30 August 2011

Honest Reporting's Life of Brian

Honest Reporting does a two minute video in the style of Monty Python about all the things Israel did for peace that the media ignore. They also have a drawing for a two disc edition of Life of Brian if you're interested (free to enter).

Rumors of War II

The Sequel. An hour long documentary. Between radical Islam, the Chicoms, and global economic collapse, the end of our way of life is near.

29 August 2011

Ken Wilber on Ethics and Enlightenment

From the same talk as yesterday's video. Practicing ethics cannot make you enlightened, but you cannot be enlightened without practicing ethics. Runs 9:22.

28 August 2011

Ken Wilber on Morality

Ken Wilber talks about morality and why it is the foundation of spiritual development. Runs 9 minutes.

Imagine No Religion

I'm not sure John Lennon meant "no religion" to mean everyone should be an atheist. He was a lot smarter than that. Just looking at the most horrible acts of the twentieth century make the fact clear that atheism in its various guises (social Darwinism, communism, eugenics) caused more human suffering than anything else besides Smallpox. What I think he meant was that shouldn't have the fierce sectarian divisions that often come with religion. We have such gems of quotes from Lennon on religion as:

“People got the image I was anti-Christ or antireligion,” he said. “I’m not at all. I’m a most religious fellow. I’m religious in the sense of admitting there is more to it than meets the eye. I’m certainly not an atheist.”

He also didn't believe in Darwinism:

“Nor do I think we came from monkeys, by the way,” he insisted. “That’s another piece of garbage. What the hell’s it based on? We couldn’t’ve come from anything—fish, maybe, but not monkeys. I don’t believe in the evolution of fish to monkeys to men. Why aren’t monkeys changing into men now? It’s absolute garbage.”

Unfortunately people do misappropriate Lennon's music and his image. There are those who claim that religion is the root of all evil while ignoring all the good it does (what Ken Wilber calls the conveyor belt; I've also argued a lot about Christianity's integral role in ending slavery). Well, getting on topic, finally, here is the ultimate outcome of a society that has ditched religion, leveled off on flatland narcissism, and believes in nothing: the UK riots.

A country with cradle to craftmatic adjustable bed handouts, where no one has to work because they get government stipends, where everyone gets free (albeit very shitty) health care, could not help but explode when those handouts are taken away. The UK is broke so they decided to cut back on a pittance of the handouts so know-it-all teenagers dediced to smash stuff for no evident reason. Lots of buildings were destroyed and people killed (there may be racist elements involved). Of course you could say if people were allowed to own guns they could defend themselves, their families, and even total strangers, but the UK is ruled by a king (a queen actually; there won't be a king for a while), and kings love to have a control on the possession of weapons. Absent the ability to own guns, sales of baseball bats rose three hundred percent (my estimate) because everyone over 20 was afraid for their lives as know-it-all teenagers with immortality complexes destroyed everything insane.

The author, A. N. Wilson, has some brilliant points to make:

A Christian woman working for British Airways who wears a cross round her neck is asked to remove it for fear of offending other people. A nurse who prays with a patient in hospital is committing an almost criminal act. Catholic adoption agencies which disapprove of gay adoptive parents on religious grounds have their licences taken away.

And all the while, our governing classes and academics and teachers chip away at the fundamental truths of the great religions — truths that have stood the test of time for thousands of years — in their arrogant certainty that there are no moral absolutes and that the human race can make up the rules as it goes along.

At the nuttier fringes of the chattering classes there are those, like the geneticist Richard Dawkins and the journalist Christopher Hitchens, who actually believe that religion is a mental poison responsible for all the evils in the world.

The misguided and vacuous thinking of these so-called intellectuals is compounded by a sordid celebrity-culture which holds up role models who should be despised rather than admired.

Amy Winehouse, a pathetic drug-infused alcoholic girl of very modest talent, is held up as great diva; and when she died, her house was surrounded by fans, laying empty vodka bottles as a ‘tribute’.

What happens when you imagine a world with no religion? I don't have to imagine, I can just look across the pond to see how a society lacking morality and values is faling apart. How long before the madness comes to America? I don't know, but here's something I wrote a few months ago that may help:

In 2008 I said Obama would be like four more terms of Bush.
In 2009 I said I never imagined things could ever get this bad.
In 2010 I wished I was back in 2009.
In 2011 I said the world had gone mad.
Now I'm saying the world will not last till the end of 2012.

