25 QUESTIONS

A few months ago I published 25 Answers to questions readers of Quora.com took the time to ask me, because they trusted that I knew what I was writing about. Yes, the world is sad and easily fooled by pontificators posing as experts. I confess, I am one of them.

I am a bona-fide pontificator and intend to continue pontificating until I can no longer remember my name.

The response to my blog-bag of answers was underwhelming to the point where I wondered whether I should ever inflict another anthology of eclectic curiosities on any group of readers anywhere in the world.

Yes!  I decided. Of course I will. I love to read what I write!

When I forget what I once knew, I read my posts and remember how smart I was when I could remember stuff. It’s a good feeling. Someday I hope my grandchildren will understand why I don’t remember their names or how old they are. Someday I hope they will get what I’m talking about.

Brain-dead and happy is a wonderful combination, and I have it. Yes I do. It is wonderful. I feel happy and content most of the time.

My mother had Alzheimer’s for years. It was a peculiar variation where she could remember twenty-five quips and jokes, which she repeated to anyone who would listen. Sometimes she wondered what was wrong with her. She asked about it, sometimes.

She always forgot the answer, but to the end she never forgot her repertoire of sure-fire laugh lines. Mom delighted us to the very end of her life, God bless her.

Anyway, I know stuff, and I’m no longer afraid to share. I would say I am becoming fearless.

This essay is a collection of 25 more questions that people from around the world have asked, and I have dared to answer. The last Quora post was mostly math and physics. Not this time. Here the answers focus more on politics, philosophy, religion, and other esotery.

Oh, I might slip a science or math question in here or there for the nerds I know are out there who love me and hang on my every word.

Here goes.

How is it “just” for jails to be privately owned in the U.S.?

Allowing private citizens to own the means-of-incarceration is as insane as it is unjust and undemocratic.

Since 1984 America has allowed people to sequester as much wealth as they can manage. The looting, cheating, and chicanery that has resulted has turned America into one of the most corrupt, cruel, and unfair countries the world has ever known.

The result is that now we have an associate of a powerful Russian cartel serving as our president. Are we really going to allow his friends to own our prisons?

Are we out of our minds?

The situation is far worse than you can imagine.

Billionaires run the media. You aren’t going to hear about ways of organizing our country that are in opposition to their consensus about how things should be done. What passes as “dissent” on shows like Rachel Maddow, for example, has the backing of some billionaire somewhere.

We don’t know the names of the people who run our country. They don’t run for office. They do buy the services of office holders on both sides of the aisle — GOP and Democrat. It’s disturbing, especially when people finally realize that they are at bottom mere slaves with no real power. If voting made a difference, would billionaires allow it? Would you, if you were rich? I don’t think so.

Even now, confidence in our electoral system is being undermined. Reality Winner, the NSA contractor who exposed Russian tampering with our election results, rots in jail; she can’t obtain bail. The media doesn’t cover her. They want us to forget all about her.

Keeping Reality incarcerated undermines confidence, because it makes it seem like the government has something to hide about our election process.

Is Something Wrong With America?

Capitalism and Income Inequality


2 – What does Elon Musk think about religion?

RISK

Elon believes (correctly) that the risk of a future human extinction event approaches certainty over a very short period of time that can be estimated to be in the hundreds of years or less.

Elon believes we are in a race against catastrophe; humans are special and must be protected; one way to reduce extinction probabilities for humans is to establish populations on other planets and moons.

There are only 165 or so rocky (solid) bodies in the solar system with enough gravity that humans can walk on them. Places where large populations can survive are fewer than five and could be as few as absolute zero.

Mars has special problems for human survival that must be solved. It has no protection from high energy radiation and cosmic rays. It lacks a magnetosphere and the atmospheric gases like nitrogen and oxygen that are opaque to harmful rays and particles. Elon believes these problems will be solved and that the risk of extinction can be reduced if we establish vigorous colonies there.

He has hope where most informed people do not. My hope is that we can avoid extinction on the earth, but our volatile climate and frequent ice ages are difficult to overcome.

We also have new and unusual risks associated with our technologies —biological, nuclear, AI, totalitarianism, resource depletion, and runaway climate change.

Natural risks include asteroid strikes, super nova irradiation, and volcanism. These natural risks are likely to be the same (or larger) on other bodies in the solar system as they are on Earth.

Two human-like species are known to have gone extinct in the geological record. (Some anthropologists say it’s three.) Human populations experienced a near extinction event 70,000 years ago when the total population collapsed to less than 4,000 individuals.

I do not know what Elon Musk thinks about organized religion.

I see religion as a brake on the tendency of humans to kill each other, which history teaches has sometimes been effective and at other times has not. Sometimes strongly held religious beliefs lead to war.

On one thing humans agree: they love to fight.

3 – What is the greatest achievement in human history?

Blaise Pascal said that civilization advanced when people finally understood that being the son of a Queen did not qualify someone to be a King.

Nepotism kills civilizations and impedes human progress. An example is the president bringing in his family to manage the United States, presumably because loyalty trumps ability.

The cascading catastrophe that is enveloping us will soon teach anyone who is teachable that placing loyalty to a “king” above the ability to serve our country is one of the many roads that leads nations to ruin.

4 – Why is there a lot of woo-woo surrounding the double slit experiment?

If you shot a BB gun once every five minutes for two weeks at a steel plate that had cut into it two quarter-inch slits, you wouldn’t expect to find 25 or so tidy columns of holes in the wall behind when you were done. People who have done this experiment with atomic scale particles always say “woo” after, because the phenomenon makes no sense.

