Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

And the Winner of this Year’s Most Tasteless 9/11 Commemorative Message is: ALIPAC

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“The illegals are trying to hijack the cockpit of America’s government! Let’s roll! —William Gheen and The ALIPAC Team”

Isn’t that just lovely? Let’s use the most terrible crime in American history to compare immigrants to mass murderers.  Yes that’s the message of the anti-immigrant group ALIPAC. Lovely, just lovely. It’s bad enough that 9/11 has been used to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment, strip us of our rights, support overseas wars, and the creation of a vast mind-numbingly wasteful and counterproductive police and security state … now it’s being used to foment racism in the USA! Merika!

Sigh. This is an example of why I’m having trouble blogging lately. The Religious Right in the USA is going further off the rails every day. If you aren’t a white, Evangelical Christian, heterosexual, male American … you aren’t really an American. That’s the platform of the Religious Right now, it scares me, it should scare any decent person. I’d write more posts about it, but it would just upset me more. People who want to keep up on the brain-dead antics of this formerly fringe movement should follow Right Wing Watch. A lot of it is the usual crap, trying to get religious teachings back into school, etc. Some of it is a lot worse. Tell gay couples to die on their wedding day, gays wear special rings to infect non-gays with HIV, Obamacare is designed to kill conservatives. The sort of stuff that used to be limited to flyers stuck under windshields is now mainstream fare. Jesus wept.

What does this have to do with 9/11? A lot, 9/11 really seems to have pushed a lot of right wingers over the edge. A friend of mine was calling for the USA to blanket Afghanistan with neutron bombs after 9/11. He came back and later admitted it’s a good thing he wasn’t in charge of the country that day. Many kept right on going as evidenced by the Religious Right’s every widening gap between themselves and reality. The rest of the country is trying to move forward to an America with justice and fairness for all Americans, the Right wants to return to a day (that never existed) when American was synonymous with white Evangelical Christian. And I am most definitely talking about Republicans and the Tea Party, though there are plenty of conservatives who think it’s gone too far. They are being purged from the Republican party from what I can tell. This is the legacy of 9/11, Republicans have turned into a party of hatred and divisiveness.

Then there’s the whole war monger thing. Sigh. 9/11 was indeed blow-back from our murderous foreign policy, but few if Americans know that. The propaganda that 9/11 was purely caused by America hating religious nuts who only understand violence and can’t be negotiated with is pretty much stock-in-trade for most Americans. With the full and enthusiastic cooperation of most of America’s atheists too. Sigh. Again. Yes, 9/11 was a terrible thing. And we’ve used it to justify endless 9/11s against Muslim lands. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as we set our military loose to “protect” America by murdering foreigners. And we wonder why foreigners hate our foreign policy, if “kill as you please” can even be described as a foreign policy.

The there’s the other 9/11, one that I didn’t even realize was a 9/11 event until recently. Yes, 40 years ago today with the full backing and aid of the CIA and USA government the democratically elected government of Chile was overthrown by a military coup, ushering in nearly two decades of repressive military dictatorship. I guess it’s only fitting that we used our own 9/11 to strip Americans of their rights and energize our efforts to overthrow governments overseas. It’s an American tradition now, like football, mom, and apple pie. And now due to Obama’s beneficent influence, even the Democrats are the party of foreign wars!

To me this is the greatest sadness and shame of 9/11. A terrible event that could have triggered a national debate and reflection on the role America plays in the world was hijacked by war mongers, war profiteers, and haters from the beginning; and we now have a country that wages war constantly abroad and spies on and restricts its citizens at home. We could have followed the Prince of Peace, instead we pledged our souls to Satan. To commemorate the loss of loved ones by killing foreigners and stripping Americans of their rights isn’t commemoration, it’s sick. America lost its way in 2001and went enthusiastically down the dark path Bin Laden wanted us to follow. Maybe someday we will wake up from the dystopian police state nightmare that has been evolving in the USA since then, but I’m not seeing many bright spots on the horizon.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and it is the best image I could find to illustrate my feelings about 9/11. I have no idea who to attribute it too. “Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” —John Lennon)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2013 at 10:42 am

It’s Offensive Image Month on Doug’s Darkworld!

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What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, this picture is a bigot test. If you agree with the meme expressed, you’re  a bigot. It’s that fucking simple. Bigotry isn’t hard to understand, it’s making wild generalizations about people based on things like their race, religion, gender, etc. In the case above, the generalization is so wild it’s almost breathtaking in its stupidity. The meme above comes out and says there is something so hateful and intolerant about Islam that it sets it apart from other religions. And I know damn well many people think that, even the majority of atheists think Islam is the “worst” religion, which shows atheists are just as prone to bigotry as anyone else.

OK, a few facts. It should go without saying that a religion with over a billion adherents is going to be all over the map, just like in any major religion. However, let’s look at specifics. Malaysia. 61% Muslim. Secular constitution, rights of religious minorities are guaranteed. And in fact most Malaysians are proud of their multicultural and multireligious society. Let’s go to Bosnia. Muslims are the majority at 45% of the population. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Third one I checked, Indonesia. Muslim majority. Religious minorities rights protected by the constitution. So factually speaking, the meme is already garbage. It’s safe to say that in numerous Muslim countries there will be religious rights for minorities in their constitutions.

