Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Peace’ Category

Muslim Brotherhood Takeover Aborted by Egyptian Military, Egypt’s Democratic Revolution Continues

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flypast

“The Muslim Brotherhood stole the revolution, then we took it back. It’s as simple as that.”

Well, big goings on in Egypt. Millions of people recently took to the streets to protest President Morsi’s  attempts to seize absolute power, and his continued refusal to make good on his promises to the opposition. He seemed determined to establish the Muslim Brotherhood as the sole ruler in Egypt, and usher in, in the words of an eleven year old Egyptian boy, religious fascism. When people took to the streets recently they turned out in record numbers, some of the largest crowds in history demanding that Morsi fulfill his promises or step down. He did neither, and when the army tried to arrange a meeting with the opposition, Morsi refused. The army then told him he had to call early elections, or they would intervene. In democratic terms, both the Army and the people of Egypt gave Morsi a vote of no confidence. Sadly, the Muslim Brotherhood has responded with violence, unspeakable violence in some cases. This video is not for the faint of heart. Morsi and much of the Muslim Brotherhood leadership have been detained, but their followers seem determined to start a civil war.

The American government is none too happy about this. They’ve as much as called Morsi’s unseating a coup, and there is much stuff and nonsense in the media. The ugly truth is that the USA has very little influence in Egypt any more. Thirty years of support for Mubarek’s corrupt dictatorship didn’t save him when the people had finally had enough, nor did it endear the USA government to the people of Egypt. Obama’s attempts to influence matters in Egypt are laughable or contemptible, but most of all, they are irrelevant. As an Egyptian contact said:

“The USA has made so many “investments” in/with the Muslim brotherhood, so they don’t like it that he was overthrown after 1 year only but its not up to them, its our country and we get to decide what we want to do with it. People here are outraged that the US Media is calling it a coup.”

Yes, technically Morsi’s removal was “illegal.” The point? What George Washington did was illegal, because he knew that government had to come from below, not from above. If it’s a not a government of the people for the people, it’s just a criminal gang. Egypt is the oldest civilization on Earth, the Egyptian people know what they’re doing. The Egyptian air force flyover above was cheered and welcomed by the people of Egypt, they stood together with their military and took back their country from religious ideologues. We are witnessing a nation’s greatest generation.

That’s my current understanding of the situation in Egypt. And I sure as hell didn’t get if from the farce that is our western media. Even Al Jazeera is towing the western line, much to the ire of Egyptians. I’m getting my view of this from local sources in Egypt, few of which are in English. The translations in the interview with the 11 year old boy are indeed accurate. I will post more as this situation develops. I am filled with hope and fear, it’s 1848 all over again. With modern social media let’s hope the outcome will be different.

Note: This post is subject to revision as my understanding of this situation evolves.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. I think it’s a frame grab from a video, I couldn’t even find it again using TinEye, so I don’t know who to attribute it too. Interesting times indeed, for once I don’t feel like ending a post with levity.)

Written by unitedcats

July 8, 2013 at 7:34 am

Those Crazy Atheists

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atheismpeace

Ah, another lovely atheist meme lifted from Facebook. I see a lot of stuff like this. It bothers me for a number of reasons. It’s a wonderful example of how convincing false arguments can be, since I’m pretty sure most atheists have no problem with this image at all. That’s how false arguments work, they sound very convincing if one already agrees with them. That’s how Rush Limbaugh and his ilk cash in, they just endlessly regurgitate strings of false arguments that reinforce the prejudices and misconceptions of their target audience, and they’re golden. It works the same with all belief systems as far as I can tell, atheism among them.

OK, let’s get started deconstructing this mess. “Radical Muslims fly planes into buildings.” Well, appeal to emotion for one thing. One should always be suspicious of arguments that start off by pushing emotional buttons. This is also a propaganda button, since the idea that 9/11 was because they were crazy Muslims has been the central plank of US propaganda since 9/11.  Um, yes, the 9/11 plotters were Muslims, but their reasons for attacking the USA were largely secular and completely in response to US actions in the Middle East. Actions that killed vastly more innocents than died on 9/11. In other words, this first statement isn’t really true, and it’s completely without context. It’s a great way to demonize all Muslims though, even though the vast majority of them are as appalled by 9/11 as anyone else.

On to number two, abortion doctor killers. How many of them have there been, three? To say this is a cherry picked example is being generous. Thousands of murders are committed in the USA every year, most of them with motives as messed up as the abortion doctor killers. One could find examples of murders by any sort of person one likes and then hold it up as an example of how some radical world view poisons people. An argument that can be used to support any position isn’t much of an argument.

