Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘World War Two’ Category

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

leave a comment »

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

HISTORY QUIZ!

leave a comment »

As per a commenter’s suggestion, a history quiz. No particular topic but since my main interest is military history, that will be the lion’s share of the questions. Ten questions, some trivia, some obscure, most because I thought they were interesting in some ways. (Basically this is just an excuse for me to tell stories about history. People do the most amazing sheet.) Pencil and paper required if one wants to be serious I suppose. Answers at bottom.Good luck, enjoy!

  1. How many times was Greenland colonised? Including successful and unsuccessful attempts. By human beings, just to be clear. The 47 failed penguin colonies don’t count.
  2. What exotic animal did Roman Emperor Commodus publicly slay in the colosseum to demonstrate his godhood? (No, I’m not making these up, people do weird sheet.)
  3. Who was Gil-Galad’s standard bearer at the siege of Barad Dur?
  4. How many tanks did Germany build in World War One? (World War One, not World War Two, where they built thousands.)
  5. What was the only daylight surface battle between battleships in World War Two?
  6. Everyone (well, primarily Americans I expect) knows about the first battle between ironclad warships, the Monitor vs the Merrimac during the American Civil War. What was the only battle ever fought between two fleets of ironclad warships? (Hint, no, it wasn’t during the American Civil War.)
  7. What weapon did a fully armored knight typically carry into battle during the late Middle Ages?
  8. When the British attacked the City of Buenos Aires during the 2nd Battle of Buenos Aires, how many directions did they attack from?
  9. What was the greatest defeat of an American army by native warriors during America’s conquest of the western Americas?
  10. When was the only time an entire American army surrendered to an enemy army?

ANSWERS:

  1. Greenland was colonized at least five times, only twice successfully. Pretty good for a remote barely inhabitable island. There were at least two failed North American native colonizations before the Vikings arrived in 980. The Viking settlement failed due to being cut off from Europe by the Little Ice Age. While the Vikings were there, the Inuit settled in Northern Greenland, the first successful colonization of Greenland. The Viking colony died out, but they returned some centuries later in the second successful colonization of Greenland.
  2. Emperor Commodus went nuts in his later years, deciding he was Hercules reborn, naming Rome after himself and other nonsense. He “fought” many gladiators in the Colosseum, though none actually fought him, they were all wise enough to know that submitting right away was their only chance of living to sundown. And Commodus was still sane enough to know that killing men who submitted to him in public wasn’t wise. (He had no such qualms about killing men in gladiator practice. Gladiators were slaves by the way.) This was all considered outrageous by the Romans, as if the US President decided to take up WWE wrestling. The animal he killed to prove his godhood? A giraffe. While very few Romans had ever seen a giraffe, they could tell it was just a helpless terrified exotic animal, the killing impressed no one. Though it further cemented opinion that the Emperor was losing it.
  3. Elrond! What, fantasy history is history, right? (Recounted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien.)
  4. Germany ordered only a 100 A7V tanks (see image)  during the course of World War One. The Allies built thousands. And only 15-20 of the German tanks were completed in time to see action. They didn’t change the course of the war of course, but they did get to be part of the world’s first tank battle.
  5. The Battle of the Denmark Strait. Two British battleships vs the Nazi battleship Bismark and cruiser Prinz Eugen. This is the one where the Bismark sunk the Hood with one shot, the flagship of the British fleet. One of the flashes in this film (taken from the Prinz Eugen during the battle blew up the Hood killing 1500 Brits. Three Brits survived.
  6. The Battle of Lissa, 1866, between Italy and Austria. A brilliantly led Austrian fleet defeated a much larger but incompetently led Italian fleet. IThe battle basically accomplished nothing except humiliating the Italians: The Italian fleet got home, its admiral declared he’d won a great victory even though two of Italy’s finest warships had gone down, and he was the toast of the town. He probably got laid, but that’s just historical conjecture. By the next day word got to Italy that no Austrian ships had been sunk, and the admiral’s partying days limply ended.
  7. A sword! No, of course not, what good would a sword do against a guy wearing steel armor? A hammer of some sort was their primary weapon, designed specifically to damage armor. The sword though was already steeped in mythology, and certainly was still widely in use, just not against guys wearing armor.
  8. 12. That’s right, they attacked a hostile city from twelve different directions. In 1808. This was part of one of Britain’s tragicomedy attempts to conquer Spanish colonies in South America. Britain made a number of attempts to seize the supposedly weak colonies from Spain’s decaying and definitely weak empire, all ended badly. In this case the British commander apparently thought the tiny number of Spanish troops in the city would be quickly located and defeated. And if the residents of the city had stood meekly by and watched, great plan. No, the residents, including quite a few actual militias (no bison horns, Chewbacca robes, or silly flags) didn’t particularly want to be part of the Spanish Empire (Argentina would be independent within a decade;) but the definitely didn’t want to be conquered and ruled by Britain. It ended badly for Britain, thousands dead all told and a humiliating surrender.
  9. No, it wasn’t Little Big Horn, that was just the most famous native defeat of American forces. It was in 1791, The Battle of the Thousand Slain, or as the less imaginative Americans called it, The Battle of the Wabash. Basically a poorly planned, poorly equipped, poorly supplied, poorly manned, and most especially poorly led American army marched into what was then the wilderness of Ohio to teach the natives a lesson for defeating an American army the previous year! Even the not particularly astute reader can guess how this turned out. 24 Americans out of about 1,000 made it back safely.
  10. The Siege of Detroit, during the War of 1812, America’s misbegotten attempt to make Canada the “14th colony” of the United States. Basically a brilliant British general psyched out the American commander, and tricked him into surrendering to a much smaller British/native army.

