What happened to the missiles?

On April 14th, 2018, the U.S., U.K. and France fired over a hundred missiles into Syria.  Everyone seems to agree with that.  What they don’t agree upon, is whether most of the missiles were shot down by Syrian defenses using Russian weapons.  Some say they were (Ministry of Defense for the Russian Federation, Russia Insider, Moon of Alabama), some say they weren’t (The Times of Israel, The Drive, The DriveThe Telegraph), and some are undecided (The Guardian, The Aviationist).  (A side issue is whether the purported gas attack–the casus belli for the bombing–was a real event or a false flag event (Sputnik, Independent, OPCW)). This is not a case of subjective interpretation.  Somebody’s lying.  In fact, the official statement of some countries involved (if not all) is specifically intended to be disinformation.  This raises something of an epistemological quandary.  Even though something happened a certain way (and no other way), and, even though all of the key players in the militaries of the countries involved probably know what this way was, you and I will probably never really know the truth.  All of these key players are invested in their narrative of the story, so it does no good to imagine one side as ‘good guys’ (or as honest guys).  Oh, there may be a leaker by and by, but can you trust the leaker?  Who can you trust?  What can you do, other than pick the story that comports with your worldview and believe it?  For now, I think that’s the best we’ve got.

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Mission Accomplished!

It seems as if the only time you can know for sure that the U.S. has made an unequivocal mistake is when both major parties and the mainstream media all support the decision.  I think President Trump is probably feeling pretty good about his current bump in the polls, if not his current slump among the more vocal elements of his base (Mic, The Guardian).  Trump seems to believe he has accomplished a mission of some sort in Syria with his recent bombing, though what that mission is is unclear (NYT).  He’s even throwing in some new sanctions against Syria’s pal Russia for good measure (NYT).

There are some questions about this latest bombing that I haven’t heard asked by very many people–questions that seem to have been drown out by the din of consensus and justification if they were ever on anyone’s mind at all–questions like, What actual proof do we have that there was a gas attack at all (the casus belli for the bombing)?  What proof do we have of who carried out the attack?  What business does the U.S. have to intervene in this matter?  Will this bombing be any more effective than the last one?  Does the U.S. now have to drop bombs on everyone who uses chemical weapons?  What else could be done with the money spent on bombing?  And, is this going to lead to yet another country in which the U.S. is mired in war?  Finally, isn’t this just the same place we were last year (this blog, WELT, Salon) and five years ago (London Review of Books)?  It certainly seems as if all of the same players have all of the same motives (Global Research).  As Seymour Hersh noted last year:

“The issue is, what if there’s another false-flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys [Islamist groups] are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

Syria again

There’s been another incident in Syria with chemical weapons.  At least, that seems to be the version of the story I hear most frequently.  So, of course, the U.S. president decided to send a few missiles their way (NPR, Fox, USA Today, CBS, RT).  The U.K. and France joined the fun and fired off a few of their own as well.  For a guy so few friends, Bashar al-Assad certainly gets a lot of attention (NPR, WP).  Today’s bombing of Syria (Damascus and Homs) sits poorly with several members of the U.S. congress, who would have preferred to be consulted on the matter.  According to Ed Markey,

“There is no Congressional authorization for the use of military force against Syrian government targets. And as we saw during President Trump’s cruise missile strikes on a Syrian airbase last year in retaliation for their earlier use of chemical weapons, the attack was neither operationally, nor strategically, successful.”

Russia, as well, is not amused, and has expressed concerns over escalating Syrian tensions evolving into a direct war between the U.S. and Russia.  Of course, according to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis, that’s just what they would say.  He claims,

“based on recent experience, we fully expect a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have aligned themselves with the Assad regime.”

In fact, when it comes to Syria, I get the feeling we can expect a significant disinformation campaign all around for quite some time to come.