If we ever needed to heed Lennon's advice to "give peace a chance" now is that time.

23 August 2011

Defending Plagiarism

How can one possibly defend plagiarism? After all, isn't plagiarism that thing we learn all throughout school is the most horrible thing someone can possibly do? I point to history for its defense. For 99 percent of human history what we now call "plagiarism" was not only permitted, it was expected.

The Other Wiki says:

"The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal, emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement. For centuries before, not only literature was considered "publica materies," a common property from which anybody could borrow at will, but the encouragement for authors and artists was actually to "copy the masters as closely as possible," for which the closer the copy the finer was considered the work. This was the same in literature, music, painting and sculpture. In some cases, for a writer to invent their own plots was reproached as presumptuous. This stood at the time of Shakespeare too, when it was common to appreciate more the similarity with an admired classical work, and the ideal was to avoid "unnecessary invention.""

It then goes on to say how the Romantics fucked this up, like they did with virtually everything.

The first newspapers were all plagiarised. One paper reported a story and all the others copied it. Ben Franklin, one of the greatest and most popular founding fathers (also one of the most important, as he secured the backing of France, without whose help America would never have won independence) was an unapologetic plagiarist.

A lot of the greatest writers in all of history were plaigarists. Homer certainly didn't come up with the Illiad and Odyssey, he was just the best at retelling them. Plato took most of his early works from his teacher Socrates. All the fairie tales and other oral stories passed down from deep antiquity were plagiarised by people like the Brothers Grimm. A good portion of the Declaration of Independence was plagiarised. My own work Black Listed is a parody of Scott Adams' book The Religion War that borrows heavily from the original (with the addition of singing).

Advances in science and technology have largely come from people copying something someone else invented. The Indians took Chinese bamboo rockets and encased them in iron, turning a novelty into a deadly weapon. The Arabs took the Indian Wootz steel and used it to conquer a vast empire under the name "Damascus Steel." The composite bow and the sabre came from Turkic peoples in the Altai region and were adapted by cultures around the world. Russia and the US took rocket technology from the Germans and China took it from Russia. Similarly, Russia took the atom bomb from the US and China took it from Russia (the communist Chinese are not capable of much original thought, having divorced themselves from 2000 years of their illustrious history).

Music? Most of the popular songs throughout history have been plagiarised. The Star-Spangled Banner was a plagiarised British drinking song and it became the national anthem, yet 200 years later The Verve take a lot less of some shitty Rolling Stones song (which was agreed they could!) to make something brilliant and that's a crime! Taking a whole song was fine in 1814 while taking part of a song is illegal in 1997? And the US Government not only SAYS it was fine in 1814, they adopt what today would be called a stolen song and make it the national anthem! Music became what it is today largely by sampling, which is plagiarism. You wouldn't have your rock and R&B without plagiarising the blues and Nergo spirituals. You wouldn't have rap, hip-hop, dance, funk, or a whole lot else without plagiarism.

I will go as far as to say that plagiarism built the world we have today as much as virtually anything else you can think of (capitalism, Christianity, the Enlightenment). To paraphrase Gordon Gecko, "plagiarism is good." Plagiarism is one of the best things to ever happen in human history and I proudly defend it.

PS - Steal this. Adapt this. Take this and use it as a tool to make your own contributions to human culture.

20 August 2011

The Urban Assessment

I just looked through all the tags (there are a lot) that appear at the bottom of every single post and link similar themed posts for easy reference. Some appear in only one post (An American Carol, Bible Code, Gary Schwartz, Military Hierarchy), largely appearing in early posts when I didn't know how often a particular topic would come up. Some rather important ones appear a few times (UFOs 9, Survival of Consciousness 9, Consciousness 9, Buddhism 7). A few interesting ones come up very often. Here is a list of all the tags that appear ten or more times:

Global Waffles

Church of Global Warming (the funniest of them all)
Fabricated Global Warming

Politics (created just today, added retroactively to several posts)

Perspective (some of the most diverse and interesting posts fall in this category)

Liberal Racists

Barack Obama

Uncommon Descent
Uri Geller

Other (19 with this post; most tie in with Uri Geller and Forbidden Knowledge)


Irked-Confusion Studios

2011 (that's a lot for one year, more than 2006 and 2008 combined)


38 (39)
The Urban Mystic (is 38 now, will be 39 once this is posted)


REAL Science (was 34 in January)

Five Reasons I Like Rick Perry

And two that don't really do it for me.
Note: my commentary will be in [square brackets]. The rest of the text is directly from the Yahoo News story.

