Battle of the Statues


Statue of Winston Churchill
Frank Augstein/AP

The battle of the statues is now global. Its most recent episode began in Bristol, United Kingdom, where the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was brought down in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter uprising sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in the US. It then quickly spread to the US and the rest of Europe.

In the US, the battle had begun decades earlier over the detested Confederate flag, and is now extended not only to Confederate statues and statues of other racists and white supremacists, but also to military bases named after racist generals of the Confederate army…

In short, it is the entire history of European racism and colonialism with its global consequences that is now on trial. This battle will not stop until this overdue reclaiming and rewriting of world history comes to full fruition.

We rest when and where we can. Then, we resume the fight.

Chrysler Hemi air raid siren

I’ve been recently thinking about the last time Americans seemed to have collectively lost their minds: the Cold War. Pondering this time period led me down a YouTube rabbit hole where I learned that during the chilliest portions of the Cold War, Chrysler V8s were used to power the loudest air raid sirens ever built.

I had no idea these existed! And as a nerd who loves both Detroit automotive and Nuclear Age history, I’m a little disappointed in myself. Let’s fix that…

“…At least one ended up in the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. In 1997, a British documentary team visiting the museum was treated to cranking up a Chrysler Air Raid Siren. After decades of neglect spent soaking in saltwater spray on a roof in Florida and then languishing in a shop, the ’52 Hemi V8 engine not only started right up but started on gasoline, a fuel that it had never run before as one of the engines outfitted to run on propane.

Solid design and craftsmanship still rules.

Trump loves those steroids

…Confusion continued Sunday about the severity of Mr. Trump’s condition, as his physician revealed the president had been given a dose of a powerful steroid that the World Health Organization has recommended for patients who are “critically ill” with COVID-19.

Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said the president had been given dexamethasone, on Saturday, and had experienced two drops in his oxygen levels since the onset of the illness. Dexamethasone has been shown to improve outcomes for patients with severe cases of COVID-19, including those who require supplemental oxygen, but is not recommended for use in patients with milder cases.

“Dexamethasone is a very potent steroid that can have brain effects. There can be a manic behavior associated with dexamethasone, so certainly important that we understand that,” CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus said after the briefing.

Battalion of Black Women in WW2


Major Charity Adams reviews the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

“The unit was set up to determine the value Black women brought to the military. They ultimately ran the fastest mail service in the European Theater during World War II. More than 6,500 Black women ultimately served in the auxiliary corps during the war, as both officers and enlisted women. They came from all over the country, many in search of opportunities unavailable to them in the civilian sector.”

Taking care of business in wartime.

Might be you don’t want to take a human to a gunfight in the sky?

Last week, a technique popularized by DeepMind was adapted to control an autonomous F-16 fighter plane in a Pentagon-funded contest to show off the capabilities of AI systems. In the final stage of the event, a similar algorithm went head-to-head with a real F-16 pilot using a VR headset and simulator controls. The AI pilot won, 5-0.

The episode reveals DeepMind caught between two conflicting desires. The company doesn’t want its technology used to kill people. On the other hand, publishing research and source code helps advance the field of AI and lets others build upon its results. But that also allows others to use and adapt the code for their own purposes.

Others in AI are grappling with similar issues, as more ethically questionable uses of AI, from facial recognition to deepfakes to autonomous weapons, emerge.

The US and other countries are rushing to embrace the technology before adversaries can, and some experts say it will be difficult to prevent nations from crossing the line to full autonomy. It may also prove challenging for AI researchers to balance the principles of open scientific research with potential military uses of their ideas and code.

Trust your enemies? Trust your friends? Or worry about them behaving exactly how someone truly corrupt might recommend – like, for example, Congress!

Not publicly, of course.

V-J Day remembered


Soldiers and sailors celebrate in Newark, NJ

After the surrender of Japan on 14 August 1945, two days of national holiday were announced for celebrations in the UK, the US and Australia.

Millions of people from the Allied countries took part in parades and street parties.

Germany had surrendered on 7 May 1945, followed by Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8 May, but World War Two still continued in the Asia-Pacific region…

An estimated 71,000 soldiers from Britain and the Commonwealth were killed in the war against Japan, including more than 12,000 prisoners of war who died in Japanese captivity.

It wasn’t until the US had dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on 6 and 9 August, that Japan surrendered and ended the war.

The recorded death tolls of the atomic bombings are estimates, but it is thought that about 140,000 of Hiroshima’s 350,000 population were killed in the blast, and at least 74,000 people died in Nagasaki.

It was sunny and warm in our Bridgeport neighborhood. VJ-day felt just like VE-day to kids – except that now the war was completely ended. We stopped playing war games that day – though our politicians never have.

Remembering the War in the Pacific recorded by combat photographers


Joe Rosenthal

When most Americans think of the World War II battle for Iwo Jima – if they think of it at all, 75 years later – they think of one image: Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point.

That moment, captured in black and white by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal and as a color film by Marine Sergeant William Genaust, is powerful, embodying the spirit of the Marine Corps.

But these pictures are far from the only images of the bloodiest fight in the Marines’ history. A larger library of film, and the men captured on them, is similarly emotionally affecting. It can even bring Americans alive today closer to a war that ended in the middle of the last century…

Please RTFA. I was 7 years old at the time of the Iwo Jima landing. My father was invited to a private showing of the first rough cut of all the footage several weeks later – and brought me. That night is still vivid, stuck in my brain. I cannot forget it.

Over time, I came to better understand what I saw.

Do you realize we’ve never stopped bombing Afghanistan?

Since 2016, we’ve increased airstrikes as much as 780% though combat operations in Afghanistan officially ended in December 2014…


US Air Force

US and coalition combat operations in Afghanistan officially ended in December 2014, and the numbers of CFACC-controlled airstrikes dropped from 2,365 for that year to just 947 in 2015 (the lowest figure recorded since 2009). The strike rate began to rapidly rise again in 2016 with 1,337 recorded, and rose again in 2017 with 4,361. It rose markedly again in 2018 with 7,362, before peaking at 7,423 in 2019.

Gee, what might have happened in 2016 to spark increased bombing of one of those little nations on our kill-list? Hmm?

BTW, there aren’t any more “coalition” forces operating over Afghanistan. It’s all our military, folks.