Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Here in south eastern CT, one of the most heavily traveled corridors of the nation sitting squarely between Boston and NYC, a battle is being waged between rational progress and environmentalist paranoia. In the early 70’s a highway was constructed which connected route 2 near Hartford, the capital of CT and major business center, with south eastern CT. Before that the highway route required traveling the edges of a box, north to Norwich area of CT and then west to Hartford. Route 11 was supposed to be a nice diagonal connecting the two corners of this important exchange, instead the project lost funding in 1974 half way through completion and stopped at the interchange with Route 85. South eastern CT is home to Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Global Central Research headquarters, General Dynamics Electric Boat submarine building facility, a large Navy base, and the US Coast Guard academy. So commuters heading here from all central and western parts of Massachusetts and New York enjoy highway for the majority of the journey, only to get off and travel on a rural undivided tree lined winding route for the last 10 miles. A route where giant signs demand headlights to be on at all times, where joggers and bicyclists have abandoned for fear of their lives, residents pray before they pull out of their driveways, and where this 10 miles stretch averages 1 fatality per year.

A recent front page story ran in The Day, the largest local newspaper. Did it run a profile on each person that has been killed on that road commuting to work? Did it show how much money is lost to the area on that road in damages from non fatal accidents? No, it featured a pretty waterfall, a beautiful wooded landscape, and some pictures of rabbits; revealing a very obvious bias on the project. For 20 years the state of CT has repeatedly attempted to get Route 11 completed, which would bypass the dangerous Route 85 and save lives, and it has been repeatedly blocked. This time the EPA is at it again arresting any progress or development. The EPA has publicly stated that in general it opposes all new roads and it is given virtually limitless power to stop new road construction. Is this reasonable? It opposes ALL NEW ROADS? Is this the way to progress? Is this the way to strengthening our economy?

In a story that ran on June 26, 2006 on Route 11 The Day reports:
Environmental Concerns Could Derail Route 11 Plan

"Bartlett contends that the road designs would “cause or contribute to significant degradation of waters of the United States, ” and he and the top U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official call the most recent assessment of the project's environmental impact inadequate"

And really now, an 8.5 mile highway will cause SIGNIFICANT DEGRADATION OF THE WATERS OF THE [ENTIRE?] UNITED STATES. Are they serious? More delays and studies, favorite tactics of the EPA.

The article quotes a lone voice of reason:

"The agency has been studying whether building the road could deplete the habitat of the New England cottontail rabbit, which is being considered for endangered species status. U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Connecticut, has ridiculed the study, contending the agency is more concerned with rabbits than the human lives lost because of accidents on Route 85."

In 1919 future president and then solder Dwight D. Eisenhower traveled with a military caravan on a cross country trip. The journey was torturous and took months to complete, with horses and wagons and trucks routinely getting trapped in muddy ravines and overburdened roads. There is no doubt this terrible experience played a role in his future advocacy of a national interstate highway system. From 1956 to 1975 the Federal Highway Act created 35,000 miles of it’s planned 42,000 miles of highways. In the subsequent 20 years from 1975 to 1995 only the remaining 7,000 miles were built. In the latest 10 years from 1995 to today, a mere 4,000 more miles have been paved, a 10% percent increase. According the Bureau of Transportation Statistics the number of vehicle miles traveled in 1975 was 1.4 trillion miles, in 1995 was 2.4 trillion miles while in 2005 that number was 3 trillion. Today highways represent less than one percent of the nation’s total road mileage yet carry over 20 percent of the nations traffic. We see barely 20% more highway travel lanes than in 1975, while the number of vehicle miles traveled has doubled, and the number of cars on the road continues to sky rocket.

Interstate 95, which goes from the Florida Keys to the cost of Maine, through Atlantic City, New York city, and Boston, also passes through Connecticut on it’s southern coast. Most of 95 through CT is two lanes, and the Stretch of 95 that goes from Danbury CT (near the New York border) to Old Saybrook is one of the busiest exchanges in the country. Recently a plan was unveiled to add one single lane on the north and south bound parts of 95 in CT, along 65 mile stretch. The estimates for the cost and time frame? 20 billion dollars and 20 years! Are you kidding me, we paved half the nation in that time and cost.

In 1991 work began in Hong Kong on the most ambitious civil engineering project of the 21st century. In the following 7 years, and at a cost of 20 billion dollars, a six lane one mile tunnel, two bridges, one of which was the worlds longest double decker suspension bridge, the other the worlds longest cable-stayed bridge, twenty-two miles of an elevated superhighway, much of it built over an existing fourteen lane highway which remained opened, a high speed rail along that highway, an artificial island and on top of it a new airport with the worlds largest passenger terminal in history were built. Yet it takes the US 20 years and 20 billion dollars to add one lane to 65 miles of highway!

(Learn all about Hong Kong's mega engineering project - here)

This is completely absurd. Our interstate highways are the lifeblood of our economy. They are not called major arteries for nothing, if you choke of a major highway, all transportation suffers, all manufactured goods, fuels, and foods are delayed. Everything is more expensive. Sitting in endless traffic jams with engines idling for hours on end. The nation suffers as a whole. America has the majority of its population on opposing costs separated by a thousand miles of nothing except massive farms. The greater metropolitan area of New York contains an estimated 21 million people, people who get their food, goods, and fuel primary by vehicles traveling on highways. The greater metropolitan area of Los Angeles is home to 18 million people, again all fed, clothed, and fueled primarily through highways. The greater metropolitan area of Chicago, the 3rd largest in the US and the only major one in the middle of the east and west coasts, is home to 10 million people. Together these three cities make up almost 50 million people and contain 1/6 of the nations population. A cursory look at any population density map shows that the majority of the US’s population lies on opposing costs, with huge swaths of land in between with population densities of 1 – 5 people per square mile. This area, of course, is where much of our food, and a significant portion of the worlds food supply, is produced. Roads and highways are the only way to get these goods to their destinations. Our entire economy and livelihood center on fast, efficient, and smooth transportation, with the interstate highways at the core. Yet we would rather pull our teeth out than build new roads, and when we do they cost an absurd amount of money and take decades to construct. What is going on here? Have we lost our minds?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Nuclear Power vs Coal Power

Many people consider Uranium and subsequently nuclear power to be worse, over all, than coal or other fossil fuels. They claim, for various reasons, including mining, refining, storage, and disposal; that nuclear power is worse than coal, but the reality is that in all areas Uranium and Fission power far outshine coal power.

Lets take a quick look at the Energy Density of these sources of energy to start with.

Coal - ~6,150 kilowatt-hours (kWh)/ton
Uranium – 2,000,000,000 kWh/ton
Uranium, Fast Breeder reactors (up to 100x more) - 200,000,000,000 kWh/ton

Energy density is measured in power divided by mass of a material, so when we say that Coal has 6,150 Kilowatt-hours per ton, it means that one ton of coal will produce 6,150 kW for one hour, or 615 kW for 10 hours, etc. To compare this with a typical piece of home equipment, say a television, a television might consume 500W of power when in operation, if run for one hour that would be 500 watt – hours. Two televisions would then be 1 kilowatt – hour. So one ton of coal would power 12,300 televisions for 1 hour. Current energy costs (which you can read in your electric bill) hover around 10 – 15 cents per kilowatt hour.

