Life as a ‘zero-sum game’

Ronald Reagan once said “We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one!”
Reagan
This applies in international affairs as well.
Perhaps authoritarian personalities believe the zero-sum view of life.
The extreme left, at least in its Marxist incarnation, believes that the factory owners exploit the workers.  So in their view, there are two social classes, and one rises by pushing down the other.  Its a zero-sum game.
SchmittThe extreme right, in its Nazi incarnation, had a philosophy of “lebensraum” or living space.  Herpen writes that German theorist Friedrich Ratzel developed an organic state theory. States were, according to him, living creatures that could not be restricted by frontiers: they expanded or contracted according to their organic structure. They needed Lebensraum, “living space.”   The Nazi ideologue Carl Schmitt adapted Ratzel’s theory to the needs of Hitler’s Germany.  Of course to get that Lebensraum, the Nazis decided Slavic peoples had to be conquered, and often killed.

HayekFree-market theorist Friedrich Hayek wrote that what in the United States we call the free-market conservative, or libertarian, is not on the left-right spectrum at all. Rather than a line with the extreme left on one side, and the extreme right on the other, and the rest of us in the middle, he sees a triangle, and the third vertex is the believers in free markets and human rights.
Lets take a look at Russia. That country is spying on Western countries just as much as it did in the bad old days when it was the Soviet Union.  Also, Russian and Chinese (and other) hackers steal U.S. trade and technology secrets.  This type of espionage was described by NSA expert Keith Alexander as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”  They win, we lose.
Russia does not want its people to admire the United States, and its internal propaganda makes us look decadent, and not only decadent, but responsible for starting an anti-Russian campaign in the Ukraine.
In March 2014 a group of Ukrainian journalists started a website, http://www.stopfake.org, run by the London-based Ukrainian Institute, with the aim of checking the facts and verifying the information disseminated by Russian news channels.
One of the examples of misinformation they found was a video on YouTube of Russian soldiers throwing into a heap bodies of Dagestanis they had killed. This video was “recycled” and spread on YouTube with the (false) text “Punitive Ukrainian National Guard Mission throwing dead bodies near Kramatorsk” (Donetsk region)
In July 12, 2014, the Russian Pervyy Kanal (First TV Channel) interviewed a woman named Galina, who claimed to be a refugee and who told how Ukrainian soldiers had taken a three-year-old boy and crucified him “like Jesus.” This story caused great outrage in Russia, which was unfortunate, because it was invented.
In another post of mine I had this quote from the WSJ:
They [the Russians] are writing things about us and our defense forces that are not from this world,” says the senior [Finland] official, such as the yarn that the Finnish government removes children from ethnic-Russian Finnish families for adoption by gay couples in the U.S.
The above shows a contempt by the Russian leadership for their own people, who they feel must be deceived. They might be deceiving you too, for instance, if you see a set of comments on your favorite news or opinion site, those comments may come from a surprising source.  There are internet warriors, working for the Kremlin as paid online mercenaries: “Each troll is expected to post 50 news articles daily and maintain six Facebook and ten Twitter accounts, with 50 tweets per day.”
Van Herpen adds:
Hackers from Anonymous, a vigilante activist network, hacked the e-mail account of one “trolling” group that is charged with running the campaign in the U.S. and gave me some of the information they discovered. . . . Russia’s “Internet trolling squad” made detailed studies of such sites as The Blaze, The Huffington Post and Fox News, including their audiences, owners, official and actual editorial policies, as well as their attitudes toward Russia and Obama. Screenshots show comments posted in English with serious grammatical errors. According to the Ukrainskaya Pravda, the Kremlin bloggers were also active in Ukraine. They were said to be paid twenty-four euros per day for their activities.
So if you read those comments by those trolls, you are being manipulated.  You may be led to believe that there is a large number of your fellow citizens who feel a certain way, for example.
 The cable channel Russia Today, (which is larger than Fox News)  has direct access to the homes of tens of millions of Europeans and Americans.
RT’s staff includes an office with about one hundred personnel in Washington.   In 2009 Nielsen Media Research found that viewers in the Washington, D.C., area preferred to watch prime-time news on Russia Today rather than on other foreign English-language networks, including Al Jazeera, France 24, and Deutsche Welle. In 2013 two million Britons watched RT regularly, and its online presence was “more successful than those of all its competitors. What’s more, in June [2013], Russia Today broke a YouTube record by being the first TV station to get a billion views of its videos.
Now such success in itself is OK, even admirable, except that they manipulate their audience.  Consider:
RT started inviting representatives of marginal, often extreme right antigovernment groups, who were presented as “experts.” One of these groups was the so-called 9/ 11 truthers, people who believe that the 9/ 11 attacks were not the work of al-Qaeda terrorists but a US government conspiracy…  RT’s “experts” also included Malik Zulu Shabazz, the leader of the New Black Panther Party, a hate group. Another invited pundit was Daniel Estulin, who considered the European Union to be the realization of a secret plan invented by the Bilderberg Group …Manuel Ochsenreiter, a guest speaker about German affairs on RT’s English-language channel, is actually the editor of the neo-Nazi magazine Zuerst!, a monthly radical-right magazine that pledges “to serve German— not foreign— interests” and speaks out against “de-nazification.” For James Miller this is problematic, “as RT used Ochsenreiter to defend Russia’s invasion of Crimea, an invasion which the Kremlin said was done to defend the peninsula against neo-Nazis.” Another RT guest, Ryan Dawson, who was presented as a “human rights activist,” was in reality a Holocaust denier who wrote blogs about anti-Semitic ideas.
RTanchor
Russia Today Anchor
Russian military preparations are worrisome. Their bombers fly along the coasts of Alaska and California.  They are largely responsible for the Iranian nuclear program’s technical progress.  And remember, Iran’s leaders have repeatedly called us “The Great Satan”.
Putin has noted that Russia is the only country that could “destroy America in half an hour or less.”
RussianPlanes2
Four Russian bombers and a refueling tanker off California
We really have to hope that Putin does not see his competition with us as a zero-sum game.
Russian government ideology differs from ours. Russia glorifies a strong state. And from Herpen’s book, the Russian Orthodox Church preaches that human rights must be superseded by traditional values, because otherwise we lose morality and civilization. There seems to be an idea that human-rights have to give for morality to prevail. You can’t have both unlimited rights and morality.
PutinMapOfWorld
Yanko Tsvetkov makes fun of Putin’s view of our decadence.
In this country, there is another debate where zero-sum thinking comes into play. That is the debate on whether we should put tariffs on foreign imports, and whether we should punish companies that move factories abroad.   Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, feels we were taken advantage of in our free-trade deal with Mexico and wants to renegotiate it.  In other words, he does not see mutual benefits, rather he sees Mexico profiting at our expense. On the left, Socialist candidate Bernie Sanders also believes this.
lincicome
Scott L

Free trade advocates argue that the problem is not Mexican greed, or naïve American negotiators.  They argue that the United States has gotten so dominated by “progressives” that it has created a difficult environment for businesses to thrive, and so they eventually move to other locales.  Moreover, a free trade advocate such as trade-attorney Scott Lincicome stresses that when businesses do fail, there is a lack of “labor dynamism” in the U.S. so people do not find new jobs to move to, and he says free trade reveals the problems with the economy, rather than causing those problems.
Its interesting that several anti-immigrant movements in Europe are also protectionist. One example is the French National Front. In this country, Pat Buchanan is an example of a conservative protectionist who has long called for restricting immigration. My own view is that restricting immigration is reasonable, and restricting economic transactions that interfere with national security is reasonable, but otherwise, we are better off trading with the world rather than having each nation embrace so-called economic-patriotism. We are better off with strong, prosperous neighbors than with weak unstable ones.
Though some situations in life really are a zero-sum game, we should at least try to avoid that philosophy whenever possible.