1. Abolish lifetime tenure for federal judges by amending Article III, Section I of the Constitution.

[Couldn't agree more. Kings serve for life, and we fought two wars to rid ourselves of the yoke of a king (the Revolution and War of 1812, when Britain fought back). By giving the judges lifetime tenure it divorces them from reality and from the people, the concent of whom is from whence they derive their power.]

2. Congress should have the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a two-thirds vote.

[Maybe not a two-thirds vote, maybe something stronger, but nothing in government should be final. Even the Constitution can be amended, so should the Supreme Court, lest they become absolutist.]

3. Scrap the federal income tax by repealing the Sixteenth Amendment.

[Last year this was one of two BIG things I said needed to be done to fix the country. If not possible to achieve a repeal I did propose an alternate income tax scheme.]

4. End the direct election of senators by repealing the Seventeenth Amendment.

Overturning this amendment would restore the original language of the Constitution, which gave state legislators the power to appoint the members of the Senate.

Ratified during the Progressive Era in 1913 , the same year as the Sixteenth Amendment, the Seventeenth Amendment gives citizens the ability to elect senators on their own. Perry writes that supporters of the amendment at the time were "mistakenly" propelled by "a fit of populist rage."

"The American people mistakenly empowered the federal government during a fit of populist rage in the early twentieth century by giving it an unlimited source of income (the Sixteenth Amendment) and by changing the way senators are elected (the Seventeenth Amendment)," he writes.

[This is even more important than getting rid of the tax. When the Constitution was written it was decided that the two houses of Congress would be populated in two different ways: Representatives are chosen by the people and Senators are chosen by the state legislatures. This was one of the most brilliant decisions in all of world history. The whole point of the Constitution was to maximise the power of the States, but reign them in just enough so the Union could stick together, which wasn't possible under the Articles of Confederation. Representatives were elected by popular vote and each state got a number of Representatives proportional to total population, this way we the people get our say. Senators were chosen by the state legislatures and each state got two so that the power held by big states and small states would be equal where it really counted. Having Senators chosen by the state legislatures was a guarantee to states' rights. The Senators represented the will of the states whereas the Representatives represented the will of the people. This was a brilliant balancing act to protect everyone from each other. Then along came the populists who wanted to turn the United States into a mobocracy and changed the Constitution to say the Senators are elected by the people too, taking power away from the states and giving it to whoever had the deepest pockets and the Federal government, as the two are one and the same.]

5. Require the federal government to balance its budget every year.

Of all his proposed ideas, Perry calls this one "the most important," and of all the plans, a balanced budget amendment likely has the best chance of passage.

"The most important thing we could do is amend the Constitution--now--to restrict federal spending," Perry writes in his book. "There are generally thought to be two options: the traditional 'balanced budget amendment' or a straightforward 'spending limit amendment,' either of which would be a significant improvement. I prefer the latter . . . . Let's use the people's document--the Constitution--to put an actual spending limit in place to control the beast in Washington."

A campaign to pass a balanced budget amendment through Congress fell short by just one vote in the Senate in the 1990s.

Last year, House Republicans proposed a spending-limit amendment that would limit federal spending to 20 percent of the economy. According to the amendment's language, the restriction could be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress or by a declaration of war.

[I want to scream in orgasmic delight at the thought of a balanced budget. I even like the provision that special circumstances, like war, can call for extra spending, because Hitler had to die whatever the cost in treasure.]

And the two I'm not too thrilled about:

6. The federal Constitution should define marriage as between one man and one woman in all 50 states.

[I don't think government has the power to make this decision. The government, including state governments, should stay as far away from marriage as possible.]

7. Abortion should be made illegal throughout the country.

[I lean toward states rights on this one, but not entirely. There are circumstances where I think abortion is justified (e.g. certain congenital abnormalities that are always fatal, often with the baby surviving only a few hours or days), or even required (situations that lead to maternal death). Is Perry saying he would rather have the mother die to preserve "the soul of this country and to the traditional values [of] our founding fathers"?]