Of course the bigots will claim that even though they have these rights on paper, there are still problems with some Muslims wanting to trample the rights of non-Muslims. News flash, all religions have tendency to trample the rights of minorities when they are the majority. In some countries, like the one I live in, a religious majority whines about having their rights trampled. Well, not all of them, just the holy rollers stuck in the Bronze Age. I’ve kind of had it with people who think their religion means they get to decide the law of the land for everyone. Even people who don’t follow their religion! Yes, dear readers, I’ve wandered near another point. And I’m going to make it. Many religions exhibit a nasty tendency to persecute minorities under the right conditions, it kind of comes with the territory. How is Islam different from, say, Christianity in this regard? It isn’t, Christians have a long proud history of suppressing the rights of those that disagree with them. To this day many Christians are working tirelessly to turn the USA into a theocracy and trample the rights of non-Christians. And sadly even Judaism, long a trampled upon minority, has shown a nasty tendency in this persecutory regard now that they are a majority in one country. So singling out Islam in this regard is hypocritical at best, bigoted and hateful at worst.

That’s another point that needs to be made about this image. How, exactly, is making this hateful generalization about Islam helpful? Will this encourage people in America to be more tolerant of their Muslim neighbours? No, the opposite in fact, it encourages fear and loathing. That may not be bigoted, but I sure think it’s evil. We’ve even got such paranoid dogmeat as state legislatures outlawing Sharia Law. The chances of any Muslims enacting Sharia Law anywhere in the USA are zero, so this is ridiculous on the face of it. And if some Muslims wanted to use Sharia Law to adjudicate civil affairs among Muslims, who gives a shit? We don’t care about Orthodox Jews, Quakers, or numerous other religious groups that chose to live by their religious code within the framework of secular criminal law, why the hell would anyone care if some Muslims did this? Hint: The answer starts with b. And no, I’m not suggesting we let Muslims stone each other to death, any more than we would let a Christian cult stone its members to death for blasphemy. (Lev. 24:16)

The sad thing about images like this is how effective they are. If one wants to have a bad view of Muslims (or anyone) in general, it’s easy to find all sorts of stuff on line to reinforce one’s prejudices. And the mainstream media as well as hordes of amateurs are only too happy to generate and spread hateful images. It’s by no means limited to the right or conservatives as well. I know I’ve pilloried some hateful images by atheists and liberals in previous posts, I find propaganda hateful no matter who is targeted. I think this is a terrible failing of the modern media and online world, it’s making people more divided, not less. I’ll expand on this train of thought in a future post.

Hope everyone is having or had a great weekend. I’m having a BBQ.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Pretty sure that unless the author actually took the trouble to file a copyright, images on Facebook are public domain, correct me if I’m wrong.)

Written by unitedcats

August 25, 2013 at 8:58 am

The Monster Within Us

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“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

The Hannah Anderson kidnapping. Some weird shit, eh? For those who weren’t following, a family friend kidnapped a 16 year old girl, torture-killing her mother and brother in the process, and fled to the Idaho wilderness. The FBI tracked him down and rescued the girl, the perpetrator dying in the shootout. (And while I am often a harsh critic of law enforcement killings, in this case, good going guys. A murderous monster with a hostage was killed, sometimes the good guys are the good guys.) So, sick fuck dead, is there more to this story? Yes, yes there is. Here on Doug’s Darkworld we thrive on sick stuff, and this unpleasantness has some curious aspects.

So, the authorities are still mystified as to the perpetrator’s motive. Ah, the wonders of living in a puritan country. It’s not all that mysterious, he wanted to fuck her. And he likely did, although I haven’t found that anywhere in the news yet. Of course rape would be the operative word, she was a victim in every sense of the word. So what causes a man to kill his best friend’s wife and son, and kidnap the daughter? Was DiMaggio insane? In some senses, almost certainly. It was a crime with essentially zero chance of “success,” so clearly he wasn’t thinking rationally. He might have had a brain tumour or other organic problem that destroyed his judgment and impulse control. Maybe he was always a sociopath, but until then had never encountered a situation that brought it to the surface so to speak. Whatever the trigger for the crime was, it did develop over time, as there are reports he was acting strangely towards the girl long before the kidnapping. At the very least the man had a troubled past that more than likely contributed in some ways to his crime.

However, it’s easy to say some guy was “crazy” and let it go at that. Alas, nothing occurs in a  vacuum. So one can at least speculate about what influences might have led to this tragedy. The first thing that comes to my mind is rape culture and the objectification of women. Men are programmed from an early age by innumerable societal forces to think of women as “prizes” that they can obtain somehow. Hell, there’s a whole genre of popular “asshole gets the girl” movies.  Don’t even get me started on the bible and fundamentalist religion. Then there’s advertising. Basically this guy looked at the girl as a sex object despite overwhelming factors that should have dissuaded him. Or think of it this way, if the victim hadn’t been a classically cute blonde girl, would the crime even have happened?