As noted above, Uranium, per ton, produces more than 300,000 times the amount of energy that coal does. What, exactly, makes a material with 300,000 times as much energy as coal 'uneconomical' then? Is uranium 300,000 times more difficult to mine and obtain? 300,000 times more expensive to dispose of? Will it kill 300,000 times more people? The answer, of course, even combining all the complexities of nuclear power, is a resounding NO. Lets compare Uranium Fission, which generates about 15% of US power, with Coal generated power, which generated 80% of the US’s power.

Claim: Coal poses almost no hazard for human health, except when swallowed or hit on the head and therefore doesn't have to be kept safe and secured at all times.-
Certainly NOT true, the atmospheric irritants emitted by the combustion of coal and their effects include:
- Sulphur dioxide (SO2) - respiratory disorders, impaired breathing
- Nitrous oxide (NOx) - respiratory disorders, infections, pulmonary diseases
- Carbon monoxide (CO) - fatal angina, various other effects
- Ozone (O3) - respiratory disorders, impaired breathing, asthma, edema
- Particulate matter (PM10) - various toxic particle (organic matter, carbon, mineral dusts, metal oxides and sulphates and nitrate salts) effects, main
mortality factor due to fossil fuels
- Toxic substances, heavy metals - specific substance effects

All of these combustion products of fossil fuels are estimated by the WHO in its 1997 report on sustainable development, to account for 6% of the total 50 million annual global deaths. That's approximately 3 million deaths *every year* from atmospheric pollutants released from the combustion of fossil fuels. These are real people dying painful deaths every year. 3 million. Outdoor air pollution in the U.S. due to particulate pollution alone was estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1997 to cause at least 20,000 premature deaths each year. 3rd world countries, many of which cook on wood or dung fired stoves, fare much worse, and are some of the places that would benefit most from cheap electricity generated by a full fledged global nuclear infrastructure.

Claim: Coal is not suitable for deadly weapons and therefore of no value for villains of any kind, including despotic dictators -
True of course, coal has little intrinsic value to oppressive regimes, unlike Nuclear power which is a stepping stone to nuclear weapons. If 'suitability for deadly weapons' was the only consideration of what type of power source should be utilized, you could make a strong case against nuclear and for coal. However, other factors include a) cost b) number of people it kills every year d) monopolistic domination potentials etc. etc. Because Uranium fission holds 300,000 times as much energy, it is far more cost effective, makes electricity available to more people at less of a cost, and consequently directly raises their standards of living. Coal kills many people per year, not only in frequent large accidents (which happen most often in mines) but slowly and spread out over the globe. Coal and oil, because they are present in small areas in dense qualities and require little technology to utilize, easily facilitate the rise to power of oppressive regimes. Most of the worlds Oil is in the middle east, where the exports have financially supported the oppressive rulers of that region, every single one of which is a brutal oppressive dictatorship or theocracy. Luckily for many people the worlds largest coal deposits happened to be in the lands that were free-er earlier on, in the UK and in the US. The US alone has a coal field that is the size of the UK. However the vast coal fields in Europe fueled the Nazi war machine. So while it is more difficult for an individual to utilize any aspect of coal as a weapon, it’s extraordinarily easy for governments to do so, and history shows us that governments have killed far more people than individual terrorists and even wars have

Claim: The by-products of coal can be put back without any hazard for the biosphere. Coal ashes are not dangerous and does not need to be kept off our biosphere for thousands of years.-
Again, certainly NOT true. Billions of tons of harmful chemicals and radioactive uranium are dumped into the air during the process of burning coal, even in highly advanced modern coal burning plants. Additionally other heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, lead, mercury, nickel and vanadium are present in coal ash. In fact living near a coal burning power plant, even a modern hi tech one, is far more hazardous to your health than living near a nuclear power plant. The background radiation levels are always higher around coal plants than nuclear plants specifically because coal plants are allowed to dump their waste into the air, which, again, includes radioactive uranium ash. In fact a typical coal plant actually chemically burns and releases into the air more Uranium than is used in a comparable nuclear reactor, as fuel. Indeed, you could put a nuclear reactor on the smokestack of a coal plant and generate more power than the was generated from the coal. Remember, one pound of Uranium generates as much energy as more than 300,000 pounds of coal.

Claim: Even a very large malfunction in a coal fired power plant could not devastate a large area, cost millions of lives and billions of Euros (please read about the effects of Tschernobyl '86 in FSU and Europe).
Anti Nuclear advocates love to point to Chernobyl as an example of the dangers posed by nuclear reactors. However Chernobyl killed 31 people when a pressurized steam channel blew (which was not even a chemical explosion, let alone a nuclear one) and released approx 6% of the radioactive contents of the reactor. The accident resulted in 31 short term deaths, with 28 due to extremely high radiation exposures. Additionally, some 200,000 clean up workers received average exposures of twice the yearly permitted, and a few thousand more received ten times the permitted yearly doses. Of the 116,000 nearby residents evacuated, 95% received less than the average of the fist group of cleanup workers. A remaining 400,000 received significantly less than that. For the 1,116,000 total affected out of the workers, evacuees, and nearby residents, the predicted long term radiation induced cancer deaths and normally non-fatal thyroid cancers are projected to be some 3,500. Mostly later in life. A terrible toll of course, but this is about how many people are killed from the combustion products of fossil fuels every 12 hours. Most of these deaths from the Chernobyl incident could have been avoided had the Soviet government acknowledged the nuclear nature of the accident and administered the iodide pills it had all ready stockpiled for just such an incident. Additionally, this reactor would have never been built, licensed, or operated in any country that actually cared about its people, unlike the Soviet Union, which had a long track record of sacrificing millions for 'the good of the state'.

In addition to the estimated 3 million annual deaths from atmospheric pollutants many people are killed from coal mining explosions, natural gas explosions, and obviously the many wars fought over and related to Oil, which in fact runs most of the world. Here are some of the worst coal mining disasters.

- Liaoning mine disaster, Fuxin, People's Republic of China (February 14, 2005), 210 reported killed.

- Sunshine Mine disaster, Kellogg, Idaho, United States, 91 killed (May, 1972)

- Buffalo Creek flood, Logan County, West Virginia, United States, 125 killed (February 26, 1972)

- Mina de Barroterán Coal Mine disaster, Coahuila, Mexico, (March 31, 1969), 176 died. Mexico's second worst coal mine disaster.

- Luisenthal Mine disaster (near Völklingen), Germany (February 7, 1962), 299 killed

- Marcinelle, Belgium, 262 killed (August 8, 1956)

- Gresford, Wrexham, 266 killed (September 1934)

- Hillcrest mine disaster, Hillcrest, Alberta, Canada, 189 killed (June 19, 1914). Canada's worst mine disaster

- Courrières mine disaster, Courrière, France, 1099 killed (March, 1906)

- Hanna, Wyoming, United States, Union Pacific Coal Company, Mine No. 1, 234 killed (June 30, 1903)

See a full list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_disasters#Mining_disasters

Consider also

- Dam failures and overtopping have caused thousands of deaths and massive disruption in social and economic activities with the displacement of entire towns - the Varont dam overtopping in Italy and dam failures in Gujarat and Orissa in India are three such examples, each with several thousand fatalities.

- Explosions and major fires in the oil and gas industry have involved both occupational and public fatalities and injuries. A pipeline gas leak
explosion in the Urals involved 500 fatalities.

