More British than Britain itself

June 17th, 2019

Jared Diamond first visited Australia in 1964, shortly after he had been living in Britain for four years (as he explains in Upheaval):

Australia then impressed me as more British than Britain itself—like the Britain of a few decades prior, frozen in time.

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Australian people were not just overwhelmingly white in their ancestry; they were overwhelmingly British white.

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In 1964 the fundamental fact of Australian society was still the contradiction between Australia’s geographic location on the one hand, and its population make-up and emotional and cultural ties on the other hand. Australia’s population and national identity were mostly British (Plate 7.1). But Australia is almost half-way around the world from Britain: in the Southern Hemisphere rather than in the Northern Hemisphere, and eight to 10 time zones east of Britain. The Australian landscape of kangaroos, egg-laying mammals, kookaburras, big lizards, eucalyptus trees, and deserts is the most distinctive (and least British) landscape of any continent inhabited by humans (Plate 7.2).

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However, 32 years later, in 1820, Australia’s European population still consisted of 84% of convicts and former convicts, and convict transport from Britain to Australia did not cease until 1868.

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Today, one-third of the world’s wool is grown by Australia’s abundant sheep population, five sheep for every human.

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Australia is a world-leading exporter of aluminum, coal, copper, gold, iron, lead, magnesium, silver, tungsten, titanium, and uranium.

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In other British colonies, such as the U.S., Canada, India, Fiji, and West Africa, British colonists dealt with native people either peacefully by negotiating with local chiefs or princes, or else militarily by sending British armies against local armies or sizeable tribal forces. Those methods did not work in Australia, where Aboriginal organization consisted of small bands without armies, chiefs, or princes.

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Aborigines lived a nomadic lifestyle and did not have fixed villages. To European settlers, that meant that Aborigines did not “own” the land. Hence European settlers simply took Aboriginal land without negotiation or payment.

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The first substantial group of non-British immigrants began to arrive in 1836 in South Australia. That colony had been founded not as a convict dump but by a land development company that carefully selected prospective settlers from Europe. Among those settlers were German Lutherans seeking religious freedom, a motive for immigration much more conspicuous in the early history of the United States than of Australia. Those German immigrants were skilled and white, developed market gardening and vineyards, adapted quickly to Australia, and aroused minimal opposition.

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More controversial was the arrival of tens of thousands of Chinese in the 1850’s, drawn (along with many Europeans and Americans) by Australia’s first gold rush. That influx resulted in the last use of the British army in Australia, to quell riots in which a crowd beat, robbed, and even scalped Chinese.

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A third wave of non-British arrivals arose from the development of sugar plantations in Queensland beginning in the 1860’s. The plantation workers were Pacific Islanders from New Guinea, other Melanesian islands, and Polynesia. While some of them were voluntary recruits, many were kidnapped from their islands by raids accompanied by frequent murders, in a practice known as black-birding (because the islanders were dark-skinned).

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Such labor recruitment practices continued in New Guinea long into the 20th century: an Australian whom I met in Australian-governed New Guinea in 1966 told me that he was a labor recruiter, but he took pains to explain how he recruited only voluntary laborers to whom he paid cash bonuses. He proudly insisted that he was not a kidnapping black-birder (that was the word that he still used), whereas some of the other recruiters with whom he competed still were.

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In any case, regardless of whether the dark-skinned workers on Australian sugar plantations from the 1860’s onwards had arrived voluntarily or involuntarily, they did not make Australia’s resident population less white, because they came on fixed-term contracts and were expelled from Australia at the ends of their terms.

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Still another group of non-British immigrants was a small number from the British colony of India.

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The Australian colonies achieved self-government with no objections from Britain, and never severed their ties with Britain completely.

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One is that Britain learned lessons from its expensive defeat in the American Revolution, changed its policies towards its white colonies, and readily granted self-government to Canada, New Zealand, and its Australian colonies.

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The resulting slowness of communication made it impossible for the British colonial office in London to exercise close control over Australia; decisions and laws had to be delegated at first to governors, and then to Australians themselves.

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In contrast, no European power competed with Britain to colonize the Australian continent, and Aborigines were few, without guns, and not centrally led. Hence Britain never needed to station a large army in Australia, nor to levy unpopular taxes on Australians to pay for that army; Britain’s levying taxes on the American colonies without consulting them was the immediate cause of the American Revolution.

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Still another factor was that Britain’s Australian colonies, in contrast to its American colonies, were too unprofitable and unimportant for Britain to care about and pay much attention to.

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By the late 1800’s, the only major right consistently reserved for Britain was the control of Australian foreign affairs.

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The appointed British governors frequently had to resolve disagreements between the upper and lower houses of a colonial legislature, had to broker the formation of parliamentary coalitions, and had to decide when to dissolve parliament and call an election.

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In fact, Australia arose as six separate colonies—New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland—with far less contact among them than the contact among the American colonies that would later become states of the U.S.

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Not until 1917 did all five of the capital cities on the Australian mainland become connected by railroad.

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Each colony adopted a different railroad gauge (track separation), ranging from 3 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 3 inches, with the result that trains could not run directly from one colony into another. Like independent countries, the colonies erected protective tariff barriers against one another and maintained customs houses to collect import duties at colonial borders.

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In 1864 New South Wales and Victoria came close to an armed confrontation at their border. As a result, the six colonies did not become united into a single nation of Australia until 1901, 113 years after the First Fleet.

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Australians debating the federal constitution argued about many matters but were unanimous about excluding all non-white races from Australia.

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In 1896 the newspaper Melbourne Age wrote, “We wish to see Australia the home of a great homogenous Caucasian race, entirely free from the problems which have plunged the United States into civil war… there is no use in protecting our workers from the pauper labor of the Far East if we admit the paupers themselves.”

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The motive behind these immigration barriers was mainly the racism of the times, but partly also that the Australian Labor Party wanted to protect high wages for Australian workers by preventing the immigration of cheap labor.

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Contemporary Britain and continental European countries didn’t encourage or accept immigrants at all.

College students aren’t checking out books

June 17th, 2019

University libraries across the country, and around the world, are seeing steady, and in many cases precipitous, declines in the use of the books on their shelves:

The University of Virginia, one of our great public universities and an institution that openly shares detailed library circulation stats from the prior 20 years, is a good case study. College students at UVA checked out 238,000 books during the school year a decade ago; last year, that number had shrunk to just 60,000.

Before you tsk-tsk today’s kids for their lack of bookishness, note that the trend lines are sliding southward for graduate students and faculty members, too: down 61 percent and 46 percent, respectively, at UVA. Overall, across its entire network of libraries, UVA circulated 525,000 books during the 2007–08 school year, but last year there were only 188,000 loans — nearly 1,000 fewer books checked out a day. The Association of Research Libraries’ aggregated statistics show a steady decrease of the same proportion across its membership, even as student enrollment at these universities has grown substantially.

Maybe students aren’t checking the books out but are still consulting them regularly within the library? This also does not appear to be true. Many libraries also track such in-house uses, by tallying the books that need to be reshelved, and the trends are the same. At my library at Northeastern University, undergraduate circulations declined 50 percent from 2013 to 2017 — before we decided to do our own book relocation — and our logged number of books removed from shelves but not checked out also dropped by half.

