Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Propaganda’ 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

THE FIRST MANNED MOON LANDING, A GREAT DAY FOR AMERICA?

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July 20, 1969. The first time human beings walked on the Moon. I was 11 years old, we lived in a split level home in a small subdivision surrounded by farmland, near Crystal Lake, Illinois. It was actually the favorite place I lived as a kid, endless woods and farms and nearby lakes to explore and fish and catch snakes. And I was at the age where I was able to ride out on my bike on my own, it was heaven. Visited a few years back, now it’s strip malls and tract homes forever, such is progress.

And I was old enough to appreciate the first Moon walk, sort of. We watched on a TV in the rec room. Do people have rec rooms any more? The whole family watched, the image was grainy black and white, but it was sent from the Moon! I was filled with pride and excitement! Snort. I did mention I was 11? I was filled with the hope Armstrong would step out and be greeted by something really cool. Aliens, ruins, monsters. Anything! (I was an avid Star Trek and Lost in Space fan.) What did we get? A couple of guys traipsing around in a lifeless, airless, dusty, desert. Boring!

So, while we’re on the topic, a few points. Yes, the astronauts really did walk on the Moon! So so many lines of evidence support this fact. The Moon landings were one of the most well documented events in history, if they had been faked the Russians (among others) would have figured it out in no time. Just for starters, the motion pictures taken on the Moon couldn’t have been faked in the 1960s. The Moon rocks couldn’t be faked now, let alone in the 1960s. I could go on, but it’s all covered here. Basically, not believing in the manned Moon landings is like not believing the Holocaust happened. <insert rolled eyes>

A case that sometimes gets posited is that the space program is a waste of money. Well, yes and no, like a lot of claims, I wonder if the claimant thought it through. Even modest interwebs research shows that spinoffs from NASA research have been hugely beneficial, and impact our lives in positive ways every day. From weather satellites, to cordless vacuums, to Tang, we owe it all to NASA. So, money spent on NASA is a good thing, no brainer, right?

Well, certainly the NASA money spent developing the things we use is money well spent. Still, it’s not all been money spent on things we use. And couldn’t money have been spent on this research without all the terribly expensive manned flight programs? Cordless vacuums would be great for airplanes and submarines, it’s not like it took spacecraft to come up with the idea. It’s like the claim that war is great because it has resulted in all sorts of new technology. While neglecting to mention that this new technology is because during wars governments pour money into research! So maybe they could do that without the war part? Just saying. I’ve also heard that NASA rocket spending was cover for developing ICBMs. That I couldn’t substantiate, and since ICBMs were built before the Moon program even began, seems unlikely. Hell, the plan to nuke the Moon existed before the Apollo Program.

So kudos to all in the Apollo Program, putting men on the Moon in the 1960s was an incredible achievement with the technology of the day. One crew died in the attempt, another barely escaped with their lives. Still, I have to ask, what was the point? To beat the Russians to the Moon of course! Yes, but why was that so important that we spent billions of dollars and risked lives to do so? It wasn’t for science, science was basically tacked onto the Apollo program as an afterthought, it certainly wasn’t the impetus for the program. Everything we did on the Moon, including sample returns, could have been done far cheaper and at no risk to humans by using robotic landers. The fact that the last manned mission to the Moon was 47 years ago pretty much proves that point.

This is where I annoy people, lose readers, and just generally make an ass of myself. Still, the whole purpose of my writing is to make myself think, and hopefully make some people realize that there are different ways of looking at things. I would argue that the manned Moon program was part and parcel of American militarism and imperialism. Like the Star Spangled Banner before sporting events, it was fetishizing American militarism and the Cold War. Flag waving illustrated. Apollo helped normalize ideas of American exceptionalism, imperialism, and infinite government spending to make America “look great.” And like all great propaganda, the people people propagandized not only don’t realize it, they’re proud of it.