- There are estimated to be a few hundred CO related deaths every year in the US due to faulty or inefficient fossil fuel burning home heating systems.

At this point, one might suggest that while nuclear energy production is relatively the safest form of energy, the weapons made from nuclear power have killed 100,000’s of thousands. True enough, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts killed an estimated 400,000 people. But in considering these deaths as a consequence of nuclear power, we must all consider the deaths that came from the utilization of fossil fuels. How many people have been killed by conventional explosives in all wars in all of history? How many have been killed by the military industrial segments of brutal nations that run on these fossil fuels? The Japanese invasion of Manchuria, very obviously powered by Oil, Coal, and gunpowder, saw 400,000 people killed in the infamous “Rape of Nanking” alone. In fact, all throughout history we have seen a continual rise in the number of people killed in war, both as an absolute and as a percentage of the population, until 1945, when the number plummeted. Even after the use of nuclear weapons in war, and many subsequent brutal wars, the number of war dead still continues to fall. Fortunately, Nuclear weapons have had the effect of taming wars so far.

Claim: The byproducts of Nuclear power can be used for Terrorism
Indeed, and many many things can be used for Terrorism. Oil Wells, for instance, can be set ablaze, burning self sufficiently for months or years with devastating environmental effects. A typical Liquefied Natural Gas tanker has the explosive capacity of a small nuclear bomb. How difficult does one really think it would be to detonate a single hulled tanker full of LNG which contains hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel? How many of these tankers sit unguarded in ports all over the world? Which is more rational to protect against terrorism, a few well designed and guarded nuclear power plants, which can even be moved underground, or tens of thousands of gigantic bombs in the form of gas lines, gas tanks, tankers, and fuel storage facilities? Nuclear plants generate so much power that an entire nations energy supply can come from a few dozen of them set in areas far from dense population centers and well guarded.

Consider that unused, uranium still sits in the earth undergoing fission anyway, producing radioactive elements and heat, which is part of what warms the internal parts of the earth. In fact, a host of still unexplained observations about the Earth has led some physicists to suggest the core of the earth is actually a giant nuclear fission reactor. The theory was a cover feature in Discover magazine in August 2002. http://www.discover.com/issues/aug-02/cover/

Additionally, many technological developments have occurred in nuclear reactor design, including ceramic coated uranium pellets, which keep the uranium spaced out far enough to generate a controlled amount of eat and which can not be melted by the temperatures produced, completely negating the need for any active cooling system and making ‘meltdowns’ a physical impossibility. Further, other types of reactors, called “Fast Breeder” reactors can create more fuel from the waste products of the nuclear fission reaction, so much so that some physicists estimate that up to 100 times as much energy can be generated, meaning entire nations could be run on a handful of nuclear power plants.

Coal generated power kills thousands of people every year directly, and millions of people indirectly. It is far more dangerous, hazardous, and environmentally devastating than Nuclear power; generating essentially more than 300,000 times as much pollution as a comparable amount of energy generated from Nuclear sources does. If you are concerned about global warming from man made carbon dioxide, then Nuclear power is the only way to generate power without generating green houses gases. This is why world renowned environmentalist James Lovelock cites Nuclear power as one of the key solutions to global warming and why Greenpeace founding member Patrick Moore now says he was wrong about opposing nuclear power for the past 30 years and is now a nuclear power advocate.

Compared with every other form of wide scale energy production (hydro-electric, oil, coal) Nuclear is by far the safest form of energy creation yet used by man. So where is our Nuclear infrastructure? If Nuclear power makes so much more sense, why does it not supply the majority of our energy? Instead we are dependant on Coal and imported Oil supplies from brutally oppressive and murderous terrorist sponsoring regimes all over the world, who sustain their oppression only from their global oil proceeds. The reason is that an irrational and unscientific fear of Nuclear power was promulgated by a handful of influential public figures. While a healthy scientific assessment of things is always valid, this has gone overboard and has, literally, scared millions of people to death about nuclear power. We have been scared so much with the unscientific claims of potential deaths caused by nuclear power that it has been illegal to build any new nuclear power plants in this nation since the Carter administration, all the while millions of people worldwide choke on the soot, heavy metals, and radioactive ash pumped into the air because of the scare mongering of unscientific environmentalists, who while hyping up invalid fears of the environmental impact of nuclear plants are ignoring the millions of deaths caused by the inhalation from the combustion products of fossil fuels.

We need to wake up and smell the collective radioactive ash. Nuclear power is safe, reliable, and will free the western world from the tyrannical noose of the murderously brutal middle east. A few well guarded breeder reactor plants could provide a majority of the worlds power. These same plants could electrolyze water to provide clean drinking water and hydrogen as fuel for a 'hydrogen economy' or, at least, create synthetic fuels through sabatier cells and use existing hydrocarbon infrastructures but not contribute to greenhouse gas increases, as the sabatier cell needs CO2 from the atmosphere. Implementing such at system until fusion becomes viable is the only real, viable, practical method of maintaining exceptional standards of living and a healthy environment. Reducing the global standard of living is not an option, as many millions in third world countries need energy, and lots of it, to get out of poverty. Even small increases in the costs of energy will have devastating impacts on the poverty stricken 3rd world which depends on cheap food generated from the energy intensive agricultural industry to survive The ideological intellectually dishonest endorsement of fossil fuels over nuclear power leads to millions of deaths every year, continues to perpetuate global instability through propping up murderous regimes, and destroys the environment through a flagrant un scientific hysteria. Nuclear power is clean, safe, and cheap.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Communism and Moral Ambiguity

Most people react with vile disdain when they see a Nazi flag, and rightly so. Nazism has killed 20 million people, an estimated 6 million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and physically deformed people intentionally in prison camps. However, how many people share the same disdain for Communism? Even though it has killed almost ten times as many people as Nazism did, it still it is looked on by most people in a favorable light, taught by history professors with an ‘unbiased account’, considered ‘good in theory’ (is Nazism ‘good in theory’?) and as of yet just incorrectly implemented.

Communism has killed 170 million people this century, according to Political Scientist, Nobel Peace Prize runner up and author of the most cited historical book, R.J Rummel. By 1950 alone that number was in the dozens of millions, many millions in China and may millions in the Soviet Union; so it was right to be very weary of it and any communist political officer of influence.

From R.J Rummels site -
For perspective on Mao's most bloody rule, all wars 1900-1987 cost in combat dead 34,021,000 -- including WWI and II, Vietnam, Korea, and the Mexican and Russian Revolutions. Mao alone murdered over twice as many as were killed in combat in all these wars. Think about that. One man. Only one man did that much killing. If anything should cause us to avoid anyone having such power at any cost, here it is.

Rational people in this nation were more than justified in attempting to route out communists from government positions. Cables and messages released after the fall of the Soviet Union, revealed that most of the people McCarthy accused of being communist spies actually were, including Alger Hiss. Communism is no laughing matter, as it's death toll attests. The tendency today is to A) completely downplay it's historical atrocities B) ridicule the individuals concern with it at the height of the Cold War (i.e. derogatory comments about "The Red Scare" "McArthyism" and the "Domino Theory" ) C) and laugh at how the Soviet Union fell without a single shot being fired. (never mind the millions of battle dead in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Korea, South America, etc)

In that regard I highly recommend checking out R.J. Rummels site, Power Kills, http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/welcome.html which documents murders committed by governments, left and right. Governments have killed more than 4 times the number of people that have been killed in wars this century, and the overwhelming majority of those murders were committed by communist governments.