The mathematics to describe the phenomenon is the same as that used to explain wave-behavior. The problem is this: even if you shoot one wave packet at a time (using photons) instead of solid BB-like particles (like Buckyballs), no one expects that over a few weeks tidy columns will form on the back wall that look like wave interference. The reason for the pattern is a total mystery.

5 – What is the origin of geometric shapes (triangle, circle, cube, etc.)?  If the universe was governed by different laws, would it be possible that these concepts would also be different?

People speculate about the origins of idealized shapes that don’t occur in nature (except approximately). People seem to crave symmetry. They don’t like cognitive dissonance, uncertainty, or ambiguity.

People who are dissonant-intolerant are easy to manipulate. Politicians prey on people’s discomfort by offering simple solutions in return for votes. The result is always disillusionment, because nothing involving people is simple.

Nothing in nature is simple, either.

Triangles, circles, and cubes seem simple because of their symmetries. They appeal to the simple-minded among us — which is 99% of the population, right? It might be 100% if mathematics and language are insufficient to understand ultimate reality.

Einstein had this theory that only mass and energy exist. They are equivalent; they are two sides of the same coin. Space and time are a consequence, not a cause.

Space-time was described by tensor-metrics, and the metrics show that space-time does not have to be flat.

Lines can be thought of as geodesics, which are “straight” only when the metrics of space-time are “flat”. When the metrics “curve” space-time (as they do near massive objects) parallel lines might be parallel in one place only, as lines of longitude on Earth are parallel in one place only — at the equator.

The laws of physics seem unlikely, because twenty or so constants in nature have been discovered that can’t be derived and seem to make no sense. All these constants have been revealed by experiments and seem to be irrational. One example is the constant “α” (alpha), which is discussed in the first link that follows this answer.

Stephen Hawking said that the odds against a universe configured like ours are 1E500, which is close to an infinity. But Stephen Wolfram says that at the heart of the universe is a simple algorithm. In his view the algorithm, if we ever discover it, will prove that our universe is the only configuration possible.

Who knows?

Fine Structure Constant

Conscious Life

6 – What salary in the United States puts you in the top 10%, top 5%, top 2%, and top 1% in terms of salary?

All anyone needs to know about train-wreck America is that half of all black families live on less than $40K per year; half of all non-black families live on less than $75K per year. It’s hard to imagine that families can survive, let alone prevail, on so little income.

The USA is segregated by income and race. Poor people have no idea how easy life is for the wealthy; the wealthy don’t believe America has poverty.

I have five sons and one daughter. Only two of the six are in the top 1%. The most talented one, an assistant professor of kinetic art at a major university, is in the bottom half. His brothers give him money so he can get by.

Gross inequality isn’t right.

Capitalism and Income Inequality

7 – Modern humans appeared 200,000; civilization 10,000; and advanced technology 500 years ago. Why no advancement for something like 190,000 years?

Technology advances when survival demands it. Wars involving large populations did not become possible until about 3,000 years ago, because human populations were small.

Technology (to wage war) began to advance when population size increased; war technology percolated into the general population during peacetime.

70,000 years ago the human population collapsed to what some anthropologists believe was fewer than 4,000 individuals. The climb back took a long time because the world was in an ice age until 15,000 years ago or so. It has taken time to reach seven billion individuals.

The good news is that advances in technology and science are no longer driven by war, but by the preparation for war. Entertainment, comfort, convenience, and other factors drive inventors to bring clever technologies to peacetime populations.

Avoidance of war should become the highest priority of humankind from here on out, or we might suffer a catastrophic population collapse that would most certainly set back human development for hundreds of thousands of years.

Extinction is another possibility. At least two intelligent hominid species are known to have gone extinct during the past 200,000 years. There may be others.

Sorry for the short answer. The list of technologies and natural catastrophes that can annihilate homo sapiens is long. Click the following link to read about most of them.

RISK

8 – Should the USA build a competing Status-6 Oceanic Multipurpose System (Doomsday) Nuclear warhead?

Enough Pu239 has already been produced in weapons and processed from nuclear fuel rods to sterilize planet Earth of all life.

One country, Japan, has isolated 47 tons of Pu239 from fuel rods, is adding 8 tons per year, and has complained on NHK television that they don’t know what to do with it. Ten pounds is enough to make one atomic bomb.

Plutonium 239 is bomb making material. Japan has 94,000 pounds. It is producing 16,000 pounds per year. Twelve pounds makes one high-yield bomb.

The level of toxicity of Pu239 dust has recently become controversial. My understanding is the traditional one: the speck of brown dust that kills you, you will never see.

The half-life of Pu239 is 24,000 years. Risk studies (which include about a dozen hazards not related to plutonium) have shown that the chance that homo sapiens will survive a catastrophic population collapse during the next 24,000 years is less than one-in-a-million.

Humans can’t baby-sit all the plutonium that exists in facilities on every continent and keep life on earth safe from annihilation by contamination. The warheads and storage facilities are going to rot over time, and the earth will soak up the poisons left behind like vinegar in a sponge.

Doomsday is not a question of whether-or-not but of fast-or-slow. There is no upper limit to the size of a hydrogen bomb, so fast is doable. A rogue group with enough resources could construct a bomb powerful enough to obliterate the earth.

No one can undo the poisons that now exist, so slow is inevitable.

