Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay cool and safe everyone. #getvaccienatedcovid19 #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

June 29, 2021 at 7:48 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

June 22, 2021 at 7:55 pm

BIDEN BACKS UKRAINE’S CONFRONTATION WITH RUSSIA, THIS COULD GET UGLY

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Germans bombing Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine in 1941. Ukraine in living memory has suffered terribly at the hands of non-Ukrainians: Nazi Germans and Stalinist Russians. So a lot of bad blood there. That’s the background. Jumping ahead, both Bush and Obama tangled with Russia over border disputes between Russia and its neighbors. In both cases Russia was defending ethnic Russians or long time allies of Russia.

Bush encouraged Georgia to believe it had American support in the event of a confrontation with Russia. Two small breakaway provinces of Georgia had decided during the collapse of the Soviet Union that they wanted to be part of Russia, dammit; there had been blood spilt, but Russia ‘peacekeeping’ troops ensured their de facto independence from Georgia. Sashakvili, the leader of Georgia, attacked these troops in an effort to reincorporate the breakaway provinces  into Georgia. The Russians responded with overwhelming force. Bush told them to back off. Putin said “talk to the hand;” and Russian troops beat the crap out of the Georgian military, invading Georgia itself in the process. Georgia came to its senses, granted the two minor provinces to Russia, and that was that.

Then Obama took his turn. An anti-Russian coup took place in Ukraine, the US immediately proclaimed it legitimate, and the new rulers wasted no time passing laws that made ethnic Russians into second class citizens. The local government of Crimea then voted to join Russia, they held a plebiscite which also overwhelmingly voted to join Russia. Since, you know, Crimea had been part of Russia for centuries, and was populated almost entirely by ethnic Russians. Putin promptly annexed Crimea, and Obama was left with explaining how he had “lost Crimea.” And to this day Russia defending Russia, Russians and its allies is characterized as “Russian aggression.” Technically correct the same way that any chess player making a move can be characterized as the aggressor.

And now it looks like Biden is going to try his hand at facing off with Russia over its disputes with Ukraine. So freaking similar to Rome’s wars with Persia that it’s somewhere between scary and silly. Have we learned nothing? I digress. There are two eastern provinces of Ukraine that also saw pro Russian revolts, where the ethnic Russians declared a sort of independence from Ukraine. Supported by Russia. And there’s where the current problem is. Russia has built up troops there in case they “need” to protect Russians in Ukraine.

Will Ukraine “invade” its two eastern provinces, a replay of Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia? I hope not. Putin outmaneuvered Bush and Obama, I’d bet on him vs Biden and his handlers any day. Russia has nuclear weapons too, so it seems crazy to do anything that could provoke war with them. Ans as well Russia can easily field conventional forces that could crush Ukraine’s military in a conventional war. So if Ukraine does something stupid, it’s because they think the US will back them.

How will this play out? No one knows. I give a 50% chance something further stupid will happen. And there’s a 1-10% chance something awful to history changing will happen. Is Biden really a senile old fool, or a sociopathic mimic of the first order who will do what the Washington elite says? My bet is on the latter, hopefully we won’t find out. I guess if I get to see ‘Life meets Jericho,’ there are worse fates.

Have a great weekend everyone. Get a Covid vaccine as soon as you can, Covid is looking like a worse disease all the time. Stay safe. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

PS: And in the 24 hours since I started writing this, the situation has deteriorated: US Warships to Enter Black Sea in ‘Significant Signal’ to Russia, Russia Prepared for ‘Worst Scenario’ With Possible US Sanctions, and Ukraine’s Top Commander Invokes NATO’s Article 5 Military Assistance Clause as West Continues to Oversee Ukraine’s War in the Donbass. Fun times.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Used legally:This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B12190 / Kraagranger [Kraayvanger] / CC-BY-SA 3.0 )

Written by unitedcats

April 9, 2021 at 7:41 pm

Posted in 2021, Biden, Russia, Ukraine, War

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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There will be a Borders III post, but it’s going to have to wait a bit. And boy, turns out there’s a lot of people on Facebook who claim to be the Messiah. I’ll get a post out of that someday too. I know someone who lost their wife and kids to a cult once, self styled messiahs have an unholy attraction for some people. Today, I’m going to be all over the place. Or more so than usual I suppose. My staff consists of one useless cat at the moment. Working on a partnership though, she’s already been far more helpful than the cat.