When Revenge is evil – Micah Johnson avenges black lives

A black sniper took up a position near a peaceful protest against the police shootings of two black men, one of those black men, Alton Sterling, shot in Louisiana and the other,  Philando Castile, shot in Minnesota.  Then the sniper proceeded to shoot at police, using a “shoot and move” doctrine, killing 5 and wounding several others.
Its a big mistake, as Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective said, to theorize without data, and I made that mistake already, believing initial reports that there was more than one sniper.
Its not a mistake though, to see his actions as part of a bigger problem.  For example:
If you take a look at the Black Lives Matter Twitter feed, you’ll find photos of activists wearing shirts that say, “Assata Taught Me.”
So who was Assata?  Katie Pavlich tells us:
They’re referring to infamous cop killer Assata Shakur, otherwise known as Joanne Chesimard, who shot and killed a New Jersey State Trooper back in 1973. In 1977, Shakur was convicted and sentenced to prison but quickly escaped and has been a fugitive in Cuba ever since. She’s also on the FBI’s most wanted terrorism list. BLM glorifies Shakur as a hero and uses her writings and materials during training sessions.
I’ll make a point about BLM later, but lets look at the injustice that drove sniper Micah Johnson.
First, the two black men shot by cops were very different people  Sterling had molested a fourteen year old girl (she became pregnant) and had been previously arrested for aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, unauthorized entry and domestic abuse. .

Castile though had not such record. He was just driving with his girlfriend Diamond, and when the officer stopped their car, he told the officer who stopped his car that he had a (legal) gun, and then obeyed the officer’s order to get his driver’s license.  It may be that the officer then mistook the movement to get the license as a movement to get the gun, and so he shot the driver.  This is all speculation, and I should remember what Sherlock Holmes said.  Diamond Reynolds (the girlfriend) says that the police officer screamed “f*** oh my God, I can’t believe it” after shooting Mr. Castile multiple times.

1F1B9124
Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile of St. Paul
Of course this is the story at this moment.  Stories often change as more facts come out, and we should not “jump the gun”, any more than that officer in Minnesota should have jumped the gun.
Many people seem to assume racism in a case like this.  However, common sense tells me that most policemen do not want to lose their jobs, plus be tried in court, plus attract years of hostility by shooting people who are innocent.  Plus even if the policeman was very racist in private, if he has to go into a black neighborhood day after day, he wants to be on good terms with the people around him.
The case reminds me a bit of the shooting of an African immigrant, Amadou Diallo in the year 2000.  The Los Angeles Times reported:
Testifying through tears, the police officer who fired the first of 41 shots at an unarmed West African immigrant told a jury Monday he pulled the trigger because he believed his target was wearing a bulletproof vest and was shooting at his partner.
After 19 bullets struck  Officer Sean Carroll said he knelt alongside the victim, who was breathing his last breath in the vestibule of a building in the Bronx.
“I said, ‘Oh my God,’ and I just held his hand,” Carroll said, recalling he pleaded, “Please don’t die.”
In that case at least, the mistakes of the cops were understandable.  It was a tragedy of errors.
It may not be much comfort to know that a man is killed due to a mistake, rather than to racial hatred, because in either case he is just as dead.
However, assuming that it is racism is the engine of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and may have been the motivation of the snipers.
So where is the evil in this story?
  1. A man’s character is shown not only by how he treats people he likes, but how he treats people he does not like.
  2. A good man does not shoot first and ask questions later.
  3. A good man is honest with himself, even it makes him, or people he identifies with, look bad. He does not blame others for problems that they are not responsible for.
  4. And a good man does not shoot Persons A (policemen in Texas) because of what Person B (a policeman in Minnesota) did.  The appropriate response is to go after Person B, via the legal system, assuming the legal system works.  And if Person B meant well, you look at how the mistakes happened. If the policeman had a hearing problem, or was incompetent in some way, you change procedures so that admissions tests weed people like him out. If the problem is that reaching for a wallet looks too much like reaching for a gun, you push to change police procedure so that misunderstandings do not happen.
  5. A final point about BLM. The protest in Dallas was peaceful, but protesters should do their homework about organizations such as “Black Lives Matter”. It is not truthful about the supposed campaign to kill innocent blacks, and its members have chanted “pigs in a blanket, [this means policemen in a body bag] fry em’ like bacon,”
Now for some unpleasant facts:
If the policeman in the Minnesota case was more afraid of a black driver than he would be of a white driver, it was because blacks have a higher proportion of murderers (at least 3 times higher) than other groups in the U.S.  Not only that, but policemen who go into black areas to arrest someone are often surrounded by people jeering at them.  Even if they are black policemen, they hear taunts.  One black policeman, Robert Reedy says this:
“They call me a slave, a field nigger,” he says. He responds contemptuously: “That’s ‘house nigger’—get your terms right.” The perps then whine: “You black like me!” Reedy shakes his head in amazement: “What’s that got to do with taking the lady’s handbag?”
Ask Detective Carl McLaughlin if the police prey on black people, and this normally ebullient Brooklyn cop will respond icily: “I just prey on people that are preying on others. It shouldn’t be a race thing.”
A cop’s denial that policing is racist is perhaps not noteworthy—except for one thing: Detective McLaughlin is himself black.
But a frightening change is happening to a segment of the black population.
I remember when two policemen were killed in Brooklyn, ambushed by a black man who had driven up from Maryland, as they sat in their car. The motive was “revenge” on police treatment of blacks.
Perhaps the idea is: “Those police won’t mess with us anymore if we kill a few.”
But what do these snipers think will happen if policemen stop policing?  Or if for that matter, the law-abiding portion of America all left for Greenland?
When you create a policing vacuum, or a defense vacuum, something will fill it.  There are very ruthless countries some made up of black or brown or yellow or white people, and they may  be armed with very sophisticated weaponry, and human rights are not their priority.
There are countries that have literally millions of slaves (I’m thinking India, and I say that even though the Indians I meet here strike me and my parent’s friends favorably. Some Muslim countries have black slaves (I’m thinking Mauritania, and Sudan)).  In some countries the slaves are of a different color than the rulers, in others the same color.  A recent book (The Slave Next Door) tells us at least 50,000 people are enslaved any given year in the U.S of A.
There are countries where the difference between organized crime and the government is murky. They work together, or are friends.
So…
without law and order you will get chaos, and eventually get order imposed by ruthless people who don’t care about “rights”.
I mentioned honesty.  In the Ferguson shooting case of Michael Brown, there was dishonesty.
One witness said ‘crowds of people had begun to gather, wrongly claiming the police shot Brown for no reason and that he had his hands up in surrender. Two black women approached Witness 102, mobile phones set to record, asking him to recount what he had witnessed. Witness 102 responded that they would not like what he had to say. The women responded with racial slurs, calling him names like “white motherfucker”.
The colleges are finding they have students who don’t want to argue – because they know they are right, and if you argue with them, you are being hurtful, and even evil.  Or racist.  They have “safe spaces” – safe from being hurt.  Safe from hearing any idea they don’t want to hear.  This is a great recipe for trouble.
 Megan Bautista, was a smart black Bronx girl who went to college at Oberlin. She was interviewed there by Nathan Heller of the New Yorker,
 When I asked what she hoped to do after she graduated, this spring, she said, “I can see myself leaving the country.” In the immediate term, she hoped to join AmeriCorps and build her résumé. She thought she might end up being a class-action or impact-litigation lawyer. Then she wanted to get as far away from the United States as she could. “Working my piece of land somewhere and living autonomously—that’s the dream,” she said. “Just getting the eff out of America. It’s a sinking ship.”