47 TONS

RISK

9 – What is the evolutionary reason that human beings are superficial and attracted to external appearances more than towards intrinsic qualities such as intelligence, character, integrity, honesty and virtuosity?

My reading and life experience tell me that humans are attracted to symmetry.

There could be any number of reasons, but it is easy to argue that symmetry seems to create less stress in those who encounter it, which may make them more receptive (and less reluctant) to mate with those who have it.

Reduction of cognitive dissonance is a major driver of conscious-life; symmetry seems to reduce dissonance in sentient beings like humans.

Interest by humans in mathematics and art seems to confirm, at least to my mind, that folks are driven to imbibe “harmonies” and “patterns” in nature; these symmetries provide them with reassurance that the world is not hostile and that happiness and reduction of stress is possible in the face of accidents, disease, and predators.

Intelligence, character, integrity, honesty and virtuosity are qualities that are not easily perceived and can even be illusory. People are good at feigning all these qualities to manipulate others to satisfy their needs — especially their sexual appetites and their desire for power over others.

Symmetry is not easily disguised (or the lack of it, even with good grooming) and can be an indicator of good mental and physical health, because symmetrical (attractive) people tend to have higher status and are in general less traumatized by mistreatment (on average) than people who do not have this physical quality.

People may mate with high symmetry individuals and later discover than the intangible moral qualities that they value in a life-partner are missing. Such a discovery can lead to separation, but meanwhile offspring have been spawned who have high levels of symmetry, and the process of selection for this quality continues unabated into future generations.

Yes, I have no evidence that this conjecture is correct; it’s not my field, but it seems to be a factor in the world I find myself.

10 – How does Russia stay on par with the USA in many high-tech military systems when their GDP and military budget is so small by comparison? Shouldn’t we be light-years ahead of them by now?

USA military spending is deceptive and classified.

The United States has 800 bases inside 70 countries. It is at war with every country that doesn’t do what it’s told.

Since the end of WW2, the USA has attacked one-fourth of the 195 countries on the earth. Depending on who counts, the USA has killed between ten and sixty-five million people, most of them civilians. Injured people are uncountable.

The high casualty rates are due to the way it fights. The USA bombs the enemy to rubble, then moves in a few troops supported by large numbers of indigenous mercenaries to deny the rubble to the enemy.

Take two countries the size of the USA and put them side by side. The land area is less than Russia. Russia is huge. Its entire population is technically literate.

In the USA, only elites are educated. The vast majority of Americans are poorly trained, because public education is underfunded and neglected. Under the American system, education doesn’t generate profits for the wealthy, so they won’t support it.

Because America is segregated by race and income, it is difficult for visitors to get a sense of how poor the general population is. Wealthy Americans are in complete denial of the simple truth that their country is a train wreck for 75% of the people who live in it.

People with the money to travel don’t explore urban ghettos or rural wastelands. They don’t know things, nor do they want to know.

The USA has the world’s biggest and cruelest prison system for a reason.

Think about it.

Every country in the world, including Russia, is trying to avoid the wrath of the United States. They say nice things to us so we won’t hurt them. They build as much deterrence as they can to avoid being attacked or embargoed.

It’s simple, really.

KILLING FRENZY

11 – Has anyone considered leaving the USA because of the gun laws?

Anyone who has to carry a gun to feel safe is living in the wrong place. My recommendation is to move to safety ASAP.

The guns that many civilians own today inflict shattering injuries that no one who is shot can recover from. The slugs are high velocity and tumble. They are designed in non-conformance with the Geneva accords and are diabolical work-arounds.

I would rather die myself than fire one of these weapons at another human being, no matter what they’ve done.

We have police and soldiers who are trained to inflict mayhem when necessary to protect civilians from human predation. Why not let them do their jobs while we civilians throw our war guns away?

Carrying a high-powered weapon into a wild area that is rife with people-eating predators might be a good idea under some circumstances. I don’t have a problem with defense-by-gun against wild animals who might be trying to kill for food or fun.

My recommendation is to travel in wild areas in a way that doesn’t unnecessarily encourage attack by dumb and innocent animals — because, can we face facts? — they don’t know any better.

Animals have a right to live in a natural way and not be provoked. People are smart enough to travel in the wild and avoid unnecessary contacts with carnivores.

ILLUSIONS

12- What would happen to Hitler if he was captured today?

Well, I believe he would be released and featured in the next GOP presidential debates, win the Republican nomination, lose the popular vote by millions in the general election but win the electoral college, and become president.

As a lunatic with delusions of grandeur, he might do very well indeed.

I don’t think he would kill nearly a hundred million people like he did the last time around. It is more likely closer to two billion. But hey, that leaves five billion humans to abase themselves before him, so it would be worth it, right?

Republicans, can I hear an Amen?

BILLIONAIRE CHRISTIANS

13 – Would you consider the USA a noble superpower when compared to other superpowers like Russia and China?

The billionaires who run the USA believe that private ownership is noble and that public ownership is ignoble. They are in a war against any form of socialism or collectivism.

Since the end of WW2, the wealthy have used the military power of the United States to attack one-fourth of the 195 countries on the earth to prevent a cascade of civilizations into communism. This war has, with a few exceptions, been enormously successful.

Today, they are fighting to consolidate their power. The billionaires of Russia, China, Israel, and the USA are dividing the world up like the New York City crime families tried to do a few generations ago (watch the Godfather Trilogy or read the book by Mario Puzo).