19 August 2011

Barney Frank

Barney Frank (the guy whose speech no one can understand) is on MSNBC on the Rachel Maddow Show, being watched by all of ten people, when he lifts his cheek and lets out an atomic fart, without excusing himself, without even pausing. Thanks to the video being posted on the Internet something produced by MSNBC is getting more viewers than I have fingers and toes. This made my day. This is easily the funniest thing I have seen in months and probably one of the funniest things ever. In this world gone mad it's nice to have something good like this to report about.

18 August 2011

Surgeons and the Soul

Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander talks about his NDE while he had bacterial meningitis (2 videos, 9 minutes total).

Cardiac surgeon Lloyd Rudy tells two stories about his patients NDEs and what they brought back (12 1/2 minutes). One man comes back after twenty minutes with no heart beat with veridical perceptions of the operation.

16 August 2011

The One Beyond Duality

Prior to being. Above essence. Here is a thirty minute lecture with Prof. Philip Cary on Plotinus, Neoplatonism, and the unity of all things. First is a diagram I made while listening of Plotinus' cosmology:

In the center is the One, beyond distinctions, the source of all existence, shining like the sun. Around it is the Divine Mind (Nous), which is suffused with the light of the One. It is perfect in its intelligence and is unmoved and unchanging. Beyond this is the Soul. When turned in, to take part in the perfection of the Divine Mind, it is the one World Soul. When turned out it takes on the multiplicity of every individual soul. Beyond this is the world of matter and seperation, suffering, desire, and death. The soul looks out and falsly identifies with images in the physical world. Everything is created as an outflowing of the One, its superabundance, although it is not actually doing anything. The rays of the One become more and more diffuse the farther out one goes, and the more imperfect and fragmented things become.

Here is another 30 minute lecture, also by Prof. Cary, that gets into Plotinus' spirituality. I think it is actually better than the first.

Rumors of War I

An hour long documentary on why a nuclear Iran should scare you.

14 August 2011

13 August 2011

A Short Quiz on Intelligent Design

VJ Torley at UD posts a ten question quiz for proponents and opponents of ID. Here are the questions and my answers.

1. On a scale of 0 (diehard disbeliever) to 10 (firm believer), how would you rate your level of belief in Intelligent Design? (Minimal Definition of Intelligent Design: The idea that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not by an undirected process.)

Update: When I say “certain features”, I mean, “certain generic features of the universe-as-a-whole (e.g. constants of Nature) and of living things in general (e.g. the specified complexity of DNA”. When I say “an undirected process” I mean a process lacking long-range foresight.


2. What do you regard as the best argument for Intelligent Design?

I really like cosmological fine-tuning, because I like very large numbers. I also like that there is no mathematical model for “natural selection” (it is such a nebulous concept, existing in whatever form is most convenient at the time, that I doubt it can have a mathematical model or that it even meets the criteria of science). Mutations not producing new genetic information (where did information come from in the first place then?) and life not being able to self-assemble (abiogenesis) are also good ones.

3. What do you regard as the best argument against Intelligent Design?

Suboptimality (the designer either does not no how to, cannot, or will not design an optimal world for what reason(s)?). Actually, this is not an argument against ID, just certain assumptions about the nature of the designer. That said I can’t think of any counter arguments I think are good.

4. I’d like you to think about the arguments for Intelligent Design. Obviously they’re not perfect. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?

Perform A LOT MORE experiments, which necessarily entails mainstream science opening up to the possibility of ID. I would also like to see more atheist/agnostic ID proponents, or even just more non-Christian ID proponents (or at least Christians who don’t quote the Bible as scientific evidence).

5. Now I’d like you to think about the arguments against Intelligent Design. Obviously they could be improved. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?

Stop with the snarky cheap shots like talking about ID versus “real” science or claming that it is religion or the “overwhelming evidence” for RM+NS that is genuine evidence but nowhere near “overwhelming”, nor is it “fact” or demonstrated as well as gravity. Either rebut ID on purely scientific grounds or admit you don’t like it for religious reasons and that’s why you attack ID proponents.

Demonstrating that life can self-assemble, or at least that all the proteins needed for life can self-assemble. Demonstrating that random processes can produce completely new information, not just delete or rearrange pre-existing information in a genome.

6. (a) If you’re an ID advocate or supporter, what do you think is the least bad of the various alternatives that have been proposed to Intelligent Design, as explanations for the specified complexity found in living things and in the laws of the cosmos? (e.g. The multiverse [restricted or unrestricted?]; Platonism; the laws of the cosmos hold necessarily, and they necessarily favor life; pure chance; time is an illusion, so CSI doesn’t increase over time.)

