Here are three examples of the boomerang effect. By that I mean an effort to attack an enemy works in the short term, but is disastrous in the long term:
When Russia and Germany were fighting in World War I, the Germans had the idea of sending revolutionaries of every stripe, including the Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin, into Germany. Lenin was against Russia’s participating in the war, and his attitude was mirrored in the anthem “The Internationale”:
The kings intoxicate us with gunsmoke,
Peace between ourselves, war on the tyrants.
…If they insist, these cannibals, on making us into heroes,
They’ll know soon enough that our bullets are for our own generals!
A new book on the Russian Revolution by Sean McMeekin has a section on how the Germans subsidized Lenin, after he got to Russia. Lenin was just one of a flood of discontented humanity pouring into Russia with the aid of Germany. But he had an ideology, and his party had the equivalent of a billion of today’s dollars from Germany. He moved into one of the grandest residences in St. Petersburg, and his Bolsheviks could print propaganda in unlimited quantities. Their daily print run to soldiers reached six figures.
The strategy worked. The Bolsheviks took control of Russia, and stopped the war with Germany.
However, once in power, the Communists killed vast numbers of people, and tried to convert other countries to Bolshevism, giving aid to Marxist parties worldwide. Eventually this would lead to the partition of Germany after World War II, with many Germans living under Communism for 51 years. And the adverse consequences may not be over yet.
Japan, in World War II, occupied much of China, and one of the results of that was that the moderate Chinese forces fighting Japan were fighting both Mao’s Communist revolutionaries and Japan. The Communists of course eventually won in China, and one result today is the militarization of the South and East China seas, and another is that North Korean missiles fly over Japan periodically.
After America helped Jihadists expel Russia from Afghanistan, that country relapsed into warlordism and Islamic militants armed with American weapons took over the country. The country became an university for Jihadists. Eventually some of those Jihadists attacked America, and America got into a war with them.
We could speculate that Russian aid to the Jihad-minded rulers of Iran, and its arm supplies to the Taliban today, could boomerang on the Russians too, someday, and the reason is that all these examples show that if you help a revolutionary ideology, that ideology may leave you alone while it gains a foothold, and achieves more pressing short term goals, but then be in a position to turn its attention to you.
In our society people often try to cure themselves. A obvious example are people who go on diets to cure obesity. Some such people are clueless about biology, such as a woman I knew who had subsisted on only popcorn and ice-cream for a long period of time as a teen. Years later she joined a bike trip that I was on, (we were riding with a group from Portland along the Columbia River Gorge to the Pacific, and then south to Eugene, OR, and then inland across the Cascades and the Rockies). At the time, the bike leader was impatient at me for my own dietary quirks, but this young woman explained to him “where I was coming from” based on where she had been coming from. She could not cycle well, and she said the reason was the damage she did to herself with the diet all those months or years.
As another example of self-cure, my parents knew a physicist who lived in the hills outside Boulder, who was a smart man who wrote a clear and well-reasoned science newsletter, but when he contracted an incurable cancer, he tried a pseudo-scientific cure that some charlatan was marketing. I guess it didn’t make much difference that he tried it, since there was nothing that could have saved him, and you could argue that trying dubious and random cures is a good strategy if you have nothing to lose.
Unfortunately, there are cases of people who for health reasons do very self-destructive things. And they sometimes involve their kids in their health-regimens, which can result in tragedy for their kids.
There are weight lifters who take steroids, though steroids can damage their liver, as well as change their appearance in general for the worse. Weightlifters often take protein supplements too, which in the case of people who already have kidney problems, can kill them (at least in one case that I read see ‘sources’ below).
Part of the reason for the attempts at self-cure is that while you can lead a healthy life in an affluent society where food, junk or otherwise, is always available, and where sedentary recreation and sedentary occupations are common, it takes knowledge and priorities and some will-power to lead a healthy life.
I too fell for pseudo-science several times, and I’ll explain why here.
As a teen, I was under a furnace of stress. I also overate constantly. It was common for me to devour several boxes of heavy cakes, plus all sorts of other food, and that was just as a snack. Looking at me now, you would not think this could have happened, since I’m frail and skinny and short. But its true.
One day, sitting in the library, I came across a diet-book that claimed if I changed the balance of my diet to mostly protein, I would get my body into a state called ketosis, which would peel off the pounds. So here I was, lonely, overly well padded, hugely stressed, at the mercy of out-of-control urges (food, sex, etc), and I was grasping for salvation. The diet book seemed to be my salvation, which was illogical, since being over-weight was only one of my problems. As I read it, goose bumps rose all over me. Probably the same thing happens to a leftist idealist when he first reads Marx.
I latched onto that diet like a fanatic. I ate nothing but meat, fish, and fat. I tried to convince myself that I felt better, but frankly, I felt awful. The weight did peel away, however. Fat disappeared. Muscle disappeared.
So that was my first pseudo-science mistake.
As an excuse, you might say that books like the diet book I found are convincing because they are coherent universes in themselves. It doesn’t occur to a teen to read counter-arguments, or get familiar with the literature, or see the alternatives. I would think that high-schools should incorporate into health class some sensible advice on treating obesity, since such a large fraction of American young people are overweight.
Interestingly, I recently read the hypothalamus can be damaged by too many nutrients in the blood stream, and then you get a higher set point for satiety so you get even more overweightsee sources. And the hypothalamus also affects reproductionsee sources, so you could speculate that a diseased hypothalamus could lead to undesirable behavior there. And various other things get out of whack, such as insulin sensitivity etc.
Whatever was going on in my body at that time, I felt like a simmering cauldron of sickness, stress, shame, etc. And this might seem odd. I lived in a safe suburb, with no enemies hunting me with a machete, plenty to eat, enough sleep, a nice set of parents and brothers. So why should I be on this course of self-demolition?
And then, something really interesting happened. I’ve gone into the story (or at least aspects of it) several times on this blog. So I’ll skip all the details, except to say that I was in a sleaze scandal, and then attacked by a Mafia. The first drug they used was a drug that amplified sexual urges.