Moving right along, January 31 was a big day in history. I mean, every day has all sorts of historical events on it. (Except June 31, nothing ever happened on June 31, no one knows why.) However, January 31, a big day as in important well remembered events. This was the day in 1943 where German Field Marshal Paulus surrendered to the encircling Russians at Stalingrad, thus ending the greatest battle in history. Hitler had promoted Paulus to Field Marshal because no German field marshal had ever surrendered. Have I ever mentioned that Hitler was prone to magical thinking? Stalingrad was Hitler’s Pickett’s Charge, the war would only go downhill for Hitler from there.

On January 31 the VietCong launched simultaneous surprise attacks on every provincial capitol in South Vietnam, and even breached the American embassy’s grounds in Saigon. It caught America and South Vietnam by complete surprise, but it didn’t trigger the general uprising the VietCong had been counting on, and the Tet Offensive as it was called, was a tactical and strategic disaster, one from which the VietCong would never recover from. And in the USA, it was a political death blow for president Johnson, and significantly eroded American support for the war. That’s because some months earlier Johnson had announced … victory! The VietCong had been beaten, the war was all but over, the US could start pulling out. So yeah, a massive nationwide VietCong surprise attack pretty much destroyed Johnson’s credibility, and was in fact the beginning of the end for America’s misbegotten involvement in southeast Asia.

Well, those were the big two events, enough for January 31. Although in another historical footnote: Meet Eunice Foote, The Mother Of Climate Science Whose Work Was Ignored Because Of Her Sex. She was the first person to discover the role that CO2 plays in changing the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere. The greenhouse effect as it is called. Since she was a woman though, she wasn’t allowed to present her findings at the 1856 American Association for the Advancement of Science conference. A man got the honor and the credit 3 years later. Sigh. It would be over 100 years before she was recognized for her groundbreaking discovery.

In a medical breakthrough: Two more coma patients’ brains jump-started with ultrasound. Waycool. People sometimes come out of comas after years or even decades. The brain’s ability to heal itself is quite amazing. We are talking comas though, this would not have helped the sadly famous Terri Schiavo, she was in what is known as a persistent vegetative state. PVS is a horrible condition, the patient has normal sleep and awake cycles. They may laugh, they may cry, they may appear to be looking around. So it’s easy to see why friends and loved ones would very much cling to the belief that they are still alive and may recover. Alas, what PVS sufferers don’t do is communicate in any way, there is literally no one home. And while a few people who were misdiagnosed as being in a PVS have recovered, they were all showing signs of improvement after a few months. No one has ever recovered from an actual PVS diagnosis, the part of the brain that makes us who we are is irreparably damaged.

Moving from inner space to outer space (lame segue I know) here’s an interview with the professor who thinks Oumuamua was alien technology of some sort: Professor Avi Loeb: ‘It would be arrogant to think we’re alone in the universe’. On the one hand, he’s plugging his new book on the topic. On the other hand he does have a point regarding how the scientific community can be hostile and non supportive of anything related to aliens. A situation that’s unlikely to change until we actually find actual evidence for them, it’s way too easy for politicians to ridicule SETI, why attract attention from them?

And another scientist has come up with an explanation for the Wow! Signal. The Wow! Signal was detected in 1977 and has never been explained. Here’s another try though: Was the Wow! Signal Due to Power Beaming Leakage? Basically humans are starting to experiment with beamed power to launch spacecraft and such, and the Wow! Signal might well be “leakage” from aliens doing the same. It’s an interesting idea, and suggests we might want to observe that part of the sky continuously to see if it ever repeats.

Lastly, back on Earth. I, for one, look forward to Qbacca testifying at Trump’s impeachment trial: ‘Complete circus’: Lindsey Graham fears ‘QAnon Shaman’ testimony at Trump’s impeachment trial. All of Trump’s lawyers have quit at this point, it’s not clear who will represent him at his trial in just over a week. Apparently all he wants to talk about at the trial is his fantasies about election fraud. It’s gonna be interesting, if not a total circus. I don’t think Trump’s ever faced anything like it, this isn’t going to be a press conference where he can ignore questions, hurl abuse at the questioner, and storm out if he doesn’t like how things are going. He might try though, boy, won’t that be fun.