(b) If you’re an ID opponent or skeptic, can you name some explanations for life and the cosmos that you would regard as even more irrational than Intelligent Design? (e.g. Everything popped into existence out of absolutely nothing; the future created the past; every logically possible world exists out there somewhere; I am the only being in the cosmos and the external world is an illusion requiring no explanation; only minds are real, so the physical universe is an illusion requiring no explanation.)

(a) I don’t think there are any acceptable alternatives that are purely materialistic. I suppose if I had to choose I would say that the alternative I see as best is that the future act as a teleological attractor to the past, guiding the evolution of forms in the past to a predetermined future (I’ve read this somewhere).


The L: Volume One (of three) is coming to an end, hopefully by the end of August. I've been working on it since February 2008. Once Volume One is complete I would like to take a break from The L to persue other projects. Integral Politics II just needs a few charts drawn up before it's complete; Why Study History is slowly being worked out in bits and pieces; I've got a video on the First World War recorded that just needs editing for 11 November and a six part series called "The Divine Paradox" being scripted (1/3 complete).

In the works for comics is an idea being called "Eros/Thanatos", that has an interesting genesis, that looks as if it might be the next comic project I take on. It started as a story called "Monster" about a serial killer who targeted homeless people. Then I got the idea: "what if he didn't have to kill them directly? What if he had devil powers?" This moved on to something called "Angel" like "Fallen" + "Predator" where the serial killer with devil powers became an angel who possesses people and then goes hunting. Briefly there were two angels fighting each other, then back to one. The basic idea was that the angel couldn't kill anyone directly, but had to trick them into a deadly situation, like spooking them into stepping into traffic or something, only more carefully thought out. Then I got to thinking: "how exactly are the people being hunted supposed to win? They're being hunted by an angel. It can't die and they can so they're pretty much screwed from the beginning. Also, why exactly is the angel hunting people?" I decided to make the story about the psychology of the people being hunted instead of the angel. The final version of the story, now titled "Eros/Thanatos" deales much more with the psychological aspect, ignoring the whole angel idea almost altogether. Now a detective investigating the peoples' deaths has to decide whether they are actually being hunted by something or whether these are clever suicides or just random accidents, with the issue not being resolved by the end. Here is the introduction:

At the end of the Nineteenth Century Sigmund Freud pioneered the study of the human mind. Equally revolutionary as his psychotherapy was another of his practices: Freud actually listened to women. Rampant misogyny and antisemitism caused the intellectuals of Europe to disregard Freud's theories as "Jew science." While he has been largely supplanted today by the likes of James, Skinner, and the Gestalt psychology, Freud was essential to the initial development of this most important of Western sciences.

Disillusioned by the destructiveness of the First World War, Freud added to his model of the unconscious processes of the mind. Aside from the desire for life and construction, Eros, Freud included the death drive, later to be named Thanatos (although Freud himself never used the term). Seeing the millions sent to die for ideas of nationalism and patriotism, his growing pessimism led him to believe that people unconsciously desire self-destruction more than sexual pleasure. For Freud, Thanatos, the drive toward repetition, aggression, and eventually one's own death, was more powerful. The human mind is a battle between Eros and Thanatos: a battle Thanatos inevitably will win.

However, it is not that simple. Eros is not completely powerless. Eros, the desire for life, seeks not to defeat death but to control it. Eros serves as a means of cheating death so as to die in the way one most desires. We might join Lord Kitchener's army to die on the fields of Flanders. We might drive a fast motorcycle through red lights or jump out of airplanes. We might ignore obvious warning signs like a dripping wet floor or walk into oncoming traffic. Whatever the reason, according to Freud, our desire to die is the primary driving force in our lives, and a desire we wish to direct toward our own ends. But, except for the suicide, we can't choose our own deaths. Can we?

10 August 2011

The Kamchatka Expeditions: Russia's Lewis and Clark

The following was written in April 2008, so it is not as good as it could be today. I remember one day I was half asleep while watching a program on the television about a group of men who got lost in the White Sea for several months and most or all of them died. This inspired me to investigate this situation, but instead of learning anything about them I discovered

Danish explorer Vitus Bering (for whom the Bering Strait is named) and thus began my fascination with Russian history. The unfortunate fact is that there are only about two books in English about Bering. The rest are in Russian and the only copies I could find were in the Moscow University library, neither of which is very helpful. Here is what I could glean from those two sources. This is probably the most detailed English language page on Vitus Bering on the Internet.

