Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

JEFFREY EPSTEIN’S DEATH IS AN ILLUSION

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Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in his New York jail cell. He tried to do so once before, and was placed on a suicide watch. That apparently was lifted recently, but that seems to be unclear at this point. So all we really know is that he’s dead, an apparent suicide. Suicide by prison inmates is sadly all too common, their suicide rate is 1 ½ to 2 times the rate for the population at large. And it wouldn’t be the first time that someone in his position killed himself rather than face the music and more than likely the rest of his life behind bars. So at this point, since utterly no evidence to the contrary has been raised, there’s no reason to think his death is anything more than it appears to be.

Yes, there were certainly people who wanted him dead. Yes, there are people breathing easier now knowing Epstein can’t implicate them. Yes, people have been murdered to prevent their testimony. However, none of this is evidence. It’s certainly an excellent reason to investigate his death thoroughly. It is not in any way, shape, or form proof of anything. Yet I have already heard from people who are already convinced that their must be more to his death. Convinced that foul play is the only possible interpretation. And that anyone who doesn’t get this is an idiot.

Sigh, thus this is where we separate out the people prone to conspiracy ideation, and those more inclined to rational thought. I knew the minute I heard about his death that the conspiracy mongers were going to have a field day, and they wasted no time at all. From big to small, from both sides of the political divide. “Ocasio-Cortez demands ‘answers’ after Epstein found dead in jail cell.” And “Trump promotes Epstein-Clintons conspiracy theory, the latest in a pattern of baseless claims spread by President.” Yes, bipartisan dumbfuckery. So much of it that even the BBC reported on it.

The problem I see in all this is that it’s further blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. And reinforcing the already ridiculous conspiracy theories like Qanon and the Clinton Body Count. And most of all reinforcing the utterly illogical thought process that leads from “well, that was convenient for some people” to “you’re an idiot if you think Epstein killed himself.” Plus there are all sorts of problems with even the idea of a murder. Anyone with the power to pull something like that off also had the power to make any Epstein revelations go away. Not to mention the very considerable risk of exposure such a murder would involve. I’m not seeing any thinking or analysis though, just lots of people leaping to conclusions.

I know I write about the modern disconnect with reality I see a lot. I try to look at it from different perspectives. It’s changed so much since when I was a kid. Back then the TV news was produced by independent companies, and for the most part tried to portray the news. And almost every night there would be fresh footage of Americans fighting in Vietnam. When was the last time we got to see that in the news? Seven wars and counting, against mind numbingly poor countries on the other side of the globe, all to protect our freedoms?  Among so many other whoppers that pass for reality these days. In the post 9/11 world all our overseas wars all but disappeared from the TV. And what passes for news is produced by one of the handful of mega corporations that own more of America every day.

That aside, what now? If there was any actual funny business with Epstein’s death, I expect it will unravel fairly quickly. Political assasination among the top ranks in the west is unknown for a reason. If someone was so stupid as to do so, doubtless they did a bad job of it, and evidence will sooon emerge. Huge crisis then, if it turned out Trump or Clinton ordered some sort of amateur hit, that would be a deal breaker for a lot of people. Especially a lot of very powerful people who were peers of Epstein, it could easily get as ugly as Watergate, the 9/11 of politics of this decade. Woohoo. I will have lots to blog about if he was murdered. Fun times.

I kinda expect this will be like Russiagate, birtherism, pick your conspiracy theory. It will be pumped up by parties that benefit from it, but otherwise just make future historians scratch their heads. No actual evidence will be presented, but that hardly matters these days. Or it will be things like, “Look, the prison guard who gave Epstein his last meal grew up in the same state as Chelsea Clinton!” Or “They changed the font on page 2345 of the investigation report, numerology translates that into Chelsea backwards!” OK, the second one is far fetched. Hopefully the gentle reader can parse what I mean, it’s my only hope.