Stay safe and warm everyone. Just maybe things will settle down now and the Capitol Riot was peak insanity over Trump’s election fraud charade. A man can hope. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Field Marshal Paulus surrendering at Stalingrad. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-F0316-0204-005 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

No changes were made in the image. Paulus actually survived being a Russian prisoner. Most of the nearly 300,000 men who surrendered with him didn’t. Stalin had in fact promised that Paulus’ men would be well treated, and did order so. Yeah, by this point the Germans had done terrible things in Russia, so Stalin’s orders were for the most part ignored. Paulus lived until 1957.)

Written by unitedcats

January 31, 2021 at 8:30 pm

STALIN WOULD HAVE TRUMP FOR BREAKFAST

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. The odds are overwhelming the Sun will come up tomorrow. Still, the Earth or the Sun could be struck by a black hole traveling at relativistic speeds, poof, no sunrise. That being said, many things are so unlikely we can discount them, thus the map. Thus at some point no further scientific debate is warranted. Science is as yet the most accurate map we have.

“The map is not the territory.” Alfred Korzybski. At 63 spins around the Sun old, I still think that’s the number one rule to understanding the world we find ourselves in. No matter how accurate our understanding of reality, it’s just a map, it’s not reality itself. And the two aren’t actually linked in any way. Ever. The world we see around us and understand, is a construct on every level, at no point does it actually connect with reality itself. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad map, it can be remarkably accurate on many levels, that’s why we’re able to walk around and do things like shop or catch balls or write blogs.

But no matter how accurate the map, it’s still just a map. Applied to science this means that science can only predict probabilities, not certainties. The odds are overwhelming the Sun will come up tomorrow. Still, the Earth or the Sun could be struck by a black hole travelling at relativistic speeds, poof, no sunrise. That being said, many things are so unlikely we can discount them, thus the map. Thus at some point no further scientific debate is warranted. Science is as yet the most accurate map we have.

And then there’s religion in general, and Trump supporters in particular. Some religions, I’m looking at you fundamentalists, especially Evangelicals, claim their map is the most accurate. Hell, they claim it’s congruent with reality, it’s God’s word. Yeah, even if their old testament map seemed remarkably accurate, it would still be a map. And it’s not terribly accurate by any objective standard, but it serves its purpose. People who want certainty instead of a map, it’s perfect. Trump and supporters are the same, he thinks his map is perfect, and countless supporters so want an accurate map they follow him. Trump is indeed a Messiah.

Been trying to refine my map since I was four and determined by observation that clouds were just above houses and trees because they never obscured same. No Civil War yet, but not like high ranking people aren’t calling for it: MAGA leaders call for the troops to keep Trump in office. Who knows what the hell would happen if Trump issued … unusual … orders. My take is that Trump is unable to grasp that if he wants the Pentagon’s support, he needs to cut a deal with same, or engage in a Stalinesque purge. Stalin would have Trump for breakfast.

And hell, the reverse could happen. Trump and followers claim that there was massive fraud. Only in states they lost  though. What if there was indeed massive fraud, but on the GOP side: BUSTED? Why the numbers behind Mitch McConnell’s re-election don’t add up. I mean, I do recall the news that Trump did better than polling predicted? Maybe the polling was in error … maybe the GOP cheated? The GOP has had no problem with voter suppression. Trump cheats at golf, I can’t imagine him having a problem with election cheating. I mean, if you’re right, you’re just reinforcing what’s right, right?

I’ll wait till further evidence is produced though. What a time to be alive. I’ve dodged three fatal bullets in the last two years … so I can live through one of the top three mass death and political crises of American history. And no matter what happens, I can’t imagine major battles in Iowa. Snort. The first battle of Bull Run (The first big battle of the Civil War) was fought with a family’s farm in the middle. After that they said “Eff this Sh*t” and bought a farm in rural Virginia. Near the small town of Appomattox. Yerp, Grant used their house as his headquarters when Lee surrendered. So the family could say that the Civil War started in their front yard, and ended in their living room. Nowhere is safe.