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A positive way of looking at these changes is that we are witnessing a Great Sorting within the library, a matching of different kinds of scholarly uses with the right media, formats, and locations. Books that are in high demand; or that benefit from physical manifestations, such as art books and musical scores; or that are rare or require careful, full engagement, might be better off in centralized places on campus. But multiple copies of common books, those that can be consulted quickly online or are needed only once a decade, or that are now largely replaced by digital forms, can be stored off site and made available quickly on demand, which reduces costs for libraries and also allows them to more easily share books among institutions in a network. Importantly, this also closes the gap between elite institutions such as Yale and the much larger number of colleges with more modest collections.

Bismarck was realistic enough to understand that he had achieved the most that was possible

June 16th, 2019

Jared Diamond makes a few more observations (in Upheaval) about Germany:

Germany’s central geographic location surrounded by neighbors seems to me to have been the most important factor in German history. Of course, that location has not been without advantages: it has made Germany a crossroads for trade, technology, art, music, and culture. A cynic would note that Germany’s location also facilitated its invasion of many countries during World War Two.

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The Thirty Years’ War, which was the major religious and power struggle between most of the leading nations of 17th-century Western and Central Europe, was fought mainly on German soil, reduced the population there by up to 50%, and inflicted a crushing economic and political setback whose consequences persisted for the next two centuries.

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But we should not take for granted Germans’ rejection of the victim role and assumption of shame after World War Two, because it contrasts with the assumption of the victim role by Germans themselves after World War One and by Japanese after World War Two (Chapter 8).

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But one can still argue that a World War Two instigated by Germany without Hitler would have been very different. His unusual evil mentality, charisma, boldness in foreign policy, and decision to exterminate all Jews were not shared by other revisionist German leaders of his era. Despite his initial military successes, his unrealistic appraisals led him repeatedly to override his own generals and ultimately to cause Germany’s defeat. Those fatally unrealistic decisions included his unprovoked declaration of war against the U.S. in December 1941 at a time when Germany was already at war with Britain and the Soviet Union, and his overriding of his generals’ pleas to authorize retreat by the German army trapped at Stalingrad in 1942–1943.

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Once Germany had been unified in 1871, leaving millions of German-speaking peoples outside its borders, Bismarck was realistic enough to understand that he had achieved the most that was possible, and that other powers would not tolerate further German expansion.

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Interestingly, recent German history provides four examples of an interval of 21–23 years between a crushing defeat and an explosive reaction to that defeat. Those four examples are: the 23-year interval between 1848’s failed revolutionary unification attempt and 1871’s successful unification; the 21-year interval between 1918’s crushing defeat in World War One and 1939’s outbreak of World War Two that sought and ultimately failed to reverse that defeat; the 23-year interval between 1945’s crushing defeat in World War Two and 1968’s revolts by the students born around 1945; and the 22-year interval between those 1968 student revolts and 1990’s re-unification.

You must not believe anything you hear on this show

June 16th, 2019

Bill Cooper sounds like quite a character — but that’s just what they’d like you to think:

Reputed instances of Cooper’s prescience are legion. An early roundup of these forecasts can be found in the August 15th, 1990, edition of the newsletter of the Citizens Agency for Joint Intelligence (CAJI), an organization Cooper created, billing it as “the largest private intelligence-gathering agency in the world.” Published on a dot-matrix printer, carrying the tagline “Information, not money, will be the power of the nineties,” Cooper ran an article entitled “Every Prediction Has Come True.” He listed 16 of his most recent prognostications that had come to pass “or will soon be fulfilled.”

These included the disclosure that “the CIA and the military are bringing drugs into the United States to finance their black projects.” Cooper also predicted that “the rape of the Savings and Loans by the CIA is only the tip of the iceberg. At least 600 banks will go under in the next two years.” The current monetary structure, Cooper said, “will be replaced by a cashless system that will allow the government to monitor our every action by computer. If you attempt to stay out of the system you will not be allowed to buy, sell, work, get medical care, or anything else we all take for granted.”

Cooper continued to make predictions in his watershed book, Behold a Pale Horse. Published in 1991 by Light Technology, a small New Age–oriented house then located in Sedona, Arizona, Behold a Pale Horse is something of a publishing miracle. With an initial press run of 3,500 (500 hardcover, 3,000 paperback), by the end of 2017, the book was closing in on 300,000 copies sold.

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Eight years before the Trench Coat Mafia murders at Columbine High School, Cooper wrote: “The sharp increase of prescriptions of psychoactive drugs like Prozac and Ritalin to younger and younger children will inevitably lead to a rash of horrific school shootings.” These incidents, he said, “will be used by elements of the federal government as an excuse to infringe upon the citizenry’s Second Amendment rights.”

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“I am no Prophet, I am no Nostradamus, I have no crystal ball,” Cooper proclaimed. He was “just an ordinary guy.” There was nothing supernatural about his predictions. Anyone could do it. It was all in the methodology, summed up in what he called his “standard admonition,” the one rule every prospective Hour of the Time listener had to obey, “no matter what.”

“You must not believe anything you hear on this show,” Cooper declared. Nor was the listener to believe anything they heard from any other shortwave host, “or Larry King Live, Dan Rather, George Bush, Bill Clinton, or anyone else in this entire world, whether you hear it on radio, on television, or from the lips of someone standing right in front of you.

“Listen to everyone, read everything, believe nothing until you, yourself, can prove it with your own research,” Cooper told the audience. “only free-thinking, intelligent people who are prepared to root through all the crap and get at the truth should be listening to this show. Everyone else should just turn off their radio. We don’t even want you to listen.

“Listen to everyone. Read everything, believe nothing . . . until you can prove to yourself whether it is true or false or lies between the many shades of gray. If you don’t do this, if you cannot do this, or are just plain too lazy to do this, then I can assure you that you will march into the New World Order as a docile slave.”

Then Cooper made the sound of a sheep. “Baaa! Baaa! Baaaing all the way.”

Cooper’s most famous prediction was made during the June 28th, 2001, broadcast of The Hour of the Time. A little past his 58th birthday and drinking heavily, Cooper was doing his program from a studio he’d built in the den of his house at 96 North Clearview Circle, atop a hill in the small White Mountains town of Eagar, Arizona, 15 miles from the New Mexico line.

“Can you believe what you have been seeing on CNN today, ladies and gentlemen?” Cooper asked the Hour of the Time audience that evening.

“Supposedly, a CNN reporter found Osama bin Laden, took a television camera crew with him, and interviewed him and his top leadership, lieutenants, and his colonels, and generals…in their hideout!

“Now don’t you think that’s kind of strange, folks?” Cooper asked with his signature chuckle. “Because the largest intelligence apparatus in the world, with the biggest budget in the history of world, has been looking for Osama bin Laden for years, and years, and years, and can’t find him!

But some doofus jerk-off reporter with his little camera crew waltzes right into his secret hideout and interviews him!”

This meant one of two things, Cooper told the audience. Either “everyone in the intelligence community and all the intelligence agencies of the United States government are blithering idiots and incompetent fools, or they’re lying to us.”

The fact was, Cooper told the audience, no one in the U.S. intelligence services was really looking for Osama bin Laden. They knew where he was. They had since the beginning of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Bin Laden, along with his entire family, was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Central Intelligence Agency.

“They created him. They’re the ones funding him. They supported him to make their new utopian worlds…and he has served them well.” There were rumors floating around the mass media that bin Laden was planning attacks on the United States and Israel, but this was just subterfuge, Cooper said. “If Osama bin Laden is an enemy of Israel, don’t you think the Mossad would have taken care of that a long time ago?” Cooper asked.

