemy or a defenceless country. (See Appendix I at bottom.) Iran is neither. And Trump is pretty much going this alone, aside from being cheered on by Israel and Saudi Arabia.

So what’s Iran to do? They can’t comply with the demands, no nation would agree to be another nation’s slave basically. Diplomacy is out, Trump doesn’t want to talk. And while most of the world doesn’t go along with Trump bullying Iran, there’s not a lot they can do besides a certain amount of passive resistance. Iran can’t just go to war with the US, even though it would be perfectly reasonable under the circumstances. That would be national suicide. If they do nothing, the situation continues to deteriorate in Iran, with all the while the possibility that the war will get worse. They basically had their hands tied.

And then the attack happened. Whether it was the Houthis or Iran, the big lesson is that it could happen again. And the west seems unable to defend against the possibility. For a long time people have been pointing out how soft the world’s infrastructure is, let alone things like oil storage and refining. And that the idea that it could all be defended against by a clever attacker was a pipe dream. You can’t defend everything. Which is why wars should be the last resort, not the first.  I wish I could express how paradigm breaking this attack was. It was like Pearl Harbor, but since no one died, few are paying real attention to what is going on. Well, outside of astute military types. The Blitzkreig of our day has been revealed, what to do?

This is why the US nor Saudi Arabia has responded yet to the attacks. Iran and /or the Houthis may well have thousands of drones and cruise missiles aimed at dozens of very soft but very economically valuable targets in the region. And right now, the west has no real way to defend against these attacks. Yes, Trump is sending troops to Saudi Arabia, pretty much an admission that he has no good options. What are the troops going to do, shoot down the next drone attack? Yeah, that’s not going to work.

So what’s going to happen now? If the US or Saudi Arabia were going to retaliate, likely they would have done so. The US doesn’t even have a reason to retaliate, Saudi Arabia isn’t a US allie. And the new Crown Prince’s wars and repression aren’t actually helping America’s interests in the region. As at least one wag has pointed out, Trump is about “America first” except when it comes to Israel and Saudi Arabia. Honestly, Trump’s a fool and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is a madman. I think they will stay the course, and the best thing that could happen is another attack by the Houthis.

We know Iran isn’t going to surrender, that’s for sure. I will keep obsessively monitoring the news and posting as need be. Here is a fantastic article in that it presents a very different picture than the silliness on the MSM. It basically makes the claim that Trump gambled big time when he pulled out of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and now with this attack he has lost. And his only option is to find a face saving way out of the mess he made. I highly recommend it.

Yeah, Trump will admit he made a mistake, and try to fix it. Snort. I guess we’re gonna find out how well sharpies work against drone attacks. Have a great week everyone.

***

Appendix I: Pompeo’s demands, they are both outrageous and insulting to Iran’s sovereignty, and in some cases even divorced from reality.

  1. Iran must “declare to the IAEA a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program.” They already have. And they had every reason to try and build nuclear weapons when Iraq was attacking them fully backed by the west!
  2. Iran must “stop uranium enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing,” including “closing its heavy water reactor.”  Iran, like numerous other countries, has a civilian nuclear power program. This is an essential component of such programs, and fully legal and reasonable under the NPT. In other words, this is a deliberately insulting and ridiculous demand. It gets worse, trust me.
  3. Iran must “also provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the country.” Basically asking Iran to allow US spies to go anywhere they want, anytime they want. No sovereign nation would agree to this.
  4. Iran “must end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further development of nuclear-capable missiles.” Again, this is like telling a nation they can’t build tanks or artillery. No sovereign nation would agree to this, especially since Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia are armed to the teeth with missiles.
  5. Iran is  to “release all U.S. citizens … detained on spurious charges or missing in Iran.” Just imagine if another country demanded that all of its citizens in US jails be released. How would that fly among Trump supporters?
  6. Iran “must end support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad” All of these groups have widespread popular support, all of them have legitimate causes, and two of them participate in the electoral process. The US routinely supports groups like these all over the planet. Again, a hypocritical and insulting demand.
  7. Iran “must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilization, and reintegration of Shia militias.” Yes, Iran and Shia Iraq are on good terms. It’s the US who has never respected Iraq’s sovereignty, not Iran.
  8. Iran must “end its military support for the Houthi militia and work towards a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.” Iran has proposed a diplomatic solution to Yemen from the beginning, and whatever support they give the Houthis is dwarfed by the arms pipeline flowing into Saudi Arabia. The US’s refusal to recognize the Houthis is the stumbling block, not Iran.
  9. “Iran must withdraw all forces under Iranian command from Syria.” Iran’s forces are in Syria legally, at the request of the Syrian government. Unlike US forces in Syria.
  10. “Iran must end support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region, and cease harboring Al Qaeda.” Um, no, those are Tehran’s enemies, Iran can’t stop doing what it isn’t doing in the first place.
  11. “Iran must end the IRGC Quds Forces’ support for terrorists and militant partners.” Iran supplies its friends in the region, exactly as the US does.
  12. “Iran cease its threatening behavior against its neighbors.” It’s the US and its allies that have invaded and are waging ongoing war on multiple countries in the region, turning whole countries into failed states. Not Iran.

