Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

THE DAY THE DEMOCRACY DIED

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Things just get more and more ridiculous in Washington. Looks like the Senate has basically spiked Trump’s impeachment trial by voting not to call any witnesses. So Trump is expected to be acquitted by as early as next week. No surprise here, there was never any doubt that the GOP controlled Senate would acquit Trump. And if anything Trump’s base is going to be more energized and outraged against Democrats. Plus the whole impeachment trial has all been a huge distraction from Trump gutting environmental regulations and giving away public assets to the rich. It reminded me of the OJ trial, huge numbers of people got sucked into watching that farce too.

And on the flip side of Yesterday’s coin, the Democrats. The DNC blatantly changed the rules of the next debate so that a seat could be sold to a multi-millionaire, Bloomberg. Like the GOP, the Democrats no longer are even pretending to be anything other than part of the corrupt third world dictatorship Washington has evolved into. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Sir John Dalberg-Acton said that in the 19th century. And Washington, the most rich and powerful city the world has ever seen, has become corrupt almost beyond comprehension.

Lots of people don’t see it though. Or they see it on the other side, but still have faith that their party will fix things. They don’t see a lot of things. A nation lost in the fog. Though I think it’s a media fog. Americans get their news from corporate owned media outlets that provide content to a targeted demographic, not news. And content that is staggeringly convincing because science has made great strides in propaganda and advertising the past few decades. That’s today’s theory on why America is not marching by the millions on Washington. Some have other theories.

The Wuhan Coronavirus epidemic continues to spread. Trump has used it as an excuse to restrict travel from more Muslim countries. At least Trump is consistent. Even if the virus is contained soon, at this point the economic damage is considerable and rising quickly. Well, the economy of the rich at least, stock markets are taking a hit. We’ll see. There’s always stuff going on that could turn ugly, but sometimes more than other times. This is one of the sometimes more than other times. I’m guessing the chances of a global pandemic with a million or more dead are at least 1% now, interesting times indeed.

Speaking of interesting times, Brexit just happened. The UK leaves the European Union after 47 years. Yikes. What to say? I have very mixed feelings about this. To start out, even though I am reasonably worldly educated, I am way too ignorant about European politics to have strong opinions on this topic. And I don’t see it as a black and white issue. That the vote resulted in Brexit shows that democracy is alive in the UK. I think that’s a good thing. I also posit that the vote to leave the EU is an indication that the EU has failed on some levels  Or maybe humans aren’t really an intelligent species.

Depends on how one defines intelligence. My current thinking is that the human brain is wired for pattern recognition, social beliefs, and pleasure seeking. Not logic. This is what makes us greater than ants, and what may well be the death of us all. Ants are logical, humans aren’t. On the plus side, if I was an ant, I wouldn’t be blogging.

What a freaking week. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The uncompleted U.S. Capitol building in Washington after being burned by a British army in 1814. Credit: George Munger, 1781-1825. Public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

February 1, 2020 at 7:47 am

WHY I’M VOTING FOR BERNIE SANDERS*

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*This post will likely piss off everyone. It’s what I do. What can I say, it’s a gift. Note, first off I didn’t say I was a Bernie Sanders supporter, and when I say vote, I mean caucus for. That’s right, I live in Iowa, where my primary vote actually means something. Muhahaha! Sorry, got carried away; it’s all the cornfields, they get into one’s dreams. So I will caucus for Bernie. I’m not quite sure what caucusing is, but afterwards I will blog about it. Who I will vote for in the general election, it depends on who’s running I suppose.

So yes, why? Why is someone who mutilated ballots in old elections and whose last act of political activism was protesting against Jane Fonda in the seventies, why am I now doing stuff for Bernie Sanders? Because Bernie Sanders is talking about the real issues destroying America. Wealth inequality, climate change. And our insanely aggressive imperialistic foreign policy.  And health care for all is a no brainer, literally everyone wins. All of which I am happy to defend logically. And he’s consistent, unlike faux progressives like the Clintons or Obama, Sander’s life history is actually progressive. Plus a lot of my dear friends are enthusiastic Bernie supporters, that has to count for something, right?