Something else was in the wind. There was no other reason for the government to allow the CNN report but to further stamp bin Laden’s bearded, pointy face upon the collective American mind-set. Bogeyman of the moment, the Saudi prince was being readied for his close-up.

“I’m telling you to be prepared for a major attack!” Cooper declared. The target would be a large American city.

“Something terrible is going to happen in this country. And whatever is going to happen they’re going to blame on Osama bin Laden. Don’t you even believe it.”

Two and a half months later, on September 11th, 2001, after two commercial airliners flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in a cataclysm that killed 2,996 people, including 343 New York City Fire Department personnel, Cooper’s prediction came to pass.

By the time Cooper got on the air that morning, the towers had already fallen. Several hours passed before the name Osama bin Laden surfaced on the BBC feed Cooper was monitoring. The British station, which Cooper regarded as marginally more reliable than the American networks, was doing an interview with the former Israeli Prime Minister General Ehud Barak and Richard Perle, chairman of George W. Bush’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee.

Widely known as the Prince of Darkness, in part for his Reagan-era support of Edward Teller’s $100 billion Strategic Defense Initiative, known as Star Wars, Pperle said teh attacks on New York and Washington were “clearly an act of war.”

“All our Western civilization is under attack,” Barak put in. The interviewer asked Perle if he thought the United States would be justified in firing cruise missiles at Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Perle, who along with fellow neocons Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld would soon push hard for the reinvasion of Iraq, answered in the affirmative.

The Afghani authorities had “allowed Osama bin Laden to operate in their territory,” Perle said. That alone was reason enough for a military strike. Bin Laden was involved, no doubt about it. Yes, Barak agreed, there was “every reason to believe” bin Laden was behind the attack.

It was then Cooper interrupted the transmission, shouting, “How do they know who did it?

“If the United States government had no warning like they say, if they didn’t know who was going to mount these attacks, and there are no survivors from the people in these planes, how do they know Osama bin Laden is behind it?”

So, yet again, Cooper was right.

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Cooper made another prediction. “Folks, I can assure you that 72 hours from now we will be at war. We will be bombing two or maybe three countries….Because that’s how it works. When governments are attacked, they lash out. Thousands of people who had nothing whatsoever to do with what is happening at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are going to die.

“Nothing will be the same after today,” Cooper said grimly.

“Get ready for it, folks, because that’s what you’re going to be hearing in the next weeks and months on radio and television: Nothing will be the same after today….Because I’ll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that’s what the people who really did this want you to think, that nothing, nothing, will be the same after today.

“And you know what? They’re right. They’re telling the truth about that. Within weeks the Congress will pass draconian legislation aimed at restricting the rights of American citizens. You’re going to have surveillance cameras on every street corner. You think your phones are being tapped now, just wait.

“No one is going to gain from this except a very small group of people. Everyone else will lose. No one will lose more than the American people.” This would be the most grievous casualty of the 9/11 attacks, Cooper told the audience, the nation itself, the America that could have been.

Freedom, the most elusive of qualities, best distilled in the inspired documents of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, had been dealt a fatal blow: “From now on, freedom will be whatever the law allows you to do.”

[...]

It was soon after that Cooper’s final prediction came true.

“They’re going to kill me, ladies and gentlemen,” he told the audience. “They’re going to come up here in the middle of the night, and shoot me dead, right on my doorstep.”

And, around midnight on November 5th, 2001, less than two months after the 9/11 attacks, that’s exactly what happened.

(Hat tip to Neovictorian.)

Germans holding judgment upon themselves

June 15th, 2019

Jared Diamond recounts (in Upheaval) how German views of the Nazi era changed between 1961 and 1982:

The change in German views of the Nazi era after I lived in Germany was made brutally clear to me by an experience 21 years later, in 1982. In that year my wife Marie and I spent a vacation in Germany. As we were driving along the autobahn and approaching Munich, an autobahn exit sign pointed to a suburb called Dachau, site of a former Nazi concentration camp (German acronym, KZ) that Germans had converted into a museum. Neither of us had previously visited a KZ site. But we didn’t anticipate that a “mere” museum exhibit would affect us, after all that we already knew of KZs through the stories of Marie’s parents (KZ survivors) and the newsreels of my childhood. Least of all did we expect to be affected by how Germans themselves explained (or explained away) their own camps.

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In fact, our visit to Dachau was a shattering experience—at least as powerful as was our subsequent visit to the much larger and more notorious Auschwitz, which is also an exhibit but not a German exhibit, because it lies within Poland.

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Far from shirking German responsibility, the exhibit exemplified Fritz Bauer’s motto “Germans holding judgment upon themselves.”

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Such national facing-up to past crimes isn’t to be taken for granted. In fact, I know of no country that takes that responsibility remotely as seriously as does Germany.

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Revolts and protests, especially by students, spread through much of the free world in the 1960’s. They began in the U.S. with the Civil Rights Movement, protests against the Vietnam War, the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley, and the movement called Students for a Democratic Society.

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But that confrontation of generations achieved a particularly violent form in Germany for two reasons. First, the Nazi involvement of the older generation of Germans meant that the gulf between the younger and the older generation was far deeper there than it was in the U.S. Second, the authoritarian attitudes of traditional German society made older and younger generations there especially scornful of each other.

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All of them had bad things happen to them as children, due to the war. For example, among my six closest German friends born around 1937, one was orphaned when her soldier father was killed; one watched from a distance the district where his father lived being bombed, although his father survived; one was separated from her father from the time that she was one year old until she was 11 years old, because he was a prisoner of war; one lost his two older brothers in the war; one spent the nights of his childhood years sleeping out of doors under a bridge, because his town was bombed every night and it was unsafe to sleep in a house; and one was sent by his mother every day to steal coal from a railroad yard, so that they could stay warm.

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Thus, my German friends of Jahrgang 1937 were old enough to have been traumatized by memories of the war, and by the chaos and poverty that followed it, and by the closure of their schools. But they weren’t old enough to have had Nazi views instilled into them by the Nazi youth organization called the Hitler Jugend.

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Most of them were too young to be drafted into the new West German army established in 1955; Jahrgang 1937 was the last Jahrgang not called up for that draft.

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On the average, the German protestors of 1968 had been born around 1945, just at the end of the war. They were too young to have been raised as Nazis, or to have experienced the war, or to remember the years of chaos and poverty after the war. They grew up mostly after Germany’s economic recovery, in economically comfortable times. They weren’t struggling to survive; they enjoyed enough leisure and security to devote themselves to protest.

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That meant that the parents of Germany’s 1945 generation were viewed by their children as the Germans who had voted for Hitler, had obeyed Hitler, had fought for Hitler, or had been indoctrinated in Nazi beliefs by Hitler Jugend school organizations.

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German 1968-ers equated contemporary capitalist German society with fascism, while conservative older Germans in turn regarded the violent young leftist rebels as “Hitler’s children,” a reincarnation of the violent fanatical Nazi SA and SS organizations.

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Many of the rebels were extreme leftists; some actually moved to East Germany, which in turn funneled money and documents to sympathizers in West Germany.

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Older West Germans responded by telling the rebels, “All right, go to East Germany if you don’t like it here!”