I did not of course know there was a Mafia, when the ‘feelings’ started, but I knew I did not want those feelings, and I went to various doctors, a psychiatrist, and had a quick talk with an endocrinologist. The psychiatrist, unfortunately, tried to treat me as if I had a fungal infection. He gave me a drug named ‘diflucan’ , and I doubled the dosage, so anxious was I to be rid of the sexual dreams, sexual urges, and so forth. It is not a good idea to take drugs like this, and especially not good to double the recommended dosage. It may be the reason that a doctor told me that I had a damaged liver, about a year after that.
So that was pseudo-science response number 2.
I should say that the idea of a Mafia that wastes its time persecuting some non-entity like me sounds completely insane, and I know it sounds completely insane. But it happened.
My parents had put me in a mental hospital when I first told them that I was – in a word ‘notorious’. They also told the psychiatrist that I was an “anorexic” (this anorexia was also a misdiagnosis, as a doctor who examined me at Mt. Sinai told me). But anyway, there I was in this hospital, forced to take dietary supplement shakes, as well as regular meals, and prevented from even walking up and down the hallway of the ward – because I obviously had to be fattened up.
Talk about pseudo-science!
I got out of the ward, after two months, by phoning a relative of mine who was a psychiatrist outside Boston. He knew me from a few years that I had spent there, and he said “You don’t belong in a mental hospital, I’ll get you out.”
and he did.
And the sky did not fall afterwards.
One of the poisons that the Mafia used on me had an extreme constipating effect, and also made blood run out of my intestines. When they hit me with the stuff, it was very unpleasant, very distinctive, and like clockwork, the blood would come out later. But I also had hemorrhoids, which in severe cases can also fill your toilet bowl with blood. For various reasons, I believe it was an interaction between the two, and I adapted by wearing diapers.
I also would not drink out of cartons of milk – I asked my parents to buy cans of milk instead.
The Mafia started poisoning my clothing, and I tried to adapt by wearing plastic bags under my pants (this did not work too well), wearing pants inside out (this did work, but had obvious drawbacks when I was in public), or buying new pants (this worked too).
They poured gas with pronounced biological effects in my bedroom. I became a bath of chemicals. Nasty chemicals.
I had been somewhat good-looking, but whatever handsomeness I had had mostly disappeared after year one of this treatment.
Now what can we conclude from all this, apart from my being totally psychotic?
Lets assume I’m not psychotic, and see where we get. First of all, if I’m not a mental case, then I was in a situation where the various professionals mis-diagnosed the situation. It was a new type of situation – not one that law-enforcement or the medical or psychiatric profession had ever had to handle. I was on my own, and I tried to cope on my own, sometimes with pseudo-science.
Despite the fact that I’m a person who has fallen for false remedies, and a person with a penchant for jumping to conclusions, I was the real beacon of sanity ultimately.
My advice, based on all these experiences, is that if you have a child or teen who is under huge stress in school, remove him from school. If you are under huge stress in your job, you should consider leaving your job. If you have urges that control you, as opposed to controlling them, get what help that can be had. Many Americans today are slaves to opiates that were foolishly prescribed to them, and some die because their willpower is not strong enough to offset the addiction. If shame is what keeps you from getting help, overcome the shame.
In general, if you live in a society that has everything, you have dangers that don’t occur in a society that is deprived. Even the smart-phone, with its undeniable benefits, has killed people who text while they drive, for instance. Some people say that it has reduced face-to-face social interactions as well, and contributed to the increasing incidence of mental problems in the younger generation now entering college.
Taking the problems of modernity to an extreme, I should mention that you can be ‘gaslighted’. ‘Gaslighting’ normally means that someone creates a world for you that makes you conclude you are insane, but I’m inventing a new meaning for it as follows: If you get some source of information entirely by electronic means, whether phone, texting, emails, then your world can be hacked. I think this is what happened to an acquaintance of mine named Gail, a woman who thought she was communicating with me. Remember, I claim the “Mafia” had assigned people who could get into my house, who knew in general what my plans were, where I would travel, and so forth. This allowed them to impersonate me in the virtual world. Gail was deceived, because she did not step out of the virtual world.
Even if you dismiss my speculation here, you can read of cases such as a young man who interviewed for a job, got an acceptance email, but never saw it, because his “girlfriend” deleted the email on purpose. The truth only came out because the company had liked him so much that it contacted him asking how he could have rejected their offer. This young man’s girlfriend had hoped that she was cutting off his link to reality.
A cousin of mine one quoted at me “It is better to be silent, and thought a fool, then to speak, and remove all doubt.”. You could change that to “being thought insane”. Nonetheless, that’s my choice here, I’ve chosen to speak, and if you believe the story, you have learned something worth learning.
The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat – February 7, 2017 by Stephan J. Guyenet Ph.D. (Author)
After reading this book, I sent the following question to the author:
1. If the hypothalamus is somehow damaged by too much food (presumably circulating in the blood), why aren’t other parts of the brain also damaged? Is there some particular receptor in the hypothalamus that gets overwhelmed?
2. The hypothalamus has other functions apart from generating hunger. Is there any evidence that those functions are impaired in people with inflammation of the hypothalamus?
He replied as follows:
Hi Gideon, 1. I don’t know the answer and I don’t think anyone does, but there is an obvious possibility that comes to mind. Parts of the hypothalamus (the parts that get inflamed) have a leaky blood-brain barrier, presumably because the hypothalamus is designed to sense the metabolic state of the rest of the body. So anything that’s circulating in the bloodstream can impact the hypothalamus more than other parts of the brain, e.g. if a person overeats and experiences excessive circulating levels of nutrients.
2. Good question. The hypothalamus regulates many things, and many are linked to energy status. Four of them that are altered in obesity are blood glucose regulation, sexual maturity onset, reproductive function, and blood pressure regulation. There is some evidence that the neuronal changes that accompany obesity can contribute to poor blood glucose regulation. Sexual maturity onset is linked with leptin levels and this probably explains why puberty onset has been getting earlier lately as the population has been gaining fat, although that doesn’t seem like a case of dysfunction. …. There is evidence that obesity-related hypertension is caused by excess leptin acting in the hypothalamus, so that could be an indirect effect of hypothalamic inflammation (hypothalamic inflammation -> leptin resistance -> fat gain -> high leptin -> hypertension).