And what about radical Christians and Muslims that do good things? How come they don’t get mentioned? Small numbers of radical Christians helped their neighbours avoid the holocaust. Radical Muslims built a holocaust museum on the West Bank and surround churches in Egypt to protect their Christian neighbours. Wow, what monsters these radical religious people must be! In other words, radical religious people do terrible things because when a terrible thing was committed by a religious person, it must have been because of his religion. What?

Lastly, and the most transcendentally absurd considering that the meme is apparently trying to make the case that somehow atheism is a voice for peace, is the idea that radical atheists are just harmless authors. Well, first off, even the radical atheists they are alluding to, Hitchens and Dawkins I am assuming, have been some of the biggest cheerleaders for America’s violent foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia. Um, promoting war against Muslims isn’t about peace, it’s warmongering. It gets even worse. Stalin and Mao were both atheists and they both wrote books. And they were definitely antithetic to religion, which would seem to make them pretty radical. They also did far more than write books, they killed tens of millions of people. In fact they make al-Qaeda and abortion doctor shooters look like amateurs when it comes to mass murder. Why not mention them in the company of radical atheists?

In the real world the reasons for human violence are complex and deeply rooted in history, personality, culture, and politics. And while religion is most definitely used to inspire people in violent endeavours, it’s rarely the seminal cause of those endeavours. Sophomoric tropes blaming violence on religion are just atheist propaganda, and about as helpful as blaming Jews or Muslims or Christians for the world’s  violence. It’s easy to blame the world’s problems on people who are different than you. This is what radical atheists are doing with this meme, it’s just a way for atheists to pretend they have the answer. Kinda like what so many religions do.

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

(The above image appears to have its own attribution, and since they must have released it on Facebook, it must be public domain. In any event it’s not being used for profit and is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I could have also mentioned that a certain famous German atheist wrote a book called Mein Kampf that’s not exactly a handbook for peace. However his atheism is debatable, Mao and Stalin’s isn’t.)

Written by unitedcats

June 19, 2013 at 10:29 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

Pillar of Lies

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Yes, this image isn’t completely fair. Still, it’s not that far off. Only a tiny handful of people are killed and injured by rockets fired from Gaza. Vastly more people are killed and injured by IDF violence in the occupied territories. That’s because Israel has a vast array of modern weaponry at its disposal, they are one of the world’s great military powers. The Gazans have hand weapons and home made rockets and mortars. So that’s the first lie that is perpetuated by the media, that this is is some sort of conflict between equals. No, they aren’t equal in any sense of the word. This goes hand-in-hand with the lie that Israel and the Palestinians in the occupied territories are neighbours, and this is some sort of squabble between two regions, and that Israel is “defending its borders.” No, Israel is not “defending its borders,” since the occupied territories lie within Israel’s borders. That’s why they are called the occupied territories, Israel invaded and occupied them in 1967, and since no one wanted them back, they are stuck with them. Israel created the current situation with the Palestinians in the occupied territories, they aren’t some hapless victim.

There are lots of lies in this situation. Israel was based on lies, known as propaganda in the modern parlance. The very first lie set the tone for what was to follow. This was the story that the 700,000 Palestinians who fled what is now Israel in 1948 did so because the Arab governments told them to flee. Even Israeli historians now admit this was a fabrication from beginning to end, Arab governments did no such thing. (Why the f**k would they, no nation wants refuges flooding into its country.) The Palestinians fled because there was a war going on, which people always do when there’s a war. Israel then not only refused to allow them to return, they stole their homes and businesses, and deny to this day that a terrible crime was committed. In fact it’s illegal to commemorate the Nabka, the 1948 Palestinian exodus, in Israel. When one flees their legal residence during a war, one does not magically give up one’s residency. That’s one of the things so infuriating about the “the Arab governments told them to flee” lie, even if was true, so what? It wouldn’t magically change the law, the Palestinians that fled what became Israel were legal residents, and held legal title to their homes and property.

It went downhill from there. One common lie is that “there is no such thing as a the Palestinian people.” There are many permutations to this, basically boiling down the the racist attitude that the Palestinians are Arabs so they should go live in Arab countries. Again, the beauty of this lie is that even it it’s true, there never was a nation called Palestine, so what? The Palestinians living in Palestine were legal residents of the land, because they aren’t mentioned in the Old Testament doesn’t magically make it OK to steal their homes and property. A codicil to this lie is the “no partner for peace” lie. This is the idea that for one reason or another, none of the Palestinian leaders are “fit” to negotiate with. Israel not only chooses its own leaders, why, they are so superior, they can chose what leaders are appropriate for the benighted Palestinians! And of course none of the Palestinian leaders ever lives up to Israel’s standards, convenient, nu? It’s Israel that refuses to negotiate in good faith, not the Palestinians.