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West German terrorism peaked during the years 1971 to 1977, reaching a climax in 1977 when Andreas Baader and two other RAF leaders committed suicide in prison after the failure of a terrorist attempt to free imprisoned terrorists by hijacking a Lufthansa airplane.

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The German student revolt of 1968 is sometimes described as “a successful failure.”

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Spanking of children was widespread then, not merely permitted but often considered obligatory for parents.

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I worked in a German scientific research institute whose director completely by himself made the decisions controlling the careers of his institute’s 120 scientists. For instance, to obtain a university teaching job in Germany required a degree beyond the PhD, called “Habilitation.” But my director permitted only one of his 120 scientists to be “habilitated” each year, and chose that person himself.

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Wherever one went—on the street, on lawns, in schools, in private and public buildings—there were signs saying what was forbidden (verboten), and instructing how one should and shouldn’t behave.

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One morning, one of my German colleagues arrived at work livid, because the previous evening he had come home to find the grass lawn outside his apartment building, which served as his children’s play area, surrounded by barbed wire (indelibly associated in Germany with concentration camps). When my friend confronted the apartment manager, the latter was unapologetic: “It’s forbidden to walk on the grass (Betreten des Rasens verboten), but those spoiled children (verwöhnte Kinder) were nevertheless walking on the grass, so I felt entitled (ich fühlte mich berechtigt) to prevent them from doing so by putting up barbed wire (Stacheldraht).”

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In retrospect, authoritarian behaviors and attitudes in Germany were already starting to change by and just after the time of my 1961 visit. A famous example was the Spiegel Affair of 1962. When the weekly magazine Der Spiegel, which was often critical of the national government, published an article questioning the strength of the German army (Bundeswehr), Chancellor Adenauer’s defense minister Franz Josef Strauss reacted with authoritarian arrogance by arresting Der Spiegel’s editors and seizing their files on suspicion of treason. The resulting enormous public outcry forced the government to abandon its crackdown and compelled Strauss to resign. But Strauss nevertheless remained powerful, served as premier of the German state of Bavaria from 1978 to 1988, and ran for chancellor of Germany in 1980. (He was defeated.)

[...]

Younger American visitors, born in or after the 1970’s, who didn’t experience the Germany of the 1950’s, instinctively compare Germany today with the U.S. today and say that German society is still authoritarian. Older American visitors like me, who did experience Germany in the (late) 1950’s, instead compare Germany today with Germany of the 1950’s and say that Germany today is much less authoritarian than it used to be. I think that both of those comparisons are accurate.

[...]

On October 3, 1990 East Germany was dissolved, and its districts joined (West) Germany’s as new states (Bundesländer).

Hermann Oberth had originally intended to build a working rocket for use in the film

June 15th, 2019

One of the first serious science fiction movies was Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond, or Woman in the Moon, which was released in the US as By Rocket to the Moon:

Lang, who also made Metropolis, had a personal interest in science fiction. When returning to Germany in the late 1950s he sold his extensive collection of Astounding Science Fiction, Weird Tales, and Galaxy magazines. Several prescient technical or operational features are presented during the film’s 1920′s launch sequence, which subsequently came into common operational use during America’s postwar space race:

  • The rocket ship Friede is fully built in a tall building and moved to the launch pad
  • As launch approaches, the launch team counts down the seconds from ten to zero (“now” was used for zero), and Woman in the Moon is often cited as the first occurrence of the “countdown to zero” before a rocket launch
  • The rocket ship blasts off from a pool of water; water is commonly used today on launch pads to absorb and dissipate the extreme heat and to damp the noise generated by the rocket exhaust
  • In space, the rocket ejects its first stage and fires its second stage rocket, predicting the development of modern multistage orbital rockets
  • The crew recline on horizontal beds to cope with the G-forces experienced during lift-off and pre-orbital acceleration
  • Floor foot straps are used to restrain the crew during zero gravity (Velcro is used today).
  • These items and the overall design of the rocket led to the film being banned in Germany from 1933-1945 during World War II by the Nazis, due to similarities to their secret V-2 project.

Rocket scientist Hermann Oberth worked as an advisor on this movie. He had originally intended to build a working rocket for use in the film, but time and technology prevented this from happening. The film was popular among the rocket scientists in Wernher von Braun’s circle at the Verein für Raumschiffahrt (VfR). The first successfully launched V-2 rocket at the rocket-development facility in Peenemünde had the Frau im Mond logo painted on its base. Noted post-war science writer Willy Ley also served as a consultant on the film. Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, which deals with the V-2 rockets, refers to the movie, along with several other classic German silent films.

The Western Allies needed West Germany to become strong again

June 14th, 2019

Jared Diamond explains (in Upheaval) the challenge of rebuilding Germany after the war:

Millions of Germans were searching for missing family members, of whom some miraculously turned up alive years later. But most never turned up, and for many of them the time and place and circumstances of their deaths remain forever unknown. My first German teacher, living in exile in 1954, happened to mention having a son. When I naïvely asked him about his son, my teacher burst out in pain, “They took him away, and we never heard anything about him again!” By the time that I met my teacher, he and his wife had been living with that uncertainty for 10 years. Two of my later German friends were “luckier”: one learned of her father’s probable death “only” a year after the last news from him, and another learned of his brother’s death after three years.

[...]

The term “German Democratic Republic” is remembered as a big lie, like the name “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” that North Korea adopts for itself today. It’s easy now to forget that not just Soviet brute force but also German communist idealism contributed to East Germany’s founding, and that numerous German intellectuals chose to move to East Germany from West Germany or from exile overseas.

[...]

The pre-war public transport system in Berlin (U-Bahn and S-Bahn) included lines that connected West and East Berlin, so that anyone in East Berlin could get into West Berlin just by hopping on a train. When I first visited Berlin in 1960, like other Western tourists I took the U-Bahn to visit East Berlin and to return to West Berlin.

[...]

In 1953 dissatisfaction in East Germany blew up in a strike that turned into a rebellion, crushed by Soviet troops.

[...]

Finally, on the night of August 13, 1961, while I was living in Germany, the East German regime suddenly closed the East Berlin U-Bahn stations and erected a wall between East and West Berlin, patrolled by border guards who shot and killed people trying to cross the wall (Plate 6.3). I recall the disbelief, shock, and rage of my West German friends the morning after the wall’s erection.

[...]

As late as 1961, when I was about to go live in Germany, my (American) father advised me in all seriousness to be ready to flee to a safe refuge in Switzerland at the first signs of danger in Europe.

[...]

The Western Allies needed West Germany to become strong again, as a bulwark against communism. Their other motives for wanting Germany to become strong were to reduce the risk that a weak and frustrated Germany might descend again into political extremism (as had happened after World War One), and to reduce the economic costs to the Allies of having to continue to feed and support an economically weak West Germany.

[...]

By the time that I moved from Britain to West Germany, West Germany felt more prosperous and contented than was Britain.

[...]

Politically, by 1955 West Germany had regained sovereignty, and Allied military occupation ended.

[...]

At the end of World War Two, the Allies prosecuted the 24 top surviving Nazi leaders at Nuremberg for war crimes. Ten were condemned to death, of whom the highest ranking were the foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and the Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring. (The latter succeeded in committing suicide by poison during the night before his scheduled execution.) Seven others were sentenced to long or lifelong prison terms.
LOCATION: 3032

[...]

In Germany the trials became dismissed as “Siegerjustiz”: mere revenge taken by the victors upon the vanquished.

[...]