Have a great weekend everyone. Like this post? Please share.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Buzz Aldrin salutes the first American flag on the Moon. No comment. Credit: NASA. NASA’s photos may be used freely so long as they do not imply endorsement by NASA in any way. I can attest that not only does NASA not endorse Doug’s Darkworld in any way, they are likely not even aware of its existence.)

Written by unitedcats

July 19, 2019 at 4:12 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

JULY 4

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Ah, July 4th. A big day in the US. Lots of celebration. Go team. I put my flag out, though considering the storm that just rolled through, not sure it’s still flying. It’s the thought that counts though, right? And what thoughts are those? All sorts of them. Holidays were sure a lot easier when I was a kid. Christmas was about presents, July 4th was about fireworks, Bubble Wrap Day was about bubble wrap, etc. Now I have both a brain and access to social media, and it’s more complicated. Especially regarding July 4th, a holiday of mixed origins and increasingly hijacked for propaganda purposes. Trump’s gonna drive a tank for God’s sake, how does one explain that to school kids? Or adults?

So yes, 243 years ago a group of white American businessmen declared themselves to be in open revolt against the crown of England. IE their legal government. They enjoyed the support of 40-50% of the white population. The Loyalists were supported by about 15-20% of the white population. About 70-80,000 Loyalists fled the country during or immediately after the American Revolution. Which is a tiny fraction the number I remember from my college days, my own personal Mandala Effect, but I digress. My point is that not everyone thought rebelling against the crown was a great idea.

And yes, as several friends pointed out, the creation of the United States is not exactly something blacks and American Indians can look back to with joy. The United States almost immediately began the conquest of Indian lands, making Indians second class inhabitants of America. I say inhabitants, because American Indians were not given American citizenship until 1924! And of course early America’s treatment of its black citizens was shameful. Slavery was peacefully outlawed in the rest of the developed world by the early nineteenth century. It persisted decades longer in the US and took the bloodiest war in America’s history to end. And black’s treatment after that remained and to a large extent remains shameful. So yeah, I can understand many seeing July 4 as little to celebrate.

Then of course there’s the increasing militarism and military worship that characterizes modern America. And the 4th of July has been very much co-opted as a part of that process. Every time I hear “The troops are fighting to defend our freedom” I want to scream. Sometimes I do. No, they are fighting to defend war profiteers and the Empire the war profiteers created. The last time American troops were fighting to defend our freedom was World War Two, and even that’s debatable. Our whole democratic system is debatable at this point.

In any event, here in my little corner of Iowa, July 4th is the biggest celebration of the year. A carnival is set up in Central Park with all the local exotic food delights like Funnel Cake and Chicken on a Stick. Iowans are a simple people, in all the good ways. Live music and fireworks are also on the schedule. Lots of fun, especially for the kids. And boy, kind of neat how they can have things like 60 foot tall ferris wheels that fold up into a semi trailer. I’ll go out later and get some pictures to publish on Friday.

In other words, blogging wise, “I’m back bitches!” I’m ashamed to admit it, but I like that quote, but almost never use it. I thought it was from ‘Breaking Bad,’ but while Jessie Pinkman was fond of the word “bitches,” he apparently never uttered that particular line. I don’t like to use it, because comparing human beings to animals is misogyny or racism. It’s just plain racism in many instances, like Trump’s son’s recent utterance. Trees, apples, falling, etc.

Oh, yes, we will be having a parade here in Clear Lake too. No tanks though. Right past the window of where I am staying. My friend wanted me to help her hang a political banner off our roof. My job was to draw sniper fire. Alas, the landlord prohibited it and locked the door to the roof. Well, it is his building. And speaking of parades, came across the above image in my usual quest for the perfect image to illustrate the post. This one seemed perfect  in several ways.  Back when we were proud of our democracy and industry. Neither is what it was back then, for good or for ill.