That being said, essentially I see my Bernie support as a version of “voting for the lesser evil.” I’m a cynical old SOB, Clinton and Obama both made all sorts of progressive promises, then delivered to the Pentagon and the bankers. I’d like to believe Bernie is different, and I do in the sense I’m happy to caucus for him and provide logistical support for his local campaign efforts. In the sense that I’m a Bernie fan, nope, I suspect he’s as much a part of the system as any other career Washington politician. He just comes from a local political background where being progressive is harmless. And just to recap, yes, I am a cynical old SOB.

I also think the American governing system is so controlled by special interests, oligarchs, what have you; that even if Sanders gets elected, he will be effectively paralyzed by a largely uncooperative congress. And then the GOP will make hay claiming it’s now proved that progressive policies don’t work. Depressing, the Trump junior as president alternate reality. I mean, the Bushs managed a presidential dynasty, why not the Trumps? On the other hand, I can imagine a world where  Sanders is sincere, manages to get a few policies up and running, and the results speak for themselves. A man can dream, right? On the gripping hand, I can  imagine a world where Sanders gets wellstoned.

A few other observations. The campaign in general is just another example of how stinking wasteful America is. Staggering amounts of time and money are being poured into a “campaign” that is essentially non stop now. Such a waste of time, energy, and money. Granted, waste is a part and parcel of modern America, but it seems to be much worse now than back in my day. And widespread waste in a society where so many are wanting seems to be a symptom of, well, something bad.

The other observation is just how far the political reality gap is these days. I saw a FOX news snippet where the newscaster called Sanders and Warren “two commies.” No people, Sanders and Warren aren’t communists. America does have a communist party, but its heyday was before World War Two, it has maybe 10,000 members now. Sanders and Warren aren’t socialists either. Again, there is an actual American socialist party, but they too are a shadow of what they once were. We essentially have one political party with two factions, but they play this game where the other party “is going to destroy America.” No, neither the Dem base nor the GOP base want to “destroy America.” Get a hold of yourselves people.

Oh, yeah, go Bernie!

And lastly, my life lately has been a perfect storm of intersecting global and personal issues, which has interfered with writing. On the plus side, the older I get, the easier it is to deal with crap.

Have a great weekend everyone. Remember, any day you wake up in the morning is a good day.

Comments welcome.

(Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved. Image: Bernie Sanders with cat, photoshopped image. Credit: The whole story here, claiming Fair Use under US copyright law. Go cats, Go Bernie!)

Written by unitedcats

January 17, 2020 at 7:52 pm

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY A HOME ALONE 2 CAST MEMBER HAS BEEN IMPEACHED

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Well, Donald Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives. The ground didn’t open with shrieking demons emerging to drag him to Hell. Neither did the Heavens part with a force of AR-15 toting angels issuing forth to defend him. So a lot of disappointment on both sides of the political chasm. (We’re long past the aisle stage.) A lot of Dems I know are very pleased, though I’m not quite sure what they are pleased about. It’s not like the outcome of “the trial” in the Senate is in any doubt. Trump will be acquitted, sure as the Sun will come up tomorrow.

I still think what I thought when Trump was elected, the Dems should take the high road and give Trump all the rope he wants. Instead they were outraged and protesting and denying his legitimacy as president before he was even sworn in. That the GOP did this first with Obama not only isn’t relevant, it’s even more reason to take the high road. Now all the Dems have done is made it incredibly easy for the GOP to claim opposition to Trump is just blind rage. As this fellow writes, this impeachment is one more body blow to our already horribly dysfunctional government. And the endless network coverage is just political porn distracting people from real issues.

Moving right along, I watched a Democratic candidate debate last night. At least they mostly talked about real issues. Not that it really matters these days where facts no longer have any meaning. So it was kind of sad to watch. The economy is great for the rich. High employment means nothing if the jobs are shit. It’s shocking that a developed country doesn’t have cradle to grave health care, especially considering how much we spend on it. Climate change is a vital global issue we should be attacking. Can’t argue with the basics.

Unfortunately very powerful interests are making piles of money by making sure nothing is done about any of these issues. Health care and debt have been commoditized, and people making garbage wages is why MacDonald’s is able to spend $10k per employee per year buying back their own stock. That’s legalized wage theft. And on all of the issues that we should be dealing with, these interests have created powerful myths about why nothing should be done. Fight climate change, why that will wreck the economy! Fight gun violence, why they will take away our guns! Raise the minimum wage, why that will eliminate jobs! The fact that none of these and all the rest pass the logic test simply no longer matters.