Adenauer’s policy upon becoming chancellor was described as “amnesty and integration,” which was a euphemism for not asking individual Germans about what they had been doing during the Nazi era.

[...]

Instead, the government’s focus was overwhelmingly on the urgent tasks of feeding and housing tens of millions of underfed and homeless Germans, rebuilding Germany’s bombed cities and ruined economy, and re-establishing democratic government after 12 years of Nazi rule.

[...]

As a result, most Germans came to adopt the view that Nazi crimes were the fault of just a tiny clique of evil individual leaders, that the vast majority of Germans were innocent, that ordinary German soldiers who had fought heroically against the Soviets were guiltless, and that (by around the mid-1950’s) there were no further important investigations of Nazi crimes left to be carried out.

[...]

Further contributing to that failure of the West German government to prosecute Nazis was the widespread presence of former Nazis among post-war government prosecutors themselves: for instance, it turned out that 33 out of 47 officials in the West German federal criminal bureau (Bundeskriminalamt), and many members of the West German intelligence service, had been leaders of the Nazi fanatical SS organization.

[...]

Bauer did not succeed in tracking down Mengele, who eventually died in Brazil in 1979, or Bormann, who it later turned out had committed suicide in 1945 around the same time as did Hitler.

[...]

But Bauer did receive information about the location of Eichmann, who had fled to Argentina.

[...]

Instead, he relayed the news of Eichmann’s whereabouts to the Israeli Secret Service, which eventually succeeded in kidnapping Eichmann in Argentina, secretly flying him to Israel in an El Al jet, putting him on public trial, and eventually hanging him after a trial that drew worldwide attention not just to Eichmann but to the whole subject of individual responsibility for Nazi crimes.

[...]

The Nazi defendants being prosecuted by Bauer all tended to offer the same set of excuses: I was merely following orders; I was conforming to the standards and laws of my society at the time; I was not the person who had responsibility for those people getting killed; I merely organized railroad transport of Jews being transported to extermination camps; I was just a pharmacist or a guard at Auschwitz; I didn’t personally kill anyone myself; I was blinded by belief in authority and ideology proclaimed by the Nazi government, and that made me incapable of recognizing that what I was doing was wrong.

Ambiguous, longed for and desolate

June 14th, 2019

Science fiction illuminates the dreams of the new moon-rushers:

Take the origins of Pence’s reference to the “lunar strategic high ground”. In one of the first moon novels written after the second world war, Robert Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo (1947), an atomic scientist and his teenage crew discover, on what they believe to be the first mission to the moon, a base from which the Third Reich’s rump intends to rain nuclear vengeance on to Earth. Heinlein, an aeronautical engineer who was one of the first American science fiction writers to gain a mainstream audience, had seen the V-2 and the Manhattan Project make real the rocket ships and superweaponry that had been his prewar stock in trade. Such authors were highly exercised by the strategic implications. In the same month that Heinlein’s book was published, John W Campbell, the preeminent American science fiction editor of the age, published an essay by his and Heinlein’s friend L Ron Hubbard on the strategic necessity of America being the first nation to build such a moonbase for its missiles. A year later Colliers, a mass market magazine, was warning of a “Rocket Blitz from the Moon”.

The idea rode high for a decade. “He who controls the moon, controls the Earth,” General Homer A Boushey told the American press in 1958. The US air force investigated the possibility of demonstrating that control, and adding to the moon’s craters, by conducting a nuclear test on its surface, one that would be ominously and spectacularly visible to most of the world below (Carl Sagan, later to be prominent in the fight for nuclear disarmament, was one of those who worked on the project).

It did not happen. Though the Apollo programme was a crucial piece of cold war strategy, its goal was not to occupy the moon or use it as a missile base. Rather, it was to show the world the remarkable resources the US was willing to invest in advancing its technological power; the means, not the end, were the message. But Hubbard’s megalomaniacal dreams of an Earth controlled from the moon still lurks in that idea of the “strategic high ground”.

Rocket Ship Galileo used the moon not only as a way of thinking about the prospect of nuclear war, it also made it a way of understanding the aftermath. (“The moon people … ruined themselves. They had one atomic war too many.”)

These visions of existential dread led Arthur C Clarke to argue in Prelude to Space (1947), a novel about the preparations for a moon mission, that “atomic power makes interplanetary travel not just possible but imperative. As long as it was confined to Earth, humanity had too many eggs in one rather fragile basket.” That feeling informs dreams of space travel today. Musk, in particular, talks of war, pandemics, rebel AIs and asteroid Armageddons all making it vital for humans to become a multiplanetary species. A more junior Silicon Valley space mogul told me he wants to help build a moonbase for the same reason that, before cloud computing, he would back up his files to a second hard disk: something might happen. (Of course, such plutocratic panic feels dangerously close to the idea of a bolthole for the select.)

As active proponents of the new space age, Clarke and Heinlein realised that linking the moon only with nuclear catastrophe would be a poor sales pitch. To get the public on board, a more fertile idea was the dream of building human settlements on the moon, which could somehow be portrayed as both wonderful and mundane. In Heinlein’s short story “Space Jockey”, the problem facing the astronaut protagonist is not Ming the Merciless or a swarm of comets but the amount of time he has to spend away from home; the resolution is his decision to take a desk job in comfortably domestic Luna City, built under the surface of the moon. A teenager whines that “nothing ever happens on the moon”. This dualism of the familiar and the fantastic is epitomised in the motif of Earth playing the same role in the moon’s sky as the moon does in Earth’s, lighting the landscape’s darkness.

It is not a new insight; Galileo realised that nights on the nearside of the moon would be earthlit, just as earthly nights are moonlit. All early lunar fiction draws the reader’s attention to Earth waxing and waning in the alien sky as the clearest possible indication of the revolutionary Copernican insight. Twentieth-century heirs made a similar use of the image of worlds reversed. Earthlight (1955), Clarke’s first moon-set novel, opens with the accountant Bertram Sadler, new to the moon, looking out of his train window at the “cold glory of this ancient, empty land” illuminated by “a light tinged with blues and greens; an arctic radiance that gave no atom of heat. And that, thought Sadler, was surely a paradox, for it came from a world of light and warmth.”

Clarke’s paradox was made plain to see in the famous image Earthrise captured by Apollo 8: a world of warmth and light rising above the cold glory of ancient emptiness. The contrast was strong enough – the blasted basalts below unworldly and unappealing enough – that the colonised, normalised moon which Clarke and Heinlein had imagined fell back into the realm of fancy, if not that of the absurd.

So why does returning to the moon now seem plausible again? For one thing, China, or any other country, can put a man or woman on the moon with far less effort than it took the US in the 1960s: as a way to claim parity with a fading superpower, that relatively modest effort has obvious attractions. And as the effort involved has been reduced the resources in the hands of private individuals have increased: Bezos may choose, in the near-term, to yoke his dreams of expansion into space – unlocking untold wealth – to the more parochial ambitions of the US government. But that is convenience, not necessity. Being the richest person on the planet brings with it its own superempowerment.

Science fiction, too, has cast space travel in economic, rather than political, terms. Once again it is hard to avoid Heinlein, this time his novella The Man Who Sold the Moon (1950). Its main character is DD Harriman, a tycoon who, having made his fortune from other technologies, persuades and cons investors of all sorts to provide the further resources he needs to realise his true dream, the founding of a moon colony. After the sheer Soviet Union-surpassing, 2.5%-of-GDP scale of the Apollo effort became manifest in the 1960s, the story seemed quaint. Moon missions were the work of nations, not cigar-puffing wheeler dealers. Now it seems oddly prescient.