Notice a theme here? Racism. Both of these lies are much easier to believe if one thinks that Muslims/Arabs are somehow less than fully civilized, or even less than fully human. This comes out clearly in lie three, the big lie, the one repeated so often that much of western humanity believes it implicitly. And this lie is simple: “Jews are peaceful, Palestinians are violent.” I hardly even know what to say about this. Anyone who believes it is a racist for starters. Humans are violent, and there aren’t really any exceptions. Israel especially isn’t an exception, in fact they are one of the most violent militaristic nations on Earth, the violence they have perpetrated is at least the equal of the violence perpetrated by Palestinians. And in terms of people killed and wounded, Israel is the hands down winner, killing far more Palestinians than vice versa. And as of today, are Israelis striving for peace with the Palestinians in Gaza? Some few are, but many are braying for blood.  Of course the western media and Netanyahu’s apologists love to portray images of Muslims espousing violence, while images of Israelis braying for blood will never sully the airwaves. Jesus wept.

Lastly, the coup de grace, the capstone lie that glues the rest all together. Once one understands that the Palestinians are an illegitimate, uncivilized, violent people, the natural conclusion is obvious. The Palestinians deserve what is happening to them, Israel has no choice but to use violence to defend itself. If the Palestinians would only behave themselves, Israel wouldn’t have to resort to such measures. Siege mentality, biblical insanity, racism, all of the above, whatever one wants to call it … Netanyahu and his supporters have blinded themselves into thinking that violence is their only option. Unless one grants that Netanyahu was motivated by simple domestic politics, a desire to drum up support before upcoming elections. Racism or killing babies for votes, take your choice. If that is the case, I think Netanyahu may have made the biggest miscalculation in Israeli history. Since the last time Israel waged war on its occupied territories the Arab Spring has occurred, as well as an explosion of social media in the Middle East. He is making millions of new enemies for Israel across the Muslim world, this is not the road to peace.

I have a friend in Egypt. She’s an engineer, an educated and good person, someone anyone would be proud to have as a friend. And yes, a supporter of democracy and secular values in her nation. IE she is not some jihadist wing-nut who spends her time calling for the destruction of Israel.  This is what she posted on Facebook about the current Gaza violence:

“May your skies forever rain with rockets … may you never sleep in peace … my you never have a worry-free smile … may you never live in peace … may you never be safe as long as you live on Palestinian lands … go back to where you came from … to where they kicked you out and burned you alive … “

And note she was careful to say that this sentiment is directed at the baby killers in the IDF, not all Jews or Israelis. To put it mildly, Operation Pillar of Defence, is not going over well with Israel’s neighbors. That’s because it is a genocidal cowardly attack on a helpless population, a population Israel has kept imprisoned in stateless limbo since 1967. That Americans fall for Netanyahu’s siege mentality and disproportionate brutality is a sad reflection of how our western media simply regurgitates Israeli propaganda as if it were fact. If a population of Jews or Christians were being treated the way Israel treats the Palestinians in the occupied territories, Americans and the mainstream press would be foaming at the mouth with the injustice of it all. Yes, hypocrisy has become America’s core value.

Merry Christmas indeed.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. This won’t be my last post on Netanyahu’s insanity, and if it goes on, they will get even less diplomatic than this post.)

Written by unitedcats

November 19, 2012 at 7:48 am

Gaza Madness

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I want to write a post about the current situation in Gaza about as much as I want a root canal. Sigh. That means I must write one. It’s both a painful and a touchy subject personally. Worse, much much worse, globally this could easily lead to a wider war. It’s not like everything is hunky dory in the Middle East right now, this is going to inflame hatred further throughout the region. That’s never a good thing.

So, what’s going on? Well, it’s pretty simple. There’s been a lot of cross border incidents in the past year, including rocket attacks by various factions in Gaza. Israel assassinated a Hamas leader, Ahmed Jabari, on November 14th. Some rockets were fired out of Gaza in retaliation. And Israel escalated into launching large scale attacks and is threatening a ground invasion. In other words, Netanyahu chose to start and escalate this now, it’s not debatable. In fact the Hamas leader that was killed was in the process of trying to negotiate a permanent cease fire with Israel. Good thing they blew him away, eh? That’ll teach those Palestinians to try and work out a lasting peace with Israel. And of course England and the USA have fallen all over themselves supporting Israel. Western press coverage is simperingly pro-Israel. A blog dedicated to that is in the works.