Stay safe, sane, and warm everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Facebook meme, attribution unknown. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I think it’s funny on multiple levels. Um, any Star Trek fan knows … Trump would not impress the Klingon High Council. There’s a great short film in there.)

Written by unitedcats

December 18, 2020 at 9:02 pm

POLICE SEIZE 320,000 USED CONDOMS, 2020 JUST GETS WEIRDER

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This is going to be a really random post. It’s my blog and I will if I want to. I posted a picture of dead Russian soldiers in the Facebook group, one of which was a woman, and it certainly inspired discussion. Thought I hope too, certainly thought on my part. Got me thinking about shield maidens, women soldiers. I certainly think that if women want to join a war, all good. It’s actually fairly unusual historically for that not to be the case, but medieval European Christianity invented the idea that women were slaves just by virtue of being women, and many of them are still right at it. Reminds me of the thought “Feminism is about changing the rules, not letting women play the game.” War is NOT the natural state of mankind. I guess the idea that women that want to participate in it should be on equal status as men is a good thing, but that’s just attacking the symptom. Still, voting Biden is simply attacking the symptom (Trump) of the underlying problem, I guess sometimes that’s the best option, and hope that it leads to avenues to deeper change. Remind me to blog about Joan of Arc. 

I’m saying that women should fight in wars just like men, but that doesn’t magically make wars OK. Wars should be a last resort of national defense, and offensive wars are never justifiable. The above image was indeed a war of national defense. Those are some of the Night Witches and their bombers. They were an all woman bomber group during World War Two, Russians, who had a frightening reputation bombing German troops during the war. Invading German troops I should add. The Night Witches bombed at night using obsolete wooden biplanes, so they’d cut their engines in the final bomb approach so as not to give warning, and there would just be a whispering sound as they glided over the target as their bombs exploded below. Night witches on their broomsticks.

So yeah, police in Vietnam seized 320,000 used condoms that had been washed, reshaped,  and were being sold as new condoms. Vietnam police seize more than 320,000 used condoms. OK then. My first thought, how in the hell did someone gather up hundreds of thousands of used condoms? Are there like public condom recycling bins to steal them from? Industrial scale sex worker establishments? The article doesn’t say, I leave it to the intrigued reader to dig further if they want. My second thought was: Well, this makes every job I’ve ever had look good in comparison. “Used condom cleaner” just isn’t an attractive career path. 

In Covid-19 news, the party that promised in 2016 they wouldn’t try to seat a SCOTUS justice just before an election has promised there will be an orderly transfer of power no matter the election result. US election: McConnell promises an ‘orderly’ transition of power. We’ll see. I’m not reassured. “Extremists are only useful to have around when they are right.” 

This one speaks for itself: Here’s how utterly dumb the mask-wearing debate has become. It was and is an example of historic stupidity. There were never any reasons to object to wearing a mask, no more that there were reasons to be upset that businesses required customers to wear shirts and shoes. And while there was some initial scientific questioning about how well masks worked, that was long ago resolved. Public masking is the number one defense against spreading Covid-19, and anyone who doesn’t get that yet is living in a fantasy world. A Trump fantasy world that has killed tens of thousands of Americans with no end in sight.

Well, there is an end in sight. Only about 10% of Americans have been infected with Covid-19. So within a year or two we’ll start to hit numbers high enough that transmission will slow down: Coronavirus: 90% of Americans have not been exposed to Covid-19, CDC director warns. It will mean a few million dead Americans, millions more with long term or permanent health problems, but at least millions weren’t subjected to the trivial inconvenience of wearing a mask in public.

Stay safe gentle reader. Comments, likes, shares appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #InsanusTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: public Domain image from World War Two.)

Written by unitedcats

September 24, 2020 at 7:26 pm

EXPLODING TREES, RUSSIAN JETS, ANTI-MASKERS FORCED TO DIG GRAVES FOR COVID VICTIMS, AND OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY. A 2020 DAY THAT IS.

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2020, the gift that just keeps giving. The ad above (left) was run by the “Trump Make America Great Again Committee,” run by both the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign. There’s a few problems with it that I helpfully labelled. The photographer was Russian too, and pretty amused by it all when contacted. The RNC had no comment. 