That’s my big problem with the modern era, logic has gone out the window in favour of strings of false arguments. Rush Limbaugh is a God when it comes to stringing together false arguments. I know people want to hear stuff that reinforces their worldview, but if one has no freaking standards of evidence or logic, one’s worldview is imaginary. And when huge numbers of people buy into an imaginary worldview, bad things happen. And when almost everyone buys into an imaginary worldview, welcome to modern America. Where magical thinking has prevailed over evidence, science, and logic.

One example, which has been bugging me for awhile. A friend of mine said something to the effect of “glyphosate was developed as a poison, so I can see why it might be bad for people.” Aaugh. Both logic and science go out the window. There’s no such thing as a poison, it’s just a made up category. Basically everything is poisonous, it’s just the dosage that counts. We need vitamin A to live, drink a cup at once and death results. And what is very toxic to one type of life may be virtually innocuous to others. Glyphosate is very bad news for plants, biologically inert for animals. So because Glyphosate is toxic to plants, means exactly dipsquat about how toxic it is to animals. And then there’s the decades of studies failing to find any problems with low dose exposure to Glyphosate. Sigh.

On the plus side, my health has improved. The weather has warmed up. A Christian magazine has called for Trump’s removal. A new approach for SETI is intriguing. And my frelking weekend begins after I post this, woohoo!

Have a great weekend everyone. Shares appreciated.

PS: I wish the title was my idea, but no, just something I heard on Facebook.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Cat not scared by Trump. Pic came up in an image search for <trump cat>, just made me giggle. Credit: Unknown, Flickr image)

Written by unitedcats

December 20, 2019 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Impeachment, Politics, Trump

22 NOVEMBER 1963: THE DAY CAMELOT DIED

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22 November 1963, President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Huge deal at the time, though at 6 years old I was only dimly aware of it. I am reasonably sure I remember seeing his funeral on TV, possibly the first news event I have recollection of. I also remember the buzz when the Beatles came to the US a few months later, the grown ups were excited about that too. I couldn’t understand why some beetles from England were such a big deal, I was not a worldly six year old. What I thought about the Kent State shooting a few years later is even more embarrassing.

So yes, big deal at the time. Fourth US president to be assassinated. And seventh US president to die in office due to the “Curse of Tippecanoe.” IE starting in 1840 every president elected in a year divisible by 20 died in office. Reagan being elected in 1980 finally broke the curse, though one wonders just how senile he was near the end of his term, maybe technically he didn’t. The curse was completely broken by George W. Bush in 2,000, since he was appointed by the Supreme Court, not elected. Don’t worry, I’ll bash Dem presidents in future blogs, I despise virtually all politicians.

Kennedy’s assassination started the modern conspiracy theory movement. Almost from the beginning, people had trouble with the official narrative. And it’s grown by leaps and bounds since. Including all sorts of theories and quotes about what Kennedy was going to do if he hadn’t been murdered. The meme above is a great example of this sort of nonsense. And nonsense it is, Kennedy never said any such thing. The poor man probably has more fake quotes attributed to him than almost anyone in history. Most of the conspiracy theories are based on similar factual errors.

His assassination is still an interesting case, there are minor discrepancies and mysteries. I noticed a few years back when I saw a nice aerial shot of the ambush sight … what a perfect location for an L shaped ambush. That’s an ambush where the ambushers are firing from in front and the side of the people being ambushed. That way the ambushed can’t take cover behind their vehicles. And if it was an L shaped ambush, Oswald was shooting from the side, and the front shooter would be on the grassy knoll. The infamous grassy knoll where some witnesses claimed to hear shots coming from. Still, without evidence, it’s just conjecture.

One of the unsolved curiosities of the assassination is the Babushka Lady. She appears in a number of the images and films of the scene, a heavy set, possibly middle aged woman wearing a headscarf tied under her chin reminiscent of how old Russian women wear scarves. (Babushka is grandmother in Russian.) At no point though is her face visible, because she is looking away from the camera, or her own camera is obscuring her face. That’s why there is such interest in her, no film or pictures attributable to her have ever surfaced. So possibly there is photographic evidence of the Kennedy assassination that has never been examined. And she was right freaking there in the middle of it, in fact she continued to film while the people around her were running for cover!

