Wednesday, May 30, 2012
For the record, I have not watched or listened to any of David Pakman's other work, but I actually thought this segment was pretty well-balanced. Again, your thoughts?
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
|Logo of the Second International Congress of Eugenics, 1921|
Sunday, May 27, 2012
I would like to wish a very happy Memorial Day to all Americans everywhere. I will return to writing on Tuesday so stay tuned. Have fun today and remember what the holiday is really about: remembering the fallen men and women of our armed forces, regardless of our own personal opinions of the wars they lost their lives in.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
|The never-used Pripyat Amusement Park ferris wheel.|
This government notice, broadcast for the benefit of the citizens of the city of Pripyat, Ukraine following the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, marked the beginning of one of the strangest and most terrifying exoduses in modern history. In three days, the population of Pripyat went from close to 50,000 people down to essentially zero. The reason? Heavy radioactive contamination caused by a massive nuclear power core explosion, spread to the prevailing winds on the wings of a fire and poisoning all the surrounding countryside with invisible death. The worst nightmare of mankind since the discovery of nuclear power had begun.
The emotional punch of a hindsight reading of this notice by the local Soviet government lies in its absolute irony. The irony is twofold.
For one, it portrays the government as more or less in control of the entire situation. The reality could not have been farther removed from the truth. Gorbachev himself had no clue of what was happening until he was informed by European scientists that they had detected a severe radiation spike as far away as Sweden. On the ground near the reactor the situation was equally out of control. The reactor fire continued to burn for about two weeks after the initial explosion, pumping toxic radioactive fallout into the atmosphere. In the end, the accident at the Chernobyl power plant actually contributed to the eventual disintegration of the Soviet Union, not only because of the necessity of international cooperation with the cleanup but also because of the severe resource strain it placed upon the USSR at a time it could ill afford it.
The second irony is the one I have always found the more interesting, and that is the assurances that not only would the evacuation be a temporary one, but that local officials would stay behind to keep the utilities up and running as well as to guard the empty homes from looting. The eerie truth is that the evacuation was permanent, for everyone. The lifeblood of the city of Pripyat vanished almost overnight, quietly, orderly, with barely a peep. Toys were left on the floor, documents left unattended, cars and personal effects abandoned. Families left whole apartment blocks filled with their possessions, expecting to come back to them. They of course never did. One of the most famous and haunting images from the abandoned city is the brand new ferris wheel at the amusement park, due to open directly after the disaster. It had never been used before, and will now never be used as it rusts and crumbles to nothing.
The evidence of humanity is littered everywhere, in the streets and empty homes and schools, and yet no humans remain. The weird atmosphere of death hanging over the place is the stuff of horror films (as a write this, the horror film Chernobyl Diaries is due to be released.) Humanity has been endlessly intrigued by imagery of man-made things that have been abandoned by their makers, and Pripyat is no different. It has become the perfect observational point for the effects of mass exodus from a modern city, and the results are nothing short of unnatural.
I suppose the fascination I have always felt towards the story of Chernobyl and Pripyat is the same as the fascination I have always held for Titanic. The reason they are both so compelling is that they are both about people, and real people at that. Real people lived in this city, and worked and played and taught and got sick and died in this city. And other real people, through their monumental stupidity, caused the catastrophe by direct action. As I said about Titanic, the fingerprints of man lie heavily on every aspect of the disaster, from its beginning to its end.
Today is not necessarily any special occasion or anniversary of the disaster. I did not have the chance to write about it in April (which was the month when the reactor exploded in 1986), but I feel compelled to remind my readers of this event anyways. The story of Chernobyl will not be over for thousands of years, as the radioactivity will not drop to safe levels until then. The more proximate story of the reactor is also far from over, as the world struggles with the cost to build a containment shelter large enough to entomb the entire reactor structure and forever seal the melted core inside. The danger has not passed. It is important to remember the human cost of Soviet rule over the Ukraine, but also to remember the heroism of the ordinary people involved, many of whom knew that they assisted in the cleanup and containment operation at the risk of their lives.
It is also good to remember not only the people who died in the disaster, but those who now must bear the pain of knowing that they left their home behind for good. There is no hope of return for those people; they will forever be prevented from going back by a menace that they cannot feel or see or smell, but which kills regardless. The pictures of modern Pripyat taken by adventurous tourists are probably no consolation, as the city tends to look bleaker every year especially in the wintertime.