Background: Israel has the military advantage by orders of magnitude. Israel wields one of the world’s greatest militaries. Gaza isn’t even on the charts. This is not a contest between equals, or anything even remotely close to it. Gaza is legally Israeli occupied territory. Israel captured it from Egypt in 1967. They pulled their troops out a few years ago, and imposed a crushing blockade on the territory. Hamas is the effective government of Gaza, though there are militants not under their control. Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas. The blockade has eased since the Egyptian revolution, Egypt has relaxed the blockade along their border with Gaza.

Why did Netanyahu attack? Damned if I know. He’s certainly a bellicose fellow. Some speculate he is doing it to get votes in an upcoming election. There’s speculation that he is trying to scuttle negotiations with Iran. There have been many rockets fired from Gaza in the past year by various factions, but no one in Israel has been killed. The timing of Netanyahu’s attack is very suspicious. If Netanyahu thinks waging war on Gaza will stop rocket attacks, why didn’t it work last time? Why launch the attack when Hamas wanted to talk permanent cease fire?

As of my writing this, Netanyahu is launching more attacks. I think it’s crazy. Weakening Hamas will just strengthen more radical Palestinian factions. And since this will likely strengthen Hamas, wtf? The attack gives hard liners in Egypt more traction, not to mention in Syria. The attack is also triggering anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment throughout the world, I don’t see how that is in Israel’s interests. And somehow I doubt Obama appreciates another layer of added complication to the Middle East situation. Lastly, the US’s enemies around the globe will be looking at this to see if they can exploit it in any way. Yeah, the USA needed that.

In other words, Netanyahu is risking terrible regional or even global consequences in order to strengthen his hand in elections. That strikes me as criminally insane. Yet some Americans are cheering him on. That’s just ordinary insane. There are Palestinians and Israelis working for peace, the Netanyahu government isn’t among them, and in fact is doing its best to perpetuate the violence.

The bottom line, the one so many in the west refuse to understand, is that Israel has held all the cards since 1967. (Since 1948 actually.) Yet instead of annexing the occupied territories, or letting them declare independence, Israel has kept them in stateless limbo for decades while slowly stealing their land bit by bit. Not to mention constantly and routinely using military force in the occupied territories, both a  threat and an actuality that dwarfs the threat of Hamas rockets in Israel. Israel reaps what it sows, and it has been sowing war for decades.

My heart goes out to all the innocent people in the region, they as always are the victims. God help us all if this war spreads.

(The above image was taken from a Gazan web site, it claims to show some of the current violence. I’m claiming it as Fair Use, and since I am critical of Netanyahu’s current attack, hopefully the copyright holder wouldn’t object. And if it turns out the picture isn’t what it claims, well, the blarney is flowing thick and fast from almost every faction in this ugly mess. Just turn on the mainstream news or look at Wikipedia.)

Written by unitedcats

November 16, 2012 at 7:32 am

Enraged Muslims, Bloodthirsty Americans, Lies, Bigotry, and More Lies. Just Another Monday.

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Well, it’s certainly getting interesting over in the Middle East. The response to it around these parts is pretty interesting too. Neither are the good kind of interesting, they are the cursed form of interesting. As the putative Chinese curse goes: “May you live in interesting times.” In really local news, I, for the first time ever, banned a commenter. His comments just got angrier and angrier, and I’m not even sure why. I certainly didn’t get into it with him, he mostly just seemed to be really upset about stuff I was posting. My blog, my opinions. And I try to be respectful of others, I can’t read hard core conservative or liberal  (or whatever) blogs because they are so, well, personally insulting of the other side’s beliefs. In any event, I’m  not angry at Steve. I used to fly off the handle like that myself, I hope he finds peace someday. Clearly reading my blog wasn’t helping him any in that sense.

People can and do get outraged by stuff they read. Or, say, see in a movie trailer. And in the right context, can get violent over it. People get irrationally violent over all sorts of things. All depends on how propagandized and and programmed they are. Typically people believe violence on their side’s part is rational, and violence on the other side’s part is irrational. And they believe this so strongly that for the most part there’s no point even trying to debate with them. They have such a negative perception  of the other side that they can’t even begin to see it from their perspective, and judge it by their own standards. Standards which are often culturally or otherwise enforced in spades. This is how some Americans were able to rationalize civilian deaths in Vietnam. The Vietnamese were Buddhists, they believed in reincarnation, so dying wasn’t a big deal for them. I hope most of my readers can see that this is a profoundly racist and culturally imperialist view, which basically reduces the other side to the status of little more than animals to be butchered without remorse. Leaders of all sides, with few exceptions, espouse this sort of toxic nonsense.