The image to the left is Vitus Bering, who for years had been given the wrong portrait and was not correctly identified until his body was dug up centuries later. The image on the right is a French map (interestingly enough) of the Chukotka region, where Bering launched several expeditions. The name "Chukotski Nos" means "Holy Cape," with "Holy" meaning "impossible to circumnavigate." The caption (too small to read in the reduced image) reads "It is not known whether this mountain chain terminates somewhere or joins another continent."

The popular view of the First Kamchatka Expedition, launched in 1725, was that Emperor Peter the Great of Russia ordered Vitus Jonassen Bering to discover whether or not Asia and America were joined by a land route or were separate land masses and to explore the possibility of a sea route between the Arctic and Pacific oceans. The importance of a Northeast passage to the Far East for purposes of trade seems undeniable in light of the undeveloped status of most of the Eastern regions of Siberia and the difficulty of crossing the terrain by land; answering the question of the land connection between Asia and America was a necessary corollary to the more important question of the Northeast passage. Over three centuries dozens of scholars have held this view including Gerhard F. Müller, one of the first to write on Bering's voyages, Johann G. Gmelin, William H. Dall, Frank A. Golder, and Stuart R. Tompkins.

Gerhard Müller taught history and geography at the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences along with working in the library. He was one of the main translators of documents and correspondences for Vitus Bering during his explorations of Siberia. Müller first wrote about the expedition in 1730 and was possibly the first person to advance the view that the purpose of the voyage was to search for the Northeast passage. According to Carol Urness it is no surprise that Müller advanced such a view as it suited his interests quite well. Had the first written account of the voyages been written by someone not interested in geography the problem of the connection between Asia and America would not have played so prominent a role in such a person's writing. None-the-less, for whatever reason Müller chose to emphasize the geographical problem, this would become the prevailing view of the purpose behind the voyages and would not be challenged until after the Second World War.

Since then new views arose questioning the traditional view. This reexamination was in part due to evidence that proof of the separation of the continents had already been established much earlier, eliminating the need for such an expedition as proposed by the traditional view of the Kamchatka Expeditions. In 1648 a group of merchant vessels in search of walrus ivory became lost at sea and sailed around the Chukotsk Peninsula, which was believed to have continued on to join with North America. This accidental voyage proved that the two continents were separated. In light of this discovery why then did Peter the Great commission the two Kamchatka Expeditions?

Raymond Fisher proposes that there were four possibilities as to why these expeditions were commissioned: 1. Peter wanted better proof of the separation of the continents from more credible explorers; 2. The significance and details of the discovery had not reached Moscow and Saint Petersburg by the time the explorations were commissioned; 3. Knowledge of the accidental voyage had been forgotten over the 77 years since it had taken place; 4. Peter had much grander goals in mind, namely designs on colonies in North America, than solving a seemingly unimportant geographical question. [1]

There is no evidence that Peter or his officials knew of the previous voyage 77 years earlier. "Knowledge of the voyage in Moscow and European Russia seems to have disappeared by the end of the Seventeenth Century." [2] This discredits the first possibility. Fisher feels that while the second and third possible reasons for the voyage are still viable, in the light of evidence for the fourth one being true the other two are reduced to being irrelevant.

According to Boris P. Polevoi, the real objective of the expeditions was to create accurate maps of North America so Russia could exert dominance over the continent and further the Russian Empire. However, Peter feared a voyage explicitly directed toward America would provoke European powers in America to forestall Russian expansion and so he "circulated the story... that Bering was being sent into the North Pacific for the purely scientific purpose of ascertaining whether an Arctic-Pacific passage between Asia and America exists." [3] The Western European powers had been interested in the existence of such a passage for centuries by this point and would see any investigation of the passage to be to their benefit, as oppose to the establishment of future sites for Russian colonization which would be met with hostility.

This fictitious story being propagated to distract the Western European powers reached Bering before Peter's actual instructions did, because he did not send them until the last minute to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. When Bering read the instructions he mistakenly combined them with the story he had heard about the phony reason for the expedition and combined them into his own interpretation of the instructions. It is clear from this why Bering turned his ships back and ended the first expedition after sailing around the Chukotsk Peninsula believing that he had completed his assigned task.