I have posted a link in the Relevant Sites section to a website called Pripyat.com, a wonderful compilation of news, photos, stories and other memorabilia about the disaster that I have found most compelling. Also, a journey through the abandoned city through powerful photographs can be found here.
*Wikipedia, Article titled "Prypiat."
Friday, May 25, 2012
I love listening to the BBC, not least among the reasons being that the United States is not always at the top of their important news list. Lo and behold! There is actually other stuff going on out there. Who'd a thunk?
To expand that thought, though, I appreciate British journalism in all of its forms because it gives a refreshingly different take on notable happenings. And among their most intriguing and humorous insights is into their friends "across the pond," the Americans.
Here is a piece by a UK Telegraph blogger named Tim Stanley that had me chuckling. It is a humorous critique of the American media's obsession with making Obama into the most historic, heroic president in history. Quite worth the read.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Photo by Armin Linnartz
And yet, in the midst of this rash of fiscal irresponsibility and crisis, I am happy to point out the last remaining financial adult in the room of European politics, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
I cannot say that I agree with her policies and positions one hundred percent of the time. Many of her beliefs and accomodations have been against my liking. But I must applaud her where applause is due: she is the only one pursuing a viable path with regard to the euro and the continued success of the European Union.
Ms. Merkel has pursued a policy of fiscal austerity in Germany for the past several years now, in an attempt to curb explosive debt and budget deficits. The credit is hers for insisting that the government live within its means. Yet her position of fiscal austerity has become increasingly marginalized as more and more pressure is brought to bear on her to "evolve" with the rest of Europe (and the United States) and to dump more stimulus money on the economic fire.
This unpopularity is symptomatic of both the problems with the composition of the EU and with the personalities and philosophies involved. Germany happens to be the economic powerhouse of Europe at the moment and the one with the most financial clout, whilst the other countries are being run under much more liberal financial conditions and are suffering mounting debt and credit problems. There is jealousy of Germany's success, to be sure, without a proper understanding of why it is successful.
But this week's developments have not only brought all these issues to a head, but have also demonstrated Ms. Merkel's resolve to remain solvent in the face of extraordinary opposition . The leadership of the EU is floating the idea of selling "euro bonds," or generating stimulus cash by selling European debt. The idea is both stupid and dangerous. It is stupid because none of the EU countries needs or can afford to add any more debt to their ever-growing pile. But more importantly, it is dangerous because (as the BBC has pointed out) Germany would be the one left holding the bill because of its sound financial position. In effect, Germany's success would subsidize the other EU nations' failures.
Angela Merkel has fought the other EU nations' fiscal policies before, but this is probably the biggest challenge she will have yet, mainly because both President Barack Obama and new socialist French President Francois Hollande are both pushing heavily for it. Merkel realizes that Germany is being called upon to pay for economic failure that was not of its own doing, and rightfully resents that call.
She has already begun to voice her disagreement on this issue, and I pray she fights vigorously against it. She is a sane head amidst other heads that seem permanently stuck in the clouds. God bless her.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Monday, May 21, 2012
|The Parthenon in Athens - Photo by Steve Swayne|
Sunday, May 20, 2012
|Photo by David Shwen|
Beginning with a humorous incident in January where the VP "prophesied" (by gaffe of course) the outcome of the Giant's game against the 49ers, Biden may rapidly be shaping up to be the administration's very own highly unwelcome prophet. (After all, prophets are said to be most unwelcome in their home towns.)
We could start with how Biden views his own accomplishments and position: in other words, as a joke. In Biden's own words: "I never had an interest in being a mayor ‘cause that’s a real job. You have to produce. That’s why I was able to be a senator for 36 years." Purportedly spoken in an attempt at humor, but it is revealing. The man does not know when to bite his tongue. So it became a source of major apparent embarassment in the past week and a half when Biden came out in full-throated support of gay marriage and forced Obama to say something on the issue definitively.
Did Obama evolve? I think possibly, but not the way he would claim. With the full-fledged push for gay rights by the Obama administration, including the mandate that Eric Holder disregard the Defense of Marriage Act (a federal law that Holder is bound constitutionally to uphold), it would seem unlikely that anything happened other than that Biden revealed Obama's hand before the president was ready. The evolution was complete a good while before Biden opened his mouth on the issue.