Which brings us the the current sorry state of affairs in the Middle East and beyond. Anti-American and anti-western riots. People dead. Those crazy Muslims is the typical refrain in the west, rioting over a movie trailer. Proof that Islam is a violent (read: irrational and primitive) religion? I mean, these people are rioting and making death threats because their religion was insulted, how irrational does it get? Well, when one has been taught since birth that Muslims and Arabs are inherently violent primitive people who don’t want peace, despite all the west has done for them, it sound irrational as hell. This is the beauty of propaganda, once people have internalized it, they will believe the most egregious nonsense. Not only will they believe it, many of them will actively seek news that reinforces their belief. It’s called confirmation bias. This is how Hitler was able to convince many Germans that they lost World War One because of the Jews. Were the Germans being prejudiced believing this? You betcha.

By now my more astute readers may have discerned where I am going with this. At the risk of losing friends, not that I have a whole lot of friends, a person that thinks Islam is a violent religion compared to say, Christianity and Judaism … is a bigot. While this movie trailer is the catalyst for the riots, it’s not the cause. The cause is decades of western crimes against Muslim nations in the Middle East and central Asia. We’re talking war, occupation, ethnic cleansing, and arming brutal undemocratic governments that were in the west’s pocket. The sorts of things that Americans would be seething with rage about had they been on the receiving end. Look how apeshit many Americans went after 9/11, yet many Muslim countries have suffered and continue to suffer at western hands crimes that kill far more people than 9/11. It’s OK though according to many in the west, the Muslims brought it on themselves with their violence.

And so the violence continues, with all sides believing egregious nonsense about the other side. And far too many leaders on both sides doing their best to reinforce the prejudices their followers hold. Clinton and Obama gave lovely speeches basically calling Muslims violent primitive savages, of course all couched in oh-so-reasonable language, and the media was all-too-happy to reinforce this prejudice with endless stories about Muslims rioting over the movie trailer, completely without any context as to why there might be seething discontent in many Muslim countries directed towards the west. Whoever translated movie this trailer into English has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in reinforcing western prejudice against Muslims, frankly I suspect Israeli counter-intelligence is behind that. The timing was just too perfect.

What will happen now? Damned if I know. Christians, Jews, and Muslims have lots in common. All are easily propagandized and all will support and execute amazing levels of violence. And in the modern world where propaganda is so easily and widely disseminated, it’s a problem. Add to it a situation where many or most leaders on many fronts have made the sociopathic calculation that a war now will advance their interests in the long run, and we have a recipe for a wider or even a global war. Stay tuned.

“It takes two fools to have a fight.”

(The above image is all over Facebook, so again, no clue on copyright.  Not being used for profit yadda yadda yadda. Yes, it would be nice if Jesus, Moses, and Mohamed came back and told their followers to cool their jets. Not going to happen of course, since dead people don’t come back, ever. Maybe if the aliens tied everyone to a chair for a few days and showed them images of what violence actually accomplishes. That’s my plan for peace. And if they don’t do that, maybe they could take those of us who still want to live in peace with their neighbours away? A man can dream.)

The View from the Other Side

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Well, isn’t that an interesting image? An Egyptian friend of mine posted it on Facebook. She’s obviously some sort of radical Muslim who hates America for our freedoms. I’d say “snort,” but I’m willing to bet there are many Americans who wouldn’t see it any other way. No, she’s an engineer, and one of the many people who have been working hard to transform Egypt into a democracy. Yes, she is a Muslim. That a person is a Muslim is as revealing about them as saying someone is a Jew or a Christian. IE it means nothing, Muslims, Jews, and Christians are all over the map when it comes to their ideologies … from violent fundamentalists to tolerant moderates working to bring their religion into the 21st century. My friend doesn’t hate America, but she has nothing good to say about Clinton or Obama. And for good reason, they provided aid and comfort (not to mention weapons) to the Mubarak regime long after the writing was on the wall. Imagine if American Tea Party protesters were fired on by tear gas canisters made in Egypt,  pretty safe bet many Americans wouldn’t be happy about it.

My friend also had the humanity to say that the text in the image aside, it was still a touching picture of a woman reunited with her child. This is something a lot of Americans seem to lack these days, humanity. At least when it comes to people in foreign countries. They profess “concern” for the state of women in Afghanistan for example, but don’t seem able to grasp that our war is most definitely killing women and children. Not to mention maiming and killing Americans, while leaving others deeply scared psychologically. War is ugly, not some comic book World War Two superhero fantasy where our heroes save the world from a global menace. The Taliban aren’t a global menace, they aren’t even a local menace. In fact they are human beings, with families and kids too. Afghans are actually an incredibly hospitable people, I have a couple of friends travelling around the country now. If you aren’t associated with the occupation forces, or trying to convert people to Christianity, people in Afghanistan are perfectly friendly to foreigners.