AP-Syria-missiles
Missiles over Damascus, source (of the image, not the missiles): AP

Not with a bang but with a whimper

It’s humbling enough that I need the New York Post to explain to me the meaning of an article in the journal Physics Review D, but even worse that I then rely on aol to break down the New York Post’s summary.  According to Addreassen et al. (2018), they have produced “the first complete calculation of the lifetime of our Universe: 10∧139years. With 95% confidence, we expect our Universe to last more than 1058years.”  Now, that sounds like something I might have come up with, but they did it after producing “exact closed-form solutions for the functional determinants over scalars, fermions, and vector bosons around the scale-invariant bounce, demonstrating manifest gauge invariance in the vector case.”  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gone to that much trouble.  So, what does it all mean?  As the NYP breaks down, “the end of our universe will come with a sudden bang rather than a slow demise,” and, “all it would theoretically take is for a fundamental particle — the Higgs boson — to become destabilized, unleashing a huge energy bubble that will swallow up everything in its path, leaving nothing but a dark void.”  Or, as aol simply states, “What would follow is an explosion of energy that would destroy everything in the universe.”  However, this seems to be a way off yet, so I’ll probably still have to clean the house this weekend.

Speaking of nuclear physics and life-ending disasters, it’s nice to see that things are back to normal at Fukushima.  Lovers strolling hand-in-hand, stealing furtive glances past their respirators as they pass beneath the cherry blossoms.  Hmm, maybe the Higgs boson thing should just get on with it.

fukushima cherry blossoms
Source: Kyodo News

 

Sinclair Broadcast Group

If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for SOMEONE to make a list of the NON-fake news sources so I can finally figure out what’s actually going on in the (real) United States of America.  Well, our prayers may have been answered.  Sinclair Broadcast Group has demanded that all of their local news reporters recite–on air–a pledge of unbiased news reporting (deadspin, The Daily Dot, CNN, John Oliver, The Guardian.  If you’d like to know if your favorite news source has taken “The SBG Pledge” or not, you can check here.  Better check back often, though–Sinclair is feeling spendy these days.  They are the largest owner of television stations in the U.S.  They own 193 stations across the country and they’re about to add 40 more.  Pretty soon, there won’t be any more room for fake news in the whole durn country!  No foolin’!

Good morning Sunshine!

Item!  Guess who’s going to be lighting up the White House press room!?  It’s Tinka!  That’s right, Tinka Hessenheffer (played by Caroline Sunshine) from the hit TV show Shake It Up.  (TV Insider, E Online, TMZ, marie claire, ELITE DAILY, teen VOGUE, Perez Hilton, Cosmopolitan, HELLO GIGGLES, Hollywood Life, ELLE, Variety).  Better keep an eye on your job, Sarah Huckabee!

I guess the only thing now that the White House still needs is a good lawyer (NYT, CNN, WSAZ, Reuters).

sunshine monster

The Canadian Connection

I’ve been to Victoria, British Columbia.  It’s a quaint, sleepy little suburban town tucked safely away from the rest of the world on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada.  It’s hard to imagine anything more harmful than boring Canadian politics and Edwardian architecture coming from this place.  It’s a perfect place to hide a data analytics firm with an innocuous-sounding name like AggregateIQ.  (For the record, I didn’t know it was possible to aggregate intelligence quotients, but, I guess if you’re in the persuasion business, every edge helps:  “AggregateIQ–serving the election spoilage community with a combined intelligence quotient of over 1,000 since 2013!”)

In short, it seems that the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal involving Brexit and the Trump campaign traces back to AggregateIQ in Victoria, BC (The Globe and Mail, The Globe and Mail, Globalnews, Dhaka Tribune, Irish Times, NPR, The Guardian, The Guardian, ZDNet).  AggregateIQ (archived 2018-03-27, archived 2018-03-22) claims this is all a big misunderstanding, but that claim doesn’t seem to square with their website posting of just a few days ago.  Their website seems to be changing regularly lately.  Also, as reported by Gizmodo, Upguard discovered files on the AggregateIQ server that seems to contradict their claims of what they really do for a living.

As with everything, I suppose, this gets down to a matter of personalities, and it should be cozy on the island.  Victoria is the home of Chris Wylie, the whistleblower who is calling out AggregateIQ, and Zach Massingham and Jeff Silvester, who call him a liar (Global Research, The Telegraph).  So, who (if anyone) is going to clear up this mess?  It seems as if Michael McEvoy, is the man to watch.  He takes over as B.C.’s new information and privacy commissioner in a few days (the star, Global NewsOffice of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC, Legislative Assembly of British Columbia).  And, he’ll be based in, yes, Victoria, BC.  Now there’s a guy I’d love get together with for a beer and a chat.

cambridge analytica links
Source: The Guardian