Private ownership (called Capitalism) is a permutation of slavery that can be corrupting to democratic governance — as is obvious to any observer of U.S. history.

CAPITALISM AND INCOME INEQUALITY

CIVILIZATION AND INEQUALITY

KILLING FRENZY

14 – How do you interpret human consciousness? Are you the center of the universe?

Consciousness is the fundamental and foundational principle of the universe. Conscious life plugs into this foundational consciousness in a way analogous to televisions plugging into a cable outlet. A television can be unplugged and replaced. But the cable programming continues. It is eternal. Consciousness is at the center of the universe. Conscious life is at the periphery.

CONSCIOUS LIFE

15 – How would slavery have evolved in society if it was not seen as morally wrong?

“Capitalism” is the modern term for slavery. Owners of plantations, factories, and other businesses accrue the benefits of the plantation owners of former times.

Instead of providing slave quarters and food to their slaves, they pay a tiny stipend (called a minimum wage) to their laborers, which frees owners from the additional responsibility of caring for and protecting workers.

Putting the burden of housing, food, health care, and transportation on the backs of low-paid workers is called “freedom.”

The legal system disciplines unruly workers, while the state unemployment system helps dissatisfied owners replace those workers they believe are unfit.

For a small percentage of Americans, it’s a beautiful system.

Because the USA segregates workers both by race and income, most poor people don’t interact with the wealthy. This lack of contact between rich and poor reduces conflict and promotes peaceful living.

SEGREGATION AND THE GATED COMMUNITY

16 – Who was the most powerful human being that ever lived?

The most powerful person in human history was Jesus of Nazareth.

Modern calendars are organized based on the date of his birth. No one else holds that honor.

He taught the world that love — and suffering to love and save others — is what makes life worth living.

Billions of people have submitted their lives to the cause of Jesus, the Christ.

No other human comes close.

JESUS, THE CHRIST

17 – Which among these countries is the best to live? Canada, USA or Australia? Why?

My question is, which country is the best place to live if you are poor? Most people are born poor.

If people go on living by being born again after they die, the odds that they will be born impoverished is high regardless of how well they lived in their prior life. That’s why its important to make the world a good place to live for impoverished people.

Does anyone seriously believe that they only live once? Consciousness continues somewhere, and it’s all there is, right? Absent conscious-life the universe can have no meaning.

I believe Cuba is the best place to live if you are poor, because it has a good climate and the government tries to provide services to ordinary people that are available only to the well-to-do in places like Canada, Australia, and the USA.

People might want to go to Cuba to find out how the poor live on that island. Then come back and observe how the poor live in their own countries.

The United States is segregated by income and wealth, so it’s hard to find poor people if you are rich, and if you are poor it is impossible to meet rich people.

CUBA

HEY GUEVARA

CONSCIOUS LIFE

18 – Trump wants to develop a lot of smaller, “tactical” nukes. Should the US use these against North Korea?

The USA bombed North Korea back to the Stone Age during the Korean War.

It killed an estimated two million civilians. The bombing was led by General Curtis LeMay of the Strategic Air Command who later partnered with George Wallace when he ran for president back in the 1960s and carried several states including Michigan (if I remember it right).

Wallace was a white supremacist. The Air Force’s own official historians have called LeMay’s bombing of North Korea the cruelest use of military power in world history.

This is the same General who destroyed 67 Japanese cities and burned their populations alive with napalm (fire-jelly) during WW2.

North Korea has done nothing to justify a military strike against its territory.

Nuclear weapons of any size or type should never be used in war, especially when there is nothing to be gained but the reputation for being a monster.

What does Korea have that we could possibly want? The answer is, nothing.

We have a choice to make: are we good or evil? Our destiny depends on how we answer that question.

KILLING FRENZY

47 TONS

19 – I am terrified of single-payer systems as implemented in socialist countries. Can this happen in the US? Was Obama trying to give everyone healthcare all along?

The USA is based on a slave system (now referred to as capitalism or free-market) where the owners of the plantations have doctors, which they share with their favorite house slaves. The field hands get nothing. The plantation owners are terrified that they might have to share their doctors with “unworthy” people should a slave revolt occur, so they have built the world’s most massive prison system to isolate slaves who might dare challenge the status quo.

In other words, people have to work for the right company and have the right job to get access to free health care. Very few do.

The system is so simple, a child can understand it.

Obama threw a wrench into the system by making it possible for people who work for the wrong companies (or who don’t work at all, for whatever reason) to buy access to health care for a reduced fee. Care is still expensive, but it’s not totally out of reach anymore for about three-quarters of the population.

In Cuba (for example) every neighborhood and apartment complex has a doctor assigned to it. What could be more effective than walking down the hall or across the street to be evaluated? If necessary folks are referred for further treatment to a hospital. Otherwise they get the meds they need, and that’s as complicated and inconvenient as it gets.

I grew up in a Navy family. We had free health care. If you got sick, you just drove to the base hospital and the doctors evaluated you. No paper work, no fees. It was a “single-payer” socialized system of medicine. It was better than what we have today as civilians except that protocols, equipment, and medicines are more effective today than they were sixty years ago when I was in that Navy system.

It’s hard for me to believe that this is a serious question by a serious person, but clueless people in the USA are subject to sophisticated behavioral modification protocols due to the immense amount of money that is involved in medicine and drugs, as well as guns, entertainment, food, and transportation.