In a more general sense, men kidnapping girls to be their brides has a long history. It was widely practised throughout the world throughout history, and continues to be practised to this day in some parts of the world. It’s fair enough to say that this was a normal part of human mating for much of the specie’s history. This of course doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but it may explain the urge on an atavistic level. IE there was likely an evolutionary advantage to stealing brides from neighbouring tribes, so the behaviour may be at least someone instinctual. Any atavistic behaviour might be, and one has to speculate how many men might engage in the behaviour if the circumstances encourage it? Sadly the evidence is that many people are easily enough induced to do bad things.

As a codicil, Stockholm Syndrome. This is where a prisoner or a hostage comes to identify so much with their captor that they may even defend him. It was named after a bank hostage case where it was discovered that two of the three women taken hostage in a  bank robbery for several days had subsequently married their now jailed captors! About a quarter of people taken hostage appear to show at least some Stockholm Syndrome symptoms. And there is very much scientific speculation that the syndrome is an evolutionary adaptation to women being routinely kidnapped by other tribes. The women who acquiesced to enslavement were far more likely to survive and have children. Curiously, there seems to be little research on my hypothesis, that men may be evolutionary prone to bride kidnapping. Not sure if it means anything, especially in my shallow level of analysis, but it is interesting.

Many kidnap victims don’t exhibit the Stockholm Syndrome. Hannah Anderson, the victim in our case, was back on a social network within days of her release! And she had no sympathy whatsoever for her captor, saying being shot to death was exactly what he deserved. And it’s an interesting footnote to this case, the victim using a social network to share publicly her experience! The mass media played a role in her rescue, and it now plays a role in her recovery. The implications there alone are fascinating, it’s a brave new world.

(The above image was taken in Central Asia in 1871 -72, so it is safely in the Public Domain under US copyright law. It may show a traditional bridal “kidnapping” in progress, the women gesturing with the whip is facing her four “abductors.” I use parenthesis because as cultures evolved, the distinction between bridal kidnapping and arranged marriage gets fuzzy. In this case the Kidnapping appears to be more symbolic than real, one can speculate all they want about what is going on in the photo. Which it is why it made such a great photo for this very much speculative blog post. I am trying to provoke thought, not reach conclusions.)

Trayvon Martin and Institutionalized Racism

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The Trayvon Martin shooting. And the George Zimmerman trial. I’m at an impasse on racism and oppression and injustice. Some people see it, some people don’t. Some people were outraged by this shooting, some by the verdict. It was a case that revealed where people stood on issues such as racism and class, a case that really highlighted how people perceive the world.  Anyone who was using confirmation bias to reinforce their world view … had their world view reinforced by this case. That’s pretty much most of us. This is why is was such a  media and cultural sensation, it spoke to everyone. It was a mirror. A mirror into our souls. Our dark souls.

It would be easy to write a post that spoke to those outraged by both the shooting and the verdict. So I won’t go there. I could try to reach those who are overtly prejudiced, and think of Zimmerman as a hero. No point, people have to find their own way out of that conundrum. If anything, I am speaking to those who call themselves progressive, and think that justice was done as it was a fair trial. The liberal sheep as I refer to them as. Privately of course, I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. To me this was one of the saddest aspects of this case, that a lot of people who think of themselves as just and progressive buy into the layers of  PC crap that conceals the horrid racist nature of this case. With this in mind, and in no particular order, a few impressions.

Of course this is about race. That is one of the more absurd claims made about this case, that it’s not about race. Of course it’s about race, because it is about how blacks are perceived in public. Blacks already live in a  world where the police are not their friends, things like stand your ground laws mean they also live in a world where any white man with a gun is a potential threat. (Don’t even try to tell me that Zimmerman wasn’t “white.” He was a rootin-tootin gun-toting self appointed armed vigilante “defending” a white community against black intruders. Hell, the NRA gave Zimmerman their endorsement, how white is that?) Or look at it this way, almost every black person in America knows a teenager who goes to the store and buys junk food. Even if it wasn’t about race, it was when the media got into it. People who think this wasn’t about race are probably the same people in the habit of saying “I’m not  a racist, but … “

It was not about the trial. A lot of liberals are talking about how, well, they really didn’t prove their case. Well, duh. They weren’t trying to prove their case, they were putting on a show trial in the face of enormous public pressure. If the local authorities had had their way, Trayvon would just be another statistic. From the very beginning the local police and authorities didn’t pursue due diligence in this case, Zimmerman wasn’t even tested for drugs for god’s sake. When the defense and the prosecution want an acquittal, it isn’t a fair trial. White people regularly claim self-defense and get away with shooting someone, black people almost never do. The same fellow who prosecuted Zimmerman got a black woman 20 years for firing a warning shot at her husband.

We’re not living in a post racial society. More blacks are in prison now than were enslaved in 1850. And largely imprisoned by draconian drug laws that send people to prison for possession, laws carefully written to punish blacks far more harshly for the types of drugs they use than the punishments for whites using the same drug in a different form. And the Supreme Court dutifully ruled that such laws aren’t racist, because they don’t single out race on an individual level. Right. And stand your ground laws are far more likely to benefit a white shooter than a black one. Nope, no racism there. Trayvon was followed by a  vigilante because he was a black male wearing a hoodie, if Zimmerman had followed and killed a white girl in the same circumstances, he’d be on Florida’s death row now.