If strategic rivalry, existential fear and plutocratic caprice were the only narratives science fiction had lent the moon, one might feel justified in taking a dim view of the whole affair. But there is more. A lifeless world may again provide new insights into a living one, as it did with Earthrise. It is in such changed perspectives on worlds and their peoples that the true promise of science fiction surely lives. Heinlein’s most successful lunar novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1967), is driven by a thrilling plot. But the reason it continues to be loved by many, especially in Silicon Valley, is the strange, contradictory, savage but cosy, polyamorous, Malthusian, libertarian, utopian and carceral society it conjures as its cyborg setting. Similarly, the most striking recent novel about the moon, John Kessel’s The Moon and the Other (2017) sets itself in the “Society of Cousins”, a matriarchy inspiring and troubling, idealistic, indulgent and somewhat stifling. It is, to borrow the subtitle of Ursula K Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974), an ambiguous utopia.

Which is as much as you can hope for. The moon, as it becomes a target for politicians, billionaires and enthusiasts inspired by science fictions past, should remain ambiguous, longed for and desolate, always the same and yet shockingly new, a strangeness sitting in the sky for all to see.

Indonesian killing technology was much simpler than that of the Nazis

June 13th, 2019

Control of Indonesia passed through many hands, Jared Diamond explains (in Upheaval):

At first, Japanese military leaders occupying the Dutch East Indies claimed that Indonesians and Japanese were Asian brothers in a shared struggle for a new anti-colonial order.

[...]

But the Japanese mainly sought to extract raw materials (especially oil and rubber) from the Dutch East Indies for the Japanese war machine, and they became even more repressive than had been the Dutch.

[...]

The Dutch, invoking the ethnic diversity and huge territorial extent of the Indonesian archipelago, and probably driven by their own motive of “divide and rule” to retain control, promoted the idea of a federation for Indonesia.

[...]

In contrast, many Indonesian revolutionaries sought a single unified republican government for all of the former Dutch East Indies.

[...]

The final transfer took place in December 1949—but with two big limitations that infuriated Indonesians and that took them 12 years to overturn. One limitation was that the Dutch did not yield the Dutch half (the western half) of the island of New Guinea. Instead, they retained it under Dutch administration, on the grounds that New Guinea was much less developed politically than was the rest of the Dutch East Indies, that it was not even remotely ready for independence, and that most New Guineans are ethnically as different from most Indonesians as either group is from Europeans. The other limitation was that Dutch companies such as Shell Oil maintained ownership over Indonesian natural resources.

[...]

The military saw itself as the savior of the revolution, the bulwark of national identity, and demanded a guaranteed voting block in parliament. The civilian government, on the other hand, sought to save money by eliminating military units, reducing the size of the officer corps, and pushing soldiers out of the military and off the government payroll.

[...]

Military leaders extorted money from other Indonesians and from businesses for army purposes, raised money by smuggling and by taxing radio ownership and electricity, and increasingly took over regional economies, thereby institutionalizing the corruption that remains today one of Indonesia’s biggest problems.

[...]

Well aware of Indonesia’s weak national identity, he formulated a set of five principles termed Pancasila, which to this day serves as an umbrella ideology to unify Indonesia and was enshrined in the 1945 constitution. The principles are broad ones: belief in one god, Indonesian national unity, humanitarianism, democracy, and social justice for all Indonesians.

[...]

As president, Sukarno blamed Indonesia’s poverty on Dutch imperialism and capitalism, abrogated Indonesia’s inherited debts, nationalized Dutch properties, and turned over the management of most of them to the army.

[...]

Sukarno responded by telling the U.S. to “go to hell with your aid”; then in 1965 he expelled the American Peace Corps and withdrew from the United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. Inflation soared, and Indonesia’s currency (the rupiah) lost 90% of its value during 1965.

[...]

Fundamental to any functioning democracy are widespread literacy, recognition of the right to oppose government policies, tolerance of different points of view, acceptance of being outvoted, and government protection of those without political power. For understandable reasons, all of those prerequisites were weak in Indonesia.

[...]

In the September 1955 elections an astonishingly high 92% of registered voters went to the polls, but the outcome was a stalemate, because the four leading parties each obtained between 15% and 22% of votes and parliamentary seats.

[...]

Presumably out of fear of Dutch anti-aircraft capabilities during daylight hours, the paratroops were dropped blindly at night over forested terrain, in an incredible act of cruelty. The unfortunate paratroops floated down into a hot, mosquito-infested sago swamp, where those who survived impact on sago trees found themselves hanging from the trees by their parachutes. The even smaller fraction who managed to free themselves from their parachutes dropped or clambered down into standing swamp water. My friend and his Dutch unit surrounded the swamp, waited a week, and then paddled into the swamp with boats to retrieve the few paratroops still alive.

[...]

As a face-saving gesture, the Dutch ceded it not directly to Indonesia but instead to the United Nations, which seven months later transferred administrative control (but not ownership) to Indonesia, subject to a future plebiscite. The Indonesian government then initiated a program of massive transmigration from other Indonesian provinces, in part to ensure a majority of Indonesian non–New Guineans in Indonesian New Guinea.

[...]

This three-way struggle came to a climax around 3:15 A.M. during the night of September 30–October 1, 1965, when two army units with leftist commanders and 2,000 troops revolted and sent squads to capture seven leading generals (including the army’s commander and the minister of defense) in their homes, evidently to bring them alive to President Sukarno and to persuade him to repress the Council of Generals.

[...]

At 7:15 A.M. on October 1 the coup leaders, having also seized the telecom building on one side of the central square in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, broadcast an announcement on Indonesia radio declaring themselves to be the 30 September Movement, and stating that their aim was to protect President Sukarno by pre-empting a coup plotted by corrupt generals who were said to be tools of the CIA and the British. By 2:00 P.M. the leaders made three more radio broadcasts, after which they fell silent. Note: despite the account of a communist coup described vividly in the lobby display of my 1979 Indonesian hotel, the revolt was by Indonesian army units, not by a communist mob.

[...]

The squads ended up killing three of the generals in their houses, two by shooting and one by bayonet. A fourth general succeeded in escaping over the back wall of his house compound. The squad accidentally shot his five-year-old daughter as depicted in one of the paintings in my Indonesian hotel, and also killed his staff lieutenant, whom they mistook for the general himself. (For brevity, I’ll still refer to “seven generals.”) The squads succeeded in capturing alive only the remaining three of the generals, whom they nevertheless proceeded to murder instead of carrying out their instructions to bring the generals alive to Sukarno.

[...]

The coup leaders had neither tanks nor walkie-talkies. Because they closed down the Jakarta telephone system at the time that they occupied the telecom building, coup leaders trying to communicate with one another between different parts of Jakarta were reduced to sending messengers through the streets. Incredibly, the coup leaders failed to provide food and water for their troops stationed on the central square, with the result that a battalion of hungry and thirsty soldiers wandered off.

[...]

Did anti-communist generals know of the coup in advance but nevertheless allow it to unfold, in order to provide them with a pretext for previously laid plans to suppress the PKI? The last possibility is strongly suggested by the speed of the military’s reaction. Within three days, military commanders began a propaganda campaign to justify round-ups and killings of Indonesian communists and their sympathizers on a vast scale (Plate 5.4).