So it isn’t surprising that people fear a lot of things that aren’t dangerous and are oblivious to dangers that are serious. It’s all about helping a relatively few families and cartels sequester the lion’s share of our nation’s resources.

Someday, maybe things will become more fair than they are now. I hope so.

OBAMA CARE AND THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

CAPITALISM AND INCOME INEQUALITY

20 – Why is it assumed that America invented slavery when slavery has been around for much of human history?

America practiced one of the cruelest forms of slavery. It is the only country in the western hemisphere where slave revolts were successfully suppressed.

Today, slavery has been renamed; it is called capitalism. In the USA, slaves are called workers and are free to live outside the gated communities of the wealthy. Workers are segregated by income to minimize the possibility of unrest.

The USA continues to prevent a successful slave revolt by maintaining the largest prison system by far that the world has ever known.

ARMAGEDDON

SEGREGATION AND THE GATED COMMUNITY

21 – What was the worst year of slavery?

Two-thirds of white people came to America as slaves, called indentured servants. This practice started 150 years before the country became a constitutional republic and continued for many decades after. Indentured servitude was a seven year term of slavery that ended in freedom.

For Africans slavery was permanent. 100% of Africans came to America as slaves for life. There were notable exceptions. Billy Lee, George Washington’s slave and best friend, was set free when George Washington died; Billy Lee continued to live on GW’s Mount Vernon estate as a free man until his death.

WHO IS BILLY LEE?

22 – Is it true that until humans become one nation, we will never go further than Mars?

Organizing a human mission to Mars is expensive and dangerous. A coalition of nations might be able to manage the expense and risk.

Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, is planning a Mars mission. I haven’t heard how the company plans to finance it.

Mars has an iron-nickel core like the earth, but it froze solid many millions of years ago. The magnetic field collapsed, which permitted the solar wind to blow away most of the planet’s atmosphere.

Any biological life forms on or near its surface will have to withstand the stress of continuous, high-energy radiation and the bombardment by cosmic particles with the energy of baseballs.

Travel to planets or moons as far as Jupiter and beyond will take many years.

Unless humans are heavily sedated, it is doubtful that they will be able to endure a journey of several years in a cramped space vehicle. They will lose muscle mass and possibly their sanity — certainly their perspectives that help them maintain a sense of normalcy.

Successful functioning by humans on an alien moon or planet after a journey of several years might not be possible no matter who organizes the trip or what precautions are taken.

FINDING LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

23 – To Christians: Which scientific claims are incompatible with your faith, and why?

Science confirms my faith, because it seems to be saying that reality is mind-boggling; the odds against a universe constructed like ours with its unusual forces and constants seems to be infinite.

Jesus came to save the ignorant and the despised of the world, which is pretty much everyone. He avoided the subject of science altogether, for good reason.

No reasonable person can believe that the universe started with the big bang of a singularity that then inflated rapidly to create the conditions for conscious life with enough intelligence to understand its origins. That’s cray-cray, but it’s how astronomers explain the universe.

Even with all we know, the underlying reality of existence remains a complete mystery. If Jesus came to earth today, would he talk science to humanity?

I seriously doubt it. I don’t believe humans are hard-wired to understand how the universe works or what reality is. We evolved in an unusually safe place and time in the universe and carry with us all the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies that accompany our unlikely presence.

The Bible says plainly that one day people who have ridiculed the salvation of Christ Jesus will be asked why they didn’t look up at the night sky and wonder why it is that they are so small and dark while the night sky is so large and bright.

How could serious people have missed such an important clue? How could they misunderstand their predicament and the possibility that one day they might realize their hopes and dreams through the love of God who created, cares for, and protects them?

SENSING THE UNIVERSE

RESURRECTION

24 – Keeping the knowledge you have today, would you rather travel a thousand years into the future, or a thousand years into the past?

The risks to survival that faced individuals a thousand years ago far exceed the risks that people will face a thousand years from now, if humans survive another thousand years.

The counter-intuitive statistical reality is that the odds against species survival are actually higher than the odds against the survival of an individual human, should the human species manage to stay viable during the next thousand years.

Most analysts of risk are suggesting that homo sapiens do not have much time left before extinction overwhelms them.

At least two human-like species have already gone extinct during the geological record. The particular species that thrives today (us) faces risks brought on by its technological expertise, which is certain to destroy it eventually.

I would choose to go forward in time, but I would do so with a great deal of fear knowing the old adage that curiosity kills the cat.

If everything turns out all right, the big question would be, how do uneducated, stupid people do in this new world?

Because uneducated and stupid might be exactly what anyone will be who dares to travel one-thousand years into the future.

RISK

25 – What are ways one can approach a complex idea that we don’t understand?

Complex ideas are of two kinds: ideas that one or more people understand, but other’s don’t; and ideas that no one understands.

In the case where humans exist who understand the complex idea, the objective should be to engage them to learn what they know either by talking to them or by reading what they have published. One hopes by this process to gather enough clues to guide oneself to further inquiries and encounters that will lead eventually to understanding.

Many complex ideas require skills in certain subsets of knowledge like mathematics, languages, logic, philosophy, and the technical arts (such as metallurgy or whatnot) to make progress.

In the case where the complex idea can be demonstrated and stated, but no one understands it (an example is “entanglement” in quantum physics) the approach is different. In these cases, it may not be possible to create a model of any kind in anyone’s mind that reduces the annoying dissonance that comes from not understanding.

People waste a lot of time — some go mad — trying to understand ideas that no one understands or will ever understand. Most people seem to believe (in error, it seems to me) that everything can be understood if smart people work hard and are clever.