If one understands that there are still oppressed peoples in the world, even in America, the Trayvon Martin case is an example of same. If for whatever reason someone doesn’t understand that, they’ve got the white thing down pat. White isn’t a race by the way, but that’s for another day. RIP Trayvon.

(The above image was used with permission of the author.)

Written by unitedcats

July 26, 2013 at 6:47 am

‘Unlawful Command Influence,’ an Obama facepalm moment … more like Obama shoots himself in the foot, what was he thinking?

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“I expect consequences, so I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

This is what President Obama had to say earlier this year when discussing sexual assault in the US military. Harsh words indeed, and they resonate with those who oppose rape culture. I  can only but agree, rape is a terrible crimes, and should be dealt with harshly. There’s never any excuse for sexual assault, claiming a woman was “asking for it” is saying the perpetrator was a goddamn starving monkey offered a banana. We are better than that, animal nature is  no excuse for any other crime, why should it be an excuse for rape? “But judge, all those people in the bank were counting money in plain sight! I’m poor and I couldn’t help myself!” Yeah, right. I’ve said even harsher things than the president about rapists myself, I suspect most people have.

However, I’m not the Commander-in-Chief of the US military speaking publicly on the issue. And here we have a problem, a big problem. A problem that made military lawyers blanch when they heard the words above. Let me illustrate. Some soldiers are interrogating suspected terrorists. The king walks by, and clearly in their earshot says that terrorists should just be summarily executed. What do the soldiers do? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that at least in some cases the soldiers would promptly kill the suspects. Their king in as much said they should do so! And if the king wanted them to get fair trials, isn’t that what he would have said? What the king said is called, in legal parlance, ‘Unlawful Command Influence.’ A commander who makes “suggestions” about how a situation should handled is unduly influencing his underlings, whether he meant to or not. And president Obama did just that, he suggested in the strongest possible terms what the punishment for this offence should be. Will people in the military be influenced by this, or is this purely an academic discussion?

Alas, it’s not. Defence lawyers have raised the issue of ‘Unlawful Command Influence’ in a military trial of two service members, and the judge in the case issued a ruling. He ruled that if the two defendants were found guilty, they could not be punished with a dishonourable or bad conduct discharge because of what the president said. Oh dear. Two guys might get convicted of sexual assault, but they will get a slap on the wrist. I’m pretty sure that isn’t what Obama intended. OK, somewhat sure. He is a lawyer, so he has to know he needs to be careful of what he says in public. And he’s been CinC of the US military for more than four years. So one would think he would be aware that he needs to be careful with what he says about the military justice system. That’s just the first, and to me the most perplexing aspect of this. Did Obama make a mistake by accident … or design?

The other aspect to this situation is how the left and anti rape culture activists responded to this. They were outraged, at least from my less-than-scientific survey of the scene. The typical attitude I encountered was that Obama had the right to say what he said, and that this was a perversion of justice. Well, correct on both counts. Obama has the right to say pretty much any damn thing he pleases, so what? Just because someone has the right to say something doesn’t mean it was  a good idea to say.  Another tiresome misuse of the concept of rights basically. And of course its not just, those guilty of sexual assault should see serious consequences for their misguided decisions. However, this isn’t about justice or the president’s rights, it’s about the law. And in the framework of the law, Obama gave those in the military accused of sexual assault aid and succour.  I find it troubling that so many simply defend the president rather than admit he made a tactical error at best.

Most humans seem to be blind to the flaws of their chosen leaders. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing in the evolution of the species remains to be seen I suppose. As one last observation on this sad situation, yes, that a military judge is allowing this defence is probably an example of rape culture. The military is a profoundly misogynistic culture that not only tolerates and defends rape, it actively encourages it sometimes. When I was in the service in the 1970s the career servicemen I knew fondly recalled the good old days of the fifties and sixties when if a service member was accused of rape,  he was just transferred to another base in another country and thus immune from prosecution. The same way the Catholic Church handled allegations of child molestation. While there are fine people in uniform, there are plenty of others who see the military as the last bastion of male privilege and are profoundly misogynistic in their world view. Fortunately many people in and out of the military are trying to change that. They have my support.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, yadda yadda yadda. I don’t even know who the copyright holder is, it’s a pic that’s all over the web. And to end on a more positive note, check out what this Australian general had to say about the problem of sexual assault in their military, Obama should take a cue from him before he propounds on the topic again.)

9/11 Again by Popular Request, Did a Plane Really Strike the Pentagon?

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Picture unrelated. OK, at a friend’s request I reviewed this YouTube video: Major General Blasts 9/11 Cover-Up. In the video, one retired US Major General Albert Stubblebine gives his opinion on what happened on 9/11. He had more than a thirty year career in the army, and was deeply involved in the counter-intelligence game. He retired from the army in 1984. A few years back he was interviewed, as shown on the video. Do I recommend the video? Well, not really. This post is going to be written assuming readers haven’t watched it and aren’t going to watch it, watch it now if one has an aversion to spoilers. I watched it, and it felt like I’d watched an episode of Ancient Aliens. I will try to deconstruct it impartially, but I clearly am prejudiced.