If you go through the comment sections of both conservative and liberal websites, you can learn something about bad and good causal reasoning.
By “causal” I mean arguments as to why something is the case.
A causal argument might be – “Global Warming is caused by human activity that releases Greenhouse Gasses”.
I didn’t want to examine that debate, because it requires a lot of reading. It might seem simple – in fact I just watched a two minute video that shows that the sun did not increase its output during the period of warming and that also claims that the supposed pause in Global Warming never happened. However, I also read that Judith Curry, (https://judithcurry.com/) a respected climatologist, says that the evidence that the “pause” didn’t happen is weak.
So rather than get into that tennis game, I thought I’d stick with something that everyone has an opinion on, or feels entitled to have an opinion on. My goal was just to see how people come up with causes, and whether their reasoning makes sense.
I started with this Washington Post article: “Why are so many white men so angry?” by Steven M. Gillon. Now on that topic, all sorts of people would feel qualified to weigh in. (I find the whole debate kind of dumb, and the whole ‘identity’ conflict very boring. But here goes)
The reasons Mr. Gillon comes up for anger are these:
White Men had a hierarchy that favored them at the expense of other groups. Then, minorities, women and immigrants began to challenge them.
White men did not understand that the political changes of more rights for others were fair, and thought they were being assaulted.
This seem to me to be going off the path, and I wondered if Mr. Gillon actually talked to a few angry white men to ask them why they were so ferocious?
To some extent he does rely on asking questions, since he does quote polls, as follows:
Polls show that more than any other demographic group, non-college educated whites feel abandoned by the government, fearful that their children’s lives will be worse than their own, resentful of immigrants and convinced that the nation’s growing racial and ethnic diversity will push them to the margins of society.
Under Gillon’s article, there were hundreds of comments by readers.
A woman commenter wrote:
What feels like punishment to white men feels like a baby step towards equity to the rest of us. So until they can wake up and realize they are NOT the victims here this will continue. Because the rest of us are not going to crawl back under our rocks or into the kitchens.
As we know, perception is everything. Why does it have to be a zero-sum game?
A defender of angry white males says that:
The majority of individual white males don’t feel privileged and, measured objectively, probably are not. Yet the message to white males today, as a group, is that they are singularly responsible for inequality, discrimination and, of late, bad hair. In this role they truly are “somehow special”.
Another defender says sarcastically:
I thought for sure calling them racists for eight straight years and making them buy health insurance would mellow the white guys out.
A liberal commenter blames the Republicans:
The Republicans chose to let Americans suffer as they’ve always done to game the system for greed of power and money all the while telling their followers “it’s the fault of the blacks and the browns and at least you’re better off because you’re white….
Another liberal also sees the problem as white males diverted from the real villains:
The article is one big lie. Reagan and his pals looted the economy and then told white males that it was minorities who took away their good American prosperity. And now Trump is continuing in this grand tradition. Are white men smart enough to see through the ruse? The one percent is betting that they’re not.
Then there is a commenter who believes that people don’t feel they can advance, because there are not enough good jobs. And why are there not enough good jobs? Because, he says,
the government has put too many practices in place that support large corporations and the already wealthy.
Another commenter seconds this:
They need to address the REAL culprits for their grievances, which starts with CORPORATE AMERICA, crooked politicians being bought via lobbyists, being educated in the American political system, a MUST!
Another sees the poor whites voting for rich whites:
I’m an African American and I agree with much of what the author suggests. It’s always been my observation that working class white folks have a lot more in common with the typical black person than with the rich white people for whom they tend to vote. That being said, it is really difficult to be an ally to someone who hates you because of the color of your skin, and who feels himself to be superior.
An anti-Capitalist claims that:
It has always been the policy of those that owned the businesses, factories, and other workplaces to foster division among workers to deny them a voice. Whether the division is between whites and blacks, men and women, natives and newcomers, the bosses’ goal is the same. The more workers fight each other, the cheaper thy work.
Another blames immigration, though he seems to have no particular animosity to individual immigrants. He writes:
In the last 47 years, since 1970, the proportion of immigrants in the country has gone from 5% to 15%. This has had a huge impact. It is much harder for Americans to get jobs in America. The rents are higher. There is competition for university spaces. We BADLY need a time-out on legal immigration (1 million per year) and we need to end illegal immigration period. We need to end the work visas (H-1B, L-1, J-1, B-1, O-1, B-2) which steal good jobs. People who have jobs don’t riot.
While the word ‘snowflakes’ is usually used to describe the fragility of students who can’t handle opposing viewpoints, a commenter turns it on the angry white guys:
If these poor, disrespected snowflakes would concentrate more on treating all equally and with respect and quit whining about how they can’t be lord of the manor anymore, we’d all be better off. And the poor dears could also improve their lot through education and training, hard work, and discipline. Bootstraps, chumps!
A respondent tries to mellow that description:
Well only some were lords of the manor. Others were knights, retainers, game-keepers and even farmers. Some white men got a bad deal when they were killed or injured in wars and evicted from lands they rented.
A final economic comment and I’ll quit (there were hundreds of comments):
Totally off the mark. It’s the economy, stupid. Immigrants and minorities have always been scapegoated whenever the economy tanks, here in the US or anywhere else. If the 1% have not been so voracious and sold out our country for short term gains by transferring its investments abroad an sowing divisions and hatred in our society, things would have been a lot better…I mean look at who is financing Breibarts and all the right wing radios, billionaires such as the Mercers, Adelsons…
Now what can we learn from this very small slice of an argument on causes for a phenomenon? First of all, we have to ask “which angry white men?” Gillon mentions the white supremacists in Charlottesville. They are one group of angry white men, and they have a race-based ideology. . But there are other white men with varying worldviews. But lets assume we are talking about “Trump voters” who are populist. We still have a problem, because many of them originally voted for Obama. So lets narrow it down to white disadvantaged voters who did not ever vote for Obama. You can see from the above viewpoints that there are all sorts of causal explanations offered, and some of the causal explanations depend on yet other causes (why are there less well-paying blue-collar jobs), for instance.
If you go to a conservative site, you might get other explanations. The poor economy might be blamed on high taxation and over-regulation, for instance, instead of greedy Republicans serving their corporate masters.