She should ask the question: “Why is it sinking?”

The day after Micah Johnson gunned down policemen, I noticed blacks and whites getting along as usual.  I noticed a nice black couple cycling on the bike path near here.  I noticed a white employee of the hospital I visited talking to a very friendly African employee.  Some things did not seem normal.  I noticed black people who seemed rather depressed and quiet – more than usual.

We do have a race problem in this country.  I have memories.  My twin was whipped with a chain by a black youth when we were kids.  The white kids getting off my school bus in Manhattan were robbed by black kids as they hit the pavement.  I remember the news reports of burning cities in the sixties.
I remember news items, such as one about a Jewish teacher who tried to help a troubled black student, and who got tortured and murdered by that student and his friend.
Years ago, I had made some disparaging remarks about blacks (I forget what they were).  They were unfair.
And that might have something to do with the black youth who looked shamefacedly down at his sneakers, then rebounded and told me “we will annihilate you”.
“We” turned out to be multi-racial.
I have taken the sting of the hornet, over the past 22 years,  and its not over yet.
Collin Flaherty, a reporter who has written for several major newspapers, has put together 100 videos of black violence here: http://whitegirlbleedalot.com/top-100-black-mob-violence-videos/   The point is not whether he is racist or not (his past shows he isn’t).  The point is whether he is accurate.  Watch a few.
Again we get to the point of honesty.
That is not to say that white people are angels.  My brother once told a liberal friend that if black people are exactly the same as white people, then they are just as bad as white people.  This may seem silly, but it struck his friend like a thunderbolt.  He had never considered this.
If I were black, I would not assume that the people who agonize about white privilege are better than the people who don’t.  Or that the people who want to give me special preferences to go to the head of the line are doing me favors.   I would not respect the politician who promises me that he will help me with handouts – after all, its not his money.
My uncle’s take was that half of black people were like everybody else, and he told me “the other half – I stay away from.” My uncle is not a “supremacist” or a nasty type at all. So it is sad that he felt driven to that conclusion.
And where is the revenge for this (see photo below)?

killingBlacks
“Black on black” violence produces scenes like the above.

Also, note that there are always people who want to fan the flames, for their own ideological reasons… Here is one example, but there are others as well:
JusticeInPalestine

Finally, the strangest aspect of all this is a recent study that found that police do not shoot black suspects at a higher rate than white suspects. Yes, the study found cops were more likely to put their hands on an equivalent black suspect vs. a white suspect — also to cuff, push to the ground or pepper-spray him. But less likely to shoot him! See the article by Larry Elder (who is black) at http://townhall.com/columnists/larryelder/2016/07/14/ignorance-of-facts-fuels-the-anticop-movement-n2192417   On the other hand, John Stossel, a libertarian, has an interesting article at the same website saying anger is justified – see http://townhall.com/columnists/johnstossel/2016/07/13/cops-blacks-and-crime-n2191832

Are we all crazy?

Are we all crazy?
Craziness involves a departure from reality due to flaws in thinking.  But that can’t be all of the definition.  There is a book on cognitive biases by Rolf Dobelli – The Art of Thinking Clearly – which shows that we often make mistakes due to correctable flaws in thinking.  But that doesn’t mean we are crazy.

Jonathan Haidt, who is a liberal Democrat, warns that a new “religion” of “social justice” is entrenching itself among students on America’s campuses.  It prosecutes blasphemy, it is very intense and passionate,   He says this: “It’s just a fact that as humans, we are really good at making something sacred. … When you do that, you bind yourself together, you trust each other, you have a shared sacred object and you go forth into battle…
In religion, people seen as heretics or blasphemers are not dialogue partners; they are simply to be silenced, punished, and ostracized. And that’s what’s been happening at many, many campuses.
He gives an example
There is no nuance, you cannot trade off any other goods with it….then when someone comes to class, someone comes to your campus, and they say the rape culture is exaggerated, they have committed blasphemy.
This is reinforced by an interview with Tuvia Tenenbom, who went undercover in the West Bank to talk to Palestinians, wrote a book about it, and is coming out with his next book, Don’t Quote Me about his talks here, in the U.S with Americans.   He says that
I start hearing free Palestine even in Republican states like Montana, the millennials especially and of course in colleges, this is one thing that’s happening and also in Israel, and in America as well, American Jewry minus the Orthodox, there is a huge self-hating that comes out, self-loathing and this passionate commitment of the jew to point a finger at the rest of the Jews as how bad they are, occupiers, racists and whatever.
In other words, social justice becomes a very emotional and not very rational cause.
Speaking of religion, recently a believing Muslim named Omar Mateen killed 49 people in a gay nightclub, and wounded many more.  The strangeness of this is his double standard.  He found their behavior filthy, but did not find the Islamic-State’s practice of sexual slavery at all filthy.  He complained about America bombing ISIS, but the fact that recently several Yezidi women slaves who decided to take a stand and not have sex with their captors, were burned alive by Islamic State didn’t bother him.  So there is a craziness here, if double-standards are evidence of craziness.  ISIS of course praised him.
pulseMassacre
Omar’s handiwork
Before Hitler attacked Russia, the head communist of Russia, Joseph Stalin, killed many of his military officers in a fit of paranoia.  Actually, his henchmen killed them for him.  This meant that Russia was without a competent military leadership when the invasion, which Stalin confidently said would not happen, happened.   Despite this and other evidence of incompetence and evil, Stalin was a hero to ‘progressives’ all over the world.
AlHamishmar
Leftist Israeli newspaper headline “The Progressive World mourns the death of Stalin” (Al Hamishmar was the very extreme)
This all seems very irrational.
Well, maybe those practical Chinese who are the “factory to the world” – maybe they are sane?  Not really.  They increased their total debt by 21 trillion dollars in the 7 years before 2014.  (The U.S. increased it own debt by 7 trillion dollars).  Elected governments all over the world who were in debt decided to solve their problems by getting into bigger debt (see “The Committee to Destroy the World” by Michael Lewitt (2016))
My family is conservative fiscally and politically.  Both parents have PhD’s,
and they are fairly practical people.  So they don’t fall for the above type of craziness.  Unfortunately, they didn’t fall for my type of craziness either, and they should have.  Let me tell you the story:
I claimed this:
For the past 32 years, a movie of “regrettable” behavior from my past has been loose across the land, and in other countries.
I was put in a mental hospital for believing that sentence.
StVincents
I spent 2 months in a locked ward in this hospital
Arguments I heard from my family were
  1. If there was a movie, we would have heard of it. The truth always comes out eventually.
  2. If there was a movie, it would be in the newspapers
  3. No behavior of yours, not matter how disgusting, would interest people.  They have their own problems.
  4. There are various famous actresses who have movies loose that they wish were not loose.  That may interest voyeurs.  But you?  Forget it.
After ten years of the movie, there was a new development. For the next 22 years, I told my family that my house, and later, when I moved in with them, their house, was entered on a daily basis by bad guys.  I said they had gasses that put people into sexual frenzies, that they have gasses that put people to sleep, and more.  I even said I heard them talking once or twice.
When I told a policeman that I had heard two men talking to each other in my house, he said “Ah, hearing voices!”