The first third of the video is the man establishing his credentials. The good general’s long and august career in military intelligence, all the amazing things he had done and participated in. Every word true I am sure, the man had been at the heart of the beast, the inner circles of the USA’s intelligence community in his time. Unfortunately, none of this has any bearing on his arguments or his credibility. Arguments have to stand or fall on their own merits, the person making them is not relevant. I knew I was in trouble at this point, to spend a third of an interview pumping up the interviewee’s credentials bodes ill for what follows. I was not disappointed, the august general then raised the old “a plane didn’t hit the Pentagon” stuff that has been circulating since a French opportunist wrote a book about same shortly after 9/11. Nothing that I hadn’t heard before.

Still, let’s look at this a bit further. While his military intelligence credentials were long and impressive, he apparently has zero expertise in aircraft crash scene analysis. So no matter how credible his opinion might be in some regards, his opinion about the damage to the Pentagon is at best lay speculation. And like the collapse of the WTC towers, analysis of aircraft crash scenes is not “high school science,” it’s something best left to the experts. And the experts have no problem with the airplane caused the damage to the Pentagon scenario. That doesn’t completely settle the issue of course, experts have been wrong, but it’s not a promising start.

And if we are going to look at the general’s past to give credibility to his testimony, another problem crops up. The general has been deeply involved with the paranormal, UFOs, and what-not all his life apparently. This in particular I thought interesting: “A proponent of psychic warfare, Stubblebine was involved in a U.S. Military project to create “a breed of ‘super soldier'” who would “have the ability to become invisible at will and to walk through walls”. Stubblebine reportedly attempted to walk through walls himself, without success.” It certainly suggests to me that however effective Stubblebine was at his job, he certainly had an attraction for outlandish theories. Lastly, has there ever been any issue with Stubblebine’s loyalty to the government and army? Not that I’m aware of. Is it possible that he is simply playing his role to this day? The government loves 9/11 Truthers, nothing like keeping the Russians and Chinese guessing about what’s really going on in America. And much better than them investigating the real conspiracy, to use 9/11 as justification for countless endless wars and military spending that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

Lastly, I have some problems with the “a missile hit the Pentagon” theory. First of all, one has to discount the numerous witnesses that saw the damn airliner fly into the building. One has to believe that the conspirators not only planted hundreds of witnesses with false testimony, they also prevented any witnesses, and there would have been lots of them, testifying about seeing a missile, not an airplane, strike the Pentagon. Then there’s the problem of what possible reason would the conspirators have for using a missile? And what happened to the plane and its 64 occupants? 125 people were killed in the Pentagon as well, including a general. The plotters didn’t want to kill the people on the airplane, but didn’t care about the people in the Pentagon? And this crash site was swarming with rescuers within moments of the crash, many of whom testified about seeing parts of an airplane and human remains.

In other words, if a missile did hit the Pentagon, we are talking a conspiracy that makes a Mission Impossible episode seem realistic in comparison. Hundreds of fake witnesses, hundreds of real witnesses silenced, fake damaged light poles struck by the plane in its final approach installed instantly after the crash, fake phone calls from the doomed airliner, a whole airliner and 64 occupants disposed of somehow, fake airliner parts placed at the crash scene moments after the impact … for what? What possible reason could plotters have for a plot so vast and insanely complicated? I can’t think of one, and I haven’t seen a conspiracy site even take a stab at the problem. If you’re going to dispose of the plane and its occupants anyhow, what’s the point of substituting a missile for the plane?

So General Stubblebine, no disrespect intended, but I am not persuaded by your testimony. I am impressed though, his story was beautifully crafted to have tremendous appeal to people who were already suspicious of the US government and harbored doubts about 9/11. (I didn’t even go into that aspect of the video.) By accident or design, the good general’s testimony has earned an honored place in 9/11 Truther lore. Good for him.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, being yet another image making the rounds on Facebook. I have no idea who holds the copyright. Trust me, it’s funny of one gets the joke.  Show it to your kids if you need it explained. )

Written by unitedcats

January 30, 2013 at 11:13 am

The Sandy Hook Truthers

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My brain. My poor brain. I wasn’t going to comment on current events, but this one, well, how could I not comment? Yes gentle readers, there are Sandy Hook truthers. What are Sandy Hook truthers? These are people who believe that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged by the Obama administration to give an excuse for gun control. Really? Really? Yes, really. On the one hand, it’s not too surprising. Similar theories pop up after all sorts of events. I think partly because people are trying to make sense out of them, our brains have evolved for pattern recognition to the point where they recognize patterns that aren’t there. And partly because there are people like Alex Jones who make a good living by touting conspiracy theories. It’s safe to say that for good or for ill, conspiracy theories are a natural occurrence in human culture.

For good or for ill. Sometimes there is ill. A man who acted with compassion and understanding during the Sandy Hook shooting, sheltering children and an adult in his home during the crisis, has been threatened and harassed by people who think he is an “actor” playing his role in a government propaganda event. No good deed goes unpunished I guess. I am sure others in his situation have also been so harassed. The truth is, if one gets in the public eye these days, one is going to take some flak. I had a friend who had the same listed name as someone who was in a big public shootout on a local freeway. They couldn’t answer their phone for days afterwards because of all the calls from reporters and kooks. For good? I’m not sure I find much good in conspiracy theories. Other than that they are part of the rich tapestry that is the human experience. And can act as negative examples for those who are trying to make sense of it all.