This idea, which I believe, that complete understanding is not possible is a complex one that no one understands, including me.

TRUTH

BONUS QUESTION 1 – In history, humans have fought and killed each other for every piece of land on the Earth. Why has the massive continent of Antarctica always been out of that conflict?

This absence of conflict may be coming to an end. A National Geographic reporter has been reporting on alarming developments during the past several years that the fake news has all but ignored.

ANTARCTICA

BONUS QUESTION 2 – Why did mankind invent religion?

As far as I can tell, no records of an ancient civilization without religion have been discovered. I think that it is very scary to be suddenly aware that you exist and not know why — especially at night when wild animals roam freely and the sky is full of lights that shouldn’t be there.

LOSING MY RELIGION

Billy Lee

Editorial Board Recommendation:  We are encouraging readers to visit Quora.com to read responses by Billy Lee to hundreds of questions asked by curious people from around the globe.

CHOSEN

Fundamentalist Christians have the reputation for carte blanche support of everything Israel. Many citizens of Israel hold dual citizenship inside the United States. The third director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, is a dual citizen.

It’s not unusual. The current acting director, Elaine Duke, is the grandchild of Sicilian immigrants. Everyone in America comes from somewhere. Divided loyalties are as American as gluten-free apple pie. 

I mention it because since 2006 when George W. Bush was president, the Secretary of Homeland Security joined those in the line of succession. The line of succession is now seventeen names long. None are Democrats. Not right now. A few are independents like General Mattis, the Secretary of Defense. 

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine Duke. She is last in line to be president.

The Homeland Security Director is dead last on the list. The current acting director, Elaine Duke, is (in my humble opinion) the only person in the group who is actually qualified to be president. The list includes names like Steven Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson. Some on the list form a kind of rogue’s gallery of characters that could conceivably populate the cast of the classic, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. 

The USA’s crazy-Christian, comb-over president leads the list; he directs the country; he is on the top of the world. Like 81% of the fundamentalists who elected him, he is all-in for Israel. Whoever robs and kills in defense of Israel is fine with fundamentalists. They never criticize Israel, even in love. It doesn’t happen. 

The president says that he is moving our embassy to Jerusalem. He lies a lot, so who knows? According to him, Jerusalem is now the exclusive capital of Israel; it is no longer shared with Palestine—no matter what modern history and world opinion have to say.

The USA has the power to make truth and justice on the ground whatever it wants it to be. No need for negotiation. No reason to compromise. And by the way, settlements built on land confiscated from losers are just fine, no problems. Come on. Moral qualms? You’re kidding, right? 

Never mind that the Old City center of Jerusalem is segregated into quarters controlled and lived in by Armenians, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Never mind that the modern city is much larger; that nearly 40% of the population is Arab; that holy sites of all faiths abound.

The borders of biblical Israel and all the territories within are going to be re-established, just as they were three thousand years ago by God Himself. There is nothing to negotiate. No compromises will be necessary. Thank you very much. 

Christians support Israel, because they believe God has a covenant with modern-day Israel validated by words written in the book of Exodus thousands of years ago. The United States and Israel are joined at the hip like Siamese twins on this one. Israel might as well be added to the collection of fifty states that make the USA.

The reality, though, is that Israel is more like Washington DC. It’s not really a state—it’s a country, obviously—but it has influence on America beyond its size by half. What goes on in Israel affects the United States in big ways (or bigly, as the president likes to say).

Israel is the size of Chicago and its suburbs and has about the same population. Right? Its grip on the United States is vice-like. It rides the U.S. shark like a remora fish. Without its shark for protection, the remora fish gets eaten, like any other small fish in a big ocean. It must be protected.

I’m totally on board. Israel has enemies. The generation that parented the Jewish people who live in Israel today were nearly exterminated by Hitler. The post World War refusal of the west to take in refugees added to their determination to go home to their ancestral lands.

The problem was that people already lived in Israel and had for centuries. Despite the good faith efforts of the nations to broker peace and safety, every Arab neighbor attacked Israel on the day of its rebirth.

Israel won the military contest and occupied lands that international agreements said they had no right to hold. Refugees who had crossed the Jordan River to escape the conflict couldn’t come back. Israel locked them out. It now had a Palestinian problem that would never be solved.

Trust on both sides evaporated. The world today lives with the dangers, resentments, and hatreds that erupted from a failure to love one another during the years when it mattered most.

The Dome of the Rock is controversial within Israel and Palestine. Eighty kilograms of gold leaf cover the dome. At today’s close, the gold’s value is $3,600,307.60. The former King Hussein of Jordan sold one of his London homes in 1993 to raise the money. He died on February 7, 1999 at age 63 from complications of cancer. 

The world owes the Jewish people a safe place to live. They have suffered enough. In the meantime, we need to build a fairer world. Jews, despite the horrors they have endured, do not have a monopoly on suffering. Many people, including Palestinians, have gotten a raw deal. It’s time to set things right.

I don’t see fundamentalist Christians as being helpful. I’m not feeling the love. I’m not seeing an effort to understand that God loves people who are everywhere. People who God loves are sprinkled like salt among the Palestinians and the Jews of Israel.

These are the people that Christ Jesus gave his life to save. I’m not feeling the respect for Christ’s vision from the fundamentalists who right now have an opportunity to comfort the fearful and dispossessed on all sides. All sides. Believe it.

