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RE: Bold Prediction: US To Use Tactical Nukes In Iraq
Tuesday, April 30, 2002

... Although tiny by modern standards, the fusion bombs used against Japan were, ...

... Even the comparatively filthy fusion bombs we dropped on Japan have probably caused fewer casualties...

The bombs used in those attacks were -fission- bombs.

Fusion (i.e. hydrogen, actually deuterium-tritium) bombs weren't developed until quite a few years later (first detonated in 1952), and incidentally required small fission bombs as their trigger, to implode and thus generate the heat required for fusion to start.

In particular, "Little Boy", the 20-kiloton device dropped over Hiroshima, was a gun-type uranium fission bomb, in which two sub-critical masses of U235 were forced together using an explosive charge. This type of bomb had actually not been tested before -- Little Boy was the prototype.

"Fat Man", of similar yield, which exploded 3 days later over Nagasaki, was a plutonium-based implosion device in which the sub-critical mass was super-compressed. That type had been tested prior to its deployment as a weapon of mass destruction.

Both bombs were set off by altitude fuses set for about 550 meters, calculated to cause the widest area of damage. All told, they probably killed or ruined about half a million people.

By comparison, fusion bombs tend to run in the 10-20 megaton range, a thousand times more powerful. They produce fireballs over 4 miles in diameter, something to be considered with not a little awe, when you realize that the basin at the south end of Cayuga Lake which holds Ithaca, from the Miracle Mile up to Pyramid Mall, from the hospital to Ithaca College, is about half that distance. That's a fireball that could completely fill the entire south end of the lake, consume all of Ithaca, and still have two-thirds of the fireball area left to cover Enfield and Lansing. Not the much larger radius of destruction, mind you. Just the fireball itself.

Stand on South Hill up by I.C., look over the lake, and consider that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of such bombs still in existence.

... I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that our military planners have a willingness, and perhaps even an obligation, to consider limited use of nuclear weapons in the face of a chemical attack. I know that I would.

Let us sincerely hope that we/they do not have to make that decision.


RE: Dealing With The Root Causes Of Terrorism
Sunday, April 21, 2002

I agree with this rant mostly, but I'll take a stab at the last challenge you issued:

Find one place on earth where endemic violence and poverty go hand in hand with ballots and a free press.

One counterexample includes the drug-infested inner-city areas in the U.S. where drug-dealing gang bangers control the turf.

A second counterexample is India, a democracy with a reasonably free press, which still is mired in terrible grinding poverty.

What do my two examples have in common? Lack of free markets. Though democracy and a free press are very important, it is free markets that are the most critical. This is far from an original theory on my part. Nobel-prize-winning economist Milton Friedman expounds his ideas eloquently here:

John Stossel (my favorite TV journalist), of ABC news, displays Friedman's ideas prominantly in a brilliant 20/20 special titled "Is America #1?". Here's a good review of it: The main point is that people had a good life in Hong Kong without democracy and a free press, but that in India, poverty prevailed. The difference in a nutshell is illustrated by one fact: time to get a new business license in Hong Kong is 15 minutes; in India it's 1 YEAR! India is literally drowning in their own excessive government regulation and bureaucracy, as one could see as ABC's cameras panned across seemingly endless piles of the unprocessed backlog of government paperwork.

Also, Chile's free market economy led from dictatorship to democracy. I'm hard pressed to think of an example where a closed (planned) market economy did that.

So the priorities are:

1. Free markets (gov't limited to providing a level playing field)

2. Free market education -- with taxpayer funded voucher system (Gov't must enforce separation of "religious education" -- separate times and separate buildings. Gov't must also ensure that students with problems or disabilities are not denied entry to their chosen school, nor harrassed in school to drive them out.)

3. Free press.

4. Separation of gov't powers.

5. Limitation of gov't powers.

6. Democracy or representative democracy.

(Admittedly, it's hard to separate 3, 4, 5, & 6)

The Monkey Responds:

Excellent points.

One counterexample includes the drug-infested inner-city areas in the U.S. where drug-dealing gang bangers control the turf.

I agree somewhat, but at the risk of splitting hairs, there's violence and poverty, and there's Violence and Poverty. No children starve to death in Watts for lack of money, and mobs there do not murder people by the dozens at once, or set fire to entire communities. "Grinding poverty" in the US means a full belly, clean water, a roof, medicare, and, more often than not, a working TV.

A second counterexample is India, a democracy with a reasonably free press, which still is mired in terrible grinding poverty.

This is a much better example. The free market argument is an excellent one, and I wish I made it myself. In India's defense, it is emerging from its troubles and is likely to be a much better place in 20 years. It takes time for these things to take root, unfortunatly.

The Reader Adds:

Please add these links to my reply also, which constititute an incredible indictment of Arafat's looting of the Palestinian economy and essentially the destruction of that economy due to Arafat extending his control-freak mentality throughout the Palestinian economy:

My description of the Palestinian economy is: Mafioso mentality meets Keystone Cops adeptness.