First pass at this. Is it possible that Sandy Hook was some sort of psyops operation by elements of the Obama administration? I think it’s unlikely in the extreme. First of all, one is postulating a conspiracy with hundreds of participants. I don’t see any historical precedent for something like this. Successful conspiracies involve tiny numbers of conspirators, not hundreds. so already we have some issues. Also, and an even better point, is that it is vastly easier to capitalize on some event than create said event out of whole cloth. If Obama really wanted to use a horrible gun massacre as an excuse to institute gun control, all he had to do was wait. Huge risk of exposure turns into zero risk of exposure. I mean, the conspirators are claiming that Obama has control over the media, if this were true, it makes it even easier for Obama to capitalize on whatever gun massacre he wants to hang his hat on so to speak. Basically Obama would have to be a moron to try fake something at great risk of exposure instead of capitalizing on something at zero risk of exposure. Obama is many things, but he’s not a moron. Lastly, historically, this sort of over-the-top conspiracy has been proposed. In few cases was it ever implemented, and I’m aware of no cases where it was successful. Prove me wrong.

So I’m going with the premise that this is a ludicrous theory. Yeah, and so was the idea that a Jewish fifth column was responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War One. This brings me to the crux of this post, I’m a little alarmed by the Sandy Hook truther movement. On the one hand it’s a natural outgrowth of previous truther movements like the 9/11 truthers and the birthers. This is a little uglier, in that hatred is actually being directed at people. It’s also going even further out on a limb for people who reject Obama’s legitimacy as president. Now instead of just disapproving of everything Obama does, he is being accused of doing things he didn’t do. There’s no limit to how far thinking like this can go. It’s a sign that the nation is becoming even more polarized. An observation supported by multiple other recent developments, Republican rage at Obama’s re-election, the secession movement, and ever more vitriolic attacks on liberals, leftists, immigrants, and minorities. Anne Coulter’s latest rant is over the top, but didn’t seem to take any of the wind out of her sails.

Basically the crazier people’s beliefs, the easier it is to get them to do bad things. And the more dangerous the lunatic fringe inspired by these beliefs becomes. The idea that Obama has some sort of sinister agenda and is going to seize absolute power doesn’t pass the laugh test. He’s a politician, not an ideologue. The idea that elements on the Right driven by paranoid extremism will attempt to seize power (or assassinate Obama) seems more likely all the time. And there’s a lot of historical precedent for ugliness along these lines. Stay tuned, this could get a lot worse before it gets better.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, and I am a big fan of the show and plug it constantly, if anything this is free advertising for them. Credit and copyright: Futurama. I hope no one takes this post too seriously, I’m not proposing any course of action, just commenting on current events. I certainly hope I’m guilty of being too paranoid.)

Written by unitedcats

January 16, 2013 at 9:39 am

Another White Male Goes on a Killing Rampage

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T shirt about God and schools

I’m sure everyone in America, except for those in comas, have heard about the Newtown shooting last Friday. Hell, even many people in comas have heard about it, no doubt TVs are turned on in many coma wards. As with any tragedy, it brought out both the best and worst in people. The above is an example of the worst. Yes, within hours of the murder of 20 children, people were exploiting this tragedy to promote their religion. Jesus wept. This above was one of the least offensive responses. There were worse. Up to and including the Westboro Baptist Church which is planning to picket the event. They will get lots of publicity, which of course is their goal. People who worship a child killing God have no shame. Neither does the media. As of Thursday, much of the TV news is still devoted to the shooting. I find it disgusting really. Basically pandering to people’s emotions to get ratings. The classy thing to do would be to let the friends and families deal with their grief in peace, instead of turning it into a media circus. Fat chance. In any event, I waited a week to let the dust settle, let the facts get straight, and think about the shooting and the various points people have made. In no particular order, here are my observations on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and its aftermath:

Everything one hears about an incident like this should be taken with large doses of salt. This is especially true when the news first breaks. Sadly the human tendency is to put a lot of emphasis on the first things people hear, and often people will incorporate all sorts of garbage about an event into their minds simply because they heard it early on. Worse, plenty of people are well aware of this, and will rush to use it to their advantage. This is why I waited a week to blog about it. Even then, I am sure I have some of the facts wrong.

Sigh. Of course the issue of gun control was immediately in the news. On the one hand, yeah, after something like this, it’s reasonable to wonder if there is any way future events could be prevented. It’s even reasonable to ask if there’s ways to keep high ammo capacity semi-automatic weapons out of the hands of unstable people. That was about as far as reason got. The gun lobby almost immediately went on the offensive, at least by proxy. The NRA itself has been laying low I understand. They had some reasonable points, but it was mostly old nonsense.  The Supreme Court recently ruled that the 2nd Amendment is indeed an individual right, a responsible citizen can indeed have a handgun in their home. They also clearly stated that the state could indeed regulate weapons and who owns them. So both sides lose. Yes, the government can indeed outlaw high ammo capacity semi-automatic weapons. And yes, no matter what, law abiding Americans have a right to have basic revolvers and rifles in their homes. Issue is settled. One wouldn’t know it from much of the stuff I’ve seen on Facebook. I’m betting nothing but symbolic gun control will be enacted, if that.