Happy Fourth everyone. Celebrate or not as the spirit takes you.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Fourth of July parade around 1915-1920 Credit: Bain News Service, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

July 4, 2019 at 6:41 am

HUMANS ARE CAUSING GLOBAL WARMING AND IT’S A BAD THING

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Global warming. There’s been a lot of bad news about it lately. Not surprising, no more surprising than damage occurring when a building is on fire. The difference of course is that when a building is on fire, people band together to fight the fire. They don’t stand around arguing about who set the fire, or claiming that the fire really is a good thing and people should just let the house burn down. Especially if it’s their only house. There is no real doubt humans are causing global warming, but because science deals in probabilities, not certainties, it makes it really easy for deniers to claim there is controversy where there isn’t any. And there’s no doubt global warming is a bad thing, the only complication is there’s uncertainty as to how bad.

This is a favorite tactic of deniers of all stripes. Biblical literalists love to claim there is debate about evolution, evolution is just a theory, evolution is a theory in crisis, etc. In point of fact the scientific debate about evolution was over by about 1870. It’s a bedrock theory in biology that has been demonstrated in the field and in the lab countless times. Until someone comes up with a theory that better explains over a century of experiment and observation, evolution is fact for all practical purposes. Or even something as solid as the Sun coming up tomorrow. Scientists cannot say for certainty that the Sun will come up tomorrow, just that the probability that it will do so approaches certainty. That subatomic sliver of uncertainty is all deniers need to create the illusion of controversy.

It’s frustrating to say the least. In many areas it doesn’t really matter what people believe no matter how unscientific, flat earthers or Moon landing deniers aren’t going to cause any real problems. (Knock on wood.) Global warming deniers, yeah, major problem. An extremely well funded industry, fossil fuels are the world’s number one industry, is literally putting humanity’s future at stake in order to keep raking in profits. It was bad enough when industry did the same regarding cigarettes and leaded paint/gas, this is far worse. Granted global warming isn’t the only thing humans are doing to destroy Earth’s habitability, but it’s easily the worst.

And one of the most frustrating things about the situation is that human caused global warming is really simple. It doesn’t depend on obscure theories, complicated models, or rocket science. A freaking fourth grader can understand it. Simple physics and measurements, neither of which is debatable. We know that the huge increase in atmospheric CO2 the past two centuries is caused by humans. And we know this is warming the globe. There aren’t any alternatives, this has been settled science for decades.

Wait, how do we know these are facts? As follows. The huge increase in atmospheric CO2 the past two centuries is beyond dispute. It’s simply a matter of direct measurement, I don’t think even the hardcore deniers dispute this. And we know it was caused by human activities. How? Basically there are two types of carbon, C-12 and C-14. C-14 is an unstable radioactive isotope of carbon that is created by cosmic rays striking carbon atoms in the atmosphere. It’s created at a certain rate, and it decays at a certain rate, so the percentage of C-14 to C-12 in the atmosphere is basically constant. And since living organisms get virtually all their carbon from the atmosphere, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 in living tissue matches that of atmospheric carbon.

This is how carbon dating works, when an organism dies, it stops absorbing Carbon. The C-14 in its tissues continues to decay into C-12 though, so the older organic tissue is, the less C-14 it contains. Thus the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in organic tissue tells us when the tissue died, making it very useful for dating organic artifacts. Well, all the new carbon in the atmosphere contains no C-14. There’s only two possible sources of carbon devoid of C-14, human activity or volcanoes. Burning fossil fuels produce only C-12, the carbon in them having been sequestered in the ground for millions of years. And volcanoes can only account for less than 1% of the new carbon in the atmosphere, they contribute about 200 million tons of C02 per year. About 29 billion tons of new CO2 is added to the atmosphere every year, and burning fossil fuels are the only other possible source for this. Both these numbers are gotten from actual measurement, again, no room for debate.