Moving right along,  even though I haven’t even written a post about chemtrails, the commenters are already into it. Even 9/11 got brought up. Ah well. I was struck by one comment though. Someone pointed out that the collapse of the WTC buildings isn’t “rocket science.” Um, understanding the effects of  flying a jet liner at 400 miles an hour into a building certainly sounds like rocket science to me.  Sadly it’s already clear to me, even without research, that the proponents of the chemtrails conspiracy theory are approaching the problem the same way 9/11 Truthers approach their problem. In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there is substantial overlap between the two groups. Oh well, I will get around to a chemtrails post. Some day.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, check out this story on the BBC no less: Organic food ‘not any healthier’  This is a wonderful example of how the mainstream media outlets are just propaganda organs for giant corporations. This “study” was carefully set up to give the result they wanted. The participants were only studied for two years, no one claims that organic food confers measurable health benefits in two years. It’s like having two runners race for a meter, then claiming it’s a tie so they must run at the same speed. Worse, it completely ignores the fact that many people buy organic not just for the health benefits, but for many other reasons as well. Organic farms are better for the environment, a desire to avoid giving money to the giant processed food conglomerates, a desire to buy locally, a desire to avoid pesticide exposure, and even the fact that organic food comes in more varieties and is often tastier than the corporate produced all-the-same junk like tomatoes. All of this will be missed by the average reader of the BBC article, who will just see it as more reinforcement of the “those stupid hippies” meme. F**k you BBC and Stanford University.(And anyone who reads my posts at all knows I am not a health food activist, far from it.)

I’ll probably have to hide in the Ecuadoran embassy myself after this post. Well, hopefully it’s not that bad. I didn’t write a post Monday because it was Labour Day, and I was resting from my labours. Thank you labour movement from getting us such things as weekends and vacations.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s all over Facebook so it may be public domain. No clue who to credit it too. There was one other reason I posted the image, and astute regular commenters might be able to discern it. Might. I should also point out that no offence is meant to American service members, it’s America’s leaders and war apologists I am criticizing by publishing the image.)

Written by unitedcats

September 5, 2012 at 6:17 am

War Dreams

with 5 comments

I have to admit that the situation in Syria and the Middle East is a little disturbing. Maybe a lot disturbing. In the normal course of events the rebellion would be crushed in Syria, but we are no longer within the normal course of events. And the Syrian mess is horribly intertwined with Israel’s threat to attack Iran, and the spreading instability from Syria … Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey are already getting spillover. And on the “World News” tonight on TV: The Washington Shooting, Immigration, Domestic politics, and … drum roll … the Loch Ness Monster. Yes dear reader, the sole actual international story on the American news tonight was about the latest Loch Ness Monster hoax. They didn’t call it a hoax though. And then they claimed people have been seeing the Loch Ness Monster since the seventh century. That, in the common or orc speech, is called a lie. Loch Ness Monster sightings date from 1933, which should have ended all the silliness long ago.

Yes, I’m digressing all over the place again. Syria, what’s to be done? I tried writing a blog post. Turns out just understanding the history of Syria is a few blog posts on its own, maybe dozens. Add current events and its a real conundrum. I’ll try and sum it up. Under the guise of supporting a democratic uprising in Syria, the USA and Israel are destabilizing Syria to further isolate Iran, and maybe even force it to capitulate on its nuclear program. Russia and China are supporting the status quo in Syria, and for the moment at least have forestalled direct NATO involvement. No lines in the sand have been drawn yet though. Everyone else in the region is trying to look after themselves, which sadly includes huge numbers of civilians and refugees at this point. And to spice up the mix, Israel is openly talking about a “30 day war” with Iran. And the Iranians responded with stupid sabre rattling of their own.

Fun fun times. It’s impossible to say where this will lead, but I don’t really see how this is going to lead to more peace and stability in the region. Syria, like so many Middle Eastern and African nations, isn’t  a natural nation, just lines on the map drawn by France and England after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War One. That bodes ill for any peaceful end to this. The ongoing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan also bode ill for Syria, ten years after the west “liberated” them they are still failed states with no end in sight. Even Egypt’s new president has called for “regime change” in Syria, while criticizing Muslim on Muslim violence, especially during Ramadan. Encouraging violence while simultaneously criticizing it, I don’t even begin to understand that.

