Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Indiana Creates Propaganda Ministry

State run media is the hallmark of an unfree state. In Iran the state run new outlet is called IRIB. In China, the People's Daily tells the people what the government wants them to know. The old Soviet Union had Pravda while Nazi Germany had Der Stürmer.
Now, the Great State of Indiana has joined these illustrious news organizations with Just IN.
Just IN will use taxpayers money to build a propaganda machine to compete with legitimate news outlets. Just IN promises "exclusive" content unavailable from regular news outlets, meaning they will be withholding information and only offer officially filtered versions of news. State officials will no longer have to submit to interviews with journalists. All "interviews" can now be done by the state news agency asking only those questions the state wants asked and never embarrassing state officials with pesky facts.

In the future, Indiana will be a state where the "nattering nebobs of negativism" will be silenced and only the "good news" of the glorious state will be heard.  Republican Governor Mike Pence is proud of his creation designed to control the flow of information for the betterment of the Party.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Most Expensive Weapons Ever

We've already seen that cheap weapons can be effective. But the United States doesn't believe in that. The US military, seduced as they are by defense contractors prostitutes, believes that no weapon is too expensive - the costlier the better.
Zumwalt destroyer, more modern art than warship
 1. Joint Strike Fighter (F-35)
As mentioned, the R&D alone exceeds the GNP of Colombia, over $400 billion. That's enough money to run the entire New York City education system for sixteen years. What do we get for all this money? The range is 30% less that the F-18 it replaces. It is more dangerous to land on carriers. It is faster than the F-18 -- nine MPH faster which for a supersonic aircraft is a very tiny drop in a very big bucket. And its fancy and expensive stealth technology and computer systems are totally useless against low-tech opponents like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

2. Virginia Class Submarine
Each one of these boats costs $2.4 billion, that enough to fund two months of the Federal School Lunch Program. These are anti-submarine attack subs. The last time the US has fought a war where it used attack subs was the Korean War. The last time anywhere in the world submarines were used in combat was the Falklands War of 1982. Which is more important, feeding children or building boats that serve absolutely no useful function?

3. Ford Class Supercarrier
The most expensive single weapon in the US arsenal. Each one costs $13 billion plus another $100 million a year just to keep these boats afloat. Each one costs the entire budget for the state of Utah. These mobile landing strips have been used a lot as America fights its colonial wars far from its own shores.

4. Zumwalt-class destroyer
Cheap, by US standards at only $3.4 billion each, enough to pay for the entire education system in the state of Idaho. The Zumwalt is a strange looking stealth boat that is significant for being totally useless. It is designed for shore bombardment but, unlike the battleships of bygone years, the Zumwalt is a delicate butterfly of a ship unsuited for combat conditions.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Four Surprisingly Effective Low Tech Weapons

The United States is the grandmaster of high tech weaponry. We have killer robot planes flown by nerds thousands of miles away from the actual fighting, computerized grenade launchers that can shoot round corners, and a new jet (the F-35) whose development cost exceeds the gross national product of Columbia.

But cheap works too if it is matched with ingenuity.

Sharpened Sticks
The Vietnam War was a lesson the American military refused to learn that flashy, bombastic, and expensive doesn't always beat smart and dedicated. The Viet Cong couldn't stand toe-to-toe with the US Marines in a firefight, a fact that Gen. William Westmoreland was all to quick to point out. But they were smart. While a Marine patrol searched the jungle for something to shoot one of them might step on a tiger trap, fall in, and be impaled on sharpened bamboo stakes.

The patrol would have to call in a helicopter evac, revealing their position so the Viet Cong could either organize an ambush or just melt into the jungle. There were no metal parts for detection equipment to find, no explosives for sniffer dogs to spot, and they maimed which is more disruptive to an American military unit than killing. They were the perfect booby trap.

Stray Cats
This is an oldie, 525 BCE old. The Persian Empire was attacking the Egypt city of Pelusium. Knowing that Egyptians considered cats sacred, the Persian king gathered up all the stray cats he could find (as well as other sacred animals).  Every soldier carried a cat into the battle. The Egyptians, not wanting to risk injuring any cats, refused to fire arrows at the approaching army and surrendered the battlefield and eventually their entire kingdom to the Persians.