Counter-arguments I heard from my family were:

  1. If someone wants to get you, they will beat you up, or kill you – they will not enter your house on a daily basis to watch you, or to use drugs on you.
  2. Nobody has any motivation to bother you.  You are an insignificant failure at life, with obvious mental issues, and nobody cares about you, except your family.
  3. Entering our house would be a risk.  Nobody would keep taking that risk.
  4. You say you have loads of subjective evidence – vast numbers of experiences pointing to this “conspiracy” by this widespread criminal/ideological organization – an organization that includes people of all ages, races, etc.  But subjective evidence is worthless.
The interesting point here is that once a parent, or mental health professional decides that something is impossible, no amount of “subjective” experiences can budge them.
For instance, my subjective experience has had me hear quotes such as:
We will annihilate you” (from a black youth accompanied by another black youth)
You will end up in a hospital” (from a black youth accompanied by two white youths)
We’re going to f*** you, you f*** (inaudible)” (from a white guy with curly black hair in a van)
You’re so GAY” (from another guy in  a van as I bicycled around Greenwood Lake)
faggot” (I’m not gay)
Swine” (OK, I was a swine for a while)
I’ve been drugged and sexually assaulted at least three times that I know of, perhaps I am unaware of other attacks.
My father’s spine is damaged, my mother has to sleep large parts of the day, her back is damaged, I have a “compression area” in my spine, I have a damaged arch in my foot, both heels of my feet fell as if some destructive substance was injected into them.
I believe that this Mafia has drugs that can be sprayed at people to put people into a daze, so that their possessions can be stolen, or their computers and homes and offices invaded.  I believe that this Mafia has drugs that affect the sex drive.  They have poisons that damage the heart.  I believe that they have other drugs, perhaps even drugs that affect suggestibility.
I believe that they can get control with this type of technology – or at least shift things further to whatever agendas they have.
So am I crazy?
Or is society?  I have yet to see a policeman talk to me for more than five or ten minutes about this.   I have yet to see anyone test any of my assertions.
When you talk to a crazy person, and raise an objection, that person might react by making his worldview even crazier. For instance, if he believes that aliens from outer space have taken over the minds of his friends, and you explain to him that you are a friend and obviously no alien has taken over you, he might decide that – indeed they have taken over you.
Another aspect of craziness is that it is not falsifiable. How do you prove to this person that his friends have not been taken over by aliens?
So let us look at my beliefs with these two criteria.
Are my beliefs falsifiable? Obviously not. How can you prove, for example that there is no “movie”?
As far as coming up with wild explanations – well yes, if I drink a half open bottle of water in my refrigerator and get hit by the most intense sex urges that have ever hit anyone in the history of man, then I’m going to come to the reasonable conclusion that someone put a drug in that water, and when I speculate to make sense of it, there is no avoiding radical speculations.
So I fit both criteria.
And then there is the question of alternate explanations. I mentioned my parents both have bad backs. Well, so do many old people. I mentioned my mother has to sleep for hours every day. Well, that happens to some extent to some old people. So what is the big deal?
And as far as drinking that water – maybe I just had a coincidental hallucination that conveniently happened right after I drank it?   My brother even suggested I was a lonely middle aged male and that was the problem.
These arguments work both ways, however.  For instance:
If we talk about falsifiability – when you believe someone is crazy, can that belief itself be falsified?
In some cases it can be. During the holocaust. for example, some Jews found out that the witness who warned them of the danger was actually not crazy after all. It was too late for them when they found out, of course.  One survivor tells us of such a witness in the book “All Rivers Run to the Sea“.
In other cases, it might not be falsifiable, in practice. The truth does not always come out, and when it does, it does not always come out to everyone.
Also there is the idea that you reach wilder and wilder explanations to maintain your worldview. I have reported so many detailed experiences that point all to the same conclusion, and every single one becomes proof that I must be hallucinating right and left and center.
The fact that the experiences point in the same direction are explained away as my “experiencing what I expect to experience”.
The fact that my family has never seen me hallucinate is explained away as “the insanity is compartmentalized.”
So my family also has to dispose of many inconvenient experiences (of mine) to maintain the illusion that all is OK, except for a son who has a compartmentalized lunacy..
I have to admit that I’ve been wrong about quite a few issues in my life, before and after the onset of these “experiences”. And once anyone is in a situation like this, a part of his brain always wants to know what it can’t know. When any ambiguous situation comes up you want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. And so I jump to conclusions. Usually I realize I’m jumping to conclusions, and sometimes I can test whether I am jumping to conclusions. When I’m drifting off to sleep, my critical faculties seem to turn off, so I talk aloud as if I know things that I do not. I talk aloud because I assume that either there is a hidden microphone in my room, or the bad guys are nearby, or just because thinking is easier when talking aloud.
It can be quite embarrassing when I’m overheard.  Not as embarrassing as finding out about the movie, of course..I have no doubt that even making allowances for all of this, that there is plenty of unpleasant truth remaining. The question I started this post with was, “are we all crazy?”. If I’m not crazy, obviously to most people a debatable proposition, then this Mafia is somewhat crazy.I am told that all criminals are interested in is money. They would never be interested in me. But one conclusion I’ve drawn from years of reading books for this blog is that many people have strange motivations that a naïve view would not expect them to have.  In many people there is a totalitarian, or at least a busybody, screaming to get out.

I can speculate all I want to – that perhaps the Mafia is worried I would give away some information – but then a reasonable rejoinder is — then why do they allow me to post this blog? Or I could speculate they just enjoy persecuting people, or I’m an opportunity to study their drugs in action, or, as I have seen personally, there is a big animus, a belief, as one of them (a middle-aged female) said that “he must be kept DOWN”, and more. But it is all speculation. And that is an important final point. We have to be able to tolerate some ambiguity, and ignorance. I may never know more than what I know now.

One way to look at this is that–by being so abnormally weird and sickening for a fairly small part of my life, I became a magnet for attack by elements in society who normally want to stay below the radar. In the process, they stuck their heads above the radar.  This should have been a great opportunity for law enforcement.  But you have to look at the radar screen to begin with to see the signal.

If I’m right, then we all have a big problem.

Remember, a teen aged thug with a gun beats a middle aged doctor with an MD-PhD every time.

A Mafia with new types of drugs that can be unobtrusively sprayed out of cars, out of hollowed-out smart-phones, that can be smeared on door knobs, that can be inhaled when you get into your car etc is going to go to the races and win.  The rest of us are going to lose.

Of course I don’t believe the skeptics in my case are crazy.  But I do believe they depart from reality.

America’s growing conspiracist underground and distinguishing truth from paranoia

Landscape
The Japanese sink the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor – conspiracy theorists accuse President Franklin Roosevelt as deliberately letting that attack  happen.

How can you tell when you are listening to a conspiracy theory, versus a story that deserves a respectful hearing?
Jonathan Kay interviewed Americans who believe that their government deliberately killed, or allowed to be killed, thousands of its own citizens on 9/11/2001 so that it could go to war in the Middle East.