The above is also an indictment of the laziness and ineptness of the media, since they can't be bothered to do a little web searching like I did, and report the "real story" instead of obsessively reporting anecdotal case after anecdotal case of some poor schmo who lost a family member in the war.

RE: In Defense Of Moral Equivalence
Wednesday, April 17, 2002

The "internal moral compass" you follow only exists because it was created by the society you grew up in. While any set of morals may be equivalent to any other, their value lies in the consistency by which they are followed. Most of the problems in this world happen because different moral compasses are being followed (eg, the middle east) or someone decides they are going to violate their own set of morals (eg, killing is wrong, but she really pissed me off).

There's tremendous value in an honest debate over what morals should be followed, but if everyone just decides for themselves, we start heading toward that libertarian society that you call freedom and I call tyrrany of the rich and the mean. But that's where we started, eventually coming up with a consistent set of morals in order to make society work better.

RE: Notes From The Natural Lab: The Television Hypothesis
Friday, April 12, 2002

The sad thing is that the group that spends the biggest percentage of time watching TV is pre-schoolers. And we wonder why so many kids are obese that doctors are now prescribing diet pills to 6 year-olds, and why so many kids have attention deficit disorder and have to take ritalin in kindergarden.

RE: So... Should We Wage War On Iraq?
From Mark, Tuesday, February 19, 2002

In my opinion (less informed than yours) the real problem with Iraq is the Iraq we end up with (both #2 and #3), and I believe that this is the reason George the first left Saddam in place. We hate Saddam, but we hate Iran almost as much or more depending on the day of the week. If you take out Saddam, most likely the Shiite Muslims in Iraq will attempt a power grab. Saddam is aware of this and recently one of the high ranking Shiite clerics in Iraq was killed, perhaps at Saddam's orders. Unfortunately, in this case, the enemy of our enemy is pretty much our enemy. If the Northern half of Iraq goes to Turkey, I suspect the southern half would go to Iran. To cover for my ignorance with a reference, I submit the following map:

I think that if/when we go into Iraq, we are doomed to leave the situation as bad as before UNLESS we either have a workable plan to keep the Shiites from picking up the pieces or we have by then made friends with the Shiites and don't mind them picking up the pieces. I think we tried the first one and that led us to put Saddam in place, though my knowledge of history stops at 1896 due to public schooling and lack of motivation. Right now there's something of a rapprochement between the US and Iran, but that seems to me to be just a horrible situation bottoming out and having no where to go but up. And their head cleric hates us.

We may have to go into Iraq, and it's probably the right thing to do, so I think your rant is right on target. However, if we don't have some idea of how we're going to get out and leave the situation, then we're really, really asking for trouble. Asking Iran what they want might not be a bad idea, but I sure as hell wouldn't sign up for the job. I'm sure the Europeans have an idea for an end game, but if it doesn't involve military force to get there, it's delusional.

Here's a "plan" that I'll offer up as a proposal:

Try to "normalize" relations with Iran before starting a fight, cut Iraq in half, give northern part to Turkey and accept that the southern half will eventually slip into Shiite control so just let it.

The problem with this is it makes Iran more powerful, and they're awfully obnoxious. But on the other hand I don't want to prop up a government forever.

To be honest I'm not sure how much Shiite == Iranian control. I suspect they're synonymous, but I might be wrong. Probably more like Iran is in control of the Shiites, so I've put the cart before the horse.

RE: Kiddie Porn? You Make The Call
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
Is "acknowledging the beauty and sexuality of minors the same thing as pedophilia"?

Any parent who hasn't looked at their child, and been amazed at how beautiful they are, is either blind or lying. And some of that beauty is in the hints of the adult they'll become, and some is their own, lovely, child sensuality.

To deny that is to make yourself unfit as a parent to help them grow as complete people, with healthy sexuality, comfortable in their bodies.

All of which is completely unrelated to anything perverted or exploitative (not that there isn't plenty of that in existence, and bloody deplorable, too.)

RE: National IDs, Part II - The Law Enforcement Viewpoint
Friday, January 18, 2002

I AM surprised that you're waffling on this one.

Has there ever been, since people became literate, a seriously bad police state that didn't require ID? Clue #1.

Has there ever been a case where, given the ability to snoop on or persecute people, the government did not, in fact do it? Either it's authority-be-damned, or the authority comes along pretty quickly after some national scare or other in which the word "security" figures largely.

As to that device on cars - how hard do you think it would be to build the complementary stop-the-engine box? I know several people who could do it, so there have to be plenty who'd do it and sell them to carjackers.

