Monday, September 13, 2010

Trohan's Bombshell

After giving a presentation on professional ethics and the need for scientists and project managers to be particularly responsible for following the "Do no harm" doctrine, I was approached by several attendees justifying the participation of project managers in the planning, design, production, and use of weapons of mass destruction.  I had used as an example the ultimate WMD, (currently: nuclear weapons) as the sort of development in which ethical project managers and scientists must not participate.

Sponsored at the University of Texas at Dallas, which gains heavy financial support from large military corporations (e.g.: Texas Instruments, Raytheon) It was no surprise that several attendees challenged me after the talk, claiming that the U.S. is a uniquely noble nation, and that incinerating hundreds of thousands of civilians in Japan with 2 nuclear bombs was the morally correct and right thing to do.  The justification given was a standard "more lives were saved" argument, which was given in 3 parts: 
  (1) A US invasion of Japan would have been necessary to obtain surrender.
  (2) Fewer people (both US and Japanese) died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki than would have died in an invasion.  This second point was supported by the assertion that:
  (3) Every man, woman and child would have fought to the death to prevent an invasion.

As a hypothetical, I asked the main advocate for this humanitarian interpretation of the US government decision to mass murder innocents whether it would matter if Japan had tried to surrender prior to the dropping of the ultimate WMD's.  His answer was revealing: "...but they didn't!" he insisted.  I agreed that I was presenting a hypothetical and asked again, stating "Yes, but what if they had tried to surrender, say a month before?"  All he could say is: "But they didn't."  Upon explaining that I was only interested in serious discussion, and what he was doing is ordinarily considered refusing to answer a reasonable question, he claimed that it was impossible for him to discuss a hypothetical.  I then indicated that he was now deliberately relaying falsehood to prevent meaningful discussion, suggesting that if I asked whether releasing a ball would allow it to fall would be very easy for him to discuss regardless of whether it was hypothetical or not.

Lately I have come to believe that self-deception in order to ignore counter examples to our beliefs is a primary weakness of our thinking, and a hallmark of the most dangerous ideologies today.  These ideologies appear in politics, religion, nationalism, sports, economics, you name it.  Whenever there's a perceived threat to our value or reputation, something in our brain tends to activate which suppresses our ability to think clearly.

This was almost certainly a trait favored by evolution to assist our species' survival and success, but the competitive environment has now changed, and civilization as well as homo sapiens is rapidly facing extinction.  A core point I was arguing for was one of context: project management needs to be focused on saving our species and civilization rather than on killing and destructive pursuits which hasten what is already a shockingly rapid decline.

Profit maximization as a goal is suicide for long term survivability.  We must evolve to the current reality and coming future conditions or die.  We must reject arrogant religions and face reality and the tyranny of numbers.  We much face that we are mortal, and the universe is indifferent to our suffering or joy, our survival or extinction.
In honor of those attendees who challenged me after my talk in Dallas, I present the following article from 1945, which was allowed to be published after V-J Day (Victory over Japan), is consistent with several other accounts, and AFAICT has been fairly well corroborated.  If you are from the US and anything like me, comprehending what it implies is difficult.

Chicago Tribune, August 19,1945
JAPS ASKED PEACE IN JAN. ENVOYS ON WAY -- TOKYO
Roosevelt Ignored M'Arthur Report On Nip Proposals
By Walter Trohan
Release of all censorship restrictions in the United States makes it possible to report that the first Japanese peace bid was relayed to the White House seven months ago.

Two days before the late President Roosevelt left the last week in January for the Yalta conference with Prime Minister Churchill and Marshal Stalin he received a Japanese offer identical with the terms subsequently concluded by his successor, Harry S. Truman.

MacArthur Relayed Message to F.D.
The Jap offer, based on five separate overtures, was relayed to the White House by Gen. MacArthur in a 40-page communication. The American commander, who had just returned triumphantly to Bataan, urged negotiations on the basis of the Jap overtures.

The offer, as relayed by MacArthur, contemplated abject surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. The suggestion was advanced from the Japanese quarters making the offer that the Emperor become a puppet in the hands of American forces.

Two of the five Jap overtures were made through American channels and three through British channels. All came from responsible Japanese, acting for Emperor Hirohito.