Here are some highlights from his book, and I’ll debate some points as well.
1. Are conspiracy theorists “losers” who could never rise to power?
The answer to that one is “no.”  Often conspiracy theorists lead nations.
Consider the following statement by Adolf Hitler:
Should the Jew, with the aid of his Marxist creed, triumph over the people of the world, his Crown will be the funeral wealth of mankind, and  this planet will once again follow its orbit through ether, without any human life on its surface, as it did millions of years ago.
One problem with the above theory is that though Marx was genetically a Jew, religiously he was not, and he didn’t like Jews.  A quote from Marx:
What is the secular basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.
Ultimately Hitler lost, of course, but he almost conquered the Western world.  It was a near thing.  He was almost a winner.
2. Are conspiracy theorists right-wing crazies?
No, conspiracy theories exist on both the left and the right.

For instance, socialist candidate for the presidency Bernie Sanders says that our economy is “designed by the wealthiest people in this country to benefit the wealthiest people in this country at the expense of everybody else.”
He doesn’t say it our economy is a self-organizing system, instead he says it was designed by exploiters.
The idea of the economy being rigged also comes up with our current president. Dr. John C Drew, who knew Barack Obama in his younger days at Occidental College, says that Barack believed that the government was rigged so that it created poverty, and the only solution was redistribution of wealth.

Naomi KleinA respected leftist author named Naomi Klein believes that the world is controlled by a cabal of hypercapitalists who’ve been personally recruited and indoctrinated by U.S. economist Milton Friedman!
In addition, she says the state of Israel promotes the terror of Palestinians against its own civilians–because the “continual and continuously expanding war on terror” helps inflate the profits of the country’s “high-tech security” industries.
3. Do conspiracy theorists mistake the motives of their own government?
Naomi Klein’s theories assume a sinister government in Israel that would destroy its own citizens for profit.
The idea of a sinister government willing to kill its own citizens also shows up in the “truther” movement, the people who believe that the attacks that destroyed skyscrapers in Manhattan on 9/11/2001 were due to a plot by our government, not by Islamic fanatics.
In the 1940’s when the U.S. was forced to get into World War II by a Japanese attack on American ships in Hawaii, many conspiracy theorists believed that FDR, the president, “had deliberately engineered or facilitated the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor.”  Interestingly, FDR, unlike many Americans, did believe that war with Germany was inevitable and necessary, so the conspiracy theory was built on a tiny sliver of truth.
4. Do conspiracy theorists believe the world is as it superficially appears?
No.
One common thread with the conspiracy theorists, says Jonathan Kay, author of Among The Truthers, is the belief that the path of history is controlled in secret by a small group of influential, fantastically wealthy people; that this power structure is murderous and morally corrupt; and that the political world we inhabit is fundamentally illusory.”
Truthers commonly use the term “awake” to describe their embrace of conspiracist mythology–implying that their previous life comprised an artificial dream state.
This raises several interesting points.  I’m the kind of person who usually believes what he sees in mainstream sources.  but says Jonathan:
Just about every conspiracy theorist I interviewed was very proud to tell me that they trust nothing they are told–and subject every claim to the most exacting scrutiny.  This sounds intellectually noble–but in practice, it leads to a kind of nihilism, since there is no fact, historical event, or scientific phenomenon whose truth cannot, in some way, be brought into question by an inventive mind on the hunt for niggling “anomalies.”
It could be argued that being a contrarian is sometimes good.  You don’t accept uncritically what you are told.  The strange thing though is that they end up accepting ideas that seem crazy.
5. Are conspiracy theorists mentally ill?
Jonathan Kay, who has interviewed many “truthers” does not accuse them of being mentally ill.  He writes: “”one of the great ironies of the Truth movement is that its activists typically hold their meetings in large, unsecured locations such as college auditoriums–even as they insist that government agents will stop at nothing to protect their conspiracy for world domination from discovery.  Truly disturbed conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, can’t sustain that firewall.”
But this is a strange point to make.  If you believe something, then you should believe all its implications.  Why is it sane to believe something, but not up to the point where it might seriously disrupt your life? Surely, either it is true, or it isn’t?
6. Do conspiracy theorists see design where most people do not?
In some cases they dismiss the idea that “accidents happen”.  Jonathan Kay illustrates with an example:
Surely, the death of Princess Diana could not be blamed on the drunk chauffeur who slammed Dodi Fayed’s Mercedes into a concrete pillar; the act must have been orchestrated by M16 in order to prevent the People’s Princess from marrying a Muslim.
  (Dodi Fayed’s father came up with that theory).
7. Do the theorists deny agency and will to the people who WE think are in charge?
They often have the idea of puppets.  “a conventional New Order conspiracy theorist sees Barack Obama and George W. Bush as puppets for some shady petro-industrial cabal.”  Conspiracy theorists like to draw flowcharts in tree form because they point to a lone puppet-master on top of a hierarchy.
8. Since they distrust people to the extent of attributing truly evil motives to them, do they conversely trust others who really have bad motives?
(Republican) Donald Trump said this on the George W. Administration and the Iraq war:
“They lied,” Trump said during the CBS News GOP presidential debate. “They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”
Is interesting though that this statement did not hurt Trump.  In fact I recall military people in South Carolina saying that Trump’s anti-war views were the reason they were voting for him.  I can understand being against the Iraq war, but I can’t understand believing that Bush deliberately lied, getting lots of people killed in the process, just to get hold of oil fields (which by the way we don’t have control over now anyway).
On the other hand, Trump trusts Vladimir Putin of Russia, who presides over a country without free speech, and whose administration engages in much anti-American propaganda.   A final irony with Trump is that he says we should have taken the oil fields for ourselves.  “War for oil” is one of the accusations (in my view, unfair) that was made against the leaders who took us to war in that country.
9. Are conspiracy theories ever true?
We have to  define our terms.  Are three criminals conspiring to rob a bank a conspiracy? Certainly they fit the idea of a group of people using subterfuge to achieve a goal.  Is a group of military officers who frame a Jewish officer (as in France’s Dreyfus case) – a conspiracy?
Certainly deception and hidden agendas do exist and sometimes we learn about them:
Classics professor (and farmer) Victor Davis Hanson says this:
Do we remember Jonathan Gruber, the conceited MIT professor and architect of Obamacare, who bragged that he had hoodwinked a supposedly far dumber America in order to ram the Affordable Care Act down its collective throat — while he was paid nearly $300,000 to talk the bill through Congress as a contract analyst for the Department of Health and Human Services? After President Obama had assured the American people that they could keep their doctors and their health plans, while seeing their premium costs decrease, Gruber high-fived that voters were too stupid to figure out how they had been misled: “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” Gruber crowed. “If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. . . . Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really critical for the thing to pass.
and Israeli columnist Caroline Glick reminds us that:
Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes fooled the public with the myth of Iranian “moderates” locked in a struggle with “extremists”.  This narrative was invented, to “eliminate a source of structural tension between [the US and Iran] which would create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and Turkey.
So the element of deception, an element in all conspiracy theories, is present here.  If we want to be charitable, we might believe that Obama and Rhodes saved us from foreign entanglements that could only lead to war, or that the world is better off without what Obama has called American “meddling” and that Obamacare was a noble effort to get health care to everyone.  But the downside is that if you lie to the public, they lose any trust in government, and this feeds conspiracy theorists.
Imagine you are a citizen of Russia or Iran or Cuba. You are told how wonderful your leaders are, and how flawed the United States is. If you suddenly ‘awaken’ and realize that you are being told lies about America, and you re-interpret your whole society, are you being paranoid? Or are you being remarkably perceptive? One woman who broke away from Islamism, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, says she was in a “mental cage” for years. So the strange irony is that societies that encourage conspiracy theories about the USA can fit the template themselves.
One group that I don’t see conspiracy theorists talking much about is the criminal population.  You would think they would, because criminals habitually deceive in order to achieve nefarious goals.  Organized crime outfits can use the latest technology versus law enforcement or versus victims, and they can work in tandem with terrorists, or with dictators.
If you believe in criminal conspiracies then, unlike the truthers, you are not attributing bad motives to good people,  or good motives to bad people.