There’s also the possibility that some other unlikely event chain will unfold. The future is like that, anything can happen. It will turn out the queen or someone equally unlikely was involved. It will turn out Epstein was a spy for the CIA. Or the Moonies. Or Putin. Or Kim. Epstein was secretly a love child of Walter Cronkite and the Queen. Or he was secret leader of the KKK. Or he was a Lizard person or an alien. Granted some of those possibilities are so unlikely that they probably wouldn’t occur in the lifetime of multiple universes, but nothing is impossible. That’s how science rolls people.

What we know won’t happen, what we can predict with absolute certainty, there is zero chance of: The investigation determines that Epstein died just as it looked, a nasty loser killed himself out of shame or whatnot. And everyone breathes a sigh of relief and moves on with their lives. Ain’t gonna happen. nope. You can bet on that one.

Have a great week everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image:A Facebook meme. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. Will attribute or remove as needed should the copyright holder contact me.)

Written by unitedcats

August 12, 2019 at 4:02 am

“THE TRIUMPH OF BELIEF OVER REALITY”

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I read this article  just the other day, and it certainly has parallels to some of my recent thinking. It also supplied the title for this post. So,  I was in the bank the other day, and an old farmer was telling some acquaintance a new quote he had heard, some of my readers may have heard it before. “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35 you have no brain.” He spoke it as if it were words of wisdom from Jesus himself, it had obviously impressed and amused him. (As an aside, it dates from only 1875 or so, so not Jesus.) I didn’t say anything because he wasn’t speaking to me. I’ve certainly heard if before, because I have been spending time in conservative social sites for decades, it’s a popular  saying.

Part of the reason I didn’t say anything, is that I didn’t know what to say. The statement is so sweeping and merciless in both its generalization and judgmentalism that it pretty much rejects any disagreement out of hand. Basically, the people who believe this statement are saying “I’m conservative, so I’m smart, liberals are stupid.” Disagree with it, why you just proved how stupid you are, you must be a liberal! And the ugly truth is that a lot of conservatives have come to believe this implicitly, they are smart, liberals are stupid.

Often still see it with Obama, conservatives routinely talk about how stupid he is. I’ve yet to hear one explain exactly what they mean by that. Obama got an advanced law degree from Harvard, with honors. Pretty sure a fair amount of smarts are needed to accomplish that. I mean, just listen to his speeches, one may disagree with what he is saying, but he is articulate and educated. Appartently many on today’s American right don’t see that, they hear him say things they disagree with, so they believe him to be stupid. Again, they believe it implicitly.

And belief is what it comes down to. The right has so normalized the belief that they are smart, anyone who disagrees is stupid, that social pressure and their political leaders have transformed and ingrained all sorts of opinions into beliefs. In fact what they believe and don’t believe has become their world view. They don’t believe in evolution. They believe in God. They don’t believe in climate change. They believe liberals are stupid. They believe in Trump. This is why his followers are so loyal, unlike so many other GOP leaders, he was able to convert political support into belief. Probably because unlike the politicians he swept aside in his march to the nomination, he’s a con artist. And if there’s one thing con artists do well, it’s believe in themselves. They believe in themselves so strongly that others are swept up in the con.

The problem, and the problem has been growing for decades, Trump is just the apogee of it so far,  is a lot of their beliefs are simply not true. And there’s almost no way to change people’s thinking once they have substituted belief for reality. Even when they are smart, and plenty of conservatives are quite smart, it’s really easy for a smart person to use false arguments and confirmation bias to make their beliefs impervious to fact and logical argument. And the rise of social media, talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, and Faux News has wildly exacerbated the problem.

When I was a young man conservatives and liberals disagreed on a lot of stuff, but at least the basic outline of reality was agreed upon. And debate was possible, at least among most people. There have always been extremists in all camps, but in the conservative camp the extremists have taken over. Even their view of liberals is divorced from reality. Very very few liberals want open borders, Soviet style socialism, or wholesale gun confiscation. Yet that and much more is what I see conservatives routinely characterize liberals as. How do you debate with people who not only have major reality testing problems, but supply both sides of the debate while they are at it?