Every god needs his prophet, and Biden appears up for the task. In March, Biden claimed that the current GOP candidate pool could not beat Obama, but then proceeded to detail the factors that could very well sink Obama's chances in November. Then on "Meet the Press," Biden proceeded to call Mitt Romney 'President Romney' by accident. What is the VP trying to tell us here?
It may be that none of these gaffes come to fruition in the real world, but if they did Joe Biden could always come back to say "I told you so." For once I agree with radio host Rush Limbaugh, who said at this point it almost sounds like Biden is desperate to keep from being replaced as VP on the Democratic ticket. I would strongly urge Obama, the president who has been declared "sort of God," to keep his prophet around for another four years. Even if the gush of prophecy gaffes does not pan out, it will definitely be an amusing ride.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
This is an article reprinted with permission from Population Research Institute.
America’s First Gay President Embraces Same-Sex Marriage
by Steven W. Mosher
Newsweek magazine is so proud of Obama’s self-described “evolution” on the issue of same-sex marriage that it has anointed him “America’s First Gay President.”
America’s voters, at least those in key swing states, seem much less impressed. As I told friends at the Canadian March for Life, which took place in Ottawa last week, Barry’s latest flip-flop will almost certainly cost him North Carolina, Indiana, and my home state of Virginia. Other states, like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, are now in play as well. If these go for Romney, then Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage will have cost him the election.
If this particular evolution does result in the President’s political extinction, it may strike some as a kind of poetic justice. After all, the behavior that he is endorsing is an evolutionary dead end. I mean this in the literal, Biology 101 sense.
Leave aside questions of morality for the moment. Leave aside the question of whether homosexual acts dramatically shorten one’s lifespan because of the diseases that attend the homosexual act. (Even homosexual activists admit that this is so; they just quibble about the exact number of years that exposure to the blood and fecal matter of multiple partners shortens your lifespan.)
What I mean by evolutionary dead end is that each and every homosexual coupling is, by definition, sterile. No matter how many times they copulate, homosexual couplings —whether male on male, or female on female — cannot generate new life. Do not hold your breath waiting for Barney Frank to send out a birth announcement.
Homosexual activists say that the ability to procreate is unimportant. They likewise deny that an important function of marriage is to promote responsible childbearing and child-rearing. From an evolutionary point of view, however, such objections are complete, utter nonsense.
To illustrate this, let us do a simple thought experiment. Let us imagine that Obama’s embrace of homosexual marriage is wildly successful. So successful, in fact, that by the end of his second term, heterosexual marriage has fallen into desuetude, and everyone in America has entered into a homosexual union. (I know how unpleasant a prospect this may seem to some, but bear with me for a moment).
So what happens to the United States then? The first thing that would happen is that the birth rate would drop to effectively zero (not exactly zero because I assume that some few lesbians would continue to artificially inseminate themselves). Then the population of the United States would begin to die off, rapidly. By the end of the century, nearly every single American would be dead.
Population control enthusiasts have long promoted homosexuality precisely because they understand its inherent sterility. This is why Frederick S. Jaffe, for example, in his October 1970 article in Perspectives, suggested that one way to reduce the American birth rate would be to encourage homosexual behavior. Jaffe understood that gay and lesbian sex was barren.
But the population bomb has fizzled, and the recession has driven birth rates in the U.S. below replacement.
The only future a family — or a nation — has is its children. America will only continue to thrive if each generation replaces itself. The American experiment in self-government will fail without people, who are, after all, its first prerequisite.
President Reagan famously remarked about abortion that all those in favor of it have already been born. The same may be said about same-sex marriage: All those in favor of it have already been born.
To the extent that Obama succeeds in promoting same-sex marriage, even fewer babies will be.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
As the extraordinarily popular Hunger Games film and books would aptly point out, a society is not guaranteed peace because of its complexity and technical advancement. As a matter of fact, quite the opposite is often the case.
Lest we should persist in the widely prevalent thought that ours is the best and most advanced civilization this world has ever produced, I give you this story for your perusal. I will warn you that it is graphically horrifying but absolutely necessary to read to understand how fallen our civilization actually is. As a matter of fact, it would seem there is no end to the horrible evil we continue to inflict on our fellow men.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
It is rare that I stumble on a news story that is so shocking or fascinating that it literally makes my jaw drop to the floor. But it does happen nonetheless, and this story truly did take my intellectual breath away. It is the story of a young Japanese soldier during World War II who was sent to the Phillipines to fight...and then was never told that the war was over. It is worth the read.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
|Photo by Jeremy Keith|
I finally had the money last year to upgrade to my first smartphone, an Android-powered cutting edge piece of electronic awesomness with the feel of power in its glass-faced slab. Oh, how I loved it. I now know why Wall Street brokers pull their phones out in public and look conspicuously over their glasses at them. Smartphones are the new Rolexes. You own them to show them off, to a degree. However, about two months after I got it and it was customized so completely that I had truly made it mine, I began to notice something that I found not only unusual but downright disturbing in it own way.