So a hundred or so thousand years ago, for the very first time, a human or proto human, an ancestor whose DNA story still lives, crumpled or assembled something together into a spherical shape for no particular reason. The first ball. He or she tossed it around. Do apes toss things at each other? (Sort of.) At some point one of them tried to catch the ball, but fumbled it and dropped it. Yes, there was a first time a human dropped the ball. 

And we’ve been dropping it since. This is the sort of stuff I think about. So yeah, terrible fires continue in California. Trump said trees explode causing wildfires. Except he didn’t. He literally said they did, but he was trying to say deadwood is an explosive fire danger, and if it had been cleared out, they wouldn’t be having this problem. Trump’s right, if a hundred years plus of overgrowth and deadwood was cleared away, the fires wouldn’t be this bad. This would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, it’s not a realistic option. Trump also promised cooler weather would fix the problem. He’s a magic man.

Talking to a Covid-19 denier the other day, it once again got to me that a lot of people don’t understand that “the map is not the territory.” How to explain this? It’s why I write. The virtue of the human brain is we have a mental map of reality. “You are here” is a huge advantage over reacting to everything by instinct. When something new shows up, it’s essential to expand the map, not shoehorn the new thing into the map. Thinking covid-19 is “just a flu” is an example of the latter type of thinking. Not helping.

Election stuff keeps going on. Certain amount of MSN attention to “Russians, Iranians, etc. are hacking our election!” True enough, hackers the world over no doubt target everything in the US. So? It’s not like the US is above hacking anything they can. My point here is that if Biden loses the election, no problem: OMG, the Russians/Iranians/Chinese are to blame! Yeah, anything but examine what a travesty the American election system has turned into. Democracy theater, any resemblance to real democracy is a coincidence. Oh, turns out there’s no actual evidence for Russian bounties on US troops in Afghanistan, not that that matters. 

This pissed me off: Violent memes and messages surging on far-left social media, a new report finds. That’s the actual Washington Post headline. And it’s true, but …  in the article: “The report acknowledges that left-wing political actors, including those who embrace the antifa movement, have been responsible for far less violence than white supremacists and other right-wing ones — a finding consistent with the conclusions of law enforcement and other threat analysts.” In other words, right wing violence is still the problem. Nonetheless no doubt Trump and company will seize on this as evidence that if Trump doesn’t get reelected, a wave of left wing violence will destroy the country. 

Gonna be a fun election. So, in Indonesia: Anti-maskers forced to dig graves for COVID-19 victims in Indonesia. They were short grave diggers, anti-maskers had committed a crime, problem solved. Jesus, maybe Covid-19 will usher in Asia as the world leader. Cooperation is the only way to fight Covid-19, enforced or voluntary. A trait Americans seem to have lost. 

And in nightmare news I am still processing, do we have an American Dr. Mengele?: ‘Like an Experimental Concentration Camp’: Whistleblower Complaint Alleges Mass Hysterectomies at ICE Detention Center. I can only hope it’s not as bad as it sounds. Still, humans are capable of terrible evil. Especially towards people not in the tribe. 

So stay safe gentle reader. 2020 continues. Shares, comments, donations appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #InsanusTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved. 

(Image: A meme I made. Credit: Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

September 15, 2020 at 8:21 pm

THROUGH THICK AND THIN: FEBRUARY 8TH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

February 8, 2020 at 11:37 am

UKRAINE COMMENT FEEDBACK

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I received a comment on a previous post about the situation in Ukraine. It raises a number of points, so I thought I would address it. Granted I’ve covered many of these points in other posts, but it’s always good to have one’s assumptions challenged. And if this gentle reader had questions, I’m sure others had similar questions. This then is the comment in question:

Russia IS the aggressor. Perhaps you should watch more news, friend. They are illegally occupying territory, not just in Ukraine, but also in Moldova and Georgia. Thousands and thousands have died defending their freedom and millions have been displaced. It is these circumstances that violate international laws and human rights, that the USA and other civilized countries come to the aid of Ukraine. It’s called goodness, are you familiar with that term?