So it’s a slam dunk that the huge increase in atmospheric CO2 in the atmosphere is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. The second part of the picture is even simpler. Different gases reflect heat at different rates. So one can go outside, point a spectroscope at the sky, and determine what gases are reflecting heat back towards the ground. And turns out there are five main gases that account for almost all of the heat trapped by the atmosphere: CO2, methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide, and ozone. We’ve known this for like 200 years, simple measurement and physics. Increase the amount of these gases in the atmosphere, and the amount of heat trapped by the atmosphere goes up. Solid, well established science.

Backed up by over a century of increasingly sophisticated measurements. Earth is warming up, and it’s warming up at an unprecedented rate. Sure, the CO2 has been as high as it is now in the distant past, and Earth was wildly warmer then too. Neither fact in any way, shape, or form implies that humans aren’t behind the current rise in CO2 or global warming. Worse, sometimes deniers like to claim “It’s been like this before, what’s the big deal?” The big deal is when it was like this before the Earth was a wildly different place, the oceans were hundreds of feet higher, and the tropics and continental interiors were uninhabitable.

So we are literally racing towards global calamity, all so the fossil fuel industry can keep raking in the profits. I thought about naming this post “Global Warming for Dummies” but decided against it. I want to engage the deniers, not insult them. And sadly conspiracy ideation is no indication of lack of intelligence, smart people can be anti-vaxxers or Moon landing deniers. Our brains are simply not wired for logic, and thus easily get led astray. I sometimes think that if formal logic was standard school curriculum, maybe someday progress can be made out of the scientific Dark Age we are sliding into. Still, we can’t even get teachers to stop hawking their religion in schools, let alone get them to teach logic.

So make hay while the world burns I guess. So far the effects of global warming are running considerably ahead of the worst case models, and there’s no reason to think this trend won’t continue. Unfortunately the American Empire, the new Roman Empire, is sustained entirely by fossil fuel exploitation, so it’s not going to willingly give up its oil addiction. Many actually seem to think it’s no big deal. Yes Mr Pompeo “The climate’s been changing a long time. There’s always changes that take place.” Unfortunately for your facile “analysis” Mr Pompeo the changes that took place over the past 11,000 years or so have been mild, and the Earth has enjoyed a very stable climate regime. The changes taking place now are extreme, unlike anything the Earth has seen for millions of year, and it’s only just begun.

Oh well, like always, half the reason I wrote this post was to increase my own understanding. So all I’ve done is depress myself. Our only hope is that the future is mutable, it looks grim now, but maybe our civilization will evolve to meet the challenge. We have come some ways since the Roman Empire, and despite all the parallels, at least wholesale politically motivated murder is no longer practised in Rome. I mean Washington. Those Emperors were a homicidal lot. Tell me this is an improvement. Please.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: I put together the above image from images I found on Wikipedia. Credit: Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 10, 2019 at 6:47 pm

THE GULF OF TONKIN INCIDENT

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TonkingunboatsThe Gulf of Tonkin Incident, 2 August 1964. I thought I’d write about it because it is one of the formative incidents that led to our current national situation. Or more accurately, the incident led to Congress passing the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which basically gave the US government a blank check to go to war without congressional approval. Presidents Johnson and Nixon used the resolution to wage the Vietnam War against three nations.

Getting ahead of myself though. The incident in question, the destroyer USS Maddox was cruising up the coast of North Vietnam hugging the 12 mile limit, sometimes crossing it. This is where we have the first problem. This was not a routine cruise, this was a spying cruise and a deliberate act of provocation. Especially since it was not unusual for these cruises to be followed by South Vietnamese gunboat raids on the North Vietnamese coast. In other words, the USS Maddox was not peacefully minding its own business in international waters.

On the day in question, three North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats set out to confront the Maddox. (Image above.) We have no idea what their intentions were, but they were the ones defending their territorial waters. The Maddox fled, the patrol boats pursued, the Maddox opened fire. Ostensibly to fire “warning shots,” but there’s no such thing as warning shots under international law. The motor torpedo boats started firing in response, though at the time the Johnson administration neglected to mention the warning shots, and simply claimed the North Vietnamese had fired first. The patrol boats did launch torpedos, but none hit their target. The Maddox was hit by one 14mm machine gun bullet. Navy planes arrived, and the patrol boats were destroyed or driven off.