I am a great admirer of Ayn Rand, and when she was asked what her political position was, she stated "Anti-Communist" but then recanted, refusing to define herself with a negative. She did however testify as a friendly witness for the House Un-American Activities Committee, which though not affiliated with McCarthy directly, was an effort in the same theme.

But I cant re-iterate this part of the story as well as Kelley Ross from http://www.friesian.com/rand.htm

"Another of Rand's sins against the Left and still of current interest was her willingness to testify as a "friendly witness" in the 1947 hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) on Communist infiltration of Hollywood. Rand's only complaint was that they didn't let her testify enough. She was the only person at the hearings who had actually lived under Communism, indeed been a witness to the entire Russian Revolution and Civil War, and she wanted to explain how anti-capitalist messages were included in many mainstream Hollywood movies. It may not be remembered much now that Rand got her real start in America working in Hollywood, living for many years in the San Fernando Valley. This is still of current interest because, after many years of hard feelings, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in 1999 finally gave an Oscar to Elia Kazan, director of such classics as On the Waterfront (1954) -- which itself was about a man fighting with his conscience over whether to expose his gangster (i.e. Communist) friends. Kazan, after leaving the Communist Party, was willing to "name names" to HUAC in 1952.

While Communism failed and fell in the real world, in the make-believe world of Hollywood Communist propaganda succeeded quite nicely, and many people still believe that the HUAC investigations were "witch hunts" for non-existent enemies or well-meaning idealists. Well meaning idealists there were, but they were not the targets of the Committee. Instead, they became the "useful idiot" liberals, in Lenin's words, who whitewashed all the real Communists and their activities. The useful idiots are still at it, though since the 60's many of them, as anti-anti-Communists, have been all but indistinguishable from their Communist friends in Vietnam, Cuba, and Nicaragua. As it turned out, the easiest way to find the Communists in Hollywood was just to subpoena all the suspects. Almost everyone who then refused to testify or took the Fifth Amendment, it happened, actually were Party members (acting on Party orders) or fellow travelers, as we know now from many sources, including the Soviet archives that also reveal the Soviet funding and direction of the Communist Party USA and its activities in Hollywood. These were not idealists but willing agents of tyranny, murder, and crimes against humanity. Rand would have no more patience now with leftists whining about "McCarthyism" than she did in 1947 with the lying and dissimulating agents of the living mass murderer Josef Stalin."

You can read Rand's HUAC testimony here -

Given the massive amount of murders committed by Communist nations, their typical political tendency to undermine intellectually non-communist nations (the first phase of their typical plan, the last of which is typically targeted executions of intellectuals in opposition to them) and the fact that most of these people actually were communist spies, it is incredibly disingenuous to deride McCarthy and HUAC in the manner that is so common today.

Perhaps in my assessment of communism is an instance where my thinking is much more black and white than is typically espoused today, with communism viewed with much more forgiveness and diminished moral condemnation. I can certainly understand what might drive individuals to communism, especially in the ratty shit-holes and murderously oppressive right wing nationalist nations that spawned communism in many cases, even if it was with a lot of Soviet help; however in every case those far left governments killed many more then even the worst of the far right governments. While I certainly understand and empathizes with the struggles an individual must face in a situation like that, I have absolutely no tolerance for those who simply want to make slaves out of every free man on earth.

In one sad case often cited as part of the “Red Scare” Physicists and head of the Manhattan Project Robert J Oppenheimer was accused of being a communist spy and some former members of his team testified against him, such as Edward Teller. Oppenheimer was a very sad victim in this and I am a great admirer of him and in fact Teller as well, but his accusation and subsequent loss of security clearance shocked the scientific community. Yet there was indeed a spy at the Manhattan Project in the form of Klaus Fuchs, who handed over the plans for an atomic bomb to Henry Gold, who then handed them to the Rosenberg's. Many people claim that the information provided by Fuchs was vital in the Soviet's achievement of a nuclear bomb (although some claim it was of little use)

I suspect from discussions of communism I have had that to many people black and what thinking equates with absolutist assessments of things, like my consideration of communism as evil or wrong, while others might search through all of it for some good. But it is fallacious to assert that in all things or people there is some good, because it simultaneously asserts that in all people there must be some bad, and consequently that no matter how hard one tries to be good they could never attain that, and no matter how evil someone or something is, like Stalin, Mao, Hitler, or communism, it has some good in it. I have no doubt that Stalin was probably nice to his dog, and that a few peasants were helped out by communism, but the overwhelming majority of horrific pain and suffering that communism caused could never even remotely be blemished by whatever miniscule good that came from it.

Many people strive to find value in divergent ideas and try to examine them from every possible angle, perspective, and scale, but to any value system based on the life of an individual, communism can have *no value* whatsoever. Communism is the absolute logical extension of anti-life, anti-human, anti-mind, anti-individual, and anti-progress. My love of books and ideas would have gotten me immediately purged, hung, smashed, or sent off to a gulag in very nearly every single communist nation.

[Tan Samay's] pupils hanged him. A noose was passed around his neck; then the rope was passed over the branch of a tree. Half a dozen children between eight and ten years old held the loose end of the rope, pulling it sharply three or four times, dropping it in between. All the while they were shouting, "Unfit teacher! Unfit teacher!" until Tan Samay was dead. The worst was that the children took obvious pleasure in killing.
----A Khmer Rouge execution – From R.J. Rummel’s “Power Kills” site

Simply having books *at all* was a death sentence to most people in Cambodia and in China. My love of ideas, and of self expression, would have gotten me, and probably my family, rapidly killed in these countries, if this is not a living objective embodiment of evil where *thinking* is a crime punishable by death *then what is?*

In the case of communism, gray or non-linear thinking seems to be a desire to avoid making moral judgments. When we consider again Nazism, there is no question about it’s moral stature. Can the same people that say they can find some good in communism legitimately say that can find no good in Nazism? Having read a great book on Hitler’s rise to power I can understand how individuals in pre-Nazi Germany could have felt oppressed and overburdened by the allies of WWI, and how these people who just wanted to have a decent life for themselves could end up promulgating on of the most murderous regimes in history. I also understand how with only minor changes our modern professors ‘non partisan’ lectures on the cold war they would read just like modern neo-nazi propaganda blaming the push of Germany into war on a hyper vigilant anti-German Europe and the Jews. It’s all context, and from the perspective of the German people leading up to 1935 it was not their fault! But they could not have done that without deliberately avoiding passing moral judgments on their own system, without deliberately dehumanizing their victims or opponents, or avoiding at all possible costs making moral assessments. There is no possible way a German citizen could have honestly morally defended Nazi policies so the only way for this rise to power to occur was to abdicate moral absolutism to vagueness, moral relativism, and evasion. The same is absolutely true of communism, which abdicates life, mind, and self to the collective and the state.

In cases where it is a life and death issue, one *must* pass moral judgment, moral indifference or agnosticism rewards immorality, just as absolute pacifism actually rewards violent and oppressive regimes by easily succumbing to their initiations of force. It is depraved indifference.