First of all, I get my news from a wide variety of sources. I do not however get my news from Fox, MSNBC, or any other mainstream American news service. Those are infotainment outlets that tell their targeted audience what it wants to hear, and in alignment with the respective Democrat/Republican worldview narrative. A person watching them will not be informed. As a Russian said some years ago: “In the old Soviet Union we had to shoot reporters to get them to report what the Kremlin wanted. In the USA they do it voluntarily!” If one’s worldview is wedded to what one sees on the American mainstream news, that’s a social belief. And those tend to be very resistant to change. Can’t hurt to try though, one of the reasons I write.

That being said, a brief summary and commentary. The aggressor for the past thirty years in Europe has been NATO, not Russia. As the map above shows. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 we promised we wouldn’t expand NATO eastwards. A promise we broke almost immediately.  At this point NATO has expanded actually into the old Soviet Union. Russia is a tiny remnant of the power the Soviet Empire was, and even at its height the Soviet bloc was wildly inferior to NATO in most respects. Now the idea that  Russia poses some sort of threat to NATO is laughable, but here we are.

More specifically, Ukraine. In 2014 a US backed Nazi coup shot their way into power in Ukraine and was instantly granted legitimacy in the west. The previous democratically elected government was trying to stay neutral, a perfectly sensible course of action considering Ukraine’s location and large Russian minority. The west didn’t want that, and they got what they wanted. And  the new government made it their first order of business to pass laws making the ethnic Russian citizens of Ukraine second class citizens.

I’m not exactly sure what the west thought the millions of Russians living in Ukraine would do about this, nor how Russia would react to this or the prospect of NATO taking over Sevastopal, Russia’s most important military base. I guess Putin was supposed to bend over and take it? He didn’t though. The government and people of Crimea, who were primarily ethnic Russians, voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Since Crimea was only part of Ukraine because Stalin gave it to Ukraine in the 1950s.

So in other words, the Russian ‘occupation’ of Crimea is nothing of the sort, it’s an example of democracy and self determination in action. It’s Russia doing what it has always done, defending Russia, Russians, and their friends. It’s the same in Georgia, two small parts of Georgia never wanted to be part of Georgia to begin with, they are long time allies of Russia and prefer to be anything but part of Georgia. As for the Moldava situation, I don’t know anything about it. A future post maybe.

My point is that the world is complicated, and simplistic good guy/bad guy narratives are almost always suspect. Even World War Two where Hitler’s Nazis were the bad guys, the Allies conduct was not above reproach. In fact as the true scope of the Nazi atrocities was revealed, it allowed a lot of Allied perfidy to fly under the radar so to speak. Look at France, they get freed from Nazi occupation, and what do they do? They invade Vietnam, with the full support of America. Yes, the very thing that had caused the US oil embargo and ultimatum against Japan, Japan’s invasion of Vietnam, was OK if France did it? And let’s not forget America’s efforts to aid Nazi war criminals.

So yes, the idea that the US and NATO are the good guys standing up for international law and human rights is laughable. The US violates international law daily, we are waging utterly illegal wars in what, seven countries now? And troops stationed in Syria illegally, where Trump has even floated the idea of stealing Syria’s oil while we are there. I could go on but I won’t. I’m not trying to claim NATO is evil, as I said the world is too complicated for simplistic characterizations. Just that the West with America at the helm is the one striving for global supremacy, and anyone who stands up to them is tarred as an evil aggressive troublemaker. Russia drawing a line where they won’t back down is defense, not aggression.

If Putin suddenly does try to invade and occupy some neighbor with zero justification, I will change my tune. I’m not going to hold my breath though, Putin is not an idiot. And if the last hundred years have taught us anything, is that conquest and occupation doesn’t work anymore. Not that it ever worked well in the first place.

Some of the logic in the comment was fallacious too, maybe all of it. I’d write more, but enough is enough.  And I suspect that people who have internalized the “Putin is Hitler” trope aren’t open to debate. Welcome to tribal Earth, it will likely be the death of us all yet. Have a great week everyone!

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image:NATO expansion through the years.  Credit: Patrick Neil. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.)