For Jewish people the stakes are particularly high given a history that repeatedly shows that when they don’t have safe haven, haters attack them. The United States and France can be safe places for the most part, but Israel is special. Israel is an established safe haven for Jews, period. They need one. The world, through the United Nations, established it. A lot of history backs the decision to help, some of it recorded in the Bible.

That said, no follower of Christ Jesus, no one who has read the Bible—New Testament, the Torah, the Prophets—believes that Israel was chosen by God to rule the world. I don’t have to quote the Bible. People know what the Lord requires. He asks people to love mercy, act justly, and walk humbly with their Creator. Does anyone believe it? 

Jesus didn’t immolate himself on a Roman cross because people are good, but because they are wicked. People chosen by Jesus don’t rule; they give up everything they have to serve and love others. It’s simple, really.

It’s not easy. Some say it’s impossible apart from the kind of love that was shown to us by a messiah who suffered.

When I studied Hebrew at a local Hillel school many years ago, a girl in the class actually said that Jews were chosen by God to rule the world. Israel would save the earth and bring light to dark. The rabbi nodded his assent. I asked what she thought about the concept of forgiveness. The rabbi waved his hand, and the group moved on.  

After class, the teacher pulled me aside. Grace is a Christian concept, he told me. Grace has no place in Judaism. 

The instructor locked eyes with me and explained in no uncertain terms that a fundamental tenet of my faith was crap. He intended to make an impression, and he succeeded.   

At about the same time a geneticist and his wife came from Israel to America to study at a nearby university. They had young kids the same age as mine. Somehow we met and liked each other. We became close friends. We visited their apartment from time to time. I noticed that they read the Bible to their children, so I asked about it. It’s our history, Yossi explained. We are atheists. But our children must learn who they are. 

A few months later we attended a summer dinner at a kiva on campus where a Jewish writer gave a short talk on Israel. We dressed-up and took the kids. Yossi, his family, and mine walked together on the pathway that led to the building.

I was surprised to learn that to get into the event we had to make our way past a line of about a hundred Palestinian demonstrators. It was like walking a gauntlet.

The protestors held signs, but the odd thing was they didn’t speak. They stayed quiet. It was eerie. More than a few wore ski-masks. They stared through eye-holes in silence. No smiles. I felt afraid. My stomach churned. I smelled fear in my nostrils, but Yossi seemed unfazed. I reached for my children and held their hands.

Weeks later, Yossi brought his family to visit at my place. To make polite conversation I asked Yehudith, his wife, about life in Israel. What was it like living there? She said that she didn’t want to go back. The air-raid sirens in Israel frightened her. When they wailed during the day they triggered panic attacks.

Yehudith and her husband were Sabras—native born Israelis. Born and raised in Jerusalem, they didn’t travel, because they had no money.

They knew no other life. I too was poor then. I was raising two children by myself and living in a small house. It was a thousand-square-feet with an unfinished basement. When Yossi and Yehudith first visited they said it must be a mansion. Yehudith marveled at its size and amenities.

She couldn’t believe how well-off we were. She marveled at how much stuff we had. She gasped at the size of our yard. In Jerusalem people didn’t have yards.

Yes, we did have a big yard. No one nearby had one that came close. It was lush and green. Its size was an accident of good fortune—the result of bad planning by developers.

I decided not to tell Yehudith that we were poor. I didn’t have it in me to make her feel worse. She wasn’t going to believe it anyway. 

Billy Lee 

47 TONS

While the Little Rocket Man and North Korea capture the world’s attention, our president is in Tokyo to deal with a threat that dwarfs anything we have faced since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 76 years ago.

The surprise attack against our Navy on Sunday morning, 7 December 1941, started a cascade of retaliation against the Japanese that three-and-a-half years later resulted in 67 Japanese cities burnt to ashes during a few months of sustained “fire-jelly” attacks by hundreds of Boeing-29 Superfortress bombers and other aircraft. After napalming the cities to dust, the United States followed the horror with a “preemptive” nuclear strike against the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Nine million Japanese civilians were left homeless. The death toll has never been definitively calculated, but two million souls is a reasonable guess.

The distance from Pyongyang, North Korea to Tokyo, Japan is 800 miles; to Hawaii, 4,400 miles; to Los Angeles, 6,000 miles; to Seattle, 5,150 miles; to Alaska, 3,200 miles. The border of North Korea meanders 25 to 50 miles from downtown Seoul, South Korea.

A few years after the stalemate of the Korean War, General Curtis LeMay—head of Strategic Air Command—claimed that his pilots had killed a similar number of Koreans by aerial bombardment—20% of the population.

The United States killed an estimated million Iraqi civilians in the more recent wars in the Middle East, which included the Gulf War and the Iraq War.

It killed two million Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam genocide of the 1960s and 70s.

In August 1945, USA bombers killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Millions were burned alive in fire-jelly (napalm) bombings, which decimated 67 cities over several months. Evacuation of cities helped to reduce casualties. 

Why am I bringing up a bunch of disturbing statistics? What’s the point? Why not leave unpleasant memories forgotten in a distant past where they can’t impact the happy lives we live now, not then?

What possible benefit can remembering the past confer upon our contented present? Why bother puking up a sour history that only the old-timers among us experienced? 

May I ask one more question? Maybe thinking about the answer will help some to make sense of current events that seem to have no rhyme or reason.

Of the fifty countries against which we have directed our military wrath since World War II, which among them has a right to the biggest grievance? Who did we hurt the most? 