Understanding motives correctly is crucial in avoiding conspiracy theories.  And if you get the motives of one set of actors completely wrong, the rest of your worldview will distort itself around that.

The ethical problem with shortcuts to pleasure.

In 1954, it was found that rats would push a lever for hours if certain regions of their brain were stimulated with electricity.  That area had to do with the ‘reward system’ that we humans also have.  Humans had thus set up a lab environment where rats got more pleasure than they ever would in the wild.
ratAndLeverHumans are also expert in creating vastly more pain for other humans than we would expect to encounter in the wild, but that is another story.
Humans also have found shortcuts to that reward system, such as cocaine and heroin.  It is interesting that both are illegal.  And the reason is not that some officious type doesn’t want us to feel good.  The reason is that there are bad consequences to these shortcuts.
An interesting finding with marijuana, supposedly a less serious drug, was that it is likely to make changes in the brain that lead to criminal behavior.   it was known that there was a big correlation between criminality and use of pot, but it wasn’t know whether the drug itself was responsible for the correlation, or perhaps it was just that criminals were more likely to take drugs. The study is not 100% conclusive (see sources), but it makes a good argument that the drug changes the brain and produces – criminals (of course not all users become criminals – there is a just an increased likelihood).
The Libertarian party in America believes that we should make all drugs legal, because it would end violent drug cartels, stop creating “crimes without victims”, and pose less of a threat to our freedoms.
One libertarian site argues that
We maybe have other reasons for rejecting legalized drugs and prostitution, but legalized drugs and prostitution are not on their face incompatible with individual responsibility and limited government”.
But this leaves a question, independent of what governments should or should not do.  What are those other reasons?
What are the ethics of taking short-cuts to your reward system?
Here is one cautionary  story:
As a freshman at Columbia University,  Maia Szalavitz, a smart Jewish girl from the Hudson River Valley, became a serious cocaine dealer and soon a heavy user. She was suspended from college, got arrested and ducked a 15-year prison sentence. She started injecting heroin, then shifted to methadone and tried rehab. At age 23 she quit drugs in a spasm of self-disgust, feeling “debased” when she found herself on the brink of seducing someone in exchange for drugs.
There is  depressing and revealing book by a sociology professor at Columbia University, Sudhir Venkatesh who went looking for the “underground economy” in New York.  He did manage to get into it, after initial difficulty, and he tells some cautionary stories.
One story is of Analise, “a woman I knew from the elite subculture of wealthy young New Yorkers, many recent graduates of Harvard and Yale…”
Annalise had confided to Sudhir that she had angered her parents by refusing to be a good socialite and get married and pursue a life of fashion and charity.  She preferred traveling and looking at art.
Then her life took a weird turn.  Sudhir found out she was managing some women friends who had decided to be — prostitutes.  She claimed that she
didn’t get started managing women like Brittany through planning or ambition.  It’s just that everyone else was so incompetent.  Brittany would offer to pay for the hotel room– at the St. Regis!  Her friends were worse.  They’d pay for town cars, they’d pay for dinner, even supply a little free cocaine.
In no time at all, Annalise had doubled their earnings.  Success attracted other clients, and one day Annalise woke up and realized she was running a business.
Sudhir heard this in a state of shock.
“I feel like I’m helping people” she added.  Sudhir would have none of that:
Those exact words I had heard many times before.  Criminals always try to frame their actions in some high-minded way.  Sex workers tell me they are “therapists” offering a quasi-medical service.  Drug dealers say they are taking money away from the bad elements in their community.
Sudhir tried to dissuade her.  “I don’t think you have any idea what you’re getting into, or how vulnerable you are.”
Sudhir tells us:
I had seen terrible things happen in this world.  Over and over, I’d seen people who were basically good acting savagely in the name of money and fear and respect.
He asked more questions of Annalise and then said this to her:
So you’re evading currency laws and tax laws and banking six figures and you’re telling me you’ve never even nudged any one of your five young employees to work extra or keep working–or what was it you told Brittany yesterday?  ‘So just drink’?”…”Have you had that conversation yet, the one where one of the women says she wants to stop?  You’d lose twenty thousand dollars a year.  Are you sure you won’t try to talk her into sticking it out just a little bit longer?  ‘Just one more time’?
I KNOW this shit, Analise.  One night something bad happens in some fucked-up hotel and they come crying to you and you talk them down.  You calm them.
Annalise tried saying she was helping people one more time, and then started to laugh.
Okay, no, I am not Mother Teresa.  I do like the thrill of it.  I do.  I like crime.
Sudhir met other ambiguous characters when he entered the underworld of New York.   He ended up knowing and liking a man who ran an “adult bookstore” who he later found out had gotten involved with some very dangerous people and under their pressure began forcing women from India to become prostitutes.
It’s not that surprising that if you commit “victimless crimes”, you end up committing “victim crimes”.  My feeling is that if you have left restraints that most of us have behind, you will find yourself in the company of criminals with no restraints at all.
Poverty pushes people into making money in illegal ways, but it is interesting that often the same people who work in the underground – whether in the drug trade, or the off-books labor world, or the sex trade, also can and do find jobs in the legal world.
The women who engage in prostitution to supplement their income can be aspiring artists, aspiring models, aspiring actors, or they can be paralegals, saleswomen, etc.
Personally, if I were to pay money to activate my reward system, I would like to follow the example of Etienne Theroux who says this:
Before I became a Backroads Trip Leader, a crazy project took me on a bicycle adventure along the spine of the Americas, from northern Canada to southern Argentina, chasing down the Rockies, the Sierra Madre and the Andes mountains. Here is what I consider to be the Top 10 Best Roads Segments from that trip. This list includes different sceneries, jaw-dropping sights and some of the places that made me shout out “wow” uncontrollably.
But I remember a relative of mine, at the time in his teens, now working at a really interesting and well-paying job, saying sarcastically to me that I just liked to pedal and rotate a bike wheel endlessly.  He had somewhat of a point.
Whatever our purpose in being on this earth, if there is one, it can’t be just to be that rat with the electrode and the lever.  It can’t be to commit victimless crimes that just somehow end up in much too close proximity to  victim crimes.
dogScenery
Sources:

Triggers of rage

Douglas Fields and his seventeen year old daughter Kelly emerged from a dark subway station into the brilliant light of Barcelona.  Douglas felt a sharp tug at his pant leg.  He slapped his zippered pocket and found that his wallet was gone.  “My left arm shot back blindly.  In a flash I clotheslined the robber as he pivoted to hand my wallet to his partner and flee down the steps.  As if swinging a sledgehammer I hurled him by his neck over my left hip and slammed him belly first onto the pavement, where I flattened him to the ground and applied a head lock.”

DouglasFields
Douglas Fields

Fields was 56 years old, and his only fighting knowledge was from wrestling on his junior high school team.    He applied an illegal choke hold, and cried for the police.
The crowd did not help, because as Professor Fields  realized to his horror, the men’s feet closing around him in a tight circle were feet of other gang members.  The thug being choked threw Professor Fields’s wallet to a confederate, but it was intercepted by a woman’s hand darting between the thicket of legs.  That woman was Kelly, who herself had been on an “ultimate Frisbee” team – an experience that came in useful here.  Her father released the young, muscled thief, and then father and daughter ran away.  The gang pursued both of them throughout the city for the next two hours. The gang had been humiliated and wanted revenge.  Douglas and Kelly ran through restaurants, cut through back alleys, changed clothes, and when the bad guys got too close, left the sidewalk and ran through the middle of streets, weaving through oncoming cars.  Tattooed thugs with big biceps and cell phones kept track of them, but finally they caught a taxi out to a small town an hour away and escaped.