I have never seen any article on the conservative right saying “we got to put women back in the kitchen because they stole our jobs.”
The right is not a lockstep movement – There is a big divide on several issues – free trade and its limits, for example.
I did talk to a few unhappy white folks over the years.
One time I was in a bus in Phoenix, and got to talking with a young white man. He told me he lived in an area that used to be mostly gringo (i.e. non-Latino), and became all Mexican – except for his family. He told me that you better not leave a door open there, because of the Mexican gangs that come into your house to see what you’ve got. He said there were other parts of Phoenix that were ‘safe’ –”for now”. Another person lamented the new problems of Eastern Colorado – he said there was more crime now.
Another man told me he invested a lot in his house in New Haven (Connecticut), until he had to move out to another shoreline town from which he commuted, because of the crime.
Another told me he could not live in New Haven, because of the poor schooling his child would get.
And that is important. A big perception of minorities is “crime”. In the case of Muslims, the perception is “terrorism”. And I’m sure both Muslims and minorities are aware of these perceptions.
Consider this story that I saw yesterday, while searching for something else.
A father, daughter and family dog were returning from an outing at Fairmount Park’s Lemon Hill. As the father, Mr. Grandzol finished parking near his home along the 1500 block of Melon Street, two men dressed in black held him up at gunpoint.
He handed over his wallet and then the suspects tried to steal his SUV, but his two-year-old daughter was inside so he wouldn’t let them. That’s when the younger of the two suspects, a 16 year old, shot him twice in the face. He died in front of his three year old. I saw a later video where the police said that he had told the two black attackers that his child was in the car.
Now, we can wonder if the children of this murdered father are going to grow up hating black people. They may, or they may not. It would be wrong if they did, but not-totally mysterious.
But the entire article by Gillon, plus the comments, miss any discussion of crime.
A former social-justice radical, Keri Smith, says this:
“ I see 63 million Trump voters written off as “nazis” who are okay to target with physical violence. I see concepts like equality and justice being used as a mask for resentful, murderous rage.
I was in the cult. Part of it is that you are a true believer, and part of it is that you are fearful of being called an apostate–in being trashed as a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, fascist, white supremacist nazi. A friend recently wrote to me privately to say they find my latest posts “refreshing,” and that they believe in free speech, but as someone who works in entertainment, they can’t say anything that might cause them to lose their job
There are ways to test causes. For instance, if someone tells you that A causes B, you could look for cases where A is present, but B is absent. For instance, a liberal named Russell Brand tried to explain the actions of one British citizen: “Jihad John” who ended up in the Middle East, executing enemies of Islamic State. Brand came up with causes such as that “Jihad John” must have been alienated by bad treatment in England, plus affected by the housing and financial collapse, and so forth. A respondent to this (a professor by the name of Gad Saad, who hails from Lebanon) pointed out that the world is full of people who were affected by the financial crisis, but didn’t head over to Islamic State to cut off the heads of strangers. Gad Saad also pointed out that if you are lonely, and need to join something, there are many organizations you can join that don’t cut off people’s heads. So ‘A’ is present, but ‘B’ does not happen.
People with ideological theories of the world can understand varied causes, but will often come up with causes that fit their world view. If you are a racist, for instance, you may believe that all or most of your countries problems would be solved if the minorities packed up and left. If you are an anti-Capitalist, you might believe that most of terrorism and violence is due to ‘income-inequality’. There is a saying that “if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
It is always good to test your ‘causes.’. As one last example from my own life, I was taking a train north from New York city, back to my home in the suburbs. At 125’th Street, a woman came aboard, and stood for a moment next to my seat. I looked at her face, which had a kind of noble quality to it, and I wondered if she was the woman who figured so prominently in my book “Clues”. Then I said to myself, “this is impossible.”.
I had been babysitting my brother’s kids that day in the city, and I had a major headache that had started the previous night, and just got worse over the day. So I tried drowsing off. The woman had sat next to me, and she was reading a large book. There were two unusual aspects of this to begin with. People don’t read big books in the train. Secondly, when there is room in the train, people spread out, they don’t sit next to me. I thought of starting a conversation about her reading, but then thought to myself “You are a lousy conversationalist, go back to sleep.” So I tried to sleep, but I could not. We got close to Irvington, and I got up, and looked at her, and at the young black man behind our seat. Her hair was covering her eyes. The door opened, and I got out and left.
From various pieces of information that came my way afterwards, plus pondering the situation, I now believe that the woman was indeed the same woman as in the book “Clues”.
So what should she have done differently?
As we approached Irvington, she could have hit me with her big book, and said the following:; “Hey dude, you wrote a whole book in which I am a big force, and now you won’t even look at me? What’s your problem? “
That would have been a “causal test”.
At that point, I would have said “Listen lady, I have white male (albeit Jewish) privilege, and I just hate women. Go bake some cookies!”
Seriously though, I would have responded something like this: “Gail – there really is a Mafia, and I’m sorry about what happened, I didn’t give you the silent-treatment, I happen to have been poisoned last night by this Mafia, they are everywhere, they are invincible, and no matter how incriminating all the events in Boston may have seemed, they were innocent, and I myself don’t understand them. Now, no offense, but I like my life as is, minus the Mafia, and I don’t want to change it.”
Nobody would believe that causal explanation, but it was worth hearing anyway.
For my own safety, I do not want to get this Mafia any madder at me than they are already.
“Why are so many white men so angry?” by Steven M. Gillon August 29 2017 – Washington Post
This is a very brief post based on a quote I found. After various incidents of towns taking down or moving Confederate statues, there were people who argued that the statues were part of our history, and our first presidents had slaves, and pretty soon we would be knocking down statues of them too.
One of these offending presidents was Thomas Jefferson.