Damned if I know, but I keep trying. That’s part of the reason I blog. Granted liberals have their own reality testing issues. Russiagate being the big one at the moment. And characterizing all Trump supporters as mouth breathing racists. Neither of those conflicts with basic science, neither of those are going to hurt anyone but the liberals themselves. Basic science denial like global warming denial or evolution denial,  yeah, those are going to cause big problems down the line. The former may be the death of us all, and the latter means raising children who are scientifically illiterate.

I don’t know how this mess is going to all fall out, but I’m not optimistic. To paraphrase: “Reality bats last.” Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An imaginary reality. Credit: Unknown, Snappygoat image, Public Domain under US copyright law..)

Written by unitedcats

August 9, 2019 at 4:16 am

THIS IS WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

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Another mass shooting in the USA. In a mall in El Paso, just over the border from Texas. 20 dead so far. The shooter was a white man from Dallas. Who, oddly enough, was captured alive by police. The shooter released a nativist diatribe online shortly before he began his massacre. He was apparently targeting Latinos, some authorities are investigating it as a hate crime. These appear to be the salient facts as of my writing this. I used to hang out in that mall, so this hits close to home.

There’s a lot to say here. I will try to be clear with my facts. And hopefully clear with my reasoning. There is always room for reasonable people to disagree. Alas, we live in an era where stringing together logical fallacies passes for reason in many quarters. There is one thing we know pretty much for sure, nothing will be done, nothing will change. After the required period of hand wringing and finger pointing, America the Paralyzed will continue on to the next atrocity..

Mass shootings like this didn’t used to happen so frequently, it’s not normal. It’s very rare in other countries. That alone makes it very difficult to parse these events. What has changed in the past few decades? What is it that makes events like this all too common now? It’s not the availability of guns, guns have always been widely available in America. And they were used, blacks and native Americans were all too often massacred. Entire villages, neighborhoods, towns were killed. By white people I should add. Then it tapered off and from the mid twentieth century until about 1980 we saw a big downturn in mass violence. Things like the Texas Tower Shooting were rare events. Then the uptick in mass violence by individuals took off, and here we are today, mass shootings on a regular basis.

How the hell did this happen? My guess is that it’s a combination of three things. The economy stopped working for the poor and working class around 1980. Military style weapons designed for mass killing are easily obtainable. And a huge rise in, well, hate rhetoric. The combination of the three has been pushing unstable loners over the edge. A culture that glorifies violence and retribution hasn’t helped either. But there’s no way to deal with these issues, because most Americans are in denial about them.

Granted liberals have their own reality testing issues, but by God the right wing echo chamber is so filled with nonsense these days it’s hard to know where to start. The El Paso shooter’s manifesto goes into a lot of his “thinking” in great detail. No thought involved though. He goes into the paranoid right wing theory about how the Democrats want open borders so they can flood the country with immigrants who will vote for them. Um, if this is the Democrats’ plan, it has to be the stupidest plan ever invented. And look how well it’s working out for them, the GOP controls about 2/3rds of state legislatures, the Senate, and the White House. I’ve yet to meet a Democrat who wanted open borders either. The whole theory is embarrassingly stupid.

And then the idea that the country is being “invaded” and “white culture is being replaced.” Waves of immigrants have been landing in America for centuries. Takes about three generations for them to assimilate, but assimilate they always have. Yes, it’s possible to get good Mexican food almost everywhere in the country now. This is a problem? Were gangs of Mexicans forcing our shooter to eat tacos against his will? Was his fruit picking job taken by an immigrant? No, the people who have been making life hard for the average American the past four decades are in Washington and Wall Street. They are the ones sending jobs overseas, giving tax breaks to the rich, and turning America into one big company town.

Sadly at this point even debate with people who hold such beliefs is pretty much out of the question. Decades of Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones saying “Liberals stupid and bad, conservatives smart” have raised a whole generation of people who think anyone who disagrees with them is an idiot. There were plenty of “America, love it or leave it” people when I was a kid, but with the rise of the Limbaugh/Fox News echo chamber the attitude has gotten far more hostile. Worse, political leaders perfectly happy to pit Americans against each other while their corporate overlords destroy the middle and working class are in power all over the country now. I’m in a few conservative online groups, and no debate is possible with them..