[...]

On October 4 Suharto arrived at an area called Lubang Buaya (“Crocodile Hole” in the Indonesian language), where the coup squads had thrown the bodies of the kidnapped generals down a well. In front of photographers and television cameras, the decomposing bodies were pulled out of the well. On the next day, October 5, the generals’ coffins were driven through Jakarta’s streets, lined by thousands of people. The military’s anti-communist leadership quickly blamed the PKI for the murders, even though the murders had actually been carried out by units of the military itself. A propaganda campaign that could only have been planned in advance was immediately launched to create a hysterical atmosphere, warning non-communist Indonesians that they were in mortal danger from the communists, who were said to be making lists of people to kill, and to be practicing techniques for gouging out eyes.

[...]

Members of the PKI’s women’s auxiliary were claimed to have carried out sadistic sexual torture and mutilation of the kidnapped generals.

[...]

Throughout October and November, when PKI members were summoned to come to army bases and police stations, many came willingly, because they expected just to be questioned and released.

[...]

The highest estimates are about 2 million; the most widely cited figure is the contemporary estimate of half-a-million arrived at by a member of President Sukarno’s own fact-finding commission. Indonesian killing technology was much simpler than that of the Nazis: victims were killed one by one, with machetes and other hand weapons and by strangling, rather than by killing hundreds of people at once in a gas chamber.

[...]

In March 1966 Sukarno was pressured into signing a letter ceding authority to Suharto; in March 1967 Suharto became acting president, and in March 1968 he replaced Sukarno as president. He remained in power for another 30 years.

[...]

In contrast to Sukarno, Suharto did not pursue Third World anti-colonial politics and had no territorial ambitions outside the Indonesian archipelago. He concentrated instead on Indonesian domestic problems.

[...]

Like General Pinochet’s Chicago Boys in Chile, Suharto’s Berkeley mafia instituted economic reforms by balancing the budget, cutting subsidies, adopting a market orientation, and reducing Indonesia’s national debt and inflation.

[...]

In effect, the Indonesian military developed a parallel government with a parallel budget approximately equal to the official government budget.

[...]

Military officers founded businesses and practiced corruption and extortion on a huge scale, in order to fund the military and to line their private pockets.

[...]

Indonesians gave to Suharto’s wife (Ibu Tien = Madam Tien) a nickname meaning “Madam Ten Percent,” because she was said to extract 10% of the value of government contracts.

[...]

After nearly 33 years, just after parliament had acclaimed him as president for a seventh five-year term, his regime collapsed quickly and unexpectedly in May 1998. It had been undermined by a combination of many factors. One was an Asian financial crisis that reduced the value of Indonesia’s currency by 80% and provoked rioting. Another was that Suharto himself, at age 77, had grown out of touch with reality, lost his political skills, and was shaken by the death in 1996 of his wife, who had been his closest partner and anchor.

[...]

In the 1980’s and 1990’s the operations of Indonesian commercial airlines were often careless and dangerous. In addition to being shaken down for bribes and diverted excess baggage charges, I experienced one flight on which large fuel drums were placed unsecured in the passenger cabin, the steward remained standing during take-off, and seatbelts and vomit bags for passengers (including one who was vomiting) were lacking. During another flight on a large passenger jet into the provincial capital of Jayapura, the pilot and co-pilot were so absorbed in chatting with the stewardesses through the open cabin door that they failed to notice that they were approaching the runway at too high an altitude, tried to make up for their neglect by going into a steep dive, had to brake hard on landing, and succeeded in stopping the plane only 20 feet short of the runway perimeter ditch.

[...]

In 2013 a rifle shot from the ground broke the windshield of my chartered helicopter in the air over Indonesian New Guinea; it remained uncertain whether the shot had been fired by New Guinean guerrillas still fighting for independence, or by Indonesian troops themselves feigning guerrilla activity in order to justify a crackdown.

A human nervous system is necessary to operate a Hieronymus Machine

June 13th, 2019

I was listening to the free preview of the audiobook edition of Atomic Adventures when the narrator mentioned the Hieronymus effect, which piqued my interest — and had nothing to do with Hieronymus Bosch or his macabre and nightmarish depictions of hell:

A Hieronymus machine is any of the patented radionics devices invented by electrical engineer Thomas Galen Hieronymus (21 November 1895–1988). Hieronymus received a U.S. Patent for his invention in 1949, which was described in the patent application title as a device for “detection of emanations from materials and measurement of the volumes thereof.”

The original “Radiation Analyzer” consisted of a chamber to hold a sample of material, a glass prism to refract the eloptic emanations coming from it, and a copper wire probe on a rotating armature to adjust the angle formed by the prism and the probe. Supposedly, eloptic emanations are refracted by the prism at different angles depending on the material. The detected eloptic signals were fed to a three-stage vacuum tube RF amplifier and conducted to a flat touch plate surrounded by a copper wire bifilar coil. By stroking the touch plate an operator could supposedly feel a sensation of “tingling” or “stickiness” when the eloptic energy was detected. As such, a human nervous system is considered to be necessary to operate a Hieronymus Machine.

Hieronymus subsequently designed solid-state versions of his Analyzers, substituting germanium transistors for crystal prisms and tunable capacitors for the rotating armature. He also designed and built various specialized devices designed for specific functions, including analysis of living organisms and production of homeopathic remedies. The most well-known Hieronymus Machine is the Eloptic Medical Analyzer, which supposedly analyzes and transmits eloptic energy to diagnose and treat medical conditions in plants and animals.

The theory of operation on which Hieronymus Machines are based is that all matter emits a kind of “radiation” that is not electromagnetic, but exhibits some of the characteristics of both light and electricity. The quality of this emanation is unique to every kind of matter, and therefore can be utilized for detection and analysis. Hieronymus coined the term “eloptic energy” to describe this radiation (from the words “electrical” and “optical”.) All of his machines were designed to detect and manipulate this eloptic energy. Eloptic emanations have never been detected by instruments designed to measure electromagnetic energies, no other evidence of their existence have been produced, and there is no mathematical theory of an eloptic field, so the theory is considered pseudoscientific and is not accepted by science.

The inventions of Hieronymus were championed by Astounding Science Fiction editor John W. Campbell in late 1950s and early 1960s editorials. A series of correspondences between the two men show that while Hieronymus was sure that someday his theories of eloptic energy would be proven and accepted by physical scientists, Campbell was convinced that the machines were based on psionics, related to the user’s paranormal or ESP powers.

As an example, Campbell believed one could create an eloptic receiver or similar device with the prisms and amplifiers represented by their cardboard or even schematic representations. Through the use of mental powers, such a machine would function as well as its “real” equivalent. In his autobiography, Hieronymus wrote, “I appreciated Mr. Campbell’s interest in my work, but over the years since then, I have concluded that he set back the acceptance of my work at least a hundred years by his continual emphasis on what he termed the supernatural or ‘magic’ aspects of a mind-controlled device he built by drawing the schematic of my patented instrument with India ink. The energy flowed over the lines of this drawing because India ink is conducting, but it isn’t worth a tinker’s damn for serious research or actual treating.”