Fisher disagrees. He thinks that the original goal Peter had in mind was to find out where Asia and America are joined by land, and, from there, to explore farther to locate the nearest European settlement in America. Bering did not reach any European cities but instead turned back after finding that the Chukotsk Peninsula does not extend to America. Had his goal been to discover a passage between the Arctic and Pacific oceans, Bering would not have turned back but instead would have kept sailing onward into the Arctic ocean. Fisher bases his argument on the original instructions given to Bering by Peter the Great. Peter's original instructions for Bering read (paraphrasing from multiple translation):
1. At Kamchatka or elsewhere you are to build one or two boats.
2. You are to sail along the coast of the land which goes north with these boats. It is expected that since the end of this land is not known that it appears to be part of America.
3. You are to search for where the land is joined with America, and go from there to any European possessions, or if you find a European ship, find out from it the name of the coast, and go ashore and obtain any information you can; write everything down and bring it back so a map can be constructed from the information.

It is clear from the original instructions that they are not supportive of the traditional interpretation of the voyage. The instructions say nothing of a Northeast passage or determining the relationship between Asia and North America. In fact, Peter assumes the two continents are joined as one and he does not ask Bering to further investigate into his assumption.

Though Bering discovered no land connection between the continents it is likely he believed such a land bridge existed farther West of where he had explored.

Yet another proposed reason behind the first expedition, argued by Carol Urness, involves settlement of a problem relating to the Russian maps at the time. The map made by Johann Homann in 1723 was the chief map of Siberia used at the time. Urness argues against Polevoi and Fisher's interpretations of the reasons behind the expedition. She argues that Bering was to discover whether or not a land labeled "incognita" on the Homann map (to the Northeast of the Eastern end of Siberia) was part of America. Having found that the land in question was part of Siberia and not America Bering figured he had completed his objective for the mission and decided to turn back, as he was only to go on to America if there was such a land connection as the one in question.

There is ample documentation regarding the destination and purpose of the Second Kamchatka Expedition, unlike the first. Bering proposed the second expedition to develop the land and infrastructure of Eastern Siberia in order to pave the way for large scale exploration necessary to establish trade between Japan and the native populations of North America and to exert better control over Russia's borders in the East. Fisher asserts that Bering was not interested in solving the problem of whether Asia and America are connected by land or not. The overland routes across Siberia were difficult to traverse and transporting goods and materials by land took too long. Finding the Northeast sea route was important for trade, not to quell scientific curiosity.

The Russian government added further objectives to the second expedition. Included in these further reasons were voyages from Kamchatka to America and Japan, looking for undiscovered islands between Russia and America and to bring them under Russian control, to explore the resources of these new lands so that they can be exploited later on, and to write a natural history of all the lands discovered. They also planned to extend the Russian Empire to all the native populations that would be discovered, the area that would become Alaska. [4]


[1] Page 5. Raymond H. Fisher, Bering's Voyages: Whither and Why. Seattle and London, University of Washington Press,1977.
[2] Page 5. Fisher.
[3] Page 73. Fisher.
[4] Page 34. Gerhard Friedrich Müller, Translated with Commentary by Carol Urness, Bering's Voyages: The Reports From Russia. Fairbanks, The University of Alaska Press, 1986.

06 August 2011

Why Study History (Exerpt 2)

The following is a footnote that occupies roughly one entire page in 2500 word "Why Study History," now the second longest post:

Ben Franklin talks about people being willing to sacrifice liberty or freedom for security, but I don't think this is the case. Certainly since 9/11 the American people have given up a lot of freedom – the Patriot Act, TSA gate rape, warrantless wire taps, extraordinary rendition – but the country is no safer than it was on 9/10. for all the freedom the American people have surrendered, they have gained no real security, only the illusion of security.

Counter-terrorism advances only in light of failed attacks. Someone tries to blow up their shoe, you now have to take your shoes off; someone tries to blow up a condom, you now have to get gate raped. The counter-terrorists are only responding to things terrorists have done in the past. There is talk now of suicide bombers with surgically implanted explosives that cannot be detected by the fancy X-ray machines that former DHS Secretary, Michael Chertoff, made a lot of money off of, or the enhanced pat downs, and let us not forget that infants and a terminally ill elderly woman have to be strip searched because they really are plausible terrorists.