There are perfectly reasonable measures that would make it harder for unstable losers to get their hands on AK-47 and M-16 type weapons, but the GOP won’t allow that. Might cut into gun and ammo sales. There is exactly zero chance the Dems are going to try and take away people’s guns, but fear driven agendas are what the GOP is all about now. Fear of immigrants, fear of gun control, fear that whites will end up being discriminated against minority. As if. White males still own the goddamn world for Christ’s sake, and America is their ultimate stronghold. Because gay bashing is now a crime doesn’t threaten anyone’s rights.

Anyhow, here is the link to the El Paso shooter’s manifesto. It’s mostly just sad and misguided. Like a moldy fruitcake. And factually challenged on many levels. I’d deconstruct it further, but why bother. Those that can still think logically will have no trouble spotting the obvious problems. What a whiny little loser the guy was. And yet some people are defending him. Yeah, gunning down defenseless Americans while they shop at Walmart makes the shooter a big bad freedom fighter. Snort. That Americans cheer the slaughter of Americans is appalling. That leaders try to turn Americans against each other for political gain is beyond appalling, it’s evil incarnate.

So yeah, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Steve King,  and all the others fomenting hatred and intolerance, you’re the problem. You all have blood on your hands. Disagree? Change my mind. (Hint: Calling me stupid followed by a string of logical fallacies won’t do it.)

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Civilians killed by US soldiers during the My Lai massacre. Frankly I think images of the people killed in El Paso and other massacres should be front page news, might wake up a few folks. Credit: Photo taken by United States Army photographer Ronald L. Haeberle, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 5, 2019 at 4:34 am

RANDOM FRIDAY NONSENSE

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In a desperate bid to come up with a topic to write about, I Googled unsolved scientific mysteries. And as is so often the case, the results were less than stellar. Sure, any number of sites with scientific mysteries, almost all of which were repetitive and, well, boring.  Things like “How did life originate?” or “How did the Universe begin?” I mean yes, they are mysteries, but everyone has heard of them before, and speculation runs rampant. I want mysteries that people have never heard of, we need entertainment here. Fortunately, using advanced Googling techniques I developed in another life, here are some new and exciting mysteries. Science still hasn’t answered everything, only Evangelicals and my old friend Vince can do that. Enjoy:

Facetotecta. It’s a larva, illustrated above. It’s a crustacean. Lots of legs. Lives in various oceans. First described in 1887. What do they grow up into? No one knows! It’s suspected it’s some sort of endoparasite (a parasite that lives inside its host, like a tapeworm.) So, maybe we don’t really want to know. Could be something like this critter, which can never be unseen so don’t click here if you are faint of heart. You were warned, nature trumps Steven King every time when it comes to horror.

And that’s all I could find. I’m just going to forge ahead, God only knows where to. So, August 2nd in history!  Well, the Battle of Cannae, 216 BC. One of the most crushing victories in history. I’ve blogged about it several times no doubt. The Battle of  Chaeronea in 338 BC where Philip II of Macedonia (his kid is pretty famous) destroyed the Greek armies of Athens and her allies. No details of the battle have survived, so no book or movie deals there. The Battle of the Nile raged in 1798, where Admiral Nelson utterly destroyed a French Fleet anchored off Egypt. Napoleon was not happy. August 2nd, a day for crushing victories.

And August 2, 1990, who can forget? Saddam, remember him, invades Kuwait. The bastard! What is always conveniently overlooked is that Kuwait did everything in its very considerable power to goad Saddam into taking military action against them. And clearly they would not have done so without explicit assurances from the USA. So basically Saddam walked into an ambush. And once America finally had an excuse to put boots on the ground in the Middle East, they never left. And that folks is why America’s infrastructure, schools, and health care systems are a disaster to this day. But boy, we really showed those people. (Sarcasm alert.)