It’s always good to be vigilantly skeptical of any kind of dichotomous us vs. them thinking. The vast majority of it is baseless and arbitrary. But just because right and wrong / good and evil / and us vs. them has been hijacked by every ethnicity, nationality, special interest group, and collectivist ideal, does not mean that the concepts of right and wrong and us vs. them are invalid. There are certain fundamentals of human standards by which every culture and individual action must be judged against, and that is the respect of life and individuality. Non judgment is the height of moral relativism and means anything goes, whether it is simply a disingenuous white lie or an attempted genocide.

Yes, most forms of partisanship are worthless and arbitrary, but that does not mean that holding oneself and others to certain moral ideals and ethical basics is wrong Many African cultures mutilate young women’s genitalia is this right or wrong? Many Islamic cultures stone adulterers to death, is this right or wrong? Many traditionalist Chinese cultures used to bind young women’s feet was this right or wrong? Many western Christian nations still mutilate male genitalia at birth is this right or wrong?

Witness the indifference today to the brutal oppression of Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea. Witness the callous disregard for genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and today in Darfur. Witness the left, our alleged defenders of human rights, and their complete and utter indifference in most cases, or worst, opposition to, the removal of one of the most brutal dictators of our time who slaughtered gay men and women and their families, executed dissidents, and held the world hostage. Witness that same callous disregard for the deaths and flagrant violation of every human right that permeates the dictatorships and theocracies in the Arab sea of tyranny in the middle east, and that same indifference to the tens of millions of deaths from Malaria the modern environmentalism movement has spawned by banning DDT. These are the fruits of moral relativism.

There are only two ways to completely end partisanship; to abolish all ideals, ethics, and moral codes which generate an us for them attitude (the liberal multi-culturalist moral relativist approach) or to abolish one side of the us vs. them conflict. In all these scenarios, the smallest minority are the defenders of the fundamental rights of sentient beings, the advocates of objective reality, those who base ethics on life. To deny any concept of moral foundation is to side indirectly and implicitly with the most brutal and murderous side of the us vs. them conflict. One may ask “when does this partisanship stop, when everyone embraces one ideology?” Yes, it stops when they all embrace fundamental rights, when all the other ideologies stop murdering and enslaving people who disagree with them. When they all accept, as a component and a foundation of their ideology, a respect for individualism, for life, and for freedom. Either that or it stops when one accepts any murder, oppression, slavery or assault as just someone else’s culture and equally valid. Where do you stand?

We are never hesitant in defending our right to self, individuality, and life, but are seemingly always dismissive of everyone else’s to such an extent that we are hesitant to morally condemn the most anti-self, anti-individuality, and anti-life ideology ever existed on this planet. I have no doubt that nearly every single one of those 170 million people loved their lives as much as I do mine, and you do yours, where is our compassion for them? Our vigilant defense of our own self and individuality is nothing less than an extremely dogmatic ideological stand, and in this we are the essence of black and white. We must presume axiomatically that everyone deserves that same amount of respect and thus rightly and justly morally condemn those ideologies which murder, enslave, and imprison people for nothing more than living, breathing, and thinking.

I can understand people’s hesitance to make any absolute moral declarations, but just because vile anti-individualist brain washing cults hi jack absolutism morality with their own morally arbitrary pronouncements doesn’t mean that a moral foundation in objective reality, life, and individuality is wrong, or that morally condemning those ideologies opposed to those things is wrong.

I am Pro-free private life, pro-individualism, pro-science, pro-reason, pro-free speech, pro-liberal democracy, pro-free economic life, pro-capitalist, pro-west, etc and I apply these values directly too all people and accept the logical consequences of my deepest values, wholly and willingly.
On Different kinds of Freedom

In a conversation with an Anarchist I was told the following:

“Just because someone is taking the free will of others, doesn't mean, in my opinion, that I have the right to take their free will (life).”


“The use of force to stop oppression is the same thing as the use of force to oppress. It is the will taking of another person's will through sheer force.”

Freedom is not the ‘right to do anything one wants’ which is what his statement suggests. If you find anyone who holds this as their conception of freedom I would suggest you stay the hell away, as they are indicating that they have absolutely no moral or ethical code what so ever. This conception of freedom suggests that any infringements of any actions of anyone for any reason is a violation of freedom. But it is a ‘violation’ of freedom if you prevent someone from killing you? You are, after all, stifling his free will. This mentalities suggest self defense is in fact an oppression of your attacker. Similarly, is it a violation of ‘freedom’ to stop someone from killing another person? When rational men, the founding fathers, and your everyday person speak of Freedom they are not speaking of it in this esoteric existentialist absolutist sense (ie the ultimate ability to do whatever you want to whomever you want) this is not “freedom” in the philosophical sense, but freedom in only the metaphysical sense. Any society based on such a thing would be nothing more than murderous anarchy, where whomever has the power can kill whomever he wants, that is his free will, after all, to choose to do so and it is wrong for you to choose to take his free will away, lest you would be oppressing him, according to this anarchist. Such a worldview is murderously incompetent and dangerous.

Clearly our use of the word freedom has a moral and ethical connotation to it, while this persons is purely a physical description of impediments on actions, *any* actions, even if it is to kill another human. That is not ‘freedom’, and no man is ‘free’ to kill another for whatever whim happens to strike his fancy. Philosophical freedom begins where your ‘freedom from restrictions of actions’ in one person begins to interfere with another. That is, when my freedom of will and action (a desire to stay alive) contradicts your freedom of will and action (to kill me) then this is where the ethical distinction of freedom is required. This is were politics, which ideally relates to the interaction of men, comes into play. Consider the difference between being bound by chains and being bound by the law of gravity, and that this anarchists idea draws no freedom draws no distinction between the two. This is an inherent problem with the English language, which uses the word ‘free’ to mean many different things. Consider the line idiotic line “they call this a free country then why does it cost so much to live” (from some dumb popular song) and then consider a similar statement which mixes the definitions of freedom in the exact same manner as that song “Sure I want black people to be free, everyone should get one!” Free from cost Is NOT the same thing as Free from political oppression. Greek language, for instance, uses a completely different word for ethical and political freedom, freedom of movement and actions, and freedom as in without expense, as does Vietnamese. Unfortunately English muddles the words and definitions up, and consequently causes some philosophical confusion among angst filled anarchists.

Political and ethical and objectivist freedom is the restriction of the initiation of force on others. Self defense is proper and just, and one should be militant about defending their selves and their freedoms, and self defense is a restriction on the initiation of force. In this way you also can not force freedom on people (as commentators on the Iraq War love to assert) you can only prevent others from restricting the freedoms of other people with force. This is the proper function of the military and police.

The fact that some anarchists might draw no distinction between these two conceptions of freedom is no doubt the source of their disagreement with minarchist libertarianism and Objectivism. It is also, with no doubt in my mind, a dangerous and disgusting philosophical position which simultaneously justifies mass murder for any reason anywhere anytime, justifies complete inaction in the face of any injustice perpetrated upon other beings in the world, and objects to the concept of protecting rights.
Life, Death, Obligation and Obfuscation

I am a strong advocate of productive value affirming behavior. I frequently have discussions with Objectivists and Extropians holding them accountable to their own professed highest value, that of their own life. Most professed life loving secularists are content to sit idly by while they age, wither, and eventually die. They deride cryogenic preservation, life extension technologies, and often justify their attitudes with appeals to wildly dystopian futures sprung right from the caves of revelations.