I was looking at the debates between Abraham Lincoln And Stephen Douglas in the year 1858 and Jefferson was mentioned. Lincoln argues that the founders of the U.S. (including Jefferson) were essentially against slavery because:
…the Union is a house divided against itself; and when the Judge reminds me that I have often said to him that the institution of slavery has existed for eighty years in some States, and yet it does not exist in some others, I agree to the fact, and I account for it by looking at the position in which our fathers originally placed it-restricting it from the new Territories where it had not gone, and legislating to cut off its source by the abrogation of the slave-trade thus putting the seal of legislation against its spread. The public mind did rest in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction…. Now, I believe if we could arrest the spread, and place it where Washington, and Jefferson, and Madison placed it, it would be in the course of ultimate extinction, and the public mind would, as for eighty years past, believe that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. The crisis would be past and the institution might be let alone for a hundred years, if it should live so long, in the States where it exists, yet it would be going out of existence in the way best for both the black and the white races. [Great cheering.]
Since I’m a product of a typical American Education, which means I know little history, I was unaware of this. So I looked up the abolition of the slaving ship trade in America, and found this:
In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson… expressed his hope that Congress would end the slave trade and “withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have so long been continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa.” Congress passed the act in March of 1807, and Jefferson quickly signed it into law.
So this should tell us something. Namely that people may be flawed and hypocritical, but they are creatures of their time and place. Jefferson was on the side of the angels, basically, given his time.
Here is another quote, that came in my email today, which is about another group of slaveholders:
Islamic State is advising attackers to inject food for sale in markets (in the West) with cyanide poison.
The terrorist organization has prepared for this and used prisoners for experiments with different chemicals and toxins, with very painful deaths as a result, The Times and Newsweek wrote in May:
The Islamic State group used prisoners as “human guinea pigs,” carrying out chemical weapons experiments in order to plan for attacks against the West, documents found in Mosul have revealed. The papers detailing the tests, which led to the agonizing deaths of prisoners, were discovered at Mosul University in January when it was recaptured by Iraqi special forces. The documents verified by United States and British forces were detailed by The Times in a report published Saturday.
Prisoners had their food and water contaminated by the sprinkling of chemicals found in easily accessible pesticides. The U.S. and Britain now fear that the same methods could be used on a larger scale to contaminate food supplies in the West.
So I’d ask a radical this: The members of Islamic State want to poison you. And your children. Plus they hold slaves. As opposed to pulling down statues of long dead secessionists, what are you doing about it!
(To be fair, I did read a few days ago that some members of the radical group ‘Antifa’ have flown to Turkey to fight against Islamic State. So they do have the courage of their convictions – some of them at least).
Here is a one minute video on the descendants of the founders getting together:
If you debate people often, you will sometimes run into people who have an answer to every point you make. At some point you have to ask about their answers “how do they know?”
Take this example: An American Muslim army major named Nidal Hasan murdered thirteen fellow soldiers and wounded twenty-nine others at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. He did it to avenge Muslims killed by America, at least from what I understand of his earlier writings. But the American press did not want to associate all Muslims with his sudden burst of lethal violence, so they said that he was:
…a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder. Sadly, that narrative fell apart when it turned out that Hasan had never deployed to a battle zone. So the left came up with a new idea he was the victim of “secondary trauma.” The New York Times contended that “repeated stories of battle and loss can leave the most professional therapist numb or angry. . . . That was the world that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, inhabited until Thursday.” Forget all that shouting about “Allahu akhbar!” The real problem is that Hasan had to listen to people talk about their deployments.
Hasan, then, was a victim. A victim of the military-industrial complex. A victim of war. Sure, he’d never seen war. But he’d heard all about it. And that was just as good as the real thing.
This reminds me also of the van that Muslim extremists drove into pedestrians on the London Bridge. They shouted “This is for Allah“, maybe because previous terror attacks are always explained away by well-meaning types as having nothing to do with Allah. (There had been a nasty bomb attack on girls streaming out of a Ariane Grande Concert a few weeks before the van attack).
You really have to supply rationalizations to avoid the uncomfortable reality that these attacks, and many others (just recently the attack on Barcelona, for example) are made by people who believe that Islam tells them to attack the enemies of Islam. We may say to them that Islam does NOT tell them to do it. But since when are we more experts in their religion than they are?
“Rationalizations” are not necessarily always wrong. If you are faced with an assertion that you don’t believe, or don’t want to believe, and an opposing debater keeps marshalling evidence for that assertion, you will try to make replies to each bit of evidence. And you may actually be correct.
But it does show that reality is quite elastic. Or more accurately, reality is not elastic, but we stretch or minimize or change our observations to build our own models of reality, or we infer facts that we have no proof for, other than that if they were true, they would negate what we don’t believe (or don’t want to believe).
In G.K. Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy. Chesterton analyzes the workings of a mind prone to conspiracy theories. It seems counterintuitive but Chesterton writes that it isn’t a lack of reason that afflicts these minds but rather a lack of imagination, an inability to conceive of anything outside their theory.
…the madman (like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. ..every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment…The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
…If a man says (for instance) that men have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except by saying that all the men deny that they are conspirators; which is exactly what conspirators would do. His explanation covers the facts as much as yours. Or if a man says that he is the rightful King of England, it is no complete answer to say that the existing authorities call him mad; for if he were King of England that might be the wisest thing for the existing authorities to do…
Nevertheless he is wrong. But if we attempt to trace his error in exact terms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed. Perhaps the nearest we can get to expressing it is to say this: that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large.
This last statement of Chesterton probably means that a sane person takes more facts into account, and has a wider world view in some way.
Now I’ll talk about my favorite subject: Me!
Since about 1984, I’ve believed there was a compromising ‘movie’ of me loose in the world. This was not a flattering movie.
Plenty of people tried to reason me out of this belief, but they failed. Then the insanity got worse.
Since about 1994, I’ve believed there was a Mafia entering my house, with somewhat psychopathic individuals closeting themselves in perhaps a crawl space or spaces when they needed to be concealed, and gassing me with biologically active chemicals. Plenty of people tried to reason me out of that one too, but they failed.
Now you might ask, how could anyone believe either of these ridiculous scenarios and still write some sensible sounding blog posts?
And you might also ask, how could I be reasoned out of either scenario?
How do you prove there is no movie?
How do you prove that the sensations this person has are all generated internally by a diseased brain?
Conversely, you could play the devil’s advocate, and take my beliefs, and ask, how do you prove them? To take one example, suppose I am trying to sleep, and after about half an hour, I am woken up by a constellation of feelings and reactions of a very embarrassing and unpleasant nature? I infer the existence of an invisible vapor, and the existence of a person who is administering that vapor, but I do not see or hear this person, or see or smell the vapor.