Did I mention I’m in a very odd mood today? I suspect it’s clear from my odder than usual musings. Or rantings. Or whatever. Maybe the heat is  getting to me. Moving right along, I came across this interesting article. Basically the Navy’s latest supercarrier, the greatest and most expensive warship ever to be built, is having all sorts of expensive problems. More on point, which the article doesn’t really mention, why, exactly, are we building the greatest warship in history? The last time supercarriers won a war for us was in 1945. Even all our designated enemies combined are no threat to our fleet. Another example of “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Fortunately in the upcoming election we will get to choose between a candidate who will give the military more than it asks for, and a candidate who will give the military all that it needs plus some. On such subtle differences we will all pretend we still live in a democracy. Sorry, drifted into politics there. Is talking about Trump’s claim he was with the first responders on 9/11 politics? With Trump I don’t even know anymore, his miasma has seeped into every pore of American life. I did realize he does have one thing in common with a certain dead dictator. They were both able to inspire fanatical blind loyalty in their core followers. Make of it what you will.

I was going to discuss the Texas tower shooting, 56 years ago yesterday. It’s depressing on multiple levels though. 18 dead, 31 wounded. One of the victims didn’t die until 2001. And depressing because events like that used to be rare. It would be nearly twenty years before a similar crime. Now they are a common occurrence. Maybe the new supercarrier will be able to do something about mass shootings? Oh, right, nothing can be done, the NRA, the fourth branch of government, assures us of that. Phew. And anywise, mass shootings are just a liberal plot to justify taking everyone’s guns away.

I think there was a power surge or some such in the computer that’s running our simulated reality, or maybe a virus. Cause things have sure gotten wonkey in the matrix . Have a great weekend everyone!

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Facetotecta larva. Credit: Pérez-Losada, M., Høeg, J. T., Crandall, K. A. (2009). Remarkable convergent evolution in specialized parasitic Thecostraca (Crustacea). BMC Biology 7:15. doi:10.1186/1741-7007-7-15)

Written by unitedcats

August 2, 2019 at 3:35 am

Posted in History, Politics, Science

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, DEBATES, ETC.

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Yesterday was my birthday. My 62nd orbit around the Sun is concluded. So far, so good. As in I woke up this morning. My life has gotten very simple since I semi-retired. Concentrate on my core friends and family, and my writing. And by my writing, I mean my attempts to understand this amazing reality we find ourselves in, and share my thoughts with the world. The now world, and people in the future. If you’re reading this years or thousands of years after I wrote it: “Hi, glad you’re reading this!” What else is there to say? Oh, right, “Sorry we fucked up the planet so badly!”

I’m not a genius, maybe 90th percentile, at most. And even at that, IQ, is a measure of problem solving ability; and say RAM, the ability to think about a lot of things at once. It’s not related to wisdom, or even logic. Even smart people can believe nonsense. Hell, they can rattle off impressive strings of false arguments. Still, IQ is pretty good at higher levels, and the scary smart people I have been privileged to know were a big influence on my life. Sally Shlaer, Steve Mellor, Peter Berck, my august father. Dozens of others have contributed to my worldview as well.  And so, using this brain gift God or evolution and my mentors gave me, I’ve spent about 60 years trying to make sense of it all.

And today’s theory, reality exists. There is actually a “truth” hiding behind all the clouds of misperception and lies. And using our brains, and the wisdom of countless brains throughout history working on this problem, we can come to some very solid conclusions about reality. Alas, and there’s the rub, due to accidents of our brains’ design, and the machinations of self-interested people, most of the human race believes at least some nonsense. The brain isn’t designed for logic, it’s designed for pattern recognition.

So, those interested in reality, here are the conclusions of a reasonably smart guy who has spent his intellectual life trying to parse the BS from what is real. All of these have codicils of course, reality is indeed complicated with infinite possibilities, nonetheless we as a species have advanced enough to make some pretty accurate determinations of what is real. Science rocks. This is a list of what I believe are true statements. Disagree? Reasonable argument and evidence will change my mind.