One can be sure every effort has been made to locate her. A Beverly Oliver claimed to be the Babushka Lady in 1970 and beyond, but her story is sketchy at best. And Beverly claims mysterious men confiscated her film. That’s convenient. Maybe someday the Babushka Lady’s film will show up somewhere, likely solving nothing or even adding more mystery. All that aside though, the Babushka Lady herself is evidence of nothing. There are all sorts of utterly prosaic reasons that could explain why her and her film never showed up. Like the infamous STENDEC mystery, just because we don’t know something doesn’t mean there’s anything important behind it.

So RIP John, your death was a tragedy for the nation. A wound that hasn’t healed yet. On the plus side, President Johnson was able to get a lot of JFK’s legacy enacted, in Johnson’s Great Society initiative. This was the last time a president accomplished anything for America’s poor and working class, subsequent presidents all threw poor and working class Americans under the bus. With the possible exception of Carter, but I would need to read up on that. And sadly, JFK was the one that got the US deeply involved in a stupid little war trying to prop up an unpopular American puppet state in South Vietnam. A war that proved Johnson’s downfall as well.

I remember in third grade the teacher writing ‘Vietnam’ on the chalkboard (do schools even have those anymore?) so we would know how to spell it. This would have been 1965 or 1966, when the Vietnam War was really starting to grind people’s gears.

In local news, our lake froze a few weeks back. And last night it unfroze. The temperature has been above freezing, barely, plus rain. Not much of an Indian Summer, but I’ll take what I can get. More pictures of leafless trees coming up. If one likes leafless trees and muddy fields of corn stubble, Iowa is beautiful this time of year. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Fake Kennedy quote meme. Credit: Anonymous, used without permission, likely a Public Domain image.)

Written by unitedcats

November 22, 2019 at 4:29 am

Posted in History, Politics, Vietnam

23 OCTOBER, REAGAN, THE WAR OF JENKIN’S EAR, ETC

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Some interesting stuff happened on 23 Oct. Well, I suppose there’s always interesting stuff on every date in history, just not of interest to me. On October 23rd, jackpot. So, we’ll start with The War of Jenkin’s Ear. In 1731 a Spanish privateer captured a British ship, accused them of smuggling, and cut off Captain Jenkin’s ear. The ear was exhibited in British Parliament, people were outraged, and the British declared war on Spain. That’s the story, and a great story it is. It is however, just a story. Yes, the unfortunate Captain Jenkins did have his ear cut off. And he may have testified in Parliament. There is no evidence he waved his ear around. And while there was outrage over the incident, the war didn’t start until 1739. And Jenkin’s ear had little or nothing to do about it, it was mainly about trade conflicts with Spain in the New World. In fact it wasn’t even called ‘The War of Jenkin’s Ear’ until over a century later. One wonders what future historians will rename current events.

In 1812 one French General Claude François de Malet launched an attempted coup, claiming Napoleon had died in Russia. This was a new one to me. The general recruited others into his plot, and made some progress, but Napoleon loyalists quickly determined that despite the good general’s claim, letters had been received from Napoleon that post dated his supposed death. The general and a number of his co-conspirators were tried and executed by firing squad. They had planned on returning the monarchy to power, though honestly it seems like it was a pretty harebrained scheme to begin with. Napoleon was very popular, and I can’t imagine support for the coup doing anything but collapsing once it was discovered that Napoleon was still very much alive.

Harebrained is the correct spelling by the way, but hare-brained is also acceptable. Not hairbrained though, even though lots of people apparently labor under the impression that this is the correct spelling. Nope, hares, not hair. IE rabbit brained, hares not being known as particularly smart animals. Oddly enough hare (the rabbit) was once acceptably spelled hair, in Scotland particularly. So at one point hair-brained was acceptable, but no longer. English, fun language.

In 1906 Alberto Santos-Dumont flew the world’s first heavier-than-air aircraft in front of hundreds of witnesses in France. The first person to invent and fly an airplane! The fact that the Wright brothers preceded him by some months took awhile to sink in. Who cares. Both parties independently built a flying machine, a remarkable achievement for the era. Mr Santos-Dumont was a pioneer in both lighter and heavier-than-air craft and worthy of the fame he has. Sadly he killed himself at 59, partly because of the use of aircraft as weapons in World War One. Yikes.