That’s that, some of this was from memory, if I made any egregious mistakes please excoriate me in a comment. I write history posts provoke thought and curiosity, not to recount history for academic purposes.  Don’t worry, more Trump antics soon enough. What a time to be alive. Future blog suggestions welcome. I hope everyone had a safe and warm weekend. I’m ready for spring. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Captured world War One German tank “Mephisto.” Australians captured it, hauled it back to Australia, where it’s in a war museum and is indeed the only German World War One tank still in existence. Photo taken in 1918 and is Public Domain under applicable copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 24, 2021 at 8:10 pm

VETERANS DAY 2020

leave a comment »

Veterans Day, 2020. One knows people are being hosed if there’s a day set up to honor them. Hosed, used, manipulated, whatever. America has fetishized war, the military, and veterans. Basically one or two days a year, and in other silly ways (I get veterans parking, woohoo!) America “lauds” its veterans. The other 365 days a year they send them to die in colonial wars whose only purpose is politics or corporate profits. The last war America fought to “defend our freedoms” was World War Two, and even it has caveats. Every veteran after that fought to make some president look good or promote the American Empire.

So yeah fellow veteran dudes and dudettes, your service is appreciated. With the exception of WW2 vets, a few of which may still be reading this, you got duped. I served myself, joined with high ideals, found I’d joined a deeply misogynistic muslim-hating gang whose mission was to travel around the world and murder people. I was disillusioned to say the least, though if I had it to all do over again, I would have joined the army instead of the USMC and served 20 or 30 years. Life is complicated. And I did meet some great people in the service.

Hell, I was a Nazi bigot before I joined the service. Actually living and working with people of all faiths, colors, etc., I learned “A**holes come in all colors.” We had four drill instructors in basic training. Two white, two black. First guy, black guy, can’t remember his name. He was something else, mean mofo, the only DI (drill instructor) that physically abused me, he started kicking me one day because my push ups weren’t up to his standards. No big deal though. The other privates (recruits) connected with him. He didn’t last, showed up drunk one night while off duty and got into a fistfight with a private. He got replaced, I wish him the best.

The Senior Drill Instructor, white guy, Staff Sergeant Sisk (weird what details one remembers from four decades ago,) was a good guy but ill suited to be a Drill Instructor. OK guy though. I’d have a beer with him if I ever ran across him. 3rd DI. Black fellow. Dumb, as in modest IQ black guy from rural Georgia. Vietnam Vet. Sergeant Allen. And he was a Marine to the bone, probably the most Marinest Marine I ever met. If he had your back, you were covered. One of the most impressive human beings I ever had the privilege of knowing.

Last guy, white fellow, Canadian like me. He was a sick fuck. He liked hurting the privates. IE he liked hurting people. His one trick I remember was to bend people’s fingers back to the point of excruciating pain. He was a sadist. And he got brought down. We were very much taught to overlook excesses in the name of taking one for the team. Hazing was OK, like the guy kicking me. What this guy was doing was beyond hazing. Some officers showed up one day and asked us if any of the accusations against him were true. People spoke up, and he was gone.