I got these from this site, much of the above is just a shortened version of theirs, sans much editorial comment. If I made any errors in fact, happy to be shown otherwise.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The attack on Pearl Harbor. Credit: Imperial Japanese Navy. This photograph is in the public domain in Japan because its copyright has expired according to Article 23 of the 1899 Copyright Act of Japan (English translation) and Article 2 of Supplemental Provisions of Copyright Act of 1970. This is when the photograph meets one of the following conditions:

It was published before January 1, 1957.

It was photographed before January 1, 1947.

It is also in the public domain in the United States because its copyright in Japan expired by 1970 and was not restored by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.)

Written by unitedcats

September 23, 2019 at 3:54 am

WHAT ROUGH BEAST II

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DN-SC-87-06412

Well, knock on wood, no US attack on Iran … yet. The quiet before the storm? Nothing has happened yet, but the more I learn about the attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil facility, the more worried I am. This attack was important in at least four scary ways. It’s a new and possibly game-changing addition to the world’s arsenal. It’s exactly the sort of incident the US has used to justify wars before. It’s an attack on major oil production facilities, which are usually tacitly off limits to the major players. Lastly, this really highlights how vulnerable the world’s infrastructure to, well, smart drones. In that order:

This attack was like something out of a James Bond movie. Drones that flew in and hit their targets with precision. I tend to mostly agree with the just linked article, this has been coming for awhile. The technology is off the shelf, the next gen Scud missile if one wills. Insurgents just got a lot more dangerous. One can bet that military and intelligence people are quietly meeting around the globe to discuss this attack.

The US has a long history of using incidents far more trivial than this attack to justify wars. Going back almost to the beginning of our republic. And there are certainly elements in the power structure in Washington calling for an attack on Iran. Trump’s base has certainly bought the idea that Iran is behind all the problems in the region. Trump likely believes it himself. An attack on Iran could have unexpected consequences. More on that later.

Attacks on major infrastructure are rare. The big players generally avoid it because they are all equally vulnerable. So this either means minor players can now attack economic infrastructure in precision ways, or a major player just really upped the ante. Neither possibility is a good thing. Maybe it’s an attempt by the Houthis’ to force peace talks, like what the IRA did to drive the U.K. to the negotiating table. Economic terrorism. Still, not a happy development.

Lastly, this really highlights just how vulnerable the world’s infrastructure really is. You can deliver small explosive loads accurately over hundreds of miles, this makes World War Two bombing raids look like catapults and arrows in comparison.   Hundreds of tons of explosives dropped willy nilly at great risk and expense, hoping the damage done exceeds the cost. Or a few hundred pounds of high explosive delivered to pinpoint targets to maximize damage at little risk or expense. A new day in warfare has dawned.

What does it all mean? Who knows. Oil prices have spiked some, Iran and the US are trading accusations and denials. One of the big takeaways is … whoever did this could do it again. Which is likely a big factor in why no knee jerk response. Iran or the Houthis or the Taliban or Hezbollah could have thousands of drones ready to launch. Even if they don’t, orders are being issued as I type to acquire them. And Iran has plenty of other military options as well. Unlike the defenseless countries the US has been waging war on since 9/11, Iran has teeth. And powerful friends.

Every day that goes by without further escalation is a good thing. The conspiracy mongers are going nuts, but such is life. I don’t think it’s a false flag attack, false flag attacks are generally trivial in their costs. And as I keep saying, the actual details of who launched it really are academic. The US has already made it abundantly clear that it regards Iran as responsible, and will act accordingly. Maybe that means war. Maybe Trump will X-out Iran on a map with his sharpie. Frack if I know, the world post Supercollider weasel is a strange place indeed.