In 1942 the 2nd Battle of El Alamein began. This was a British offensive against Rommel and his Afrika Korps in North Africa. The British had such an overwhelming advantage in men and equipment that the outcome was not in doubt. Sometimes great generals have won battles when outnumbered two or three to one. Seven plus to one, not aware of any large battle won at those odds. At least with reasonably well matched opponents technology wise. The battles of Guadalcanal and Stalingrad were raging as well at this time. Basically in late 1942 it became clear that the Axis were not going to win World War Two.

And in 1944, after it was clear the Axis were going to lose World War Two (The greatest martial arts contest ever held) on this date the Japanese launched their Leyte Gulf offensive. This was an attack on the US forces invading the Philippines, occupied by Japan since the start of World War Two in the Pacific. The attack caught the US by surprise, since their intelligence branch had concluded that Japan was no longer capable of large scale offensive operations. The War in the Pacific version of the Battle of the Bulge. While possibly more realistic than Hitler’s lunacy in The Bulge, Japan’s Leyte Gulf attack was also a fail.

Lastly, and nicely timed, Reagan. On October 23 the Marine barracks in Beirut Lebanon was attacked by a truck bomb, killing 241, 307 including a simultaneous attack on French troops. God rest their souls. So much to say, huge event at the time. Pre-Internet days, my wife and I were living in our truck. We saw the headlines in a newspaper in a newspaper box. The US was there as part of a peacekeeping mission. Forgotten by most now.

By most. Came across an article titled “21 Reasons Why Ronald Reagan Was a Terrible President.” I was so horrified by it I refuse to link to it. Principles and all. I didn’t read it all, but what I did read basically said Reagan was a terrible president because he didn’t launch the “War on Terror” after the Marine bombing in Lebanon. Right. Not launching the most pointless, destructive, expensive, and counterproductive “war” in American history makes him a terrible president? I’m no fan of Reagan, but pulling out of Lebanon after the bombing was the wise thing to do. The Lebanese Civil War was a horrible mess, especially then after the Israeli invasion. When your soldiers aren’t achieving anything positive, and they are coming under attack, time to bring them home. Good going Reagan, wish today’s leaders had as much sense.

Basically the whole article was neocon propaganda, the “all war all the time” philosophy that has taken over Washington. Moving right along, in today’s news, Trump has been credibly accused of treason. I guess I will blog about that Friday. Vaguely interesting in the pulling off a bandage way, right? Washington just keeps getting weirder.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: “The explosion of the Marine Corps building in Beirut, Lebanon on October 23, 1983 created a large cloud of smoke that was visible from miles away.” Credit: USMC. Pictures taken by Federal employees in the course of their job are Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

October 23, 2019 at 5:35 am

TRUMP, SYRIA, WILD SPECULATION, AND A VACATION NOTICE

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Some Democratic primary debates are going on. I can hear my housemate screaming, so, someone is scoring points. Woohoo! Political-ball! Smiles. I’m pretty cynical about the American political scene at this point. Trump has shown us the truth, a gerbil could occupy the Oval Office, and it would make little difference. It’s just theatre, POTUS is the perfect job for a narcissistic reality TV star.

Last post for a little bit. A week maybe. Some life issues to deal with. And the Middle East stuff is exploding, I can’t write posts fast enough. Syria, with Russia’s backing, is going to contest Turkey’s incursion into Syria. Showdown at the OK corral. Trump didn’t get us into this mess, but so far unimpressed with his response. Some symbolic sanctions on Turkey. More bluster. Moments of frightening clarity, like the above tweet. Think about what that money could have done if spent in America. Or not, it is both terribly sad and infuriating to think about.

Yes, Trump betrayed the Kurds. A few years back when he pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris global warming treaty he utterly betrayed our allies and the entire globe respectively. Crickets from the Dems. So it’s hard for me to take Dem righteous anger about the Kurd thing as anything more than American partisan politics, post Reagan style. All image, no substance. Politics as a team sport, something bad happens on the other guy’s watch, score! People don’t actually die on Superbowl Sunday though, people are dying in Syria.

So, wild speculation time. Worst case scenario. Trump in Syria ends up even more of a debacle than Obama giving Crimea to Russia. This time Russia gets the whole Middle East, the petrodollar collapses, the American economy goes into a tailspin. Or even worse, somehow this leads to a nuclear war, limited or no. Would Trump use nuclear weapons if he thought the alternative was a personal humiliation and the loss of the election? Hope not. And I hope such orders wouldn’t be obeyed if Trump did lose it.