Nor is this anything new. Morgan Stanley security chief Rick Rescorla warned the Port Authority of the possibility of a truck bomb attack against the World Trade Center before the 1993 bombing. Only afterward were security measures put in place to prevent additional ground-level attacks, and Rick warned that the next attack would come from someone flying a plane into the towers. He spent the better part of the next decade preparing for that attack and saved thousands of lives, at the cost of his own.

Merely reacting to terror acts is not enough. Independent thinkers must be allowed to think ahead to future and novel attacks. This being said, I am not here to prescribe solutions to terrorism. These examples only serve to demonstrate the point I was making regarding security. People do not surrender their freedom for actual security, but for the illusion of security, and that illusory security is borne out of the need for convenience. Much as people may be inconvenienced by gate rape it would be even more inconvenient to challenge authority and demand a total overhaul of government. Giving up thought and responsibility to government is a whole lot more convenient than the alternative, and thus we sacrifice our freedom and are no better off than we were a decade ago.

05 August 2011

S&P Downgrade US Credit Rating

Standard&Poor's downgraded the US credit rating from AAA to AA+ (one level lower) on Friday because Congress increased the "debt ceiling" and refused to make real spending cuts (they "promised"* to cut almost the same amount they raised it, over ten years, meaning net increase in the short term and a balanced budget by the time I'm an old man, or possibly dead, and then only temporarily until debt increases ahead of spending cuts). S&P said that if the US doesn't get its act together they might downgrade the credit rating again in 12 to 18 months. Right now the safest treasuries in the world are from the UK, and you've seen the turmoil they are in.

Why is it called a debt "ceiling" if they can just keep raising it? Why not call it a "debt nebulous thing to distract the public from how they're getting screwed?" My guess is because that name is too long. It's like how "jury of complete and utter morons who are unqualified to make decisions on these matters" is rendered "jury of your peers."

In better news, I've written a 300 word footnote to "Why Study History," covering two pages, explaining the term "center of gravity." I estimate the whole thing, when completed, will be between eight and ten-thousand words long, making it the longest Urban Mystic post ever.

*When politicians make promises, they are, in fact, lies.

01 August 2011

NASA: "There's No Climate Change" or Killing a Dead Horse

In the first episode of the Dilbert television series the Boss explains why Dilbert and his employees must invent a new product; a process that leads Dilbert to a lot of trouble and anxiety. The conversation goes as thus:

Boss: Well, troops, I assume you've all been informed on the problems with our flagship product.
Everyone: *various replies in the negative*
Boss: Well, there's no point in killing a dead horse.
Dilbert: You mean 'there's no point in beating a dead horse.'
Boss: Why would anyone beat a dead horse?
Dilbert: Why would anyone kill a dead horse?
Boss: Maybe it'd kick you.
Dilbert: It's dead!
Boss: And so is every customer who used our flagship product.

This subject of there being no climate change/global warming (hide the decline) seems to me like killing a dead horse. The horse is already dead: all the evidence has already obliterated the alarmist climate predictions, and yet, again and again, I as well as others must slay this already slain horse and present even more evidence that there is no climate change.

A new NASA study from 2000 to 2011 has shown that the upper atmosphere is letting "far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted."

Dr. Roy Spencer and his team have discovered that "real-world data from NASA's Terra satellite contradict multiple assumptions fed into alarmist computer models," and that "increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide trap far less heat than alarmists have claimed."

Just like with extinction rates and probably everything else in the universe, actual data trumps assumptions these "scientists" of today are putting into their computer models. You would think "scientists" would know a thing or two about empiricism by now, but instead they keep relying on those damn models. The value of a model is organizing data after the fact so it can be better understood in a greater context, not substituting for data.

James Taylor writing for Forbs comments, "The new findings are extremely important and should dramatically alter the global warming debate. Scientists on all sides of the global warming debate are in general agreement about how much heat is being directly trapped by human emissions of carbon dioxide (the answer is "not much")."

He ends with the following statement (that I am in total agreement on):

"When objective NASA satellite data, reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, show a "huge discrepancy" between alarmist climate models and real-world facts, climate scientists, the media and our elected officials would be wise to take notice. Whether or not they do so will tell us a great deal about how honest the purveyors of global warming alarmism truly are."