Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

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

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