The many people who have dismissed my beliefs and experiences have had to do some stretching of the rubber band of reality – because some of the experiences I reported were very concrete and dramatic (such as being cursed for 5 minutes by two young men –wearing white dress shirts–at a bus stop), but in general my listeners did not have to bend reality too much, because all they had to do was posit that I was insane – which would invalidate any inconveniently realistic experiences right off the bat.
I’ve tried to figure out what my future is, given my past.
Let assume that we know the following:
1. The movie does exist, and was quite disgusting.
2. Despite the movie I was getting somewhat popular afterwards, with some people, partly because after a very unhealthy life of stress and binge-eating, I had a second-wind, adopted a disciplined and healthy lifestyle, and had become handsome.
3. A group of criminal types decided to take me down a peg, and hit me with a “forbidden technology” – a technology of drugs that affect the brain. More specifically, they attacked me with a “sex-drug”. I claim this drug was very powerful.
4. The first or second year of this continuing ordeal, I also contracted “Human Papilloma Virus”, which is normally passed “person to person”, though there is a slight chance of contracting it other ways as the doctor told me when I insisted I had done nothing ‘person to person’.
5. Similarly, I developed several urinary tract infections, which puzzled the urologist who finally treated me. He could not understand why I was getting repeated infections. It is usually women who get these infections. The symptoms, which more than one doctor saw, included a vast expansion of my reproductive area. (This is hard to believe, and the first doctor who saw it thought it might be a ‘cyst’ where the contents of the abdomen had somehow leaked into the lower areas. He had never seen anything like it. But eventually I was referred to a urologist. I don’t give the names of the doctors here, because they probably want to be left alone).
6. Eventually the Mafia decided it would be fun to keep from bicycling and traveling into the distance. They had their ways of communicating with me, and their ways of punishing me if I did something they decided was inconvenient for them.
So the question is, – what of the future?
My guess is, that they will attempt to discredit me. I could be discredited by showing me as insane, or as a lying hypocrite, or both.
With the types of drugs that are out there, and the research that could be done, they may well succeed. So I have a choice. I could try to escape, which I don’t think is realistic, I could tell my story to law enforcement, (but its really up to you, the readers to do that, — I don’t have evidence). I could try to end my life before the bad guys succeed, but its a lot easier to go on, day after day, then to suddenly decide “this is it. No more walks on weekends. No more learning new things. No more family. No more anything. Not even blackness. Just non-existence.” So that’s not really an option either.
So I live in the same house with two pleasant parents, who I get along with, and my reality intersects with theirs most of the time, but in my reality, there is an equivalent of a gravitational black hole warping all sorts of experiences and predictions and feelings in a certain direction. In their world, the black hole is not there.
Another way to look at it (from my point of view) might be as “the elephant in the room” that nobody sees. So when the frightened elephant backs into a mirror, and it falls and shatters, the belief is that the mirror must have been attached loosely, and spontaneously fell. When the elephant makes a trumpeting noise, the noise must be due to be a fire alarm somewhere. When he shakes the chandelier, – there must have been a draft through the window that is responsible. Etcetera.
You can carry any behavior to an insane extreme if you are missing certain grounding influences – whether morality (in the case of criminals) or decency and self-respect (somewhat in my ‘movie’ case) or, in the case of Chesterton’s lunatics, a wide angle view of the situation.
It has been shown that people who are surrounded by like-minded people get more radical – there I guess the grounding influence would be people with other convictions.
That does not mean, however, that the elephant is not in the room! Being grounded does not mean you have to bury your head in the sand.
Sources: Bullies – by Ben Shapiro (2013) Orthodoxy – by G.K. Chesterton (1908)
I sometimes read various people on the left and right arguing that despite Russia’s faults, we have common interests and there are aspects to admire about Russia.
But Russia is an odd place. In the book Red Notice, a former investor in Russia, Bill Browder, tells you about some of the odd things, and a terrible story as well.
Here is a small but revealing tale he tells:
He was being driven to a tennis game.
As the car approached the final stretch of road that led to the tennis bubble, I saw a large. dark object in the middle of the street. Cars were swerving left and right to avoid it. I thought it was a canvas bag that had fallen off a truck, but as we got closer, I saw that it was not a bag at all, but a man.
“Alexei, stop,” I shouted.
He didn’t say anything or show any indication of slowing down.
“Goddammit, stop!” I insisted, and he reluctantly pulled the car next to the man. I opened my door and jumped out. Elena followed, and when Alexei saw there was no way out of this situation, he got out too. I knelt next to the man, cars zipping by and horns honking. He wasn’t bleeding but was unconscious, and I noticed that he was twitching and foam was bubbling from his mouth. I didn’t know what had happened, but at least he was alive.
I bent down and looped my arm under one of his shoulders. Alexei took his other shoulder, and Elena grabbed his feet. Together we moved him to the side of the road.
Once we were on the sidewalk, we found a soft bank of snow and gently laid him down. He started to come around. “Epilepsia,” we heard him mumble. “Epilepsia.’
“You ‘re going to be okay,” Elena told him in Russian, patting his arm.
Somebody must have called an emergency number because just then three police cars arrived. Shockingly, the officers paid no attention to the man …The cops then converged on Alexei. whom they accused of hitting the man with our car. The injured man, who was at this point completely conscious, tried to explain that he hadn’t been hit and that Alexei was trying to help, but the police ignored him. They demanded Alexei’s documents and forced him to puff into a Breathalyzer. They then had a heated argument with Alexei that lasted fifteen minutes. Finally, when they were satisfied that nothing was wrong, they got back in their squad cars and drove off…
As we drove off, Alexei explained why he’d been so reluctant to help, as Elena translated: “This is what always happens in Russia. It doesn’t matter if that guy was even hit or not. Once the police get involved, they will blame someone and that’s the end of the story.’
Thankfully, because Alexei had been a colonel in the traffic police, he was able to extricate himself. But for the average Muscovite, a single act of Good Samaritan-ship could lead to a seven-year prison sentence. And every Russian knew this.
This is one problem with authoritarian countries. One that most people would not think of.