This invention did not win the war for Japan but it did allow them to do the impossible and bomb the American mainland. This was a highly sophisticated plan. Due to pioneering work by Wasaburo Oishi, the Japanese in the 1940's had a better understanding of the jet stream than anyone else. They calculated the speed of the jet stream using smoke plumes from eruptions of Mount Fuji. Weights would be automatically released from time to time to keep the balloons at the correct altitude. Over 9000 balloons were released. However, the calculations weren't perfect and only 300 balloons reached the United States, setting a few fires and killing six people.

Tree Cannon
You've got gun powder but you don't have enough precious iron to forge cannons. What to do? In several places around the world as late as 1903 in Macedonia, the solution was to make cannons out of hard wood logs. Bulgarians used cherry wood cannons in their revolt against Ottoman rule; they mostly blew up. Samurai built wooden cannons in their rebellion against Western influence on the Japanese emperor. They would fire three or four times before blowing up. The Vietnamese built wooden cannons in their defense against French colonial invasion in the 19th century.

Probably the most effective use of wooden cannon were the Quaker Guns. During the American Revolution, a company of 125 Loyalists were barricaded in a home. Americans tasked with rooting out the Loyalists built a fake log cannon and threatened to bombard the house unless those inside surrendered. Faced with what looked like real artillery, the Loyalists surrendered without a fight.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Handicapping the Presidential Field

It's too soon, but people are declaring for the presidency right and right.
The perfect Republican - a rich fat cat with guns.
1. Jeb Bush - the Ultimate Plutocracy Candidate (5 to 1)
The latest in a family notorious for shitty presidents and shittier wars, Bush III isn't even trying to appeal to the unwashed masses. He is campaigning exclusively to the 1%.

2. Mitt Romney - Poverty Plutocrat (10 to 1)
Mitt is running again because he still believes he is ordained by the Mormon god to lead the nation into the Promised Land. This time mister "corporations are people, too" is claiming he will fight poverty. This means he will be running to the left of a Bush in the ultra conservative Republican Party. Ain't a lot of room there.

3. Rand Paul - Daddy's Little Sociopath (12 to 1)
Health care and education available exclusively for the wealthy. Private police and fire services replacing the corrupt public agencies. If you don't pay the police up front they won't investigate. Eliminate burdensome regulations so I can finally build toxic waste dumps in residential communities.

4. Ted Cruz - the Self-loathing Immigrant (15 to 1)
Born in Canada to Hispanic parents and determined to prevent people who look like him from entering the country. Ted is a religious war candidate who is champing at the bit to kill Muslims, imprison gynecologists, and turn women into broodmares.

5. Scott Walker - Union Buster (17 to 1)
Scott has dedicated his life to preventing public employees from ever gathering together to discuss how to improve their jobs. Oddly, not the most scandal plagued candidate.

6. Chris Christie - Jersey Goomba (20 to 1)
The most scandal plagued candidate, possibly ever. Has the personality and likability of Joe Pecsi in Goodfellas without the good looks.

7. Marco Rubio - the Other Floridian (35 to 1)
Poor Marco. Had a dream of being the first Floridian and first Hispanic to run for president. Then Ted Cruz came along and pissed all over that dream while Jeb Bush fucked it in the ass and left it weeping in the gutter.

8. Rick Perry - Can't Walk and Chew Gum (40 to 1)
He sports "smart guy" horn-rimmed glasses that he doesn't need for reading because, let's face it, he still doesn't read. His campaign begins and ends with the Second Amendment.

9. Ben Carson - Who? (50 to 1)
This cycle's Herman Cain. A conservative black male who has never run for public office because Southern Republicans still won't vote for a black man. Wrote a book; well, plagiarized a book.