Two days later, the Maddox and another destroyer, the USS Turner Joy, started another “patrol.” During the night they were apparently attacked again. The attack consisted of both ships making sporadic radar contact with unknown bogies, opening fire on them, and making evasive maneuvers for four hours. Some visual contacts were claimed, and the ships claimed two torpedo boats were sunk. No wreckage was found, and even at the time there was a strong suspicion that no attack had occurred, it was just jumpy sailors shooting at ghosts. And since then all evidence has confirmed no actual second attack took place.

Didn’t stop Johnson. He promptly interrupted US television to give a speech claiming the US had been attacked in international waters. And asking Congress for authority to defend the US against Ho Chi Minh and his communist aggression. The speech was a masterpiece of omission and deception, and sadly the American mainstream media wildly exaggerated the attacks. Many politicians were already calling for war, and the incident gave them and Johnson all the excuse they needed to pass The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. This gave the president the authority to wage war without Congress actually declaring war as the constitution stipulates.

And the Vietnam War was off. Ultimately hundreds of thousands of US troops deployed, three countries in ruins, worst chemical weapons atrocity in history, and more bombs dropped than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two. Plus the US played an instrumental role in dragging Cambodia into the war, leading to the rise of Pol Pot and the eventual Killing Fields genocide, one of the worst in history. And nearly 60,000 dead Americans and as many as a million or more dead Vietnamese. All to prop up a wildly corrupt and unpopular rump state in South Vietnam for a few decades before the reunification of Vietnam in 1975.

Three points I think are good takeaways from this. The first is that even if the attacks had been unsullied North Vietnamese attacks on innocent Americans, this was not Pearl Harbor or anything like it. It was a border incident or border clash at worst, not some all out North Vietnamese attack on the US. And our response to it was disproportionate at best. One kid shoves another on the playground doesn’t give the hit kid justification to start bashing the first kid in the head with a rock.

The second more grotesque point is that the US portrayed itself as the victim and the defender in the whole mess, and indeed the whole war was characterised as defence against global communism. Even at the time people pointed out that this was nonsense. All the Vietnamese wanted after World War Two was independence, the fact that the independence fighters in Vietnam were “communist” was not part of some global plot. In fact after World War Two the Vietnamese were shocked that the US sided with French efforts to recolonise Vietnam instead of supporting their desire for independence.

Which brings us to the third point. Vietnam is another great example of how America has betrayed its founding principles, and instead uses them as window dressing for what is simply colonialism and imperialism in any real sense of the words. America is all about self determination and democracy, so long as the country in question chooses our chosen government.  I’d say more, but still don’t really know how to explain to people that the US is not really a force for freedom in the world. Maybe a list of all the times America has thwarted the will of the people of foreign lands? Future post I guess.

Yes, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was roundly criticised and pushback mounted until it was repealed in 1973 and replaced with the War Powers Resolution. Which basically just said the president can wage any war they want, as long as they send Congress a memo or two. It still is basically giving up Congress’s Constitutional mandate to decide with who the US goes to war with.

On the plus side, Senator Wayne Morse did his best to raise awareness of the deceptions the Johnson Administration was using to rush the Tonkin Gulf Resolution through Congress. There’s always a few people standing up for what is right. Came across a wonderful story along those lines the other day. Next post.

Comments, suggestions, shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The three motor torpedo boats in the first incident. Credit: Official U.S. Navy photo NH 95611 from the U.S. Navy Naval History and Heritage. Some of the people in this image did not live out the day.)

Written by unitedcats

May 29, 2019 at 7:24 am

Posted in History, Propaganda, Vietnam, War