The gun lobby has suggested arming teachers as a solution to the problem. While I do not have a problem with the idea that responsible citizens should be allowed to carry some types of guns, this idea has a number of problems. Basically one is suggesting that tens of thousands of school teachers, a demographic about as far away from gun enthusiasts as it gets, are going to turn into Dirty Harries if a gun is strapped to their hip. I can think of all sorts of ways this might not work out as expected. I don’t really think that the police want to respond to a shooting where a bunch of teachers are running around shooting. If school personnel with military or police training want to carry a gun, I don’t have a problem with that. The idea that giving all sorts of teacher guns doesn’t make sense though. It would cause more problems than it solved. It’s a downstream solution.

Many are claiming that mental illness is the issue, and that by treating mental illness properly, many incidents like this won’t happen. Well, yes and no. The USA gave up on its mentally ill in the sixties and seventies by closing all the asylums and putting the patients in halfway homes. The states just never got around to funding/building the halfway homes though, so the mentally ill live with their families or live on the street. What treatment there is consists of finding drugs to control the mentally ill. Basically the costs of the mentally ill have been dumped on their families and society at large, except for profits for the pharmaceutical industry. Since Americans aren’t already up in arms about this perversion, it’s safe to say that a few school shootings won’t make  a difference.

Even then, in some ways the mental illness line misses the point. This particular type of shooting, where someone goes out in public and kills a bunch of people to get revenge on the world, is almost exclusively the province of white males. That bears some thinking about. It won’t get much thinking though. If school shooters were predominantly Muslims or blacks or anything but white males, it would be a huge deal and everyone would be talking about it. And since white males easily have the best access to mental health care, clearly the idea that school shootings are caused by lack on mental health care doesn’t hold water. If school shootings were the result of lack of mental health care, their demographics would reflect society’s access to mental health care. They are the opposite of society’s mental health care demographics. In other words, shootings like this on some level are a symptom of a cultural problem.

That however is fodder for another post. America and its gun crazed, frontier mentality, cowboys and Indians, Dirty harry, white male privilege society. Have a great weekend everyone!

(The above image is viral on Facebook, so I think I can safely claim Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s an offensive image on so many levels, the utter disregard for facts being at the top of the list. Prayer and God are most definitely allowed in schools, the Supreme Court was very specific on the former. So basically people mewling about “no God in schools” are upset because public schools aren’t allowed to promote or endorse their particular religion. Anyone who thinks that a God would murder little children because their particular religion isn’t allowed to preach to and indoctrinate students in public schools … is sick in the head.)

Written by unitedcats

December 21, 2012 at 7:59 am

The Taman Shud Mystery

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I’ve decided just for fun to write about a few historical mysteries. Unsolved crimes in particular. Why? Just for fun. I’ll start with the Taman shud case. That’s him above. OK, not exactly, we don’t know who this is. That’s the mystery, or at least the core of it. The man pictured above was found dead on a  beach in Australia in 1948. European look, 40-45, excellent shape, muscles and bones consistent with a runner or ballet dancer. Good clothes, although all of the labels had been removed. No hat, unusual for  a suited man in 1948. No wallet. In his pockets he had a rail ticket, a bus ticket, gum, matches, a comb, and a cigarette package where cheap cigarettes had been replaced by quality cigarettes. His fingerprints and dental records were of no help in identifying him. No cause of death could be established. Despite massive publicity in Australia, no one came forward and was able to identify who this man was. And Australia was a small country at the time, only eight million people lived there.

Six weeks later a suitcase belonging to the deceased man was found in a l,ocker at the local train  station. The label from it had been removed. It contained a number of items, none of which shed any real light on the mystery. There was an item that is usually used by merchant seamen. Some of the clothes may have come from the United States. While the suitcase shed a little more light on his movements the day before he was killed, it went no further in determining who he was. A coroner’s inquest didn’t help much either. They noted that his shoes were freshly polished, which was odd since it appeared he had been walking around all day the day before he was killed. The inquest concluded he had been poisoned by some unknown toxin. And that his body might have been dumped where it was found, though eyewitness testimony contradicts that. (The contents of the suitcase are listed here.)

It gets weirder. In a pocket in the man’s clothes was a hand sewn inner pocket. In it a tiny piece of rolled up paper with the words “Taman Shud” printed on it. It was eventually determined to have been torn out of a rare book that had been left in a  man’s car the night of our mystery man’s demise. The words are from a book of poems and mean “ended” or “finished.” When the book was examined it was found to have five lines in faint pencil markings:


What do they mean? Who knows. The best cryptographers haven’t been able to make sense of it. There was also a telephone number that led to a woman who seemed to know who the deceased was. He was a man named Alfred Boxall, a seaman. She claimed to have given him a copy of the rare book of poems. It seemed like case closed until Alfred Boxall showed up, alive and well, with a copy of the book of poems that indubitably came from the woman. How had her phone number ended up in the mystery man’s copy? Again, no one knows. Some feel that she knew more than she let on. Sadly she wasn’t investigated further, and the case’s one promising lead was never followed up on. Some think that it was a suicide. Some think Cold War cloak and dagger espionage was involved. I tend to think he was a mentally disturbed person who killed himself. We may never know. A recent investigation tried to get him dug up for a DNA sample, but a judge decided (rightly so) that something other than idle curiosity was required for an exhumation.