Browder was a successful investor, because he could tell when a company was undervalued, which was true of many in Russia at the time. Rashly, he also went after corruption in the companies he invested in.
And that raised some questions:
Many people have asked why the oligarchs didn’t just kill me for exposing their corruption. It’s a good question. In Russia, people get killed for a lot less. It was a completely lawless society where anything could happen, and where anything often did happen.
What saved me was not anyone’s fear of the law, but paranoia. Russia is a country that lives on conspiracy theories…In the mind of an average Russian, it was inconceivable that an unassuming American guy who barely spoke Russian would aggressively be going after Russia’s most powerful oligarchs on his own. The only plausible explanation was that I must have been operating as a proxy for someone powerful. …because everyone thought I was “Putin’s guy,” no one touched me.
Putin, Browder thinks did not interfere because he had a shared interest in reducing the power of the so-called ‘oligarchs’ who owned many of the companies.
… the actual power of the presidency had been hijacked by oligarchs, regional governors, and organized-crime groups. As soon as he [Putin] took office, it became his highest priority to wrest power from these men and return it to its rightful place in the Kremlin, or more accurately, into his own hands.
So why, according to Browder, did this situation end?
It ended when Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the CEO of Yukos and Russia’s richest man, was arrested.
In June 2004, Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, were put on trial and convicted of six counts of fraud, two of tax evasion, and one of theft. Each was sentenced to nine years in prison. Since this was all about symbolism, Putin did something unprecedented: he allowed television cameras in the courtroom to film Russia’s richest man as he sat silently in the courtroom cage.
It was a powerful image. Imagine you’re Russia’s seventeenth richest oligarch. You’re on your yacht moored off the Hötel du Cap in Antibes, France. …you wander out of your stateroom to the galley to pick up two glasses of Cristal champagne and some caviar. You grab your remote and switch on CNN. There, right before your eyes, you see one of your peers—a man who is far richer, smarter, and more powerful than you—sitting in a cage.
What would your natural reaction be? What would you do?
Anything to make certain that you don’t end up in that cage.
After Khodorkovsky was found guilty, most of Russia’s oligarchs went one by one to Putin and said. “Vladimir Vladimirovich, what can I do to make sure I won’t end up sitting in a cage?”
I wasn’t there, so I’m only speculating, but I imagine Putin’s response was something like this: “Fifty percent.”
…I don’t know this for sure. It could have been 30 percent or 70 percent or some other arrangement. What I do know for sure was that after Khodorkovsky’s conviction, my interests and Putin’s were no longer aligned. He had made the oligarchs his “bitches,” consolidated his power, and, by many estimates, become the richest man in the world.
Browder foolishly keep going after corruption, and then after coming back from one of his many flights to London, was not allowed back into Russia.
This might sound like a narrow escape. He was at least safe and alive, and could invest in other emerging markets.
But then some criminals in Russia decided to get money out of “Hermitage Capital” one way or the other. The story is told in a YouTube video that Browder created mainly to get international help for his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who had uncovered the outlines of the plot. Sergei was in jail. I’ve pasted it at the end of the post. Its a good video.
Sergei might have escaped in time, but he had:
come of age at a time when things had started to improve. He saw Russia not how it was but how he wanted it to be.
Because of this, he didn’t realize that Russia had no rule of law, it had a rule of men.
And those men were crooks.
I’ll spare you the awful details of the jails he was in. Sergei was a religious Christian. Maybe that explains why he resisted:
” no matter what Silchenko and the other officers at the Interior Ministry did to Sergei, he refused to sign anything that they put in front of him….
Sergei would not break. But while his will was unbreakable, his body was not. Sergei’s health had seriously deteriorated. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis, gallstones. and cholecystitis.
Gallstones are one of the most painful conditions anyone could suffer from. In the West, you might last two hours before you crawl to the emergency room, where the doctors will immediately give you a dose of morphine before treating you. Sergei, though, had to deal with untreated gallstones for four months without any painkillers. What he had to endure was unimaginable.
In Russia, the gate keepers are not gatekeepers. For instance:
Sergei’s pain became even more excruciating over the next few hours. He was holding himself tight, tears streaming down his face, when. finally, at 9:30 p.m. two guards showed up, opened the cell door, and took him to the infirmary.
When he arrived. he was made to wait for half an hour while the nurse slowly finished her paperwork. He crouched with his knees close to his chest to alleviate the pain. When the nurse was finally done, she barked in an accusatory tone, “Okay. Why are you here?”
Sergei was practically shaking, and through clenched teeth he said slowly, “I’m in unbearable pain. I’ve asked over and over, but no doctor has examined me since I arrived last month.’
The nurse was visibly annoyed. “What do you mean you haven’t been examined? You were examined at your previous detention center!”
“Yes. and they prescribed treatment and surgery. But nothing has happened here.”
“When did you come to us? Only one month ago! What do you want? To be treated every month? You should have had treatment when you were free.”
“I wasn’t sick when I was free. I developed these illnesses in detention.”
“Don’t tell me fairy tales.”
Another ‘gatekeeper’, Judge Yelena Stashina, one of the judges who ordered Sergei’s continued detention, said, “I rule that your request to review the medical records and conditions of detention is irrelevant.”
While Sergei was being systematically tortured. he began to receive regular visits from a man who refused to identify himself or his organization. Whenever this man came, the guards would drag Sergei from his cell to a stuffy, windowless room. The meetings were short because the man had only one message: “Do what we want, or things will continue to get worse for you.’
Every time Sergei would stare across the table at this man and refuse to do what he wanted.
Back in the U.K. scary things started to happen
An associate of Bill Browder told him this: “I just got a text message on my BlackBerry. It’s in Russian. It says, ‘What’s worse, prison or death?’ ”
Bill then asked: “How’d they get that number? Nobody’s got your BlackBerry number.”
“I don’t know, Bill.”
Within days, came the second text message, also in Russian. “Trains, trains through the night, trains, trains never stopping.” Vladimir explained that it was a line from a famous Russian prisoners’ poem that alluded to trains running endlessly to the gulags in the Urals, their packed cars carrying human fodder to their ultimate deaths.”