10. Bobby Jindal - God, Why? (75 to 1)
It's hard to know just why Bobby wants to be president. Sure, he wants to impose his religious philosophy on the nation but most of the people on this list intend to do that. Beyond that, he has never been able to articulate a reason, good or bad.

As for Democrats. Hillary Clinton (1 to 1) is it and nobody else is challenging. However, the same was being said exactly eight years ago.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jeb Bush For Sale

Jeb Bush has announced he intends to raise $100 million in 90 days to buy the presidency. We are not talking a grassroots appeal but tycoon schmoozing, it you don't have a bathroom fixture made out of gold you are not invited. Bush's goal is to suck the air out of the Republican competition early.
Jeb Bush Sucks! - Possible campaign slogan
It's amusing to note that Mitt Romney is now too tiny a plutocrat to compete.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Great American Massacres

America Exceptionalism has a glorious history of mass killings. There are so many massacres to choose from that, to limit my choices somewhat, I only looked at racial or religious massacres that had at least the tacit approval of local authorities. Here are some of the most interesting.

Clear Lake Massacre
In the 1840's American settlers Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone had taken to kidnapping and enslaving members of the peaceful Pomo tribe. They would freely beat, torture, starve and rape tribe members they forced to work in the gold fields of central California. They would whip Pomo parents who refused to bring their children for Kelsey and Stone to rape. In the Spring of 1850, a couple of Pomo natives freed themselves by killing Kelsey and Stone.

A regiment of the U.S. Cavalry was sent to find the killers of Kelsey and Stone. When they came upon a Pomo fishing settlement on Clear Lake the Cavalry attacked, indiscriminately killing up to 100 men, women, and children.

Mountain Meadow Massacre
In the late 1850's there were many wagon trains traveling through the Utah Territory to California. Mormons under their religious dictator Brigham Young were undergoing a spiritual cleansing that included the murder, or "blood atonement," of sinners within the congregation. At the same time, Mormons were driving any Federal agents from the territory with threats of killing them if they remained. President Buchanan responded by threatening to send in the army to quell the rebellion. Also at this time, Mormon leaders told the Native American Paiutes that Brigham Young was giving the cattle of any wagon trains headed to California to the Paiute.

Into this mess came the Fancher Party from Arkansas. A prominent had been murdered around this time and religious elders in Cedar City concluded that people in the Fancher wagon train had done the killing. Some Paiute with Mormon militiamen dressed as Indians attacked the wagon train and held it siege for five days. The Mormons then proposed to give the party safe passage; in exchange had to surrender their weapons, wagons, and cattle.

The men were separated from the women and 17 very young children were put in a wagon. They were marched several miles towards Cedar City. At a prearranged signal the Mormon militiamen turned on the men and killed them all. They then attacked and killed all the women. All totaled, 140 men and women were butchered. The 17 children were taken to Cedar City and passed out as prizes to Mormon families. Brigham Young later told the leader of the massacre, "I asked the Lord if it was all right for the deed to be done...It is all right."

Lawrence Massacre
In 1863, 400 Confederate militia under the command of the notorious William Quantrill attacked the Jayhawker town of Lawrence, Kansas. The town was safely devoid of Union troops allowing Quantrill's raiders free reign to burn and pillage they town. They rounded up nearly 200 men and boys and shot them down in cold blood.

Louisiana Massacres
In the decade following the Civil War, Louisiana whites waged a war of killings to prevent freed blacks from voting. New Orleans (1866) saw white mobs killed 38.  Coushatta (1874) saw the White League attack and kill white Republican officeholders and freed blacks, killing over 20. Colfax (1873) had the local sheriff organize 300 armed whites to attack the courthouse defended by black citizens. After the fighting when the defenders surrendered their arms, the whites engaged in a mass killing of the black defenders, killing at least 100 men.

Tulsa Race Riot
In 1921, the Ku Klux Klan was at its zenith. That year a mob of whites attacked the wealthy segregated black Greenwood District, also known as the Black Wall Street. The mob burned over 1,200 homes and killed as many as 300 people with impunity. When the police finally moved in they arrested over 6,000 black victims, blaming the victims for the violence.