My actual guess? Same as day one, the second Trump got elected, really smart people the world over said “We can checkmate this guy with a bit of preparation.” And now the chickens are coming home to roost. Frankly the world will be better off without Washington calling all the shots. What’s good for Raytheon is not good for America, or the world. Could be an ugly transition though.

How is it that being an adult means every question distills down to “Hell if I know.” If I die before I post again, my executor is instructed to publish my draft posts. There are hundreds of them. I assume this means a lot of people will wish me a long life. See, being a writer does have an up side. Have a great whatever everyone, I will return on the flip side.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Trump tweet. Credit. POTUS Trump. Pretty sure Trump’s tweets are Public Domain under US copyright law.)

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Written by unitedcats

October 16, 2019 at 4:08 am

Posted in Politics, Russia, Syria, Trump, Turkey

SHARPIEGATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

September 6, 2019 at 4:06 am

TRUMP ISN’T HITLER REVISTED

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If your thinking doesn’t evolve as you age, you’re doing it wrong. Thinking and aging. Awhile ago I wrote a post titled ‘Trump Isn’t Hitler.’ In some ways I stand by what I wrote, historically speaking the comparison is still weak. Still, the mall shooting in El Paso forced me to re-evaluate my position. And I realised my position suffered from intellectualism and white privilege. Both are problems for me from time to time. I was concentrating too much on the details, and not enough on underlying themes. Overlooking the fact that since I am not being targeted, I would have a tendency to minimize what is going on. Academically and historically Trump and Hitler are far apart, socially and personally they are all too closely related.

There’s basically two ways there are alarming similarities between Trump and Hitler. The first is that both have a pool of fanatic supporters. Almost all politicians have die hard supporters, but a rare few are basically messiahs to their followers. Hitler was one, he has supporters to this day. Napoleon is another great example. Robert E. Lee. George Washington. And, oddly enough, Trump. I might not put Trump (OK, I would not) in the same league as these guys, he’s more a Mussolini type. And when one has a pool of fanatic supporters and a leader who encourages bad things, bad things happen.

And that’s what Trump is doing. He is “othering” people who don’t fit his definition of American. Dehumanising is another word. In the common speak, encouraging hatred against minorities. Hate speech. It’s clear again and again that only white people fit Trump’s definition of American. His refusal to condemn American Neo-Nazis. Comparing desperately poor people seeking shelter to an invading army. Referring to African Americans and Latinos as “the African Americans” and “the Latinos.” Trump calling for the death penalty in the Central Park Five injustice. His “Go back to where you came from” to four Americans. Trump is of course not the only person doing this, but his doing so from his bully pulpit (The Oval Office) is emboldening others to take up the cause. And an ugly cause it is, as the El Paso shooter showed us.

In other words, the parallels between claiming Latinos are invading the country as some sort of Democrat plot to take over the country and claiming Jews secretly sabotaged Germany in World War One are scary. And just today he said that Jews who vote for Democrats are disloyal. Got a lot of clapback from Jews. And his sentiments are creepily similar to Hitler’s stated belief that Jews were not loyal to the state.  Or we can just go with the facts, the science is absolutely clear, there’s been a huge uptick of hate crimes unequivocally linked to Trump’s rhetoric.

It’s really not debatable at this point that there some ugly parallels between Trump and Hitler. I’m not sure it really helps to make the comparison though. Some of his base like the comparison. And the rest are just going to regard it as name calling and claim it’s Liberal overreaction. Or worse. I no longer really care what most Trump supporters think, I’ve yet to meet a politically active one that could construct a logical argument. (To be fair, not something limited to Trump supporters in our burgeoning Age of Unreason.) I now have friends who have been hurt by the GOP’s policies under Trump, and who have been victimized by hate crimes since Trump got elected. Kinda makes it hard to be well disposed towards people who support Trump.

Trump isn’t a patriot, he doesn’t give a crap about anyone but his rich friends, and he is blatantly encouraging Americans to hate their non-white neighbors. While he and his rich friends rob working class Americans blind. Granted every president since Reagan has been a friend of the rich, but Trump comes with a giant slice of racism and hate as well. And I don’t think most of his followers will ever see it. Well, the blatantly racist ones do, but they like it. And many of the rest live in a fantasy world where feminism has gone too far and whites are a discriminated against minority. Hopefully working class Americans who don’t hate their neighbors will desert Trump in 2020 in enough numbers to kill his reelection chances.