Often, *death* itself, is cited as a source of value, e.g. Death gives life meaning, death is the end to a beginning, death is the closing of the story, death lets us have our chance and clear the way for later life, death is an escape from suffering and living, etc. Death is none of these things, it is the cessation of all existence, it is the end of all values. Dying is not selfish as it is the complete destruction of the self.

These people who attach a value to death are what I tend to call “religious deathists” and just as many secularists share this view as do professed religionists. But when man’s productive and inventive forces are fully unleashed, death from aging and disease will likely be completely conquered. These religious deathists will still cling to their views and will grow old and die, but their children will be raised in a society which accepts indefinite life spans. The ones who had the integrity, rationality, and proper internal conviction will live to be the first generation enjoying indefinite life spans. It is hard to guess when this will happen, it could be this generation or the next or 10 generations down the line. But we can all help to bring this about faster.

To those objectivists out there, who profess to hold their own life as their highest value, why are you not acting in accordance with your values? You should be acting rationally and productively to fight your worst enemy, which will kill you, your loved ones, and end everything and everyone you care about. Most people balk at this call to arms, as it demands unwavering integrity and complete adherence to your fundamental convictions… evasion is much easier. Escapism is simpler. Blank out to get through the rough times. Objectivists, who profess that all the great advances of humanity sprung forth from the minds of individuals, that profess that a man of rationality with conviction and integrity is a virtually unstoppable creative and inventive force, that profess that one man even if the face of the greatest and most overwhelming odds can accomplish the most monumental feats… are the first to bow down, give up, apologize for their own existence, and excuse themselves from ever needing to do anything productive to fight aging, disease, and death.

Now no one is demanding that we drop everything we are doing and make studying senescence the only thing we live, breathe, and think, but first and foremost we all need to drop the philosophical acceptance of death; all else fallows naturally. Death is not OK, it never is, never has been, and never will be. It is not an escape or a relief, we are not ‘resting’ or in ‘a better place’ this is all hogwash people adopt in order to not have to come to fully face the inevitability of their own demise. But just like a drunkard who convinces himself that it’s just who he is and thus absolves himself of the responsibility of ever trying to change himself, the religious escapist completely absolve themselves of the compulsion and obligation to their own deepest values to ever do anything about death, and it is why this world of 3 billion profoundly intelligent beings can not muster up enough motivation or dedication to defeat even a modicum of the diseases which kill them.

It would be great if all people, everywhere, identified their most fundamental values and started acting in rational accordance with them. If all people everywhere (who were not just merely struggling to survive under whatever murderous brute happens to rule them) turned off the TV, the video games, the fashion and gossip mags and their IPODs, and started studying, learning, and thinking. If all people begin to actualize their potential, to at first believe they are capable of great things, and then realize they in fact were able, with dedication and perseverance to actually achieve many of these great things. But in lieu of that, first and foremost discard your philosophical acceptance of death. It is not OK. Secondly, take a look at any of the numerous charities dedicated to bringing about this world, and think about dedicating even just your idle CPU cycles to the Protein Folding at home project, or even better some time or money to any of the various organizations dedicated to saving your life and the life of everyone you love.

Donating Idle CPU Cycles
full list http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_distributed_computing_projects

Protein folding @ home - http://www.stanford.edu/group/pandegroup/folding/

Proteins are biology's workhorses...The process of protein folding, while critical and fundamental to virtually all of biology, in many ways remains a mystery. Moreover, when proteins do not fold correctly there can be serious consequences, including many well known diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Mad Cow (BSE), CJD, ALS, Huntington's, Parkinson's disease, and many Cancers and cancer-related syndromes.

Orbit@Home - http://orbit.psi.edu/
is a project which uses the Orbit Reconstruction, Simulation and Analysis framework to monitor the impact hazard posed by Near-Earth objects

SETI@home - http://setiathome.berkeley.edu/
SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data

Fight AIDS @ Home - http://fightaidsathome.scripps.edu/index.html
captures the otherwise wasted cycles of your computer and applies them to model the evolution of drug resistance and to design drugs necessary to fight AIDS

United Devices Cancer Research Project - http://www.grid.org/projects/cancer/
The United Devices Cancer Research Project is asking you to volunteer your PC to help process molecular research being conducted by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford in England and the National Foundation for Cancer Research

Charities / Institutions

Lifeboat Foundation www.lifeboat.com

- Future Studies -
Foundation for the Future http://www.futurefoundation.org/

Foresight Institute http://www.foresight.org

- Life Extension -
Methuselah Mouse Prize http://www.mprize.org
Immortality Institute http://www.imminst.org

- Intelligence Increase -
Singularity Institute http://www.singinst.org

- Other -
WTA http://transhumanism.org
Extropy Institute http://extropy.org
TV 2005 Scholarship Fund http://www.transhumanismo.org/tv05/registration.htm

- Social Sciences -
Center for Responsible Nanotechnology http://CRNano.org/support.htm
Grameen Foundation USA http://www.gfusa.org/microcredit.html

- Your Rights Online -
Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/support/
Electronic Frontier Foundation http://www.eff.org

- Space Migration -
National Space Society http://www.nss.org
Planetary Society http://www.planetary.org/home/

Mars Society http://chapters.marssociety.org/

Saturn V Restoration http://www.saturnrestoration.org/donate/index.html

Elevator 2010 http://www.elevator2010.org/site/donate.html
X-Prize Foundation http://www.xprize.org

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Week and I on dogs, security, and emotions

One of my favorite news magazines is “the Week” which does a great job of presenting many sides of issues rationally and objectively, I have a real hard time finding any bias in it. I highly recommend this publication. Here are some notes from a recent issue.

From “The Week” March 10 2006

Americans spent $14.3 Billion on dog food in 2004. That’s $10 billion more than we spent on baby food - The Washington post

I am beginning to believe that the ratio of dogs to babies is a clear sign of the downfall of a population. What city in the US tops the list? … San Francisco has more than four times as many dogs as children under 5. Do people eventually crave the unconditional affection of a semi-consciousness being that much? Is it any surprise that a city with the highest population of frustrated tyrants and wannabe social engineers desires as many of their own test subjects as possible to lead around? There are so many dogs in San Francisco that the city is contemplating collecting Dog waste in order to generate power. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11488372/ You can take your dog to a clothing pet store on Gough Street called, tellingly enough Babies http://www.yelp.com/biz/-pW80fX6y76e1CcrpwRoPA Says one patron “"I absolutely love this store but not as much as my dog Arkus Barkus probably does. We just bought him the coolest sweater and more toys.” San Francisco dog owners are not owners any more, but Guardians, according to it’s Dog Court http://www.sfweekly.com/issues/2005-02-16/news/feature_full.html Whats next, a doggy bill of rights?

What changes are bred in a population that leads them to value pets over children? With some 2/3rds of American house holds owning pets and few and fewer having children, one has to ask what the consequences of these trends will be. When a society as a whole starts to value getting a pet over having children (ok, im biased being a cat lover, but hey, at leasts cats are semi independent and not inept retarded parasites like most dogs) Who will be the productive beings of new generations creating the new technologies and making the new discoveries to lead man into space and beyond? It won’t be Arkus Barkus, that’s for sure…

Loving County in west Texas is the emptiest county in the United States, with only 71 people, two roads, and on café spread among its 645 square miles. Still, it recently received $30,000 in anti-terrorism funds from the Department of Homeland Security - The New York Times

Great, what a wonderfully efficient use of funds, I believe Bin Laden specifically mentioned Loving County as a target in one of his audio tapes.