  1. Vaccines are safe and effective.
  2. Sleeping in a closed room with a fan will not kill you.
  3. Global warming is real, and humans are causing it.
  4. Glyphosate is harmless to animals and doesn’t cause cancer.
  5. Cell phones are safe and don’t cause cancer.
  6. Smart meters too.
  7. 5G technology as well.
  8. The Earth is an oblate spheroid.
  9. Evolution is a fact.
  10. The Earth is some 4.5 billion years old.
  11. GMOs are not inherently dangerous.
  12. Organic food is a scam.
  13. UFOs are not alien craft.
  14. Ancient aliens is a BS theory.
  15. Bigfoot doesn’t exist.
  16. Nessie doesn’t exist.
  17. Atlantis wasn’t real
  18. Ghosts aren’t real.
  19. Telepathy etc doesn’t exist.
  20. Astrology is mostly BS.
  21. Aside from a few medical conditions, gluten sensitivity isn’t real.
  22. MSG sensitivity isn’t real either.
  23. Nuclear power is the safest form of power generation, all factors considered.

I suspect almost everyone will take umbrage at one or more of these. This is why I will never be a famous blogger. Fortunately I don’t give a damn.

Note I kept the list to the purely scientific, nothing political or historical. That’s another list, for the day when I want to lose the rest of my readers. I’ve become quite the cynic about politics in America these days. I watched one of the Democratic debates last night, an experience akin to being dissected alive by aliens. The most frightening thing about it was how almost every question was framed to normalize oligarch/GOP talking points, and marginalise/discredit any actual reforms to our hideously broken system of government/health care.

As some have pointed out, the whole point of the debate appeared to be ambushing and discrediting Warren and Sanders. It was also kind of scary how so many of the debaters repeatedly referenced Trump, as if he was the problem, not the corporate oligarchy that has been getting ever richer for decades at the expense of the poor and working class. “Anybody but Trump!” will work as well in 2020 as it did in 2016. And even if someone like Sanders does get elected, Trump made all sorts of populist promises too. All of which went out the window after he was elected. Like the populist promises of Obama and Clinton.

Well, we’ll see. I hope America finds its way out of the mess it’s in, and I support the efforts of those working for positive change. I just won’t be blogging about it much. I’ll stick to science, history, space exploration, and interesting things. Anatomically possible suggestions welcome. ;)

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Composite photograph of Lincoln and Douglas, who debated famously in 1858. Mostly about slavery, oddly enough. Credit: Scewing for making the composite. The photographs themselves, and thus their composite, are Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 31, 2019 at 5:04 am

MONDAY MADNESS

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I think I set a record for writing abortive blog posts this weekend. Nothing like getting inspired, writing a few paragraphs, then realizing that not only wasn’t there much to say on the topic, what I had to say wasn’t very interesting. Kafka’s unpublished work was saved for posterity despite his deathbed wishes, and the world is better for it. My unpublished work, the world will  be better off without it. Maybe it’s the heat that sapped me of inspiration, if we get oppressive heat in Iowa, July is the month for it. Today’s forecast: 99 degrees in the shade, real feel 145 degrees. OK, I exaggerate, but not much. Even the squirrels look overheated. How everyone survived yesterday’s big bicycle race through town amazes me.

Speaking of surviving, I just gave in and turned on my AC. Yes, I live in a tiny attic garret, as befits a struggling writer. At least it has AC, otherwise I wouldn’t make it through the summer. I even set up a coffee maker. So basically I can stay up here 24/7, only periodically emerging to forage for food. And it has a nice view of the lake. And of the road out front that was closed for the race. I tried to blind a few riders with a laser pointer, but they were riding too fast. One has to search for entertainment wherever it can be found in rural Iowa.

July 15 in history wasn’t all that interesting either, so no blog help there. I know there’s a new Trump distraction, but I am so done with Trump. Someday he will be gone, they will count the silverware in the White House, generating one last Trump scandal, and he’ll fade into history. Not sure what he’ll do for an encore, but no doubt the media will keep us all informed. (Though that’s a sad use of the word ‘informed.’) Moving right along, my blog fallback plan, dig out some of the interesting links I’ve come across lately and share those. Enjoy!