And then there’s Israel’s threat to carry out an extended bombing campaign against Iran. Sigh. The Israelis seem determined to keep themselves isolated and hated among nations of the Middle East, they are so stuck in siege mode that they can’t seem to imagine anything else. Once one has convinced oneself that their enemies are sub-human savages, it’s a short trip to believing that violence is the only option. Again, I can’t even imagine what the fallout from an Israeli war on Iran would entail. Though I certainly don’t imagine it leading to peace in the Middle East and a democratic western oriented regime in Iran.  An Israeli attack on Iran would be Muslim militant fundamentalist’s wet dream though. That’s another aspect of this mess that’s appalling, so many of the actors seem to be deliberately taking steps that will lead to more Islamic militants and more terrorism. Madness, ignorance, or design? Damned if I know.

To me it’s clear that anyone who says they understand what’s going on the Middle East now is a liar or a fool. Decades ago a wag said that “If God is dead, he died trying to solve the Middle East Problem.” Truer now than ever. I think modern propaganda is making the situation worse, it has been a terrible force for polarization and tunnel vision. Having everyone in the region armed to the teeth isn’t helping any either. I also think Israel is one of the worst actors in the whole unwholesome mess, as I think their goal is to create a situation where they can ethnically cleanse the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the name of “national security.” The USA is running  a close second, our foreign policy is so driven by domestic affairs that it has lost touch with reality. I don’t think anyone involved has pure motives though, at least not the major players. And of course I could be utterly wrong about any or all of this.

And here in America in the run-up to the fall presidential elections, we are having a spirited national debate on the wisdom of our militant and aggressive foreign policy. Snort. Nope, we have two war party’s calling the other side “soft on defence.” The one candidate, Ron Paul, actually calling for some sanity in our foreign policy is ignored or hated depending on who’s doing the ignoring or the hating. Lot’s of hating going around, that’s the one constant in all of this, domestically and in the Middle East. Yeah, that always ends well.

Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law, having been painted in 1872 by Peter Nicolai Arbo, Norway 1831-1892. It’s titled Åsgårdsreien, or in English, The Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is a common myth across Northern Europe, it’s the sighting of a group of spectral hunters and hounds tearing across the sky. Sightings of it are often supposed to be an omen of disaster or war. I think the gentle reader can discern why I found it an appropriate illustration for this post.)

Written by unitedcats

August 17, 2012 at 7:23 am

Men Behaving Nobly

with 4 comments

A few years back I wrote a series on “Men Behaving Badly.” So it occurs to me I should write a companion series about men behaving nobly. It does happen, not as often as I would like, but it’s a good start. Honestly I think most people’s behaviour is pretty much dependent on their peers and social pressure, so under bad circumstances … normal people do bad things. Some don’t though, and this series is dedicated to people who did the right thing at the wrong time.

And my first example is Friedrich Lengfeld, pictured above. He was a lieutenant in the German army during 1944. This was World War Two, so yes, he was fighting for Hitler and Germany. November 12 of 1944 to be exact. In the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. The Battle of Hurtgen Forest was one of America’s bloodiest and least remembered battles in World War Two. This is because for months the Americans tried to capture this dense forest on the borders of Germany and Belgium. Unit after unit was set in, bloodied, and pulled out, more than 30,000 Americans were killed and wounded. Why is it little remembered? Because it was one of the stupidest battles in history, there was absolutely no reason to take this heavily defended forest from the Germans. I’m not making this up, it was the longest ground battle fought in Germany in World War Two, and the longest battle the US Army has ever fought.

Moving right along, it’s morning in the forest. Lt Lengfeld was a rifle company commander, that’s a hundred guys or more under his command. An American had been injured in a minefield near their position and was calling for help.  Lt Lengfeld ordered his men not to shoot when Americans came to help him, but none did, his unit had pulled back and didn’t hear him. The cries for help went on for hours. Finally Lt Lengfeld could listen no longer. He led a party of volunteers out to save the American soldier. He was that kind of leader, he wouldn’t ask his men to do anything he wouldn’t do. He didn’t make it. Before he even got to the American he stepped on a land mine, and eight hours later had died of his wounds. History does not record the fate of the wounded American.

In fact history almost didn’t record the fate of Lt Lengfeld, but one of his men told the story for posterity some years later. So Lt Lengfeld is mildly famous in Germany, at least they have a wikipedia entry about him. And there’s a minor postscript to this story. In 1994 some American veterans of the battle heard Lt Lengfeld’s story, and arranged to set up a memorial to him in the German military cemetery where he is buried. It is the only war memorial for a German soldier set up by Americans in Germany.