A few days later Vladimir called again. “A new message came in, Bill.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a quote from The Godfather: ‘History has taught us that anyone can be killed.‘ ”
I paused. “Fuck!” I said, my hands starting to shake.
We hung up.
I was completely spooked. Early the next morning I gathered the three messages from Vladimir’s BlackBerry, with time stamps, and reported them to the antiterrorism unit at Scotland Yard. It sent in a team of investigators to interview me and Vladimir, and its technicians traced the calls. Each call came from an unregistered number in Russia, which was unusual. Steven Beck, our security specialist, later told us that the only people in Russia who had access to unregistered numbers were members of the FSB.
That night, at 12:15 a.m., the voice mail alert on my BlackBerry vibrated. Nobody ever called my BlackBerry. No one even knew the number. I looked at Elena and dialed into voice mail. There was one message.
Bill describes the voice mail: “I heard a man in the midst of a savage beating. He was screaming and pleading. The recording lasted about two minutes and cut off mid wail.”
I played it for Elena. Afterward, we sat in bed, unable to sleep, pondering all sorts of gruesome scenarios.
At the end of January 2013 1 found myself back in Davos at the World Economic Forum. On my second day there, as I was trudging through the snow outside the conference center, I heard a chirpy female voice call out, “Bill! Bill!”
I turned and saw a short woman with a big furry hat walking briskly toward me. As she got closer, I recognized her. It was Chrystia Freeland, the reporter who’d broken the Sidanco story so many years ago in Moscow. She was now an editor-at-large for Reuters.
She stopped in front of me, her cheeks flushed by the cold.
“Bill, I just came from an off-the-record briefing with (Prime Minister) Medvedev, and your name came up… Someone asked about the Magnitsky case, and Medvedev said, quote, Yes, it’s a shame that Sergei Magnitsky died, and Bill Browder is running free and alive.”
Bill Browder is now worried that he will be killed. He also says this: “If I could do it all over again, I would never have gone to Russia in the first place. I would gladly trade all of my business success for Sergei’s life.”
So all those people who want to like Russia, who believe we have shared interests, and who rightly (in my view) deplore some of our past policies should read Browder’s book. We should be very polite to Russia, but we should be prepared for the worst.
This is the YouTube video Browder that made when Sergei was still alive, trying to alert the public to what was happening:
I’ve complained often about being victimized by mysterious “bad guys” for years, and it gets old after a while.
I would like to forget about it. But I’m sitting here without most of my clothes, to avoid absorbing more poison from my fabric of my shorts. I feel quite sick. My kidneys feel swollen. My eyes are bloodshot. I feel as if my forehead is burning.
So why write another blog post? Why not go to the doctor instead?
Well here is one experience I had that I thought about recently though it happened years ago.
I was walking in Lake Placid, a town in the Adirondacks of New York State. A middle aged couple approached, and the woman looked at me with recognition. She acted like my presence was painful. She let out a few exclamations, the man with her looked at her with solicitude, and then he looked at me as if I had done something bad. But all I had done was walk down the street.
Now maybe I am misinterpreting this event, after all, nobody actually said any words during the whole experience. I would argue I’ve had a few experiences with a similar theme.
But then again, not everyone who lets out an exclamation in my presence is letting it out because they saw me. Maybe they saw a spider. Maybe the woman suddenly remembered she hadn’t turned off the stove back home before going on vacation.
However, if you had been there, I think you would have agreed with my interpretation.
Anyway, lets assume my interpretation was correct, and see what questions it raises.
I had never done anything to that woman. I had no ill intentions to that woman. If I had seen a giant Panda charging at her, I probably would have tried to protect her and divert it with a shoot of tasty bamboo.
And yet, that woman was upset by the sight of me.
Maybe she had seen “the movie”, I thought at the time. Or maybe she had heard my of my embarrassing efforts to combat it, which were almost as painful.
I have run into many people who have seen the (compromising) movie that was taken without my knowledge. Sometimes they uttered insults to me, or juicy words to each other. But nobody made them see the movie. I certainly didn’t.
It was their choice.
If you decide to watch a compromising movie of someone, and then you are upset when you go to a pleasant vacation spot with your family and the movie-star (me) crosses your retina for a few minutes, maybe that is a natural response.
But, there are people who go beyond the reaction of this woman. There are people who actively make sure that I won’t cross their field of vision. They don’t do this by moving away to some far off spot, instead they coerce me into an invisible ghetto.
There is a joke about being pulled over by police for “driving while black.” Well, I could add a joke about “walking while Gideon”
Today I watched a video from “Vice News” which had followed Chris Cantwell, one of white supremacists in Charlottesville as the events there unfolded. It was an interesting video. One thing he said that is sort of relevant to my point above was about Jared Kushner and Ivanka. He said something to the effect if he were her father that he wouldn’t give that beautiful woman to that awful Kushner.
Now I don’t particularly like the politics of Jared or Ivanka, for the most part, anyway, but it seems to me they made a choice to get married, they can make a choice to get divorced and write a tell-all book afterwards, if they want. I guess Cantwell is entitled to his opinion, but its really none of his business.
There is a busy-body syndrome that too many people have out there. I have been targeted with various drugs some of which have to do with reproduction – some affect the relevant anatomy, some affect the relevant urges, and I want none of them in my body.
Based on multiple clues here and there over the years, some of them verbal, I think the idea was that Gideon should be sexually compromised. I’ve been told I would be annihilated, so why not compromised?
Shouldn’t that be my decision – not the decision of a Mafia that has too much time on his hands and lots of fascinating drugs, whether reproductive or otherwise?
What if I don’t want to be sexually compromised? Does my opinion count?
I generally leave people alone, and I expect the same back. I look back at a very embarrassing 60 years of life. It is amazing how much nonsense can exist in the human brain. Nonetheless, as one man described me in New Haven “You are harmless … basically….”. He was correct. I am harmless, until people use me to create something harmful.
I am also a partial lunatic. At night, I talk endlessly aloud about the same boring subjects. My ‘sanity checker’ is turned off, so I just generate endless babble of crazier and crazier conclusions. I also jump to conclusions based on inadequate evidence quite a bit in general, and have to bring my ‘sanity checker’ to bear quite often.
But I can also be sane, and I live in a real world that is a lot less sane than most people realize.