Ok, I've often entertained thoughts of disappearing, going so far as to think out just what it would take to completely change my identity if I had to. Of course I could do it. Already, though, it's harder than I'm comfortable with, given that I'd only make that choice if I were in serious danger - which probably means not much time to think and plan. I haven't gone so far as to get a set of papers and gold pieces stashed away somewhere.

Christ, the feds can't even hide people in the witless protection program very well.

The major classes of people I can think of who want to disappear are either criminals - some of which, yes, are dangerous, and some of which aren't, and some of which have been framed or engaged in crimes of conscience or things that shouldn't be crimes at all,like your Juan Garcia - or victims. How many women try to hide from abusive ex's? how many get killed anyway? (Yes, I think it would be more effective to give them weapons and training in how to use them - I do believe a lot of abusive men would stop short if the woman pointed a gun at them, and more if she pulled the trigger. In fact, the zeitgeist has moved way far away from that, to the point where many of the victims find the idea of defending themselves, or even picking up a weapon, fearsome in itself. Damn shame. But that's not an excuse to stop pushing for things we believe would really work, and settling for things that might not and are sure to end up facilitating repression.)

Yes, there's a price to the ability, however limited, to hide. Let's look at the cost-benefit ratio, though. Most criminals are thoroughly stupid, and are caught, and far more would be out of the way if they let the druggies out of jail to make room for them. There are a few smart nasties in the woodwork, yes. How many? (Ok, this is by definition hard to know, but let's consider it a bit anyway.) How many are parole violators? - meaning there's a different part of the system that needs to be fixed here.

I think we're already past the point of diminishing returns in terms of more creeps caught vs. more innocent people persecuted. I also think there will always be a few smart nasties who manage to evade the system, that's what being smart is all about. And thank goodness, because when the system becomes really evil we need a few smart people, non-nasties, who can evade it, to be the Resistance.

Power corrupts, period, end of report.

How about a national initiative to grant the government new powers only when it gives others back?

The Monkey Responds:

as to that device on cars - how hard do you think it would be to build the complementary stop-the-engine box?

There is something like this already available on the private market, called Lo-Jack, which is (so far) immune to this sort of tampering. It works by sending an encrypted signal, unique to the particular car, to a receiver mounted under the hood which stops the engine after the car is reported stolen by the owner. It works quite well... I can imagine something like this, combined with a military-style IFF, that might be quite feasible and effective for police use.

But, I'm not really advocating this particular idea, I just brought it up as a hypothetical example. As you suggest, I can imagine lots of technical problems that might come up, and lots of mischief that might follow.

As to the bulk your response, I'll do you the disservice of summarizing it down to a single sentence; given that 'good' people may want to hide, either from abusive spouses, unjust laws, tyranny, or simply to protect their privacy, we should never come up with a national identification system that is too effective.

Well, your points about abuse of power are well taken, but I think you may have put yourself into a position that can be pretty hard to defend - basically, you are arguing that we should all have the ability to lie about our identities if we wish. Should we stop using photos on DLs like we do now? Just how hard should it be to hide your identity, if being able to do this is considered a civil right? We quickly go off into Wonderland when you try to clarify it, because the personal ability to physically evade the police is something quite different than the political ability to limit police authority.

This is basically the distinction I tried to make in Part II. I suppose we could just agree to disagree on this, because I can't come out and simply say that laws shouldn't be too hard to break.

I would agree that people have a right to be just as well armed as the police are, and that we have a right to communicate with one another, and we all share a natural right to revolt if things really go to hell in a big way. But do we have a right to evade the police altogether, perhaps because we personally feel a given law is unjust? I can't agree with that. This dosen't mean that resistance to unjust laws necessarally wrong, of course, but it does mean that, from a consitutional standpoint, you're on your own when you do it. The constituion never said we get to pick and choose which laws we want to follow; quite to the contrary, it explicitly gives government the power to pass laws, and to apply them equally to everyone.

How about a national initiative to grant the government new powers only when it gives others back?

Excellent idea. If I haven't suggested that already, I should have.

RE: Some Things Can Shock Even Me
Sunday, January 13, 2002

The more I see of the rest of the world, the more I appreciate the West's educational system.

This goes back, btw, to our earlier conversation about democracy vs. education as the significant factors leading to peace. Peace comes out of rationality - whether it's state-supported terrorism in the case of Pakistan, or internally ridiculous policies in the case of S. Africa.

I have heard for years now, about the crazy African perceptions of AIDS - and disease in general. The basic belief is something like if you can avoid being examined or treated for it, then you won't have it, and don't get it. It's only when some misguided Dr. looks at you, and offers your a "cure" that you are sick and in trouble.

Anyway... my new plan for world harmony is that we change all our international aid to be educational aid only. We set up public schools that prove free lunches in all the poor countries of the world. it would be so unbelievably cheap, and so effective in the long run. I don't read enough about NGO's that do this sort of thing -it's all about building dams, or breaking dams down. Curing diseases, questionable food assistance. Teaching women how to sew shirts...