The Malay language transformed into Bahasa Indonesia

June 12th, 2019

Linguistically, Indonesia is one of the world’s most diverse countries, Jared Diamond explains (in Upheaval), with more than 700 different languages:

An important contribution to eventual Indonesian unity was the evolution and transformation of the Malay language, a trade language with a long history, into Bahasa Indonesia, the shared national language of all Indonesians today.

[...]

Even the largest of Indonesia’s hundreds of local languages, the Javanese language of Central Java, is the native language of less than one-third of Indonesia’s population.

[...]

If that largest local language had become the national language, it would have symbolized Java’s domination of Indonesia and thereby exacerbated a problem that has persisted in modern Indonesia, namely, fear of Javanese domination on the part of Indonesians of other islands.

[...]

The Javanese language has the additional disadvantage of being hierarchy-conscious, with different words used in speaking to people of higher or lower status.

[...]

Today, I share with Indonesians their appreciation for the advantages of the wonderful Bahasa Indonesia as their national language. It’s easy to learn. Only 18 years after Indonesia took over Dutch New Guinea and introduced Bahasa there, I found it being spoken even by uneducated New Guineans in remote villages.

[...]

Bahasa’s grammar is simple but supple at adding prefixes and suffixes to many word roots, in order to create new words with immediately predictable meanings. For example, the adjective meaning “clean” is “bersih,” the verb “to clean” is “membersihkan,” the noun “cleanliness” is “kebersihan,” and the noun “cleaning up” is “pembersihan.”

Joe Rogan interviews the Angel Philosopher

June 12th, 2019

Joe Rogan recently interviewed Naval Ravikant (The Angel Philosopher):

Let the enemy worry about his flanks

June 12th, 2019

Jeff Cooper closes his Principles Of Personal Defense with a final word:

There is a purpose to be served by this essay. The combination of modern medical science and the welfare state has brought about a condition of general overcrowding and boredom which, magnified by vast worldwide increases in population, has resulted in an unconscionable drop in personal safety. Before World War 2, one could stroll in the parks and streets of the city after dark with hardly any risk — at least no more than was involved in driving on the highway. A young woman needed no escort. One could safely ask for help on the road. Meeting with another rifleman in the woods was occasion for comradeship rather than a red alert. This is true no longer. Today, and for the foreseeable future, the problem of personal risk is much more serious than of yore. Our police do what they can, but they can’t protect us everywhere and all the time. All too often they cannot even protect themselves. Your physical safety is up to you, as it really always has been.

The principles herein enunciated are the result of a great deal of study and consultation, plus a fair amount of actual experience. Taken to heart, they may save your life. There is always an element of luck in any sort of conflict, and I know of no way to guarantee success in every instance. What I do know, however, is that if the victims of the dozen or more sickening atrocities that have gained nationwide fame in recent years had read this book, and had heeded what they read, they would have survived those actions. Additionally, a small but select number of goblins would not be alive today, bounding in and out of courts and costing us all money that could be much better spent.

George Patton told his officers, “Don’t worry about your flanks. Let the enemy worry about his flanks.” It is high time for society to stop worrying about the criminal, and to let the criminal start worrying about society. And by “society” I mean you.

The exhibit made no mention of what followed the deaths of the generals

June 11th, 2019

Jared Diamond explores the recent history of the world’s fourth most populous country, Indonesia (in Upheaval):

My first trip to Indonesia was in 1979, when I began my visit by staying in a hotel whose lobby walls were decorated with paintings telling the story of Indonesian history. In the United States a similar exhibit might display paintings of the American Revolution, the Civil War, the California gold rush, the transcontinental railroads, and other such subjects from 150 to 250 years ago. But in that Indonesian hotel lobby, all of the paintings showed events of just the previous 35 years. The event that was the subject of most paintings was termed the 1965 Communist Revolt. Paintings, and explanatory text below them, vividly depicted how communists tortured and killed seven generals; and how one of the generals that the communists tried to kill managed to escape from his house over a wall, but his five-year-old daughter was shot by accident and died a few days later. The exhibit left the impression that the torture and killing of those generals and the young girl were the most horrible act that had ever happened in Indonesian history.

The exhibit made no mention of what followed the deaths of the generals: the murder of about half-a-million other Indonesians at the instigation of the Indonesian armed forces.

[...]

British control eventually became confined to parts of Borneo, and the only Portuguese colony that survived was in the eastern half of the island of Timor. The most successful colonists were the Dutch, concentrated on the island of Java, which had by far the largest native population (more than half of the population of modern Indonesia).

[...]

But it was only around 1910, more than three centuries after their arrival in the Indonesian archipelago, that the Dutch gained control of the whole far-flung island chain. As an example of how long much of the archipelago remained unexplored by the Dutch, it wasn’t until that year of 1910 that a Dutch governor discovered that the eastern Indonesian island of Flores and the nearby small island of Komodo are home to the world’s largest lizard, the so-called Komodo dragon. Although it’s up to 10 feet long and weighs up to several hundred pounds, it had remained unknown to Europeans for four centuries.

It should be emphasized that the word “Indonesia” didn’t even exist until it was coined by a European around 1850. The Dutch called their colony the “Indies,” the “Netherlands Indies,” or the “Dutch East Indies.” The archipelago’s inhabitants themselves did not share a national identity, nor a national language, nor a sense of unity in opposition to the Dutch. For example, Javanese troops joined Dutch troops to conquer the leading state on the island of Sumatra, a traditional rival of Javanese states.

[...]

But those efforts of Dutch ethical policy produced limited results—partly because the Netherlands itself was too small to put much money into Indonesia; and partly because the efforts of the Dutch, as well as of subsequent independent Indonesia, to improve people’s lives were frustrated by rapid population growth, creating more mouths to feed.

[...]

Indonesians with those beginnings of a wider identity formed many distinct but often overlapping groups: a Javanese group that felt culturally superior, an Islamic movement seeking an Islamic identity for Indonesia, labor unions, a communist party, Indonesian students sent to the Netherlands for education, and others.

May he never choose you, but, if he does, surprise him

June 11th, 2019

The seventh of Jeff Cooper’s Principles Of Personal Defense is surprise:

This is put last on purpose, for surprise is the first principle of offensive combat. However, the privilege of striking the first blow is a luxury we must usually grant to our attacker, so in a sense there can be no strategic surprise in defense. But that does not mean that the defender cannot achieve tactical surprise. By doing what our assailant least expects us to do, we may throw him completely off. As we have seen, what he usually least suspects is instant, violent counterattack, so the principle of aggressiveness is closely tied to threat of surprise.

One of the most hilarious episodes in recent cinema presents a bank teller debating the spelling of a written demand passed through the wicket by the bank robber. The whole affair shifts from banditry to an argument about whether the money can be handed over in the face of so badly constructed a missive. Pretty far-fetched, of course, but still stimulating. The unexpected is disconcerting. A disconcerted felon is momentarily less in charge of his own thoughts than the moment just before or just after. At that moment, his victim may be able to turn the tables.

On a realistic note, I can point out that in every single successful defense against violent attack that I know of — and I have studied this matter for nearly three decades — the attacker was totally surprised when his victim did not wilt. The speed, power, efficiency, and aggressiveness of the counterattack varied greatly, but the mere fact of its existence was the most elemental component of its success.

If you have friends in law enforcement, ask them to tell you the “April Fool” joke. It’s a bit gamy for a publication of this sort, but it makes a point — and it is very funny. Its moral is the moral of this manual: The criminal does not expect his prey to fight back. May he never choose you, but, if he does, surprise him.