First, a fascinating article on “dirtbag leftists.” It starts off with:

“The left is in crisis across the West. It is out of power in most countries and out of touch with its historical working-class base. Class politics has given way to identity politics. And noble causes like anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-discrimination have congealed into a stifling morass of political correctness and competitive victimhood.”

Pretty much. Many on the left have retreated into a smarmy know-it-allism that alienates most working class people. “Flyover state” is a pejorative folks. In any event, for those interested in why the Dems keep losing elections, the article is an interesting read.  I also try to keep an eye on the right, and it’s even more dismaying. Pure hatred for anyone not in agreement with them. I’d post some memes from GOP sites, but they’re too depressing.

Then there was this article in the Atlantic. Turns out that concentrating entirely on teaching kids how to read and do math, while pretty much ignoring imparting knowledge to them, has worked out terribly. Gee, who would have thought that failing to impart knowledge to children might not be the best way to educate them? I’ve certainly been one to criticise the “teach the test” route that American schools have gone down the past few decades. God, schools in America must be dreadfully boring places now.

In our third thought provoking link, here’s an article about why the low unemployment numbers trumpeted as such good news aren’t very impressive at all. Turns out there’s been a huge increase in part time workers. Basically huge numbers of “employed” people are scraping by on part time jobs, because they can’t find full time jobs. And then there’s the fact that wages and benefits have been stagnant or worse for a big chunk of the workforce for decades. And no, it’s not because lazy stupid people made bad choices, it’s because the jobs aren’t there. When I was a kid, hard working people could get decent jobs and improve their lot in life. Rising tides did raise all ships. Stopped being true decades ago.

And in this weeks “Unintended consequences” file, healing crystals fund terrorism. On the one hand, that’s depressing. Yeah, the idea that crystals have magic healing powers is, shall we say, unsupported by science. And many will use this information to heap disdain on crystal aficionados. Me, meh, everyone believes in some silly stuff. And pretty sure this is a miniscule part of how fighters in Africa (and presumably elsewhere) fund their operations. More on point, pretty safe to say that all of us use products we don’t strictly need, that have dark roots. Almost impossible to avoid in our massively interwoven world.

Or as an old acquaintance said: “We’re all whores in Babylon.” Have a safe week everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Hylas and the Nymphs.  Credit: John William Waterhouse, oil painting, 1896.)

Written by unitedcats

July 15, 2019 at 4:11 am

RUSSIAGATE, THE FINAL CHAPTER

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My long promised last Russiagate post. I tried to cover all the important points, and marshall my arguments logicly. Even so, there are things I didn’t have space to include, so I chose carefully. As my mentor Sally used to say “If you can’t explain something on a single page, you don’t understand it.” If anyone disagrees, persuade me otherwise. In any case, enjoy the ride.

So, I posted this link on the Doug’s Darkworld Facebook group, and commented on it. In this case probably best to read the article at the link before carrying on. This was my comment:

“Sanders has consistently pushed Russiagate? I find that deeply disappointing.”

And it opened a can of worms. In essence a number of people claimed I was taking Russiagate way too lightly, and that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a fact. Several points were raised, and hopefully I will cover them. In considered order:

First, how I feel about Russiagate and whether or not Russia tried to meddle in the election isn’t the point of the article. The point of the article above is that the reaction to alleged Russian meddling has been over the top, and used to seriously limit freedom of the press in the US. This is far more a danger to an open democracy than putative foreign meddling, I mean really, we’re going to limit our press to preserve our freedoms? Wait, what? I might also mention that since the US government  is the greatest meddler in foreign elections the world has ever known, outrage about Russian teenage trolls is a bit misplaced.