General's Communication Dismissed
President Roosevelt dismissed the general's communication, which was studded with solemn references to the deity, after a casual reading with the remark, "MacArthur is our greatest general and our poorest politician."

The MacArthur report was not even taken to Yalta. However, it was carefully preserved in the files of the high command and subsequently became the basis of the Truman-Attlee Potsdam declaration calling for surrender of Japan.

This Jap peace bid was known to the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times-Herald shortly after the MacArthur comunication reached here. It was not published under the paper’s established policy of complete co-operation with the voluntary censorship code.

Must Explain Delay
Now that peace has been concluded on the basis of the terms MacArthur reported, high administration officials prepared to meet expected congressional demands for explanation of the delay. It was considered certain that from various quarters of Congress charges would be hurled that the delay cost thousands of American lives and casualties, particularly in such costly offensives as Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

It was explained in high official circles that the bid relayed by MacArthur did not constitute an official offer in the same sense as the final offer which was presented through Japanese diplomatic channels at Bern and Stockholm last week for relay to the four major Allied powers.

No negotiations were begun on the basis of the bid, it was said, because it was feared that if any were undertaken the Jap war lords, who were presumed to be ignorant of the feelers, would visit swift punishment on those making the offer.
It was held possible that the war lords might even assassinate the Emperor and announce the son of heaven had fled the earth in a fury of indignation over the peace bid.

Defeat Seen Inevitable
Officials said it was felt by Mr. Roosevelt that the Japs were not ripe for peace, except for a small group, who were powerless to cope with the war lords, and that peace could not come until the Japs had suffered more.

The Jap overtures were made on acknowledgment that defeat was inevitable and Japan had to choose the best way out of an unhappy dilemma -- domination of Asia by Russia or by the United States. The unofficial Jap peace brokers said the latter would be preferable by far.

Jap proposals to Gen. MacArthur contemplated:
1. Full surrender of all Jap forces on sea, in the air, at home, on island possessions and in occupied countries.
2. Surrender of all arms and munitions.
3. Occupation of the Jap homeland and island possessions by Allied troops under American direction.
Would Give Up Territory
4. Jap relinquishment from Manchuria, Korea and Formosa as well as all territory seized during the war.
5. Regulation of Jap industry to halt present and future production of implements of war.
6. Turning over of any Japanese the United States might designate as war criminals.
7. Immediate release of all prisoners of war and internees in Japan proper and areas under Japanese control.
After the fall of Germany, the policy of unconditional surrender drew critical fire. In the Senate Senator White (R.) of Maine Capehart (R.) of Indiana took the lead in demanding that precise terms be given Japan and in asking whether peace feelers had not been received from the Nipponese.

Terms Drafted in July
In July the Tribune reported that a set of terms were being drafted for President Truman to take to Potsdam. Capehart hailed the reported terms on the floor of the Senate as a great contribribution to universal peace.

These terms, which were embodied in the Potsdam declaration did not mention the disposition of the Emperor. Otherwise they were almost identical with the proposals contained in the MacArthur memorandum.

Just before the Japanese surrender the Russian foreign commissar disclosed that the Japs had made peace overtures through Moscow asking that the Soviets mediate the war. These overtures were made in the middle of June through the Russian foreign office and also through a personal letter from Hirohito to Stalin Both overtures were reported to the United States and Britain.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another SC2 Gripe

The other day, I lost my net connection, (not tremendously unusual when we have bad weather), and I received this message:
As advertised, SC2 is supposed to be able to run without a BN connection once the owner of the game has registered it.    I decided to play some of the single player scenarios in the meantime while waiting for my network access to resume.  See below what happens when the user click's the button for "Play Offline"...



SC "forgot" that I had authorized it and been playing for weeks with a SC2 character.  It now stupidly demands "authorization" to use software for which I've paid.

Activision has made conflicting statements about the reasons for these harsh, totalitarian-seeming requirements - such as that it is and is not primarily to prevent sharing the software with friends, which they call "piracy".  In other words: your Grandma was evil when she told you that we should share with others, especially those who have less than we do.  (Christ was evil also, according to this kind of corporatism.)  

Another claim is that it is to "enhance" the experience of players, which might be believable if the enhancements were only implementable via draconian centralized control.  To use a favorite example: the Nazi party took over Germany and fed and put to work the huge percentage of the population that was starving and unemployed, yet this does not make Nazism a good choice.  Similarly, making improvements to software after a decade hardly justify tight centralized control - rather: one would expect improved software after 10 or more years.  Anyone who says otherwise is, well... likely selling something you otherwise wouldn't want to buy.

Now I only have one "OK" option in response to not having web access, and when clicking it, I receive this dialog box:

Not to worry, this is surely a way to resolve the problem without network access via a local webpage on your machine right?  I mean, no one would be so stupid as to require network access to correct a lack of network access, right?

 Apparently, Activision programmers and project managers CAN be that stupid!  After a couple of weeks, it seems to be remembering my login (but not password) more reliably, but I'm not making any bets.  In a way, it is good for SC2 to have so many problems: it makes me grateful when it runs - especially considering how much I paid for it!

The investors and managers who profit most from the hard work of creative programmers, artists, and the rest must really be happy they can legally be rewarded for such abusive practices and doing everything they can to create unnatural scarcity via closed markets.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You Can't Argue...

...with religious belief.  Like the clinically deluded, the faithful will say almost anything to maintain their illusion, but pathological delusion is defined as a concept or value held with certainty that is not credible, that is: based on expert, accurate information. Neutral, average people might understandably regard belief in supernatural beings with superior intelligence and magical abilities to intervene in natural reality as qualifying under such a definition.

The "nice" people of faith try to say that militants "misinterpret" holy texts.  They claim: "our holy books teach peace", which like all lies is technically true, but completely misleading.  Hitler loved puppies...so he teaches love?

What religious apologists for the "nice" religion cannot do is point to a single instruction in their holy books that says how one is to interpret either conflicting commands about what the monotheistic deity wants, or clear commands to commit violence, even murder and mass slaughter or genocide by war.  Yahweh's Torah clearly orders Jews to "Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you".  Christianity's God of the Bible, in Deuteronomy 17 states that followers must to "stone unto death" any "man or woman that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God" while in Surah 8:39 of the Qur'an, Allah commands "Make war on them until unbelief is no more".  The most common justification for disobeying these is that "you have to interpret them based on the time they were written".  It's too bad these apologists don't apply that rule consistently.  Gods were great explanations when we had no science, no logic, and we thought we lived on a disk under a dome at the center of everything in a small universe.  We had no knowledge that dynamic, solar-driven atmospheric conditions cause violent weather, floods and drought.  No one imagined that the microscopic germs cause disease, plague and rot had control of us, and yet these microbes keep us able to digest food.  Only about a hundred years ago, scientists were attacked for suggesting that tectonic forces acting on crustal plates create earthquakes, and life evolves based on complex interactions of molecules and environment. 

Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot face the fact that the reason they have been unable to be consistent religions of peace and love is because the texts defining dogma include commands to violence, lack any means for correcting mistakes, and new crops of people come along who take the texts seriously and really believe them, rather than simply professing belief.  While its hard to call such belief in killing "noble", it does have virtue of consistency between doctrine, professed belief, and actions.  In modern society however, unreasonable group beliefs like religion, political party, patriotism, and similar emotional affiliations seem to be corrosive and anathema to happiness, justice, equality, and prosperity. 

If we look at the least religious countries on the planet (e.g: Denmark, Sweden, Norway) we see high levels of societal health: low rates of violent crime and poverty, low infant mortality, high literacy, high levels of educational attainment generally, high per capita income and gender equality. 

On the other hand, highly religious countries where education in science, the nature of reality and philosophy are dangerously subversive to holy revelation, we see overpopulation, poverty, illiteracy, racial and sexual discrimination and exploitation - along with many related  and other injustices we would normally consider *evil*.

In order to live in a civilized world now, religions' presence forces us to do things that don't seem to make much sense.  For example: people who unethically and hypocritically ignore divine commands to murder in their religious texts they claim to uphold are considered acceptable, while those who consistently try to obey them are condemned as fanatics.

In truth, monotheistic religions are like the flat earth model: a spectacularly successful advance for society thousands of years ago - but like fears of the left-handed, such beliefs are best left in the past.

GMO Safety Defined as "Nutritional Equivalence"

As far as I can tell, the definitions of safety used by the scientific community are not the same as those used by the general public. The a...