Professor Fields is an expert in “Nervous System Development and Plasticity” and the Barcelona experience prompted him to write the book “Why We Snap”.  His belief is that the same instant reaction that saved his wallet in Barcelona is behind our unfortunate tendency to sometimes engage in sudden violence that we later regret.
He lists nine reasons why we feel a rise of anger.
1. Threat to Life or Limb (self defense)
2. Insult.  He feels this may be related to the more general phenomenon of “dominance” in hierarchies in the animal world.  I suppose people would rather not be down at the bottom of any hierarchy, especially if it means being despised and stepped on, but he doesn’t say that specifically.
3. Threat to Family.  Think of a mother bear and her cubs.  In fact, I and my brother once hiked right between a mother bear and her two cubs.  The cubs scrambled up two trees, and we heard what sounded like an earthquake on our left, as Mother bear took off into the underbrush.  Since I am still here to write this blog post, I guess that means we are lucky this Mom was deficient in family values.
4. Threat to Environment (protecting home and territory).  A person can violently attack a neighbor for trivial matters such as the neighbor taking a shortcut across his property, or not cutting down an encroaching tree.
5. Mate.  A wild stallion will use violence to obtain a harem, as will some other animals. Animals will also fight to protect a mate.  Ironically, violence between males and females often occurs when they are in intimate relationships (think jealous lovers).
6. Order in Society. “This drive exists among other social animals but it is highly developed in human beings”.  It is not about “dominance”, but rather about assuring fairness and correcting transgressions and enforcing the rules of society.
7. Threat to our resources. 
8. Threat to our tribe.  Not just referring to a standard tribe, its also includes country, religion, and even inner-city gangs.
9. Stopped: “Being restrained, cornered, imprisoned, or impeded from the liberty of pursuing one’s desires will trip this trigger of rage.”
malala
There are ironies with these motivations.  Consider the story of Malala Yousafzai.  At eleven years old, this girl typed in her blog her thoughts on the injustice of the Taliban controlled areas in Pakistan.  Girls were not allowed education, were secluded in houses, and had forced marriages – and those marriages were at an early age.  Malala Yousafzai’s views began to attract attention in the media.  Her father founded a girl’s school, which she attended.  One day two armed men stopped the school bus and shot her and two of her classmates.  She was left disfigured and with brain damage, but survived (She had medical care in England where her family emigrated.)
Professor Fields  says a life-risking rage of commitment against injustice is a core trait of human beings.  For Malala he says the “organization” and “tribe” triggers propelled her actions.  Now here is the irony – he thinks the same two triggers propelled the gunmen who shot her.
Professor Fields’s book has some new findings from the world of brain science, such as this:
Item #1:
Some people seek more novelty in life than others.  However, increased novelty seeking is also associated with addiction.  It is also associated with gambling.  Both are linked to dopamine function (dopamine plays some role in reward) and we also know that a side-effect of treating Parkinson’s disease with the drug L-dopa  is increased risk-taking, gambling, and sexual promiscuity.  But it is important to realize that risk taking in the sense of “extreme-skiing” or flying a plane to remote parts of Alaska is not the same as risk-taking with drugs, and even within ‘ethical’ risk-taking, there are differences – mountaineers like to explore, but may show no interest in BASE jumping.  But even taking the example of the author, Mr. Fields, who rock climbs for fun, taking risks is obviously not always accompanied with gambling or addiction.
Item #2:
Sex and violence are linked in the brain.  There are certain neurons which, when stimulated with high intensity, are involved in fighting behavior – but if those neurons are stimulated with low intensity they cause mating behavior.  These experiments must be confusing to the female mice.
Another story Professor Fields  tells is this one:
A woman named Anita Sarkeesian likes to play video games, but she writes critically of the violent sexual degradation of women in video games.  She had to flee her home after she was hounded by violent threats of rape and murder because of that criticism.
A Steve Azar song says:
After only nine lonely giant steps I managed to
Make it to my car
And drive off without once lookin’ back to how
Beautiful you are
You know all the space between love and hate
Really ain’t that far
For those who wonder whether women are better than men, or vice versa, there is an interesting statistic:
Ninety percent of violent criminals in prison are men, but men, in far greater numbers than women, will also instantly risk their life for a woman, child, or stranger in danger.
  Professor Fields  gives one really heartrending example of the latter.  When the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine overheated and exploded, almost fifty tons of highly reactive fallout rose into the atmosphere.  But ten days later, it was noticed that water that firefighters had poured on the burning plant for days had collected into a highly contaminated pool beneath the core of the reactor.   The core had melted down into a lava oozing its way down, and it was known that if it made contact with the water, there would be a massive thermal explosion that would send a deadly plume of radioactive steam across Europe.  Three men:  Valeri Bezpalov, Alexei Ananenko, and Boris Baranov, volunteered to dive into the pool and swim using scuba gear to find the safety valves to drain the water away.  They did that, and saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Europeans.   They paid the price –All three died after two weeks of radiation sickness.   They all knew that death was certain when they volunteered.
I think there is a subconscious calculation going on when we feel an emotion.  For instance, Professor Fields  says that
if the pickpocket [in Barcelona] had been twice my weight, I doubt if I would have grabbed him by the neck….That the guy was about my size must have been a calculation made instantly and unconsciously….At the same time, if I had seen that there was an entire gang involved, I would not have fought back..  I suspect that my unconscious mind would not have triggered the response if it had detected the gang either.
I would not be surprised if a similar unconscious calculation is present in other emotions.  How may times have you suddenly fell in love with an obese person for example?
People differ biologically. They differ for instance in the strength of the connections from the frontal lobe to the limbic system (such connections may have to do with self-control). They also differ culturally.  Professor Fields tells this story:
“Some 100,000 jubilant people flooded Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, in a spontaneous celebration of freedom–Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak had just fallen from power.  CBS news reporter Lara Logan waded into the crowd with her new team to capture the historic transition.”  However, hordes of men sexually assaulted her and brutalized her for half an hour, and she would likely have died if the had not been protected by a small group  of Egyptian women and finally rescued by the Egyptian Army.  Logan was not the only victim.  The atmosphere started with excitement and happiness, but “In a split second, everything changed.” wrote British journalist Natasha Smith:…
Men had been groping me for a while, but suddenly something shifted.  Men began to rip off my clothes.  I was stripped naked.  Their insatiable appetite to hurt me heightened.  These men, hundreds of them, had turned form humans to animals.
Many other women were raped.  Yasmine El Baramawy reported the following, after being knocked down to the ground
I looked up and saw 30 individuals on a fence.  All of them had smiling faces, and they were recording me with their cellphones.  They saw a naked woman, covered in sewage, who was being assaulted and beaten, and I don’t know what was funny about that.
I (the blogger) speculate that maybe in some way these men felt oppressed by women, or by a system that conflicted with their ideas of the rightful status of women.  So as they threw off the restraints of the dictatorship, they overthrew good restraints as well.  Why they should feel this way, if that’s true, is a puzzle.
rescueInEgypt
Maybe there is a link between sexual feelings and vengeful feelings, or aggressive feelings.  But if so, why are their so many incidents in the U.S. of men saving strangers, both men or women?  I remember when a woman threw herself off the Tappanzee bridge, near where I live, in a suicide attempt.  An El Salvadoran immigrant immediately jumped into the Hudson river right after her to save her.  This took remarkable courage and decency, and completely conflicts with the image you get from the Tahrir story.

life_is_worth_living
Dissuading suicides on Tappanzee

The main take-home point from Professor Field’s book is that we have various triggers to sudden rage within us, and while these triggers fit our needs in many situations, they can also have terrible consequences. He also says something I partly disagree with:

Struggling to comprehend a suicide bomber’s “thinking” or police searching for “motives” in cases where violence is driven by perceptions of threat, alienation or emotion is a search in vain. Such violence is not driven by reason. It is driven by rage.