On Booting Summers out of Harvard
“The truth is far shabbier,” said Peter Beinart in The New Republic. The faculty forced summers out “because he wanted them to care about something beyond themselves.” Even among academics, tenured Harvard Ph.D.s lead an absurdly pampered life. They teach an average of only 28 weeks a year. Their courses and publications are built around “obscure micro topics” of interest to themselves and maybe a few dozen people in the world. Summers had the audacity “to ask various departments to explain why their research mattered,” and to argue that undergraduates deserved a better education for their $41,000 a year. By all accounts, the students loved him for advocating their interests; according to a Harvard Crimson survey, they felt he should stay by a 3-to-1 ratio. Summers is gone for one reason: He asked Harvard “to serve the nation, not merely itself” In academia today, that’s apparently too much to ask.

Peter Bienart is one of my favorite liberal writers, up their with Christopher Hitchens, he is the editor of The New Republic, and is usually extremely rational and principled, as his comments on the ousting of Harvard’s president demonstrate.

Stop thinking so hard
When it comes to big life decisions, it’s best to think with your gut. A new study has found that thinking too hard and too long, in fact, leads to decisions you’ll later regret. Researches at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands asked 80 people to think over major life choices, such as the purchase of a house or car, or a move to a faraway town. Half of the participants were then given a series of puzzles and brainteasers to distract them before they gave an answer. With little time to agonize, these people made snap decisions – and ended up being more satisfied in the end. People who deliberated carefully – delving deeply into the data and drawing up lists of pros and cons – ended unhappy with their choices. The results indicate that complex problems are better sorted in our unconscious minds, which have an instinctive wisdom in weighing multiple factors. “At some point in our evolution, we started to make our decisions consciously,” Ap Dijksterhuis tells New Scientist. “And we’re not very good at it. We should learn to let our unconscious handle the complicated things”

Whew, where to begin on this one. First off the description of this experiment begs further investigation, but presuming the conditions of the experiment were up to par and it was all handled very scientifically, then as an admirer of Rand I have to recognize how much this study coincides with a lot of what she said about *what* exactly our emotions are. If they are the logical extensions of our deepest convictions, it’s clear why this works. There is no ‘instinct’ or mystical gut reaction involved. The brain is a complex distributive network pattern recognition system and will recognize and react to things without the hindrance of the conscious mind recognizing it. Over analyzing a difficult choice could move you farther and farther away from those reflexive long ingrained reactions to scenarios. But embellishing a gut feeling when you do not base your emotions on rational goals or values is more dangerous, since your intuition will lead you down whatever random whim happens to catch your fancy. One wonders how these people can conduct decent scientific experiments when they toss around things like “instinctive wisdom” but I’ll have to chalk this up as empirical edification of Rand’s assessment of our emotions.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

This weekend I saw a performance of the musical Chicago at the university my friend is attending. I had not yet seen this story on stage or in film, and was not overly familiar with it beyond having to do with some dancers and murder. The performance I saw was very enjoyable as far as productions by college students go, and a good friend of mine had a major role in it. Overall the cast did a good job on the show. But the story itself is terrible; philosophically. In fact it should be renamed to “How to get away with killing your husband by promulgating moral relativism”

The Author and Philosopher Ayn Rand, whom I am a great admirer of, wrote often about how art should serve as a philosophical ideal, representing the way things ought to be in order to inspire us and provide ‘spiritual fuel’ as she said. Most art serves both as a reflection of predominant cultural philosophical trends and a driving force behind those cultural ideas, unfortunately the philosophical ideals being promulgated by much of the art we experience today is very unhealthy when held up to any standard with life as it’s core.

Everybody forms their ideas about philosophy, including ethics and their purpose in the world, primarily through the people, movies, music, and art that surrounds them. Of course some develop those ideas through deep introspection, but these are the exception that make an active effort to study philosophy. The ideas I chastise in Chicago are present all over the place in media and in the saying and phrases people repeat to themselves in order to get by. I don’t know whether the writers of Chicago, which came to Broadway in 1975, really embraced this ethical ambiguity and were trying to promulgate those ideas or were merely reflecting predominate ethical trends, but the philosophical ‘crime’ remains the same. They are either aiding and abetting or are an active participant in the undermining of any rational philosophical basis for ethics, advocating worldviews which lead to a lot of pain and suffering.

With that, let me give a refresher to those who may not have seen this show in a while and an overview to those who have not seen it at all. The show starts out with Roxy cheating on her husband. The man she is cheating on her husband with is ready to walk out right after they finish doing the deed and Roxy, insulted by this, shoots and kills him. She convinces her husband that the man was a burgler, but during questioning by police she confesses to the nature of the crime. She is carted off to a jail where women who are charged with murder reside.

At this prison we are given a song by these women accused of murder called “he had it coming” where each proceeds to not only admit that she murdered her husband / significant other (in one case murdered him and the person he was having an affair with) but to essentially (as the song title shows) blame it on the victims. The theme of the song was satirical and had the audience laughing. I sat stunned, what if we had a prison of accused rapists who were singing a song called “she had it coming” How would they react to that? Or a group of Homophobes singing about how their gay victims were asking for it (this was the same school and cast which performed the Laramie project a few months earlier, where the perpetrators of the murder of Matthew Shepherd claimed just that) The audience would have been, rightly so, absolutely horrified, but when it is women talking about murdering their cheating boyfriends and husbands, it’s funny?

We are then treated with a song by a reporter insisting that there is a little bid of good in all of us. It’s a nice thought, superficially, that even in the worst person there is some good. But to say something like that means you must be holding actions up against a standard of good and bad, or right and wrong, in the first place. When we look at actions, like murder or rape, and compare it against the norm and find it to be bad, surely we must recognize the degree or the severity of the infraction. Stealing something is bad, but it is not as wrong as killing someone. Likewise morally virtuous actions must have a caliber associated with them. Slowing down in traffic to let someone merge is a decent thing to do when necessary, but how virtuous is it compared to staying true to your deepest ideals in the face of overwhelming opposition? So while Stalin may have been nice to his puppy, the fact that he had millions of people murdered can never be overshadowed no matter how many ‘good’ things he has done. While some of his actions might have been good, because of how many evils he had committed there is no way one could assert he has some good in him. Maybe if Stalin could live in a labor camp for a few million years he might be forgiven, but until then it corrupts the notion of good and bad to assert he had some good in him.

Additionally, such a statement undermines the very concept of good and bad, even though it purports to be based on it. If you accept without condition that everyone has some good in them it means that no matter how many horrible things they do, they are never completely vile. Conversely, it means that no matter how hard someone tries, he can never be good. This is because every statement automatically implies it’s corollary, and if one asserts that even in the worst of us lies some good, they are also asserting that even in the best of us lies some evil. So even though you are using good and bad to judge actions, no person can be good or bad. We hear this ethical abduction all the time in many forms, most commonly as “well, nobody’s perfect” with it’s implicit statement ‘so I won’t try to correct my faults’ left unsaid. Why even try? When no matter how hard you try you are destined to fail. This saying and idea is nothing less than one of the remnants of original sin in the secular west.