And that’s that. Ha. That’s never that. I can certainly admire Lt Lengfeld for his sacrifice, it was a noble thing to do. It’s too bad it was a part of something so ignoble that it defies imagination. (Trust me, aliens find human wars incomprehensible.) One could be unfair and wonder if he would have done the same for a French … or Russian … soldier. That was a much more bitter war, there actually wasn’t much hatred between Americans and Germans during World War Two. Except for the aforementioned caveat about wars in general. Maybe I’ll see if I can find a similar act of compassion on the Russian front. I’m not optimistic, but people can be surprising. Oh, wait, reviewing my memory … I thought of one. Tomorrow, a German soldier tries to stop the slaughter of Russian Jews! Good enough! Peace out!

(I don’t know the copyright status of images taken by Hitler’s regime, but I am going to assume since I’m not using it for profit, and I’m saying good things about Lt Lengfeld and Germans, I’m good. It’s the only picture of him I can find. He kind of looks like my uncle Leonard, but likely just the German look, it runs in the family.)

Written by unitedcats

April 10, 2012 at 6:07 am

What The Hell Is That?

with 7 comments

The answer is in a very first few lines so the gentle reader should stop reading now if they wish to guess.

Picture identification day on Doug’s Darkworld, what the hell is that thing? A wormhole opening? A UFO? A ghost? Nope, it’s a photograph of a small nuclear explosion about 3 milliseconds after detonation. I wouldn’t have had a clue either. The fireball is about 20 metres in diameter at this point. It was taken by a very special camera at an exposure of about 3 microseconds, that’s three one millionths of a second. Pretty amazing technology for the early 1950s, and I am especially curious as to how the camera survived the blast. Or even how the film survived the initial burst of radiation and light, which had already passed it when this picture was “snapped.” My admittedly limited research into this didn’t yield an easy answer at least.

Moving right along though, the image has a number of features that bear explaining. This bomb was set off atop a tower, the base of the tower can be seen below the explosion. As well as a number of downward projecting spikes, the first oddity that demands explanation. This is called the rope trick effect, and only occurs in blasts where the bomb was on a tower stayed by guy lines, never in air bursts or ground bursts or underground bursts. It was theorized that these are the remains of the guy lines that were vaporized and blasted away by the initial flash of light the explosion generated, the brighter than a million suns light  ignites anything flammable close to the explosion light. To test this, bombs were set off with the guy lies painted in reflective paint or covered in tin foil. No rope trick effect in such blasts, theory proved. Yes, a flash of light so strong that it can vaporize and propel steel cables through the air, scary.

So what exactly are we seeing here anyhow, aside from the rope trick effect? The surface of the explosion is the actual blast wave, or hydrodynamic shock front, propagating outward. The surface of the sphere is glowing because at this stage the blast wave is so strong that it is literally compressing and igniting the atmosphere ahead of it. As the shock wave expands and grows weaker it stops igniting the air and becomes invisible, a process known as breakaway. Scientists studying bombs still wanted to study the shock wave after it becomes invisible, and thought of a way to do this. Look for the upright white spikes below and to the right of the blast. These are smoke trails made by small rockets fired off a few seconds before the bomb itself. As the shock wave passes though these smoke trails they will be visually distorted, and thus the shock wave can be timed and studied even though it is invisible. Slicker than whale shit as we used to say in the service.

Lastly, what accounts for the mottled appearance of the surface of the shock wave? Well, the bomb itself and its mount are made out of matter, and this matter is literally turned into clouds of particles being blasted outwards at tens of kilometres per second by the explosion. Then these clouds of matter “splash” against the back of the shock wave, and are mottled because the matter around the bomb varies in amount and density. Yes, these are clouds of atomized, not just vaporized, matter.

Now I wouldn’t swear to this, but I think this is basically the moment when the nuclear explosion essentially starts to act like a normal explosion. The nuclear part of the explosion is over, and what is pictured here is a ball of incredibly hot gas under unimaginable pressure. It’s going to make a huge mess as it dissipates.

Is there a point to this post? Not really. I just thought the photo and the explanation for the features of it were fascinating. Well, maybe an implied comment about the obsessive lengths humans take to devise ever more efficient methods of killing each other. In that vein, yes, there’s something terribly terribly wrong with this picture.

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law, being produced by a Federal employee in the course of their duties. The bomb pictured above was one of a series of bomb tests called Operation Tumbler-Snapper, conducted in 1952. Yes, this bomb no doubt created some fallout, one of the reasons most nuclear tests are conducted underground these days. Also, the fallout from an above ground burst could give important information about the nature of the bomb to other nations, something else that no doubt contributed to the USA’s willingness to go to underground testing.)

Written by unitedcats

December 11, 2011 at 8:58 pm

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