That aside, yeah, I still think what I thought a year or so ago. Meuller’s first round of indictments showed us that Russiagate was Nothingate. An oligarch paying a handful of teenage trolls to post a microscopic number of crude memes on Facebook affected the outcome of the election? Boy, billions of dollars in US election spending has been wasted if that’s all it takes. The second round of indictments showed it was political, timed as they were just before Trump’s Putin summit. A bunch of more or less random Russians indicted on “secret” evidence, Mueller knowing full well none of them are ever going to show up in court to testify. This was all Mueller came up with in a year?

Now granted I didn’t read the Mueller Report, because I knew if it contained any smoking gun evidence, it would be broadcast 24/7 on every available media outlet. I didn’t hear  of any. He had two years to write a report that sounds very convincing to people who already believe in Russian interference, without presenting any actual evidence. Other people read it though, and there’s a lot of problems with what is in the report, which this article dissects in detail. And Mueller Report aside, there are simply logical problems with the whole ‘Russia interfered’ premise. I will expound:

First, if Clinton had run a fabulous campaign, pulled the Democrats together, gotten out the vote, had crossover appeal, and was set to win the election by a huge margin … and Trump unexpectedly won by some margin that was clearly traced to Russian tampering, yes, we’d have a big problem. That’s not what happened. The Clinton campaign was uninspired and made major gaffes. She failed to inspire Democrats to get out and vote in droves. And as a result Trump eked out an electoral victory by some very thin vote margins in a handful of states. Huge numbers of factors, many of which were controlled by Clinton herself, influenced how people voted … or didn’t vote. To claim that alleged Russian interference somehow trumped myriad other factors in the elections is to credit Putin with Godlike powers.

Moreover. Putin isn’t an idiot. The opposite in fact. He had to know his ability to directly influence the election was negligible. And if he got caught the repercussions could be extreme. Basically to believe Putin tried to influence the election is to believe that Putin did something brain dead stupid so that Clinton would have an excuse for losing the election. Because it certainly wouldn’t do him any good, the idea that Trump is some Manchurian candidate is again ridiculous. And this is completely borne out by the facts, relations with Russia are worse than they have been in decades, and Trump has done nothing to change that. Hell, he is happily selling Ukraine advanced weapons to use against their ethnic Russian rebels. Trump doesn’t serve anyone but his own ego and family, the idea that he is Putin’s puppet is, well, up there with Obama being a secret Muslim.

The thing that is most obvious to me in understanding Russiagate, who benefits? The people who have been running the country for decades, the Pentagon, the big corporations, the rich, and of course the Democratic party. What Russiagate has been, and continues to be, is brilliant propaganda. No need for Clinton and the Dems to examine their failings in the election, no siree, it was all the Russian’s doing. Perfect rationalization to justify our global domination ambitions, we need to defend the world against the evil Russians, Cold War II. Putin of course is in the unenviable position of trying to disprove something for which there is no proof in the first place.  Trump is in the same position too, though for him it’s a great distraction from his other myriad giveaways to the rich. The GOP has illegal immigration, the Dems have Russiagate. Huge amounts of outrage and attention over distraction issues that are dwarfed by things like climate change, wealth inequality, out-of-control military spending, student debt, health care, etc.

The greatest propaganda aspect about both issues is … they can never be fixed! Neither Russia nor illegal immigration is going to vanish from the Earth, so always endless opportunity to demonize and spin. I grew up with the Cold War, and realized by my teenage years that the “threat” posed by Russia was being wildly exaggerated. And now Russia is a shadow of its former globe spanning imperial self, and we’re supposed to regard them as some sort of existential threat? Give me a break. The only threats to what is left of our democracy are in Washington and Wall Street.

In summation, it makes no sense for Putin to have tried to influence the election, his ability to do so is dwarfed by purely domestic factors in the election, and what “proof” has been offered boils down to “Trust Meuller!” As my old hippie friends say, “When did we start trusting the FBI?”

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Trump trolling the Democrats. Credit: Russia.ru. I think that’s a Russian news site, but it may be an official Russian site, my Russian is rusty. I got it off Wikipedia so presuming it’s Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 8, 2019 at 4:41 am