Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

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WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS

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youdoodle-2018-01-20T14-07-14Z-1

Things like modern infrastructure, education, and health care. This article, this is why. It’s US Defence Secretary James Mattis explaining America’s new defence strategy. This was one of the most horrifying articles I’ve read in a long time. I will break parts of it down for the gentle reader:

“The US faced “growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia”, he said, unveiling the national defence strategy.”

No, no we don’t. China and Russia would have to spend trillions of dollars to pose anything like a threat to America’s globe spanning military machine. They quite literally do not have, now, or in the foreseeable future, the money it would take to challenge the US militarily. What they are doing is defending their backyards and trying to prevent the US from completely surrounding them with allies and military bases.

In other words we’re threatening them, not vice versa. And their response to this threat is perfectly natural … and not in any way, shape, or form a threat to the USA. Mattis goes downhill from there:

“In an apparent reference to Russia, he warned against “threaten[ing] America’s experiment in democracy”.

“If you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day,” he warned.”

Three terrible things wrong with this. First, there’s still no evidence Russia tried to tamper with our election, they had no reason to do and every reason not to. There wasn’t really anything to be gained by it. And Jesus Christ, even the idea they could do so is imbuing them with magical powers. How the hell is an impoverished country on the other side of the world going to seriously have a chance to alter our mind numbingly expensive electoral process?

Secondly, hard to imagine how he said this without smirking.  We no longer have anything resembling a democracy in the US, and he knows it. Every president since Reagan has done exactly what the pentagon, big business, and the bankers wanted. Our elections are a dog and pony show run to make people think their vote matters. It doesn’t. Russia can’t threaten something that doesn’t exist.

Thirdly, OMG, the United States is the biggest threat to democracy the world has ever seen. Washington routinely interferes in elections, sponsor coups, and generally does everything in their considerable power to insure that if some country has an election, the guy Washington wants in power gets elected. Not to mention now completely open, and illegal, regime change wars. To claim the US is dedicated to democracy would be farcical if our efforts hadn’t caused such harm.

It goes on in that vein. Trump Is planning on increasing military spending ten percent. That means more debt or more cuts elsewhere. So much for his promise to invest in infrastructure. Our 2017 infrastructure report card: D+ And of course we are going to slash science and health spending to pay for this. Spending that actually benefits Americans. Can’t have that.

One last quote from the article:

“We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models,” Mr Mattis said.

Sigh. What a load of scaremongering malarkey. China and Russia cast as villains from a James Bond movie. The only country trying to create a world consistent with their model is the US, and that model is exploitation of the world’s people and resources to make America’s corporations even richer. All China and Russia are trying to do is defend themselves against that.

The thing that is most frustrating about all of this? The American media both parrots it and fawns over if. Guess who owns the American media? And most Americans simply accept it as fact. Three plus decades of economic decline for poor and middle class Americans, but by God if the media, left or right, tells them pouring more money into the military is good for America, it must be true!

Yeah, yeah, I’m going to go take a Valium.

 

(Welcome new and old readers. I hope you enjoyed this post. As of January 2018 I have resumed regular blogging on my new Patreon version of Doug’s Darkworld. Science, history, current events, and posts about a certain president who can hardly go a day without inspiring a blog post.)

https://www.patreon.com/Unitedcats

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Written by unitedcats

January 20, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

We Had a Visitor

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Artist’s impression of the interstellar asteroid `Oumuamua

Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The solar system had a visitor recently. A, thing, artist’s impression above, swung by the Earth and Sun late last year. What was it? Where did it come from? Where is it going? Could it really be an alien spaceship? Why is it important? And how does one pronouce ‘Oumuamua anyhow?
Last things first. ‘Oumuamua is a Hawaiian name that loosely translates as “visitor from the distant past.” It is pronounced Oh mooer mooer. A Hawaiian word was chosen because it was discovered by a telescope in Hawaii. There’s been some conflict between astronomers and native Hawaiians lately, so not sure if choosing a Hawaiian name was a sign of respect, or clueless condescension. I’ll leave that topic for another day.
What was ‘Oumuamua? At first it was thought to be a comet. As it got close to the sun it didn’t outgas like comets do, so astronomers changed its designation to asteroid. And then things got both exciting and weird. Once its orbit was calculated, they realised this bad boy wasn’t orbiting the sun. It had indeed fallen out of deep space, travelling at a speed faster than anything that orbits the sun travels at. It whipped around the sun and headed back out to deep space. But not before every telescope and scientific instrument possible was trained on it.
And what did they find out? It’s about 800 ft (230 m) by 100 ft (35 m.) It’s spinning wildly. It appears to be very similar to a D-type asteroid. So soft, organic rich silicate and carbon rock, possibly mixed in with some ice. It’s protected by a baked reddish organic coating similar to the coating seen on Kuiper Belt Objects. Scientists suspect this is from millions of years of exposure to cosmic rays. This is why if it contains any ice, it didn’t outgas as it passed the sun. However, unlike any asteroid or comet ever seen, ‘Oumuamua is eight times as long as it is wide. This is extremely unusual, no one expected this. A cigar shaped asteroid, how did this happen? No one knows.
The weird shape is what triggered speculation that ‘Oumuamua might be an artificial object of some sort. Idle speculation for the most part. First of all it is tumbling. Secondly it made no course corrections. Lastly, because scientists do like to cover all possibilities, every effort was made to detect any sign of electrical or radio activity emanating from it. Even something as weak as a cell phone would of been detected. Nada, ‘Oumuamua is as dead as, well, a rock.

