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December 19, 2013

Today let's celebrate King Leopold's death

Every day is a good day to celebrate the death of a king. Daily Kos: Dear Leopold, Rest In Hell
Today is the 104th anniversary of the death of Belgium's King Leopold II. The book made me loathe this greedy man who was, like many Kings of his era, a spoiled, insecure and violent maniac. Belgium, unlike its neighbors, didn't control many colonies. Of course, Leopold thought, how could a country be influential if it didn't have darker peoples under its boot (It should be noted, however, that Leopold's invasion of the Congo started off as a personal investment, which makes it even more heinous). The despot's nefarious forces, dubbed the Force Publique, invaded the Congo Free State and unleashed a horror many of us can't even fathom. The invaders raped Congolese women, destroyed homes and villages, sucked vital resources rubber and ivory) from the country and, more infamously as shown above, cut off the hands of native peoples to intimidate those who didn't produce enough rubber to meet the quota or to show military superiors that bullets hadn't been wasted on, gasp--wait for it, animals. Those beautiful black hands, by the way, are still a presence in Belgium. I was in Brussels several years ago and a candy shop, near the European Commission's headquarters, was selling chocolate hands. No other customer seemed to recognize the odious irony of it all. But, then again, that's Europe for you: a lovely and historically rich continent spectacularly ignorant of its role in multiple genocides. Leopold was truly an evil man who enriched himself by murdering some 10 million people. Most Belgians are, amazingly, unaware of his crimes. Instead, they see him as the longest reigning monarch in the country's history who helped build things. Belgium is indeed a beautiful country, but whatever Leopold built there was constructed on the bloodied backs of millions of black people who were slaughtered or maimed by his "rubber regime". The the only good to come from Leopold's unfortunate birth was its role in spawning the first global humanitarian cause, a campaign formed to combat his actions in the Congo. Ultimately, we should always remember the day Leopold gave us the pleasure of leaving this planet. And while I rarely, if ever, celebrate the demise of another human being, that bastard made himself an exception. He was a brutal monster who illustrated the evils of colonialism and white supremacy better than any creature I can imagine. We hear and learn, rightfully, about the Holocaust and the millions of Jews sent to their deaths by Nazism; but seldom are we made aware of the millions of Congolese lives lost to Leopold's terrorism. So let us celebrate this December 17th and the expiration of a dreadful man whose bloody stamp on history we sadly forget.

December 10, 2013

For 20 years, the code to launch nukes was 00000000

The military disagreed with the civilian management and thought nukes should be as easy to launch as possible. So they set the launch code to eight zeroes and gave the code out to everyone. Oh, and half the missiles didn't even *have* launch codes. It's really a testament to the basic goodness of man that we didn't all die in a nuclear war already. For Nearly Two Decades the Nuclear Launch Code at all Minuteman Silos in the United States Was 00000000
Today I found out that during the height of the Cold War, the US military put such an emphasis on a rapid response to an attack on American soil, that to minimize any foreseeable delay in launching a nuclear missile, for nearly two decades they intentionally set the launch codes at every silo in the US to 8 zeroes. We guess the first thing we need to address is how this even came to be in the first place. Well, in 1962 JFK signed the National Security Action Memorandum 160, which was supposed to ensure that every nuclear weapon the US had be fitted with a Permissive Action Link (PAL), basically a small device that ensured that the missile could only be launched with the right code and with the right authority. There was particularly a concern that the nuclear missiles the United States had stationed in other countries, some of which with somewhat unstable leadership, could potentially be seized by those governments and launched. With the PAL system, this became much less of a problem. . . . However, though the devices were supposed to be fitted on every nuclear missile after JFK issued his memorandum, the military continually dragged its heels on the matter. In fact, it was noted that a full 20 years after JFK had order PALs be fitted to every nuclear device, half of the missiles in Europe were still protected by simple mechanical locks. Most that did have the new system in place weren’t even activated until 1977. Those in the U.S. that had been fitted with the devices, such as ones in the Minuteman Silos, were installed under the close scrutiny of Robert McNamara, JFK’s Secretary of Defence. However, The Strategic Air Command greatly resented McNamara’s presence and almost as soon as he left, the code to launch the missile’s, all 50 of them, was set to 00000000. Oh, and in case you actually did forget the code, it was handily written down on a checklist handed out to the soldiers.

December 06, 2013

UPDATE: "Israel Poisoned Arafat with Polonium" Looking Less Likely

Following up, as we were one of many, many, many...