We are then treated to a duet by one of the inmates, admittedly guilty, and the prison warden about how there seems to be no class or ethics in society today. The talk about theft and bad manners, but conveniently avoid the topic of murder. Everyone tells me this was intended to be hypocritical, but the prison warden was no murderer and was part of the duet, so that interpretation is disingenuous.

The one woman who was innocent was found guilty and hung because she refused to lie, to admit to a crime she didn’t commit, and blame it on the victim. The two female leads, who both wantonly and callously murdered their significant others, got off through a series of lies and appeals to the jury. In the end they were freed and went on a road show together, and the play closes with the narrator saying “That’s America”

America is where the guilty get away with murdering their husbands by blaming it on the victim through legal maneuvering and the innocent hang for crimes they did not commit? Only in the eyes of the artistic intelligentsia of 1975 New York.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Rape of Nanking

I just recently completed Iris Chang’s book ‘The Rape of Nanking’ This alarming title does not do justice to the true horrors of this event, and no collected works ever could. Iris first heard stories about Nanking when she was growing up, her parents told terrible stories of horrific events full of torture, rape, and murder. When she started going to school she tried to look up this historically tragic event and was unable to find any information on, which was not surprising due to the west’s active ignorance of the subject. She wrote the stories off as racist tales. Many years later her interest in the subject would be sparked again, and her book ended up bringing many aspects of this tragedy to a much more fulfilling public recognition of the event.

Often referred to as the Sino-Japanese war, the very notion that Japan and China were once at war still surprises most western educated people. After the turn of the century Japan acquired a revitalized focus on nationalism and a form of shintoism that focused on the emperor, insisting he was a descendant of god. Over the next few years Japan became and strongly militaristic society, and combined with it’s nationalism and ethnocentrism, it was a recipe for terror. Seeking to take their rightful place in the world and spread out in the face of limited resources; Japan embarked on the invasion of Manchuria.

Toward the end of 1938 a war raged between Japan and the Chinese Nationalists led by Chaing Kai Sheck. The nationalist’s capital city was Nanking, a city of over a million people. As the Japanese troops marched ever closer to the city a strong defense was prepared and up to half the population fled. The Japanese dropped leaflets insisting that order and peace would be restored rapidly and that Chinese civilians would be treated with compassion. For various reasons, some still confusing, the defense of Nanking was not a strong one and the city fell after only few days. In the time leading up to the fall of Nanking, a group of foreign diplomats and missionaries, led by John Rabe, a Nazi, created a safety zone in the middle of the city, insisting that any Chinese inside it would be safe. Amazingly Rabe pressured the Japanese to loosely respect the conditions and it is estimated that of the 600,000 civilians and soldiers that did not flee the city up to 250,000 of them made it to the safety zones.

To state that the remaining people were not so lucky is the understatement of the century. As the Japanese soldiers marched into the cities they killed virtually every civilian they laid eyes on, and raped and then murdered virtually every woman they saw. These were not isolated incidences of violence perpetrated outside of the chain of command, but were in fact standard operating procedure. The Japanese soldiers lined up surrendered Chinese soldiers by the thousands and murdered them. Japanese newspapers of the time reported accounts of decapitation contests among Japanese officers, with officers toping 200 murders by decapitation. Others were used as live bayonet practice, burned alive, tortured to death, had their throats slit, the list of horrors goes on.

The female civilians of Nanking suffered unimaginable brutality, nearly every single woman in the city who was not in the safety zone (and even some of them) was raped, from girls as young as eight to elderly women. Any resistance would be met by immediate death, often extremely painful deaths which typically included being impaled in the groin with bamboo poles. Even without resistance, most of the time the women were murdered after being raped, usually shot in the back or bayoneted. Many women were taken as sex slaves and permanently attached to beds or chairs were they were repeatedly raped, day and night. Some were literally raped to death, hemorrhaging and bleeding to death from the attacks.

No one was spared the brutality, young, old, sick, man or woman. It is estimated that virtually *every single* person who did not make it into the safety zone was murdered, and the terror dragged on for 7 weeks.

There is a tendency to hear such stories and think that these are mere exaggerations of enemy events during war, but all the evidence suggests otherwise. The Japanese soldiers often documented their mass murders and burials, many letters from Japanese soldiers in the city corroborate the stories, and in some cases a significant amount of photos and footage were available as evidence, some showing the mass graves containing thousands upon thousands of bodies. Stories were reported in Japanese newspapers with photos. Documents from high in the Japanese military also corroborate, the evidence is overwhelming and distressing.

The Nazi John Rabe smuggled a film detailing the atrocities back to Germany to show the furor himself. He was later visited by the secret police and ordered to stop speaking on Japanese atrocities. John Rabe was the leading force credited with saving more than 250,000 lives in Nanking. Imagine that, a Nazi saving 250,000 lives. Families in the safety zone named their children after him, he was the hero of the city. In the process of writing this book Iris Change decided to follow up on John Rabe’s life, she ended up getting in touch with family members. They told her that Rabe for many years had tried to be absolved of Nazi ties and it was his actions in Nanking which finally won the new allied government officials over. During those intervening years his family ended up poor and on the verge of starvation, when word of this reached back to Nanking a tremendous outpouring of food and provisions came flooding into Rabe as most of the people in the city new exactly who he was and what he did. Iris Chang also found a family member who had Rabe’s detailed journals and brought them to publication.

Today the Japanese government still sidesteps accusations that anything out of the ordinary happened there. The few Japanese brave enough to speak up about the atrocities are viciously threatened by right wingers, with one recent case resulting in a public figure getting shot multiple times.

It could be argued that the sad and horrific events of Nanking still claim lives to this day, as I recently found out that shortly after this book was published Iris Chang, a intelligent and passionate woman, a wife and mother, and accomplished author, committed suicide. She seems to have had the seeds of paranoid schizophrenia in her which were activated by researching this event, which it seems she ended up believing was actively covered up by the Japanese government, the Soviet government, and the US in order to facilitate the creation of a stable Japan in the face of the looming threat of the Soviet Union. Her dual suicide notes offer sad evidence of the torment this caused in her and are a testament to the duality of her paranoia.

How could men be brought to do such things? The looming feeling from these hundreds of thousands of tragic stories, and other similar events like those in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia beg the question, is the veil of civility really that thin? Is it that disturbingly easily to convince good normal men to kill, brutally, repeatedly, and violently? The implications of this fill me with apprehension. What would I have been like if I were raised by the militarized nationalistic Japanese army? Indoctrinated with the idea from birth that the Chinese are nothing more than dogs, that they are not people, and beaten if I spoke in protest? We all like to thing we are enlightened and would truly raise ourselves above such irrationality, but how many of our thoughts actually are original? How many of us question all the societal habits promulgated and swallowed up without second thought? It is distressing, however one must remember that the veil of civility is not yet that thin, as it took nearly a generation of indoctrination for the Japanese of WWII to be such ruthless and cold blooded killers and rapists. Indeed, the question is off base, as such a person would clearly NOT BE me. The me of today transplanted to their would never fall for it and would rather be killed than to commit such acts, and the me as a child transplanted there would not be me at all by the time he grew up, but a killer robot programmed by the Japanese government, as all good soldiers were.


Link - http://www.matus1976.com/politics/nanking_1.htm

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