And that’s that. Well, the core of it at least. Like so many things, if one wants to dig into it further, there are all sorts of other minor hints and clues. And some of the above may be wrong, as this site attests. There’s all sorts of websites on the case as a Google search of Taman Shud reveals. Will the case ever be solved? Maybe. Does it mean anything? Probably not. Why did I write about it? Because it’s a weird and interesting case. I think the only real conclusion that can be reached is that he wasn’t from Australia. It just seems unlikely with all the publicity the case got that no one in Australia recognized him. Even that’s not completely firm. Maybe he was a recluse. Maybe he altered his appearance before his death. Is there any connection to UFOs or ancient aliens? I don’t think so.

In any event I am sorry I have posted so infrequently lately. I sometimes have these interludes that interfere with blogging, it’s called my life. They tend to be brief so i am sure I will be back soon. Have a great week everyone.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is arguably a historic image, and I got it off Wikipedia. He’s still in the news, here’s a recent article on the case with lots of pictures and recent developments.)

Written by unitedcats

December 11, 2012 at 9:31 am

Japan, a safe haven for Jews in World War Two?

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Oddly enough, yes, Japan was a safe haven for Jews in World War Two. How the hell was this possible, wasn’t Japan an ally of Nazi Germany? Yes, yes they were. Didn’t Hitler want the Japanese to round up their Jewish population? Yes, yes he did. Why did the Japanese refuse? And how come there were Jews living in Japan in the first place? It’s an interesting story, and that’s bread and butter for Doug’s Darkworld, so here it is …

As one might expect, Jews are a recent arrival in Japan. Very recent, mid nineteenth century recent. There may have been the occasional traveler, but no Jews settled in Japan before then. In fact Japan lived in splendid isolation until 1848, when the USA forced them to open their country up to foreign trade. Shortly thereafter, small numbers of Jews settled in Japan. I don’t know why, but suspect it was the usual reason, they visited the place and liked what they saw. Also there was no antisemitism in Japan, and they were generally welcomed as knowledgeable westerners who would help bring Japan up to speed with the west. And no doubt the occasional Jew settled because some cute Japanese girl (or vice versa) caught their eye.  People are people.

All was well for the tiny handful of Jews living in Japan up until the early 20th century. Then the wave of antisemitism sweeping Europe from such things as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” arrived in Japan, and some Japanese bought into the conspiracy theories surrounding the Jews. Most didn’t though, and while there was some antisemitism in Japan, it never reached anywhere near the levels it reached in European countries. If anything the Japanese are a pragmatic people, and their government’s reactions to rising Nazism and other antisemitic tropes was pragmatic indeed. The early 20th century Japanese government instructed their intelligence agencies to look into the whole “The Jews are secretly plotting to rule the world” theories. Japanese intelligence agencies investigated carefully, and determined it was all garbage, there was no secret Jewish conspiracy, and Japan’s Jews were not a threat to Japan in any way.

And that was that. The background at least. And then came the war. A lot of people know about the Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who gave travel documents in World War Two as German armies approached, Chiune Sugihara, saving thousands of Polish and Lithuanian Jews. He was just the best known Japanese citizen who helped saved Jews, partly because he saved so many and partly because he was a diplomat. He wasn’t the only one, numerous other Japanese citizens, mostly ones working abroad for the Japan Tourist Bureau, also did what they could. And all for the right reasons as far as I can tell, IE, pure humanitarianism.

How many Jews escaped to Japan and Japanese occupied territory before and during the war? I couldn’t find consistent figures, but upwards of 20,000 is reasonable. It’s a complicated story. There is even the idea that Japan planned to start a “Jewish Homeland” in Japanese occupied China, the so called Fugu Plan. While most sources still treat this as fact, apparently it’s based on some very limited scholarship by one author, and other historians are not convinced anything of the kind was ever planned. That’s one of the problems with history, it’s not nearly as cut and dried as many people would think.

Sadly the Japanese who helped Jews escape weren’t exactly popular with their countrymen. I’m not exactly sure why, though some, at least in Chiune Sugihara’s case, suffered career-wise because they had acted against the wishes of their superiors. Still, their contribution to humanitarian values is has recently become more acceptable in some circles, and efforts are being made to identify and thank them. One such person was Tatsuo Osako, a young employee of the Tourist Bureau at the time. He died in 2003, and seven photos of Jewish escapees were found in his diary. One of the photos is reproduced above. The identity of the people in the photos is not known, but efforts are being made to find out and track down relatives. Holocaust survivors and escapees got out with very few personal effects, so these photos are a precious and rare reminder of a sad and terrible chapter in human history, and the undeniable fact that there are always a few people who do the right thing no matter what the risk to themselves.

It frankly is the only thing that gives me hope for the race, and it’s a slender hope at best. Next up, another story from World War Two Japan … Japanese war resistors, were there any?

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. God only knows who holds the copyright, since it’s not being used for profit and indeed is posted in the hopes someone may recognize the young man, I think I’m good. Do any of my illustrious readers recognize him? He doesn’t look like anyone in my family, plus they were all farmers back then.)

Written by unitedcats

November 28, 2012 at 8:06 am


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