My big, expensive, high definition, multi-gigabyte-rocking desktop computer had remained practically untouched since getting my new phone.
Maybe it shouldn't have seemed unusual, but it was definitely disturbing. I paid good money for that desktop; it is a workhorse for my artistic and cinematic pursuits (there is an amazing high-end movie and graphic design software suite loaded on it at the moment). And there it sat, for a long long time without me even touching it. It hit me later on too that I had been that way after first purchasing the new desktop. It was my everything device. It could do and did do whatever I asked of it. But suddenly my new phone could do the same, and it was more portable and I could chill on a sofa with it instead of sitting in an office chair. So, boom! the adjustment was made.
Last October I wrote a piece titled "The Schizophrenic Man" in which I attempted to show the effect of modern life and technology on human beings and how both have led us to separate our lives into discrete little boxes of happenings, with no relation one to another. The example used was that of a campfire being divided into functions of light and heat with the respectiv inventions of the light bulb and the radiator. The organic whole was split in a division of convenience.
Here I would like to follow the same logic, except in reverse. As human beings, despite our propensity for divisions and quarrels, we desire union and reconciliation. We long for integration in ourselves and our families, for having our act together. And unfortunately for us as a species, we think we have found that reintegration, in the shape of the computer.
First it was the personal computer, the invention of which ushered in a new era of word usages like "productivity" and "synergy," "convenience" and "affordability." It was the wonder machine, capable of complex mathematical equations at the same time as playing a virtual card game, chatting online with someone in Russia, and rocking a favorite playlist. The "productivity" part may have been debatable, but the rest was good fun.
Then it was the evolution of a reliable and cost-effective wireless network for mobile phones, exploding into high gear in the early 21st century and showing very few signs of slowing down even now. Everyone had a cell phone, and by the same token had a crappy little camera to snap crappy little pictures with. Texting became the new cool and talking on the phone became so over-forties-ish.
Then Apple practically singlehandedly invented the stylish smartphone market with the iPhone, combining everyone's favorite functions into a sleek and portable package and selling it at a nominally affordable price. Then they reinvented the portability part by creating the iPad, thus putting the larger screen everyone apparently wanted onto a portable computer.
And the best part, or so the telecom companies would have you believe with their ubiquitous advertising, is that everything is now connected. Everything is unified, streamlined, enmeshed and instantaneous. If you don't believe it, look at the line for the front counter at a McDonald's. Everyone has their phone out. Everyone is tapping away. Everyone is connected.
We have been beguiled into a facsimile of integrity. Suddenly we don't have to soul-search to find our problems and errors, in order to find the root cause of our divisions. We have effected the final divorce, of putting "us" into one box and our "integrity" in another. The device in our hands, on our desks, in our laps, has become our reintegration. We are connected, aren't we? There need not be any work of personal improvement, because we are integrated by virtue of the computer. It goes wherever we go, so it must a part of us. Right?
This attitude is problematic on so many levels, but we will concentrate on the most fundamental. The thing we hold is not part of us. No matter how many times a day we pull it out and start tapping away, no matter how much personalization goes into it, it remains separate from us. It is integrated into its own infrastructure, but by being so integrated, it ironically leaves us behind. Either that, or it demands that we keep up. And boy do we try.
We deserve better than to be fooled by this. I love the convenience and ease of use and connectivity my smartphone allows, but I have to remind myself from time to time that it is only a tool. It must be made to do what I wish, rather than the other way around. One day I realized that I had left home without it on a day-long trip and, after the initial withdrawal symptoms wore off, I found myself enjoying that day more heartily than I had ever enjoyed any day. It proved that my happiness is a part of me, with no relation to the piece of metal and plastic I had left behind.
If we are to be making any divisions at all, if we should keep anything seperate, then it should be those two things. If our tech is our god, our great unifier, our "all in one," then we need a priority shift.