If not, things are going to get a lot uglier. I hope I’m wrong. This was a very difficult post to write, which is why I am posting it late. I still like my Trump supporting friends and relatives, but they are taking America to a dark place. I see no greatness in that. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Mussolini and Hitler. Credit: Unknown, public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 23, 2019 at 10:50 am

JEFFREY EPSTEIN’S DEATH IS AN ILLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

August 12, 2019 at 4:02 am

“THE TRIUMPH OF BELIEF OVER REALITY”

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I read this article  just the other day, and it certainly has parallels to some of my recent thinking. It also supplied the title for this post. So,  I was in the bank the other day, and an old farmer was telling some acquaintance a new quote he had heard, some of my readers may have heard it before. “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain.” He spoke it as if it were words of wisdom from Jesus himself, it had obviously impressed and amused him. (As an aside, it dates from only 1875 or so, so not Jesus.) I didn’t say anything because he wasn’t speaking to me. I’ve certainly heard if before, because I have been spending time in conservative social sites for decades, it’s a popular  saying.

Part of the reason I didn’t say anything, is that I didn’t know what to say. The statement is so sweeping and merciless in both its generalization and judgmentalism that it pretty much rejects any disagreement out of hand. Basically, the people who believe this statement are saying “I’m conservative, so I’m smart, liberals are stupid.” Disagree with it, why you just proved how stupid you are, you must be a liberal! And the ugly truth is that a lot of conservatives have come to believe this implicitly, they are smart, liberals are stupid.

Often still see it with Obama, conservatives routinely talk about how stupid he is. I’ve yet to hear one explain exactly what they mean by that. Obama got an advanced law degree from Harvard, with honors. Pretty sure a fair amount of smarts are needed to accomplish that. I mean, just listen to his speeches, one may disagree with what he is saying, but he is articulate and educated. Appartently many on today’s American right don’t see that, they hear him say things they disagree with, so they believe him to be stupid. Again, they believe it implicitly.

And belief is what it comes down to. The right has so normalized the belief that they are smart, anyone who disagrees is stupid, that social pressure and their political leaders have transformed and ingrained all sorts of opinions into beliefs. In fact what they believe and don’t believe has become their world view. They don’t believe in evolution. They believe in God. They don’t believe in climate change. They believe liberals are stupid. They believe in Trump. This is why his followers are so loyal, unlike so many other GOP leaders, he was able to convert political support into belief. Probably because unlike the politicians he swept aside in his march to the nomination, he’s a con artist. And if there’s one thing con artists do well, it’s believe in themselves. They believe in themselves so strongly that others are swept up in the con.

The problem, and the problem has been growing for decades, Trump is just the apogee of it so far,  is a lot of their beliefs are simply not true. And there’s almost no way to change people’s thinking once they have substituted belief for reality. Even when they are smart, and plenty of conservatives are quite smart, it’s really easy for a smart person to use false arguments and confirmation bias to make their beliefs impervious to fact and logical argument. And the rise of social media, talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, and Faux News has wildly exacerbated the problem.

When I was a young man conservatives and liberals disagreed on a lot of stuff, but at least the basic outline of reality was agreed upon. And debate was possible, at least among most people. There have always been extremists in all camps, but in the conservative camp the extremists have taken over. Even their view of liberals is divorced from reality. Very very few liberals want open borders, Soviet style socialism, or wholesale gun confiscation. Yet that and much more is what I see conservatives routinely characterize liberals as. How do you debate with people who not only have major reality testing problems, but supply both sides of the debate while they are at it?

Damned if I know, but I keep trying. That’s part of the reason I blog. Granted liberals have their own reality testing issues. Russiagate being the big one at the moment. And characterizing all Trump supporters as mouth breathing racists. Neither of those conflicts with basic science, neither of those are going to hurt anyone but the liberals themselves. Basic science denial like global warming denial or evolution denial,  yeah, those are going to cause big problems down the line. The former may be the death of us all, and the latter means raising children who are scientifically illiterate.

I don’t know how this mess is going to all fall out, but I’m not optimistic. To paraphrase: “Reality bats last.” Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An imaginary reality. Credit: Unknown, Snappygoat image, Public Domain under US copyright law..)

Written by unitedcats

August 9, 2019 at 4:16 am