I’m going to call it a night and hope this post doesn’t require major revision come morning. Hopefully nothing will happen by Friday, and I can get back to aliens and comets. BB all.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The USS Stark struck by two Exocetxocet missiles in 1987 during the Iran-Iraq War. Credit: Unknown. This image is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States.)

Written by unitedcats

September 18, 2019 at 4:42 am

Posted in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Trump, War

WHAT ROUGH BEAST

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The_Sandman_a_B-24_Liberator,_piloted_by_Robert_Sternfels

I was working on my interstellar visitor post, then this happened. Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities have been hit by drones, reducing their production capacity by about 50%. Saudi Arabia is the world’s number two producer of oil. So, to put it succinctly, this is a big deal. All hell could break loose Monday when the world’s stock markets open. It’s also possible that this is the first salvo in a much wider war in the region. Or as some are already saying, the End Times have begun. Maybe, hope not.

OK, so why is this attack so important? There’s a lot to unpack here. First, regional background, unstable as hell: Houthi rebels started a civil war in Yemen in 2015, ousting the authoritarian president. Saudi Arabia backed by the west has been waging war on Yemen since, trying to defeat the Houthis and reinstall the ousted dictator. The Saudis fear the Houthis will ally with Iran, though it’s unclear that their war has achieved anything, or even can achieve anything. And Yemen is a terrible failed state at this point with numerous factions in the fight for different goals.

As well, in 2015 Iran signed a humiliating deal with the USA and other major powers. They caved to intrusive western nuclear inspections that made a mockery of the NPT and Iranian sovereignty. Iran problem solved, right? No, along came Trump who backed out of the deal and started a campaign of economic warfare against Iran. Regime change being the goal apparently. Israel is urging the US to attack Iran, and there’s certainly people in Washington who think it’s a great idea.

There have also been other mysterious attacks on some oil tankers in the Gulf recently. And now this, a drone strike does devastating damage to Saudi Arabia’s oil production capacity. Not cruise missiles, drones. Small, cheap, could have been launched by any number of nations. Houthi rebels are claiming it was them, Trump is claiming Iran launched the drones. When the markets open Monday oil prices will likely rise, and all sorts of economic hell might break loose. And of course this could spread to other acts of war in the region.

First takeaway, believe no one. Governments always lie.  Could have been Houthi rebels. They could have gotten the drones from Iran, or any number of third parties. Could have been Iran. Doesn’t really matter, since both the US and Israel are going to blame Iran and react accordingly. And anyone else who is happy to see the Saudi’s and/or the US petrodollar hurt may try and figure out how to take advantage of this. That would be China, Russia, and Venezuela for starters. I don’t think North Korea will be shedding any tears over this either. The rest of the world is urging calm, since a catastrophic war that takes out a large part of the world’s oil production will hurt all around.

So, a lot of angry arguing cooks in the kitchen and a stove top grease fire just broke out, what happens now? Do they work together to put out the fire? Or does someone throw flaming grease on someone else. That’s really the only question that matters now. Even if nothing else happens, gas prices are likely to rise, the world’s economies will take a hit, and even temporary gas shortages are possible. If the US or Israel does attack Iran, anything is possible. Oil facilities are very soft targets, and when it comes right down to it, the world economy is very fragile in many respects.

And sadly I know I recently said I hope Trump gets through the rest of his presidency without having to deal with a major crisis. Obviously I should have knocked on wood when I typed that. Maybe this isn’t a major crisis just yet, but it could get there quickly. And we have a man in the White House who thinks he can retroactively change reality using a sharpie. This does not fill me with confidence. At least Bolton is gone, he’d be foaming at the mouth urging an attack on Iran. Someone could slip and fall. I’m hoping cooler heads prevail everywhere.

In any event I’m posting this today because by Monday the situation may have changed. If there are further unpleasant developments, I will post on Monday or Tuesday. If not (fingers and toes crossed,) on Wednesday I will post about Comet Borisov and aliens. Hope everyone is having a good weekend, stay calm and carry on.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: B-24 Liberator, emerging from smoke over the Astra Română refinery, Rumania, during World War Two.  Only Public Domain picture of a refinery under attack I could locate on short notice. Credit: Jerry J. Joswick This image or file is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain in the United States.)

Written by unitedcats

September 15, 2019 at 3:02 pm