So why is ‘Oumuamua important? Because this is the first time we have ever had a chance to study something that didn’t originate in our own solar system. It’s like data from an interstellar probe delivered free to our backyard. Best guess is 1-10 things like this zip through every year, but they are small and really fast, and this is the first one we’ve ever seen. Our telescopes grow better every year though, and astrononers look forward to spotting future visitors. We are indeed living in a golden age of space exploration.
Two final notes. If this was so new and cool, why didn’t we send a probe to it? Good question. And in fact as soon as it was spotted, astronomers feverishly began calculating if that was possible. Sadly, the answer is not really. ‘Oumuamua is just moving too damn fast. It’s already past the orbit of Mars, will pass Jupiter by early summer, and Saturn’s orbit by 2019. No human probe can fly fast enough to catch up with it. There are a few theoretical possibilities and ideas in the pipeline that might do the trick, but not really worth the effort. Even if we build something fast enough to catch up, it would just fly right past it, and that really wouldn’t be likely to add much to our knowledge. So goodbye ‘Oumuamua, off to wander between the stars for millions or more likely billions of years.
Lastly, wait, what about meteorites? Humans have literally gathered up tens of thousands of them, surely some of them didn’t originate in our solar system? Nope. Every single one clearly came from our solar system, either leftover junk from the creation of the solar system, or blasted free from planets and moons in the solar system. This though is a great opportunity for meteorite hunters. Eventually one will be found, they must exist. And when one is found, the lucky finder can name their price. Millions would not be untoward.
Now don’t you wish you’d looked more closely at that black rock you found on your lawn last week? Have a great 2018 everyone.
(I am resurrecting Doug’s Darkworld, will be posting once a week from now on. I have also started a site on Patreon where I will be posting these blog posts and other writing, mostly fiction. I encourage my readers to check it out. And thanks to my many faithful readers here, it’s been fun.)

Written by unitedcats

January 6, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

100 Years Ago: The Third battle of Krithia, 10,000 Dead, Nothing Accomplished. World War One in Miniature. We are so Much Smarter Now. Snort.

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French_75_gun_at_Cape_Helles_1915

June 4th 1915. The tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. British, French, and Indian troops attempt to advance from their beachhead of about one square mile, and capture the highland dominating the end of the Gallipoli Peninsula. This was trench warfare, so the basic plan was to fire all sorts of artillery at the enemy, who would obligingly hide in bunkers, and then charge them after the artillery stopped, hopefully getting to them before they emerged from their bunkers and took up positions in their trenches again. One can see how this sort of warfare might lead to unpleasant miscalculations. In this case, since this was the third battle of Krithia, yes, the first two hadn’t gone so well.

This time was going to be different though, the British general had learned from his prior mistakes. This time his plan made sense. The artillery part was in fact very clever. They were going to fire their artillery, forcing the Turks to hide in their bunkers. Then they would stop firing, the Turks would run out of their bunkers … and the artillery would resume firing! And in fact it worked pretty well. It would have worked better, but the British artillery was low on ammunition. And worse, two British battleships had recently been sunk by a German submarine. This meant their heavy guns were unavailable, and worse, remaining battleships had to keep moving to reduce their danger to submarine attack, reducing their accuracy considerably.

Nonetheless, it worked out well. The Turks were caught by surprise by the second bombardment, and suffered terrible losses. The British, French, and Indians charged forward and overran the Turkish defenders. Well, in the centre of the front the did. The flanks, not so much. Despite heroic efforts, the Turks on the flanks held on. No worries, the troops in the centre were told to dig in. However, by four in the afternoon, the Turks were attacking them from three sides, and they had no choice but to withdraw. By the end of the day and the battle, the allies had advanced a few hundred yards. About 6500 dead to gain a few hundred yards. About ten men per foot. This was not a victory in any sense of the word.

If the British had had the troops to continue to attack the next day, they might have gotten somewhere, They didn’t. And the next two days, the reinforced Turks ferociously attacked, hoping to drive the British into the sea. The British held on, and that was that. The British never again attempted to capture Krithia and the heights above it, and eventually abandoned their beachheads on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

So why am I blogging about this minor and forgotten battle? Many reasons. Ten thousand people died this day, there must be something to learn. That’s about three times as many as died on 9/11. So pretty clearly, how many people died is only loosely correlated with how important an event is historically. Still, nowadays if the USA or its allies suffered thousands of dead in a  one day battle, it would be a big deal. Proof that we are more peaceful now! No, not in my estimation. Proof that both the nature of war and the nature of propaganda has changed. Wars no longer involve (usually) the human wave attacks that characterized World War One battle. And the propaganda now is far more sophisticated and far more insulates home countries from the realities of their wars. The USA has been fighting constant wars for decades now, at a terrible cost in money and lives. And doing ghastly things abroad. And to most Americans it’s as remote from their lives as the Third Battle of Krithia.

Lastly, just to call attention to these lives lost 100 years ago. These were real people, with dreams, families, and lives. Everything they could ever have hoped to accomplish, turned into blood and dust far from their homes. Well, some of the Turks may have lived nearby, but otherwise their deaths were as pointless. At least the Turks died defending their homeland from a  foreign invader, I suppose that’s something. In Manchester this battle is still remembered, it was not a good day for soldiers from Manchester.

World War One was the war to end all wars. That proved to be an optimistic assessment. As the Great War, as it was called, slides past the century ago mark, many will be remembering it. Not the participants though, they’re all dead now. Every last one. God rest their souls.

(The above image is a French colonial 75mm gun firing during the Third Battle of Krithia. It’s public domain under all laws. I used it because it is the best image I could find of the battle. These guys more than likely survived the battle. )

Written by unitedcats

June 5, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Boston Bombing: The Terrorists Won

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TARD

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  —William Shakespeare

It’s been two weeks since the Boston bombing. I’ve never heard so much bullshit in my life. Or more accurately, I’ve never heard so much pontificating crap regarding such a minor event. My God, one would think another Pearl Harbor or 9/11 happened from all the calls from on high for vengeance and change. Perspective people, two disaffected losers set off some bombs. Something that has happened multiple times in US history. Then, sanity prevailed, and life went on while the authorities did their job and hunted down the perpetrators. Except this time, it’s the crime of the century, and both the immediate response and the aftermath have been wildly out of proportion. The Mayor of New York has even suggested changing the Constitution, or at least our interpretation of it, in response to this. Good job freakazoids, now our real enemies know how to spook us; a few backpack bombs and we will run around like chickens with their heads cut off.

In other words, we’ve so obsessed on preventing another 9/11 that our response to this bombing was wildly out of proportion. 9,000 troops deployed to hunt down a teenager? A whole city placed under unconstitutional martial law? American citizens treated like an occupied country? Because of one wounded teenager? This was insane. You’d have thought Chuck Norris was loose with a neutron bomb for God’s sake. And the thing that really shows how absurd this all was,  the bomber wasn’t caught until after people were let out of their homes and a citizen spotted him. The whole goddamn shutdown of the city, and the massive cost that entailed, was completely utterly unnecessary. And yet people cheer, so caught up in the Hollywood style dark comedy that the War on Terror has become.

I have bad news people. We can’t prevent all terrorist attacks, assuming this is even terrorism, which is a stretch at this point. Welcome to reality. I mean, after 9/11 we spent trillions of dollars on foreign wars and creating the greatest expansion of federal government ever, so called Homeland Security. And we passed vast and sweeping laws allowing government unprecedented powers to snoop in the name of security. And with all this staggering expense, an expense that rivals our spending in World War Two, we still got “attacked.” And the knee-jerk response from government and pundits is “We need more security!” No, we need more sanity. We should analyze the risks facing America like adults, and not be panicked into doubling down on a strategy that not only has failed, a strategy that is making terrorism more likely, not less.

It’s already clear that it aint going to happen, self-reflection and debate is no longer part of the American character. Americans are living in a Dickian Hollywood movie now, a scary world where imaginary Hitlers infest every corner of the globe and must be fought with ever more blood and sacrifice. The Republic has failed.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post. Tomorrow, ten specific ways our response to Boston was exactly what our enemies wanted.)

Written by unitedcats

May 1, 2013 at 9:28 am

An open letter to FEMEN

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Westerners who are “concerned” about the status of women in the third world are often unwittingly agents of colonialism and cultural imperialism. It’s rare (to non-existent) that the western media presents what the people we are so concerned about helping actually think. Such as items like the above that I have helpfully reblogged.   —Doug

Written by unitedcats

April 9, 2013 at 5:47 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Is it World War Three yet?

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Yes, yes it is. See, question answered at beginning of post, people who are in a  hurry can move right along now. What, the gentle reader wants details? OK, I guess I have to actually write the rest of the post. We’ll start with what I don’t mean. Usually when someone talks about World War Three they are talking about a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR, basically a continuation of World War One and Two. Since the Soviet Union is no more, and World War Two is fading rapidly into history, technically World War Three is no longer possible. However, the term has so insinuated itself into the culture that the next major global war involving the industrial powers will likely be called World War Three. Some people decided after 9/11 that there was now a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the west,  even going so far as to call it a World War. I could write a whole post on what a load of propaganda and malarkey that idea is, suffice it to say that’s not what I mean by World War Three either.

What I mean is what I have been saying for at least 20 years, World War Three is going to be the First World against the Third World. Granted in a  certain sense that is what has been going on since the beginning of the European colonial era, but I think we’ve reached a point where the majority of the warfare on the planet is more or less the West, IE the first world, trying to impose its will on the third world. Basically to maintain the fiction that the governments and even the borders in the third world are legitimate. The ugly truth is that most of the third world’s borders were drawn up by the European powers for their own benefit, and most of the third world’s governments are willing partners in the exploitation of their nation’s resources for the benefit of their ruling elite only.

One excellent indication of this is how the UN has morphed into an organization that is now concerning itself with the “legitimacy” of nation’s governments, rather that acting as an agent to mediate conflicts between nations. This both gives a green light to colonial wars, it reinforces the fiction that the various countries in the Third World are actual legitimate nation states. And of course the western corporate controlled media plays right along with this, and regularly regurgitates the UN’s stance on whether or not a government is “legitimate.” Somalia is an excellent example, they always talk about the Somalian “government” as if it is some legitimate Somalian entity, instead of an ad hoc collection of exiles only kept in power by foreign troops. It’s about as legitimate as the US government would have been had England defeated the revolutionaries and installed a government. The other indication is to look at the so-called pariah nations, like Cuba, North Korea, Iran, etc. They are roundly and endlessly demonized in the western press, not to mention being endlessly persecuted via sanctions and embargoes, the US leading the way; but all they have in common is a refusal to let the IMF and the west dictate how they run their economies.  This was Qaddafi and Milosevic’s crime, though of course in all cases the west uses the rubric of “democracy” and “human rights” to cover up its crimes. And of course with the blessing of the UN, the new version of the Vatican bestowing its blessings on crusades.

Then there’s the USA’s global military empire. And I mean that quite literally, the USA has divided the world up into military commands, with a space command and a cyber command to boot. With hundreds of overseas bases as well, this isn’t some exercise on paper. No nation in history has ever had a world-wide military deployment like the USA. And it’s not just deployed, the USA is actively waging war in numerous countries. And the vast majority of the people we are fighting pose zero threat to the USA, in fact most of them are fighting for self-determination against a UN approved government. Granted I’m not saying that every insurgency or independent government on the planet is some force for good, far from it, they are all over the map when it comes to how justified their actions are. By the same token though, the propaganda fantasy that the US is fighting some vast evil “terrorist” network (They’re aligned with Al-Qaeda, so we can do whatever we want!) is equally silly.

My point is that the standard view most people have of the world, the view reinforced by the western media and education system, is a fiction. What’s really going on is far uglier. Granted this is the point I’ve tried to make in every other blog post, but I keep coming at it from different directions. It helps clarify my thinking, and if I’ve made some egregious leap of logic, usually some gentle reader sets me straight. On the plus side, like all empires that have vanquished all their foes, the USA is the most byzantine, corrupt, inefficient, bloated, and wasteful empire in the history of the world. I suspect it’s reached its high water mark. Time will tell.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. I got it off of some random web page that didn’t attribute it. Always glad to add a link doing so if so requested.)

Written by unitedcats

October 16, 2012 at 6:38 am