Bigotted as I was, it sunk in that somebody’s skin color tells one nothing about how cool they are, or aren’t. And pretty much everything in my life since has reinforced that. People are people, some good, most OK, a few a**holes. And only getting to know them will tell which is which. So I applaud the service and how it can be good for people’s personal growth all else aside. (Aside: My fantasy zombie apocalypse team is diverse as fuck.)

And that’s where my thinking sat for decades. I wasn’t wrong. There’s another layer though. Sargent Allen told us a bit about Vietnam. He’d volunteered with two friends on a buddy program, where they all went through basic training and their first post together. One of them was killed. Allen told us the story, firefight, his friend got carried away, was shouting “I can see them, I can see them!” while standing and shooting. Actually being able to see the enemy is unusual in modern warfare. His last words, since if he could see them, they could see him. Sargent Allen even showed us pics of his friend’s body or body bag.

And this is where it gets ugly. Sargent Allen said that after that, on every patrol, him and his surviving buddy made sure they killed at least one local. That’s called a war crime. It’s called murder. One of the coolest and most honorable dudes I ever met, by his own admission, was a serial killer. And he got away with it because he was fighting in a war. How the hell does one process something like that?

War is bad. That’s all I got. Stay safe everyone.#StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: That’s me. 1978? Credit and copyright: No idea. Probably a government photographer, in which case Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

November 11, 2020 at 9:13 pm

leave a comment »

I will have such revenges on you both  

That all the world shall—I will do such things—      

What they are yet I know not, but they shall be      

The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep?       

No, I’ll not weep.

The 19th anniversary of 9/11, when four American airliners were hijacked and flown into civilian targets in the USA, the most infamous being the Twin Towers in New York City. I was in rural Oregon at the time. Had strange dreams that morning, I think events like 9/11 ripple outwards in ways we don’t understand yet. If we can build a device that can detect the collision of black holes billions of light years and ago away, something like 9/11 that must pop all over the planet. 

That being said, what else to say? My biggest memory? The horrifying sick feeling in my stomach as in the days to follow two things were already becoming clear. America wasn’t going to learn anything from this terrible crime, and no one would be held responsible for this utter failure of our nation’s defences. And that a paroxysm of American violence and hatred was going to follow. Sadly I’ve been proved true in spades on both counts. The last time an American leader screwed up and paid the price was Benedict Arnold. And our endless crusades in the Middle East were normalized by 9/11 and continue today.

I say crusades very deliberately. I see America as just a continuation of the Roman Empire, it broke up in the Dark Ages, various factions arose, Christian monotheism became the state religion. The factions fought among one another and were finally unified in 1945 when Japan and Germany surrendered. So by crusading, I mean the medieval Roman Empire sent armies into the Middle East, mostly looting under the guise of religion. They even established a Christian state in Palestine, it lasted like 100 years. No real difference from Israel and America’s Middle East wars starting with Gulf War One.

On to the obvious, Covid-19 is dealing America a 9/11’s worth of death a week, with no end in sight, and the Trump regime has yet to mobilize the nation’s resources to defend against it. In a weird ironic way, I think our reactions to 9/11 and Covid-19 should have been reversed. 9/11 was terrible, but it was a crime committed by a tiny band of extremists, Terrorism before and after 9/11 was a minor threat to Americans, and one we had plenty of defenses against. Covid-19 we should be mobilizing the awesome power of the Federal Government, thank you Lincoln, to defend against. We’d save thousands of lifes a week. 

So yes, it’s really weird that we’re paying huge tribute to 9/11 while we more or less ignore a much more dire ongoing death march. And not even thinking about the pointless carnage the “Global War on Terror” has wreaked. What can I say? I honor the dead on that terrible day, I’m sorry for all the loss. A nightmare for those involved. And the best way to honor their deaths, let’s stop promoting violence as a solution to complex social problems. 

The hippies and pacifists and such were all right, as such it is my inspiration for the meme above. The lesson of 9/11, killing people doesn’t help. Sit down at a table and work things out like adults. We are an intelligent species, right? There are better alternatives? 