Written by unitedcats

December 16, 2019 at 8:44 am

Posted in Propaganda, Russia, Ukraine

AVOID ACTIVE VOLCANOES AND OTHER STUFF

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It snowed again. Only a few inches. And powdery fluffy snow, so it was a breeze to shovel. An evil frigid breeze. When I came inside I could warm my hands in the deep freeze. I did manage to make it on foot to the library/Post Office/bank without suffering from frostbite, but that’s it for today. Today, random blogging. Well, not that random, it would take billions of monkeys eons to randomly type this post. I digress.

So, a volcano killed some tourists in New Zealand. Hopefully it was quick, what a way to go. Explosions can be handy that way, “One second, there you is, the next, where is you?” RIP, and may their friends and family find comfort and solace. I guess it was what they call a phreatic eruption as opposed to the more familiar types of volcanic eruptions. That’s where ground water gets hot enough to flash into steam, boom. I visited some once, quite impressive. This would explain why the eruption struck without warning, a slow rise in underground water temperature is probably tricky to monitor. It’s not  exactly an environment where one can drill down and install sensors.

This tragedy also highlights the disparity of the human condition on Earth. (Why yes, I do point that out a lot.) When westerners are killed by volcanoes, they were often tourists. Sometimes, as in this case, paying for the experience of being on a volcano. When third worlders die on volcanoes, it’s often because they were forced by circumstance to farm the fertile (but dangerous) slopes of volcanoes. And yes, there are far more of the latter dead people than the former. Stuff like this puzzles alien anthropologists to no end I am sure. Hell, I’m puzzled.

Speaking of puzzling, they found a man whose sperm’s DNA is entirely from his bone marrow donor. That’s right, if he fathers a child, another man will be the child’s genetic father. In fact the donor’s DNA has shown up in various parts of his body. Forensic scientists aren’t happy about this, this is going to complicate using DNA to solve crimes. Granted there’s already lots of ways extraneous DNA can get into samples, but still, one more thing to watch out for. Paternity cases could be complicated too, one more fly in the ointment. The takeaway, if one is a man who wants to father children, they should get their bone marrow from a close relative, preferably a twin sibling.

And as an aside to that, ‘they’ was just announced as Mirriam-webster’s word of the year. No doubt Rush Limbaufgh and other folks whose identity is all wrapped up in Biblical gender roles are having conniptions de merde. I really wish these people would get over themselves, but like their implacable efforts to take back control of women’s bodies, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Waaaay too much money and political influence to be had by promoting the Bible as an answer to all questions. Ask Mr Trump, he didn’t get elected by fanatic intellectual cultists. Myself, I don’t give other people’s genitals a second thought, I’ll call a person by whatever name and pronouns they prefer. Whatever floats their boat, someone else eating a donut doesn’t compromise my diet.

On the topic of DNA, I am seeing a lot of ads on Facebook about “get your DNA tested and we’ll tell you what kind of foods to eat!” Wow, it sounds all sciency and shit, who can resist? Hopefully anyone with a functional brain and a lick of common sense. Just another way for slick marketers to cash in on the DNA testing racket. In other words, it’s hogwash, there’s no scientific evidence that one’s DNA determines their optimal diet. If there ever is any such evidence, one’s doctor is the person to talk to about it. Not some shyster company marketing DNA testing for whatever reason.

In some positive news, Russia and Ukraine have come to an agreement over the Donbas in Eastern Ukraine. This is a part of Ukraine with a large Russian population that revolted in 2014 when Ukrainian nationalists seized power in Ukraine. One of the many ugly legacies of the ill starred Stalinist Soviet Empire, which moved borders and people around willy nilly. In any event, this is a good thing, it’s hard to see how violence will help this situation. In any event this is a good start, a truce, prisoner exchange, and further talks scheduled. If both sides negotiate in good faith, issues like this can and have been resolved.

And yes, still working on my response to Ukraine comment post. By the same token as the above paragraph, it’s only through engagement with people who think differently that accommodation can be made. That’s why I avoid the dripping anti-whoever <cough> trump <cough> vituperative that characterizes the anti Rush Limbaugh crowd. Hell, there’s no need, the man speaks for himself.

Have a great week everyone, stay warm. Unless you’re near an active volcano, then stay cool.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: First Snow at Veneux-Nadon. Credit: Alfred Sisley 1878, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 10, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Peace, Russia, Ukraine, War, World