I can’t step into the mind of a suicide bomber, but at least in Israel, sometimes these bombers are people who were shamed in their own society, and seek redemption by killing some Israelis. On the other hand, I saw a video of an Arab with a knife who approaches a Jew from the back in an alley, and then stabs his victim. I was amazed at the nervous energy and the impression of lashing out that the Arab attacker showed. That was rage and hate. But rage is not the same as hate. And if we just go by the title of Professor Field’s book, “Why We Snap”, he seems to be talking about a quick reaction, not a long planned operation.

Sources:
Why We Snap: R. Douglas Fields, PhD (2015)
Prof Field’s blog is interesting, one post is at: http://rdouglasfields.com/2016/04/the-neuroscience-of-violence/

How much evil is due to simple misunderstanding?

Anyone who has encountered a bully in a schoolyard realizes that “self-defense” is not the only motivator of aggression. The bully and his friends actually seem to be enjoying themselves, and their target is generally weak and isolated, and obviously just wants to be left alone.
But to be the devil’s advocate, perhaps much evil is done by good people who simply don’t see the world correctly?
For a case of undeniable evil, Pol Pot presided over a totalitarian dictatorship.  His government made urban dwellers move to the countryside to work in collective farms and on forced labor projects. The combined effects of executions, strenuous working conditions, malnutrition and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population.
We would agree this is evil, but did the enforcers of Mr. Pot’s ideology (the Khmer Rouge) think of themselves as evil?
Lets look at their ideology:
The Khmer Rouge’s interpretation of Maoist communism allowed them to believe that they could create a classless society, simply by eliminating all social classes except for the ‘old people’ – poor peasants who worked the land. The Khmer Rouge claimed that they were creating ‘Year Zero’ through their extreme reconstruction methods. They believed that Cambodia should be returned to an alleged ‘golden age’ when the land was cultivated by peasants and the country would be ruled for and by the poorest amongst society. They wanted all members of society to be rural agricultural workers rather than educated city dwellers, who the Khmer Rouge believed had been corrupted by western capitalist ideas.
In order to be loyal to the state, the Khmer Rouge enforced the breaking of ties to religion and family. All political and civil rights were abolished. Formal education ceased and from January 1977, all children from the age of eight were separated from their parents and placed in labour camps, which taught them that the State was their ‘true’ parents. For the Khmer Rouge, children were central to the revolution as they believed they could be easily moulded, conditioned and indoctrinated. They could be taught to obey orders, become soldiers and kill enemies. Children were taught to believe that anyone not conforming to the Khmer laws were corrupt enemies.
Now if you had a reasonably happy life in the city, and you were dragged out to work all day in the fields, you might object to this ideology. Objecting would get you killed, unfortunately. You might object to losing the right to say what you think, but that would get you killed too. You might object to your children being taken away, but that could also get you killed.
But were all these impositions on you due to a misunderstanding? In a way that is true. The Khmer Rouge believed nonsense. Nonsense with lethal consequences.
We could ask, why did they kill their own citizens? Did they see this violence as regrettable, but necessary for self-defense?
Victims who were tortured or killed or both could be:
  1. Professionals and intellectuals—in practice this included almost everyone with an education, people who understood a foreign language and even people who required glasses.
  2. Other ethnicities, such as Vietnamese and Chinese and other religions such as Cambodian Christians, Muslims and the Buddhist monks.
  3. “Economic saboteurs- many of the former urban dwellers (who had not starved to death in the first place) were deemed to be guilty by virtue of their lack of agricultural ability.
Perhaps people in these categories were seen as a threat to the great classless utopia that was being built. So in a way, self-defense could be considered the reason – or at least defense of something supposedly nobler and bigger than a single person.
But that raises a few more questions. The people who come up with these ideologies that others follow, or are indoctrinated by – are the originators of the ideologies good people?
Could they be charlatans, at least to some extent, and know themselves that they are charlatans and frauds?
Once such an ideology takes root, the end justifies the means. And one of the means is lying.
In the U.S. during World War II, the Voice of America put out pro-Soviet propaganda, which included blaming the Nazis for the massacre in the Katyn forest of more than 20,000 Polish prisoners. In reality, the prisoners were murdered by Russians, on Stalin’s orders. After the war, several of VOA’s foreign-language broadcasters and their spouses left the U.S. to work for Communist regimes as anti-American propagandists. So lies were told then, by people who thought those lies were in a good cause and were working as employees of our government.
So lies get spread, and people believe them, and then people do bad things as a consequence.
The ideological dictatorship of China executes more people than rest of world combined, according to Amnesty International. Surely some of this violence is done by indoctrinated people who might be good people in freer societies?
Russians are told that the United States is a threat.  For instance, many Russians believe the events in Ukraine are due to United States meddling.
Jihadists believe that Mohammed wants them to subdue or kill infidels, and some have said they would be happy to kill millions of infidels.  The misunderstanding here might be in believing that Mohammed is the messenger of God, or it might be in what his message was, but whatever it is, you can bet they won’t debate it with you.
A Jewish teacher in Sweden was discouraged from teaching by her school administration.  She was told that her Muslim students would hate her, and more surprisingly, that her Swedish students would  hate her too.  How do these hates develop?
Certain guidelines do emerge..
First, Lying by anyone is a clue that for him or her, the end justifies the means. The end could be just getting out of trouble, or gaining power, or whatever. We should avoid putting liars in positions of power.
Secondly, free speech is important. One liberal professor, Jonathan Haidt, says that on campus, eventually, ideological conformity (on campus that would be conformity to progressivism) replaces original thought.
“This makes it impossible to teach. This makes it impossible to have an intellectual community,” he said. “I’m a liberal Professor and my liberal students scare me.”
It is not “liberal” to be so sure of a position that you shut out any discussion of it.
Thirdly, misunderstandings can arise for many reasons, one of which is the lies of ideologues and others.
A few days ago (April 28) hundreds of mostly Latino anti-Trump protesters bloodied Donald Trump supporters, threw rocks at cars and smashed windows on vehicles–including police cars–following a huge campaign rally by the leading Republican presidential candidate in Costa Mesa, California. Wouldn’t it have been a better approach from their point of view if instead, the Latin TV station Univision had been willing to host Trump, in a forum where people who object to his statements could call in and confront him and his arguments?.
bloodiedTrumpSupporterJumpOnCar
Some people assume that the greater the violence–the more justifiable the passions behind it must be–but that also is a mistake.  Rational misunderstandings do play a role in the bad behavior we see in our world, but sometimes people believe what they want to believe, or are too lazy to investigate the truth, or perhaps have a nasty disposition that seeks out nasty ideologies.  And people sometimes have entire value systems that don’t match ours – they may prefer to be feared than liked.