Weird day, weird times, where will we be on the 20th anniversary of 9/11? I hope all reading will be safe and sound. Stay safe everyone. Likes, shares, etc. appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #InsanusTempora

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Quote: King Leer. Image: A meme I made, Public Domain.)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2020 at 6:56 pm

THE PHONEY WAR

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

April 29, 2020 at 8:36 pm

THROUGH THICK AND THIN: FEBRUARY 24

leave a comment »

This is a rather disturbing article about America’s lack of readiness in the event of a pandemic. And at this point seems pretty damn likely that COVID-19 is on the way. It’s spread to too many countries, some of which simply don’t have the resources to deal with a pandemic. Add to that there are always going to be people or organizations who ignore attempts to control the disease’s spread for one reason or another. And “winging it” isn’t going to be an effective approach. There are things where having trained experts is the only sensible approach. If one’s house catches fire, a fully equipped and trained firefighting crew is the best response. Right?

This is always what has scared me about Trump. He’s one of those people who think there’s simple solutions to all of reality’s issues. “Just build a wall” or “Just say no!” are examples of simplistic solutions to complex social issues. Worse, if COVID-19 does spread to the USA and turn into a pandemic, pretty sure Trump and his supporters will blame everyone but Trump for our inadequate response. Trump can’t even bring himself to admit he made minor mistakes, sharpiegate comes to mind, so he’s certainly not going to admit his administration wasn’t prepared for a pandemic. And God only knows, I can see COVID-19 turning into an excuse to cancel the election, especially if it looks like Bernie might win the election.

Speaking of Bernie, looks like he is the front runner now after handily winning the Nevada caucuses. Which has caused major freakouts in the establishment media. MSNBCs Chris Matthws compared Bernie’s win to “the Nazis conquering France.” He’s also the guy who suggested if Bernie won, he’d have people executed in Central Park. There’s example after example of mainstream outlets doing what they can to belittle his win. For example this headline: “Nevada caucuses win would make Bernie Sanders a weak front-runner.” Or MSNBC host Nicole Wallace saying Democratic enthusiasm for Sanders as “political suicide,” and also said the supporters of the night’s runaway victor constitute only “a squeaky, angry minority.” Or this gem. So if Bernie wins the election the day after the inauguration will we see headlines like “Apparent Front Runner Sworn In,” “Is Bernie Re-electable? Experts Say No,” and “GOP Starts Impeachment Hearings.” Sigh.

The image is of the ‘Battle of Los Angeles.’ It was the evening of February 24th 1942 until 4am or so the 25th. Basically anti-aircraft gun crews thought a Japanese air raid was underway, and opened fire for hours. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a few months earlier, so nerves on the American West Coast were at a fever pitch. Exacerbated by Japanese submarines sinking American ships off the coast, and one even shelling Santa Barbara. One Congressman even proposed abandoning the west coast and setting up a defensive line in the Rocky Mountains. Which was a ridiculous over-reaction. Yes gentle reader, electing idiots to Congress is a long standing tradition in America. When all was said and done, the ‘battle’ was one big panic attack. Sadly 5 people died in auto accidents or heart attacks related to it.

Monday morning now, speaking of mass panic, the Coronavirus thing continues to spread, with all sorts of wild accusations being thrown around. I’m more than a little concerned, because while our government should deal with this outbreak sanely and effectively, neither characterises contemporary Washington, where the watchword is “How can we use this crisis to benefit our faction?” Washington has been for decades really, though it’s gone off the rails since 9/11. That being said, planetary economic disruption also looks like it’s inevitable at this point too. This might be the one the mormons and preppers were waiting for. I think I’ll go to the grocery store and stock up before the hoarders get there.

Have a great week everyone, remember, wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face when you’re out and about.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Battle of Los Angeles. Credit: Los Angeles Times. This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1925 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.)

Written by unitedcats

February 24, 2020 at 6:39 am

THINGS THAT GO POOF IN THE NIGHT

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend everyone. Shares and comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

  • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to remix – to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • attribution – You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • share alike – If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same or compatible license as the original.)

Written by unitedcats

February 14, 2020 at 2:44 pm

THROUGH THICK AND THIN: FEBRUARY 8TH

with 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

February 8, 2020 at 11:37 am

“IT IS WITH MUCH EMBARRASSMENT THAT I RETURN.”

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

January 24, 2020 at 10:19 am

IRAN, UPDATES, TRUMP, LIFE, SHEESH

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week everyone. God bless.

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

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

January 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm