Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘World’ Category

The US Goverment Offers Crimea to Putin on a Silver Platter, Then Freaks Out When He Accepts Their Gift

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Invaders In Flight

Ukraine. Crimea. Putin. Russia. What a mess. If the gentle reader can’t find Crimea on a map, fair warning, this post might make them angry. That’s what the comment section is for. Here goes: By any definition, the Russian actions in Ukraine far more fit the definition of “humanitarian intervention” than say, the US invasion of Iraq. I think the death toll was, what, zero? And the majority of people in Crimea actually wanted to be part of Russia, not living in Ukraine … especially a Ukraine with a nationalistic government that clearly wanted to treat ethnic Russians as second class citizens. While Putin’s actions were clearly self-serving, Crimea is of paramount strategic importance to Russia, the idea that this is some sort of Hitleresque invasion is nonsense. US foreign policy has become so knee jerk and predictable that it’s easy for clever mofos like Putin to take advantage of them. And that’s exactly what happened, the US in it’s mindless zeal to expand NATO and the EU right up to the Kremlin’s doorstep essentially handed Crimea to Putin.

How’s that? How much the US influenced the ouster of the democratically elected government in Ukraine is debatable, but they certainly played a role, possibly a large role. And they got their wish, the government of Ukraine was overthrown and a government much more to their liking (profoundly anti-Russian) was installed. (This was not some sort of popular revolution against a dictatorship, it was mob rule at its ugliest.) A “government” who decided that their first order of business was to pass laws diminishing the status of Russian speakers in Ukraine. A government that the US immediately recognized as legitimate. And this is where the shortsightedness of America’s current policy becomes clear. What, exactly, did they think Putin was going to do? Did it even cross their minds that Putin might do exactly as he did some years earlier in Georgia, send in the troops to protect Russia’s interests? Apparently not, since their reaction to Putin’s move has been mindless hysterics. As is the case with so much of America’s modern foreign policy, there was no plan B.

Even the sanctions are looking to be a joke. The Europeans are in no mood for an actual economic war with Russia or something as mindless as a resumption of the “Cold War.” So the US is reduced to histrionics. I suspect that after all is said and done, Crimea will remain part of Russia, and the US will blame the “loss” of Crimea on its allies … and carry right on with further ill conceived foreign meddling. There will not be a resumption of the Cold War, there will not be World War Three, nor does this have any similarities to the rise of Hitler. The fact that the US media and most Americans can only think about foreign policy in terms of cartoonish similarities to past events is a wonderful example of how uneducated the public discourse has become in modern America. And sadly many of our leaders are just as uneducated and shallow in their world view. This is what happens when religion and ideology become the basis for getting into office, you get parrots spouting nonsense to their base instead of educated people trying to run the country effectively.

On the plus side, boy, Putin came out of this smelling like a rose, demonizations in the western press notwithstanding. In one fell swoop he humiliated the USA, reasserted Russia’s historic control of Crimea, brought large numbers of ethnic Russians back into Russia … and made himself one of the most popular leaders in recent Russian history. His approval ratings are the envy of Obama and Congress. The lesson here of course is that foreign policy needs to be based on a  realistic assessment of the world. “Might makes right” does work sometimes, but it’s not a substitute for things like diplomacy and common sense. And instigating trouble in Ukraine made about as much sense as Russia trying to stir up trouble in Canada or Mexico. Even if they succeeded, and a pro-Russian government came to power in either, the chances the USA would sit back and do nothing would be zero. Yet that’s exactly what the US did in Ukraine, and then acted shocked and surprised when Putin did exactly what any sober assessment of the situation would have strongly suspected was a possible consequence.

Watching US foreign policy is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. It’s also a wonderful illustration of one of the definitions of insanity. Insanity is repeating the same actions, but expecting different results. The US will continue to meddle in “unfriendly” governments, and continue to achieve results that weren’t what it expected, or even the opposite of what was expected. It’s easy to destabilize a government and make a mess of things, it’s much harder to put together the pieces afterwards. Maybe someday Washington will learn that.

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s German soldiers retreating from Crimea during World War Two. Foreign armies have been fighting in Crimea for centuries, one can only hope we don’t backslide that far this time.)

Written by unitedcats

March 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

Posted in History, Propaganda, War, World

Syria, War and Lies All Over Again

with 9 comments

gas-masks

Well, Washington and Obama are making noise about attacking Syria. Quelle surprise. Kerry was saying today that the evidence of a Syrian chemical attack was “undeniable.” Please, spare me. Washington has been lying about this sort of stuff since the Mexican War in 1848, and it’s hard to find a 20th century war they didn’t lie through their teeth about. Our economy and political system is based on war forever, Syria is just more of the same. The main reason we know this is a lie is simple. Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons would trigger US intervention. Why in the name of God would Syria do the exact thing that would trigger US attacks? They wouldn’t of course, no one is that stupid, especially considering that chemical weapons are essentially useless on the battlefield unless your enemies are using World War One style human wave attacks. So Syria has no conceivable reason to use chemical weapons, and excellent reason not to use them.  Kerry’s claim should be taken for what it most likely is, a lie.

So if the Syrian government didn’t launch an attack, who might have? Well, let’s see, who has to gain from US intervention? Bingo in the Elf Lounge. The rebels. Yes, a chemical weapons attack was launched by the Syrian government conveniently near a UN inspection team even! How lucky was that? And snipers even tried to slow the team down as it approached the stage of the purported chemical weapons attack. Stage as in staged. It’s more than likely the rebels faked an attack of some sort, it wouldn’t take much. For all practical purposes Obama asked them to stage an attack, who can blame them? Even the public evidence is suspect. There are photographed bodies of claimed sarin gas victims. Assuming these are real pics (yes, the rebels have tried crude fakes before) it’s been pointed out that if these people really did die from sarin gas, the people wandering around the bodies without protective gear would also quickly be succumbing to the intensely lethal substance on the bodies. They aren’t.

Sadly the truth doesn’t really matter. The USA attacks whomever it pleases whenever it pleases, and manufactures whatever justification is needed. Most Americans don’t want another war, but their opinion hardly counts anymore. Even Congress isn’t even trying these days, this time they might not even bother to pass a resolution supporting the attack. What will be the results of the attack, aside from more profits for the military industrial complex? Who knows, it often takes years for the blow-back from this sort of nonsense to fully realize itself. It stands a good chance of bringing down the Assad regime, one of the only remaining secular regimes in the region, and replacing it with a Islamic fundamentalist government aligned with Al-Qaeda. How would that help the USA or Syria? Damned if I know.

What I do know is that there is nothing “humanitarian” about an American attack on Syria. Yes, that’s part and parcel of the endless propaganda flowing from Washington and the mainstream media, we’re all concerned about the plight of woman and minorities and democracy. Yes, unlike every other empire in history, the USA’s motives are pure! Spare me. Anyone who believes that may have pure motives themselves, God bless em, but the facts on the ground consistently belie the idea that we are trying to make the world a better place. US intervention almost invariably makes things worse for the people in a  region, especially the ones we kill and maim with our “well intentioned” bombs and missiles. It does however prevent the rise of modern secular nation states, which would be far less pliable to American influence and meddling. They might even have radically dangerous ideas like those pursued by Saddam for example … he thought that the profits from the sale of Middle Eastern oil should be invested in the Middle East! One can see why he had to go.

So many lies, when it’s all just about western militarism and colonialism. European armies have been marching through the Middle East since Alexander the Great. The excuses change but the end result is the same. Death and destruction for the locals. That’s what wars do on the receiving end. Our current Alexander in Chief hasn’t shown any qualms about that before. And of course wealth and profits for the west. Follow the money as they say.

Lastly, a point about chemical weapons. They are not WMDs. They in fact aren’t anything special, just another one of the myriad evil ways humans have devised to kill each other. Like nuclear weapons, they have few real military applications and are more a political and propaganda weapon than anything else. And to make the hypocrisy complete, not only does the US cheer on such weapons when they approve of the regime using them, the USA has utterly no qualms about using them itself. So the idea that Syria has crossed some sort of moral boundary by using (purportedly) chemical weapons doesn’t pass the laugh test.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Its a photograph entitled “Viktor Bulla’s Pioneers in Defense Drill, Leningrad (1937)” It appears on page 79 of a book of photographs called “Propaganda and Dreams” by Leah Bendavid-Val. While a lovely ghoulish photo by modern standards, it was very much meant as a propaganda picture showing how prepared the Soviet Union was for self defence.)

Written by unitedcats

August 27, 2013 at 7:59 am

What’s up with Putin and his persecution of gays?

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chernobyl

Russia’s leader, Putin, has begun a major persecution of gays. While being gay in and of itself has not been re-criminalized, pretty much any mention of the topic in public is illegal. Basically any sort of LGTB activism is now illegal in Russia. And of course this rising tide of anti-gay sentiment has encouraged all sorts of people to persecute gays on their own initiative. It’s an ugly situation that has caused some to call for a boycott of the upcoming Russian Olympics, and generated criticism from many international quarters, including Obama himself. On the flip side, many of America’s religious leaders are praising and encouraging Putin’s anti-gay stance! Yes, Putin is now more popular than Obama in some US demographics, go figure.

So, what the hell is going on here? In no particular order, my snarky didactic take on the situation. For starters, I don’t think this is completely random, Putin is a clever man, and he must have decided this was a good time for this. And from a  domestic sense, it can only solidify his position. It gets him more in bed with the Russian orthodox church, the military, and just conservative religious Russians in general. So he’s got a domestic win politically. Secondly, this is going to allow him to identify and persecute internal opposition to his rule. These laws will very much be a threat to political activists of all stripes. So just in general this will help keep the lid on secular democratic and human rights dissent. These are pretty big gains for the cost of forcing gays back into the closet.

Then there’s the 2014 Russian Winter Olympics coming up.  If one is an authoritarian regime hosting an Olympic game, democratic dissent during the run up to such games is a threat. Pro-democracy advocates brought down the South Korean military dictatorship in 1988 by taking to the streets before the Olympics. Granted Putin doesn’t face the kind of general pro-democracy dissent that the South Korean generals faced, but he’s not a man to take chances when he can avoid them. Internationally it gets even more complicated. The whole issue of LBGT rights is really big in the west, especially the USA, right now. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Basically Putin is setting it up so that almost any sort of “problem” around the Olympics will strengthen his hand domestically.

So what’s the west to do? There has been a lot of talk, but nothing concrete. A few boycotts have been launched, but there doesn’t appear to be any chance now that the west will boycott the Olympics. Which puts a lot of western leaders, including Obama in a  position where they have no really good realpolitik options. Actually boycotting the Olympics would get Obama a lot of cred in some quarters, but hurt his cred in others. Others with big money. Putin was likely betting that Obama and the west simply wouldn’t calculate that gay rights was an issue they wanted to get into a tiff with Russia about. It would be bad for business. So far Putin seems to have calculated correctly.

Domestically the US religious right is going nuts over this, falling all over themselves praising Putin’s “moral” stand. Granted they were already foaming at the mouth over Obama, but this just gives them more venom to stir up trouble with. Yes, by persecuting Russia’s gays Putin is encouraging even more divisive politics in the USA, and maybe even encouraging extremists to commit anti-gay terrorism. As a codicil to this, at the very least, Putin knows that American intelligence and security assets will be occupied dealing with the fallout from this. Anything that complicates and divides your enemies is a good thing.

Lastly, since resources will be devoted to this situation in the west, one has to wonder if Putin’s anti-gay crackdown is a distraction of some sort. Is Putin planning something he wants to divert attention away from? Many in the west have forgotten, but in 2008 Georgia tried to use the Olympics to cover up a fait accompli military re-annexation of a breakaway province. An ill advised action that resulted in a swift and brutal war with Russia and a confrontation between Russia and the USA. Putin hasn’t forgotten this by any means, and even if he’s not planning something, someone else might be. The world is not exactly a stable place right now.

(The above image is all over Facebook so I am claiming it as Fair Use under US copyright law. And it is the joke I usually hide in the copyright notice.)

Written by unitedcats

August 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

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

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flypast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by unitedcats

July 8, 2013 at 7:34 am

Syria Burning

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syrian-tank-082207-lg

Well, Syria is still in the news. Well, the colonial propaganda that passes for news in the west. Let’s see, Syria is another of the countries that was made up after World War One by the British and French as they carved up the Ottoman Empire for their own colonial exploitative purposes. Since Syria had no resources worth bothering with, it was ruled by a series of more-or-less independent dictators until the present day. With the arrival of the Arab Spring a few years back, serious opposition to the Assad dictatorship broke out, and the country is essentially in full blown insurrection. It’s not however a civil war, since the rebels are not united into a single faction by any stretch of the imagination. Since the Assad dictatorship posed a clear danger to colonial rule in the region, IE the possibility that Syria would evolve into a modern secular state, the west has been almost gleefully providing the rebels with support. And it’s certainly made a bloody mess of the country, if nothing else.

Where to start. Chemical weapons. This is a propaganda term used by the west to claim that someone is as bad as Hitler. Chemical weapons are just that, weapons. There’s nothing magically evil about them, and for most purposes have limited military applications. IE a nation with chemical weapons isn’t anymore threatening than a nation without them, they are weapons, that’s all. Sure, they can be used to commit atrocities, like any other weapon. So when Obama makes a big deal about Syria’s use of chemical weapons, it is just a  propaganda device to justify further US meddling in Syria. Which leads us to a sad observation, the west isn’t even giving lip service to national sovereignty anymore. The fact that Syria is an independent country doesn’t even register in the western media.

And now Israel is getting its licks in. Israel respects no limits in its quest for control of all of Palestine. They routinely wage war in other countries when it suits their military. How this will help matters in Syria is difficult to grasp. How it will help Israel is also a mystery, but Israeli foreign policy long ago ceased to make sense. Apparently they plan to live behind a wall forever, periodically waging war on their neighbours and occupied territories. The claim is that it is trying to prevent arms from being transferred to Hezbollah. Since Hezbollah is both well armed, and strictly defensively oriented toward Israel, it’s hard to see why this would be necessary … especially since it risks widening and already ugly war. That’s how countries get when they are hyper-militarized though, like the USA and Israel, military action is not only the first option, it’s the only option.

And of course the UN is playing its now well established role as the enforcer of international rule, IE western rule. It’s a safe bet that the Arab League’s request that the UN stop Israel’s attacks on Syria won’t go anywhere. Granted its more a less a symbolic gesture by the Arab League, since most of their governments are western satraps. The UN is also questioning whether or not the rebels used chemical weapons. The west isn’t all too excited about the rebels either, they are hardly the secular (IE can be bribed) freedom fighters the west prefers to bankroll. I’m not even sure the west has much of a strategy at this point, other than the usual fall-back, let the locals kill enough of each other and maybe we will get back in somehow someday.

God only knows what is going to happen to Syria. We are seeing a weird combination of trends in the world now. The military might of the west continues to grow, though it is purely the ability to wage destruction from affair. At the same time the proliferation of weapons in the world and the rise of social media and modern communications networks is making revolt against dictatorships both more effective and more likely. We’re  seeing the post World War One colonial edifice in the Middle East collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions. The old fashioned personal based dictatorships seeming to be the most vulnerable to this collapse. Even if a regional war doesn’t break out, I suspect in ten years the Middle East will look nothing like it does today.  Good times.

At least this isn’t another Obama post.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s a Syrian tank destroyed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the last World War Two styled war in the region. With a dead Syrian soldier beside it. So so many people die in the endless madness in the Middle East, but it’s what the west wants. And what the west wants, it gets.)

Written by unitedcats

May 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm

North Korea’s Secret Weapon

with 6 comments

ChuckNorris

Well, yesterday’s guest post got a few interesting comments. They mansplained everything to me quite nicely. I would have responded, but it didn’t seem like debate was indicated. Many westerners apparently do know what’s good for the world, no matter what the world’s people think of it. Of course European armies going out to “fix” the world is at least a two millennium list of ghastly failures; but that’s the beauty of colonialism, if it fails, why, it’s because they are ignorant savages. Of course colonialism, especially the modern version,  hasn’t failed to make a tiny number of people richer than all the tyrants in history, but of course colonialism is about helping people, not loot. It’s just a  coincidence. Snort. In any event I am going to keep re-blogging stuff one won’t see in the Washington Post. I am assuming anyone reading this blog is curious about what other people around the world think. If not, well, plenty of lighthearted posts like this one to read.

So, back to North Korea. I’m still hoping this is just a war scare, but still, really? Really? If it turns into a shooting war, I have no clue how it will turn out. I am still constantly amazed though by the people who believe that the USA would “win” in days. We bombed them flat in the 1950s war and they didn’t surrender, why would a few days bombing suddenly change their minds? Especially since they’ve had decades to prepare for more bombing? Hope springs eternal I guess. In the movies if you beat up the bad guys enough they always surrender, real life is a bit trickier. Movies are so much more fun too, as the above image illustrates. As long as North Korea doesn’t have any Chuck Norris’s of their own.

Which alas they do. This brings us to today’s fun topic, North Korea’s secret weapon:

Korea

Yes, that’s a biplane. And Antonov An-2 to be precise. An a amazing plane really, in production from 1947 until 2002. It was a light utility/transport aircraft and an all around useful aircraft. Crop dusters, fire fighting, whatever. Russian parachutists would practise jumps out of them into snowdrifts without parachutes!  Russian are crazy. Wait, how was that even possible? It’s possible because the An-2 could fly as slow as thirty miles an hour. So in a thirty mile an hour headwind, the An-2 could fly in one place, in a  stronger wind … it could fly backwards. It was easy to fly, cheap to produce, and just in general one of the good things that came out of communist Russia. Over 18,000 were built, thousands of which are still in use. Including several hundred in North Korea.

How is that a problem? Several things. Their version has canvas covered wings. This really lowers it’s radar profile. And the fact that it can fly at slow speeds at treetop level, it is very difficult to spot with radar or even visually from above. And it can take off or land on small dirt runways, so it isn’t going to be sitting at air bases waiting to be picked off by the USAF, they are likely squirrelled away all over North Korea. They have a range of over 400 miles, so they can reach all of South Korea and a large portion of Japan. The North Korean’s plan to load them with ten man suicide commando teams, and use them to attack American and Korean installations in the region. Yeah, it’s not a war winning weapon, but it could do terrible things. And there’s no way to really defend against it, any installation could be attacked at any time from any direction. Or a couple of these could sail in and land on a runway or a street inside a military complex like the Israeli’s at Entebbe. And North Korean commandos are good, some of the toughest and best trained in the world.

They also have midget submarines. Same problem, more range. I really don’t want North Korean commandos popping up while I am shopping on Telegraph or wandering through People’s Park. I like the variety we get in Berkeley, there’s a limit. Next post, spontaneous human combustion and Bigfoot, new source of forest fires explained?

(Let’s see, the Chuck Norris image was passed along by George Takei, so I refer any copyright issues to him. The An-2 photo came from Wikipedia, I think. In either case I think the images are public domain under US copyright law. I’d finish with a Chuck Norris joke, but I couldn’t find any funny ones.)

Written by unitedcats

April 10, 2013 at 9:22 am

Zombie Cats and Other News

with 3 comments

killI’m back! I was going to post a picture of a zombie cat to announce my return, but I couldn’t find a suitable one. I stumbled upon this picture in the search and it seemed like it would do. Thanks for all the inquiries about my health and well being, this is the longest break I’ve ever taken from Doug’s Darkworld. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, it was a combination of things. Mid blog crisis I suppose. Part of it is that I have achieved new levels of cynicism and objectivity. So my world view has become much bleaker. Although in some ways less bleak. I’m not worried about North Korea for example. North Korea seems to be in the news, so that will be my first topic. OK, my only topic.

I really only have a few observations. North Korea poses essentially zero threat to the USA in any objective measure. That alone highlights the egregious nonsense being spewed in Washington. Anyone who is actually worried about a North Korean attack on the US mainland is worried about something less likely than lightning strike or shark attack. It’s sad that some people are actually scared. On the other hand, I hear plenty of people saying the USA could defeat North Korea in days. There is a term for people like this. Idiots. North Korea isn’t Grenada, Panama, or even Iraq. It’s a country that has spent more than fifty years preparing for another attack by the USA,  after a war where the USA bombed their entire nation flat without them surrendering. But now they would roll over in a few days? Like I said, idiots.

On the flip side, many people, possibly the same people, are convinced that North Korea could never strike the US mainland. Yes, it’s unlikely, but not impossible. They probably don’t have missiles that can reach us, but they do have nuclear weapons. Enormous amounts of contraband are smuggled into the USA every year, could North Korea sneak a nuclear bomb into San Francisco harbour? Sure, why not? This is why starting a wear with North Korea might be a bad idea, among many other reasons. Giving a nuclear armed country a reason to try and nuke the USA is a really dumb idea. The overall point of course is that no one knows how wars will turn out, although there is that word for people who think they know. Idiots. Lastly, it needs to be understood that the situation with North Korea is entirely the USA’s creation. The USA insists that its enemies surrender to it unconditionally, and oddly enough North Korea doesn’t want to do that. North Korea has offered perfectly reasonable terms for ending the war since the 1950s. The USA refuses to even consider that.

In any event I hope cooler heads prevail. Sadly any serious study of history shows that nations can and do start utterly senseless wars that spiral out of control as the politicians involve try to save their own bacon. There’s always a chance that war with Iran will break out somehow too, but that’s a whole other story that I’ve discussed many times. And in other world news, nothing much is happening. There was a plague of locusts somewhere. The NRA is going to start flying armed drones over schools. Joe Biden announced he will be changing his sex. The usual fluff.In Doug’s Darkworld a post on the best roller coaster ever proposed is coming up, plus a solution for spontaneous human combustion, and another reason why Bigfoot is a myth. The unusual fluff in other words. Oh, yeah, and how Boy Scouts almost saved Hitler’s Third Reich.

Welcome back, have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is blatantly ripped off and being posted without attribution or copyright notice. I will remove it or attribute if the copyright owner so requests. And no, there’s no such thing as zombie cats. In fact, there’s no such thing as zombies! Who knew?)

Written by unitedcats

April 5, 2013 at 4:36 pm

The Big Picture: Fracking, Global Warming, and War

with 4 comments

usa_night

One of the hardest things about trying to keep up with what is going on in the world is that things change. Sometimes very quickly. Yet the model of the world we have in our heads changes a lot more slowly, or not at all in some people. Things that were stable for decades do eventually change, and if we don’t update our mental models to reflect this, our understanding of the world becomes flawed. Frankly most people’s understanding of the world is a more reflection of their prejudices than any true understanding, but still, some of us are trying to make sense out of it all. And in trying to make sense of it all, a huge shift has taken place over the past few years. Illustrated above. That’s the USA from space. See the big lighted splotch near the upper left middle of the image? That’s in North Dakota. How many huge urban areas are there in North Dakota? None. So what the hell is that huge lighted area? That, dear readers, is fracking. More specifically, that’s the Bakken Formation being exploited for oil. Even five years ago the expert opinion was that the Bakken Formation wouldn’t be producing oil any time in the near future, I even blogged about it. Then a breakthrough was made in oil extraction, fracking as it is known, and the Bakken Formation is now a major and expanding oil producer. The lights by the way are excess natural gas simply being burned off.

OK, so what does this mean? I think it means we’re screwed. We were already in trouble, but this is a huge change, and I think it’s going to have some disastrous consequences. First, the huge change part. Remember peak oil? Well, despite decades of expecting peak oil to hit around 2010, it hasn’t. And now, with fracking, peak oil has been put off for decades. And instead of being an oil importing country, the USA will soon be an oil exporting country once again. These are huge changes and futurists must be scrambling to adjust their models and forecasts. Oil is at the centre of modern civilization, so these changes will ripple outwards and affect everything. And yet this huge change in where our civilization is headed is taking place almost unnoticed. That’s a topic for another day, most people miss anything less than sudden catastrophic rates of change. And as a codicil to my following two points, I don’t think much could derail this. Keystone pipeline or no, the fracking accessible oil deposits in North America will get used, they are way too valuable and the oil industry is already the most powerful industry on the planet, weapons possibly excepted. Of course the weapons industry also wants these deposits exploited, since one can’t fight modern high tech wars without oil. And if one is at all familiar with American politics, big oil has huge influence. Not to mention more or less corporate control of the mainstream media, so opposition to massive fracking will be marginalized. Whether we like it or not, oil is going to be the prime mover in the USA for decades to come.

Speaking of opposition to fracking, that’s where the first major problem rears its ugly head. A massive new wave of oil exploitation is going to be the death knell for any serious mitigation of global warming. Just the lights in the image above illustrates that. We’re talking a mind numbing amount of CO2 being added to the atmosphere just from the production of oil in the first place, and then of course that oil will almost inevitably be used in such a way as to also add to the CO2 in the atmosphere. I don’t even blog about global warming any more. The people who are in denial about it are no more rational than people who deny evolution or the Big Bang. Eventually it will get bad enough that maybe something will be done, but by then it will be far too late. Fracking just means it will get worse sooner.

OK, so fracking means global warming is going to destroy civilization even sooner than was feared, there’s something worse than this? Yes, yes there is. War and oil. Or more specifically, it takes oil to build and run tanks. If one has lots of oil, one can build a lot of tanks. Yes, that’s the simple version. Let me try a different approach. The rich of a country come into a huge pile of money. They are urged to spend it on consumer goods or war to make even more money. They already have all the consumer goods they need. War it is! I posit that the USA will do what every imperialistic power in history has done when it came into some profound new source of wealth … go on an orgy or war and conquest. And since the USA has been on an orgy of war and conquest since 1900 at least, it’s just going to get much worse. I think in the 21st century the USA is going to try and reassert western colonial control over the entire world, at the point of a drone if need be. That’s certainly been the path we’ve gone down under Obama.

So, world war and world climate catastrophe all because of some lights in North Dakota? Yeah, that’s pretty much my theory for today. Earth is a strange planet.

PS: The day after I posted this, I got this link in email: Geologist’s provocative study challenges popular assumptions about ‘fracking’ Who knows?

(The above image is by NASA and is Public Domain under US copyright law. Yes, I’m blogging again after a hiatus due to odd events in my life. Future posts will get back to weird history and such, I’m getting all my negatively out on this post. For the moment.)

Written by unitedcats

February 20, 2013 at 9:38 am

Through Thick and Thin 2013

with 6 comments

nemo

Welcome new readers! Apparently one of my old posts made the front page of Reddit on 6 January, and I received over 200,000 hits in the days that followed. Typically I only get about a thousand hits a day, so for Doug’s Darkworld this was pretty crazy. The good kind of crazy. And of course I’d like to thank whoever posted on Reddit for me in the first place, I probably could figure it out if I looked, but I’m a writer, not an Internet geek. Hell, I didn’t even know what Reddit was until a few days ago and I looked it up on Wikipedia. In any event it’s a good way to start the year, and this is a good time to set course in 2013. What’s in store for Doug’s Darkworld?

For one thing, it’s not going to be quite so dark this year. I’m going to be posting less about politics and current events, and more about science and history. I enjoy writing the later more, but am more compelled to rant about the former. Still, being a grown-up (“There are no adults.”) means controlling  one’s impulses. I plan on more movie reviews too,  again, because it gives me pleasure to both watch a movie, and to deconstruct it afterwards. Granted my movie reviews tend to be dated, as I usually wait for the CD to watch a movie, but the good things in life are worth waiting for. I may blog more on current cultural events. I was tickled pink by the Gangnam Style phenomena last year, and also amazed by the negative reaction to it in some quarters. Lastly I will also try to add a bit more levity this year. Try likely being the operative word, my humor tends to go over a lot of people’s heads. Or under or around. Like the image above, it still makes me smile.

As always, I am open to suggestions about topics to write about. Sometimes I get to them promptly. Sometimes not. I still plan a post about the battle of Pegasus Bridge for example, and that was suggested years ago. Comments are always welcome as well, as long as they are reasonably polite. Granted I have had very few comments over the years that fell into “We’re you raised in a barn?” category. I think that speaks highly of my readers. (The spam-catcher isn’t perfect, if someone’s highly crafted comment doesn’t post, it was misidentified as spam. Fire me an email unitedcats@engineer.net and I will rectify the situation.) Also I suspect that I piss off the type of people who would make such comments, they rarely seem to follow my blog for long. I’m not complaining.

Fortunately, aside from the ongoing collapse of the US Empire, we still live in a  Golden Age of science and space exploration. Endless fodder for blog posts. And new discoveries in archeology and paleontology give new insight into our past all the time.  It’s safe to say that there has never been an era where humans were discovering so  such about the universe around us, and our own past and place in it. Even as a child it filled me with wonder, and as I have grown older, the wonder at same has increased. For me I’m perpetually a ten year on Christmas,  science puts new presents under the tree every day. It’s a dream come true, how could I not write about it?

Have a great 2013 all, old readers and new!

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and arguably Tardar Sauce is a historically significant figure. Yes, that was a joke. See what I mean about my sense of humor? Credit and copyright: Tardar Sauce. Did I mention I will post more cat posts?)

Written by unitedcats

January 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Ten Things That Aren’t Going to Happen in 2013

with 2 comments

woohoo

There’s lists of things that happened in 2012 all over the place, and many people have predictions of things that will happen in 2013. In the spirit of Doug’s Darkworld, here is my list of things that aren’t going to happen in 2013. Unlike other posts, where I lied and said the following is in no particular order, this list is carefully ordered. It’s from least unlikely to most unlikely. I could be wrong about any, or all of them; but the ones near the top of the list are more likely to be wrong. This is mostly just for fun, enjoy!

  1. No contact with aliens. They aren’t going to land on the Washington Mall this year. The government is not going to reveal we have secretly been in contact with them. They probably don’t even exist, at least the extremely anthropomorphic aliens we imagine. And if they do, they are separated by us through so much space and time that we will never come into contact.
  2. There will not be a zombie apocalypse. While the meme has some amusement in and of itself, and as the cultural progression from the 1950s mutant apocalypse meme it’s fascinating; all in all it’s just a bogeyman story for grown-ups. Some people seem to be taking the possibility more than in jest, hopefully I am just imagining this.
  3. No global warming action. Until the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) slides into the sea, nothing will be done. The energy industry, the most profitable looting exercise in world history since the conquistadors, makes the gun lobby look like a lemonade stand. And when I say looting, I mean taking a natural resource that really belongs to everyone on the planet, and exploiting it for the the profit of a tiny few at the top. Moving right along, history teaches that more often than not, the powerful will pursue their own interests till the end no matter what the costs to society at large. And when the WAIS does start to go … it will be decades too late to do anything about it.
  4. No progress in Palestine/Israel. Unless less one considers further Israeli encroachment into the occupied territories as progress. In which case not only will there be progress, if anything it will accelerate.
  5. No withdrawal from Afghanistan. Not now. Not ever. We may get kicked out at some point, as happened in Iraq or Vietnam, but we ain’t leaving voluntarily. Even the Romans knew when to cut their losses, America doesn’t.
  6. No Gun Control. A no brainer. The gun lobby’s increasingly sophisticated efforts to not only prevent gun control, but to roll it back even, will continue unabated. They are trying to get silencers legalized now, on the pretext that it will protect children’s hearing. Frankly, if you’re too ignorant to get your kids earplugs and hearing protectors when you take them shooting, you’re too ignorant to own a gun. And while silencers are rarely used in crime, it’s because they aren’t widely manufactured and thus available … the NRA wants to change that. I digress. Suffice it to say that America will remain one of the most gun violence afflicted countries in the developed world.
  7. No cuts in the military. In the USA this is taboo, even thinking about cuts in the military marks one as a coward at best, a terrorist sympathizer at worst. The discussion has so entered the realm of fantasy that if one side proposes a slightly less insane increase in military spending, they will be accused of proposing cuts in military spending! Right. If out-of-control military spending bothers the gentle reader, they can console themselves that the military really needs nearly 300 golf courses to defend us from terrorists. The terrorists have zero golf courses, victory is assured.
  8. Congress Does Nothing. Another no brainer. The Republicans spent Obama’s entire first turn obstructing everything; the result, the least productive congress in history. They apparently thought that by preventing Obama from doing anything, they could claim he did nothing, and there was no way he could get re-elected. This is the same method used to eliminate non Republican/Democrats when they get elected. Kill all their bills in committee, then claim they were do-nothing legislators. It works like a charm getting rid of the occasional Green Party legislator in state governments, used against a sitting president, it was exercise in magical thinking. It will continue though, partly because the Republicans still want to marginalize Obama, but mostly because the powers-that-be are perfectly happy the way things are. The rich are still getting ever richer, there’s no need to rock the boat.
  9. No Discussion of the Upwards Transfer of Wealth, no tax on the rich. Powerful forces are at work to make sure this doesn’t happen … ever again.
  10. Lastly, the one that that I can guarantee isn’t going to happen, is an end to the endless ridiculous propaganda about Obama from the right. If being a secret Muslim who wants to turn America into a police state and take away all our guns didn’t win the election, the sky’s the limit.

I hope everyone has a wonderful year, or at least some semblance of same. Any day one wakes up in the morning is a good day. One last thought, if some breakdown in the laws of statistics occurs and I am wrong about all of the above … 2013 will be a year to remember!

(The above image of the world’s most famous cat, Tardar Sauce, is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. It’s central to illustrating the post. It still makes me laugh.)

Written by unitedcats

January 1, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Berkeley, World

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