Which country has been forced to endure the shame of a military occupation that never ends? Ok, maybe it sounds like more than one question. Deal with it. 

America fights secret and not so secret wars against communist, Islamic, western hemispheric, and, it turns out, African countries all the time. We have conducted strategic operations against friend and foe alike since World War II.

We have meddled in the internal politics of super powers like Russia and China. The Dalai Lama of Tibet wrote in his book Freedom in Exile that the United States gave him millions of dollars to incite violence against China, for example.

The USA has attacked militarily one in four of the 190 countries on the earth during the modern era. Which country is the one most likely to harbor a secret ambition for revenge?

America keeps itself in a state of perpetual war to feed the appetites of voracious weapons manufacturers whose stockholders are among the world’s most affluent. The AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force against terrorists) passed Congress, and President Bush signed the bill in August 2001 for a reason—to fuel the demands of arms dealers to free them from the inconvenience of securing approval by Congress to declare wars—which the Constitution demands. Only Barbara Lee (no relation to Billy Lee) of California voted against it.

Since 1991 Congress has passed and the president signed four AUMFs, mostly to cut down on the amount of work and resulting delays that are inevitable when large elected groups of representatives are compelled to go on record for or against any particular conflict. 

We in America live under a lot of illusions. We tell ourselves a lot of lies about how wonderful we are and how everyone wants to be like us. Our enemies who fear us the most insist—some of them anyway—that they love us; they want to live with us and be like us, and we tend to believe them.

No one tells a command officer who is carrying an automatic assault rifle that he is a pig; the term “butt-wipe” is never used. No one wants to die for a no good reason like name calling, for example. Our subjugates place flowers in the barrels of our guns and tell us they love us.

Everyone who has been shamed and humiliated prays for their day of liberation; the day of their revenge; the day the world is finally set right. It’s human nature. The desire to settle scores crosses cultural, religious, and geographical boundaries.

Few countries that have suffered cremation by fire of millions of their citizens forget. They don’t forgive. Think long and hard. It’s true.

For almost a year Billy Lee lived where he could view Mount Fuji from his bedroom window during his two-year stay in Japan. The Editorial Board

The situation in Japan is dire; it really is. The United States for some insane and goofy reason permitted the Japanese over the past thirty years to build the most sophisticated nuclear power grid the world has ever seen.

The USA sold the Japanese uranium-impregnated fuel rods. A by-product of their use (to produce the intense heat required to generate electricity) is plutonium. Instead of collecting and disposing the spent fuel rods, the Japanese built facilities to extract the plutonium. They promised to use the plutonium for fuel in advanced power generators called “fast reactors.” Fast reactors are, in theory, cheaper and less complicated; they are also more volatile; more dangerous to operate. 

After the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, the Japanese abandoned “fast reactors”. They discovered during the audits they conducted following the disasters at Fukushima and other facilities that their fast reactors had safety records that bordered on terrifying. They stopped using plutonium for fuel. With no place to “burn” the plutonium they were harvesting, it began to accumulate, bigly.

In the entire universe plutonium is found above trace amounts at one location and one location only: planet Earth. Plutonium went extinct due to radioactive decay billions of years ago. It can be created during rare cosmic events, but the bomb-making kind—Pu 239—is a manufactured element that does not occur in nature. It is a by-product of nuclear fission reactions. It hides itself within the matrix of elements that make up the remnants of spent fuel rods.

Plutonium is among the most poisonous substances known. The speck of plutonium dust that kills you, you will likely never see. Some scientists today have downplayed the lethality of plutonium 239. My advice is to be skeptical whenever vast amounts of money and power fuel a controversy.

Regardless of its lethality as a poison, no one argues that fourteen pounds is enough plutonium to make an atomic bomb of a construction so unsophisticated that a high schooler could fashion the necessary components in shop class. Sophisticated bombs require even less plutonium—a mere nine pounds.

This is what plutonium powder looks like. Japan has 94,000 pounds of it. 14 pounds are required for an unsophisticated bomb; 9 pounds for a sophisticated version.

Japan has harvested 47 tons (94,000 pounds) of high-grade plutonium from its nearly one-hundred or so nuclear power and processing plants, which include power plants, research reactors, fast reactors, reprocessing installations, and recently decommissioned facilities—decommissioned due mostly to safety concerns.

Japan’s production schedule is running at a frenetic pace—adding eight tons of surplus plutonium to its stockpile every year into the foreseeable future unless the United States is able to shut down Japan’s reprocessing installations with an agreement scheduled for negotiation in 2018. Our new president has said the old agreements won’t be changed.

By this time next year the Japanese will have accumulated enough high-grade Pu 239 to make as many as 12,000 atomic bombs. Should it make that choice, Japan will possess the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

Plutonium is heavy. Nine pounds of Pu 239 is the size of a softball. It is exactly the right size to construct a single atomic bomb. By this time next year Japan will possess enough Pu 239 to make 12,000 bombs.

What follows next in this essay is the scary part. Some readers might want to bail and maybe find a good comic book to occupy their imaginations.

Despite agreements with the United States that followed World War II, Japan has one of the largest military budgets in the world. The country spends 42 billion dollars per year on its military. This expenditure does not include its civilian nuclear power system or its civilian space exploration programs. 

The Japanese consolidated three civilian rocket launching companies into one (named JAXA) in 2003. They are launching rockets into space all the time. JAXA designed, built, launched, and maintains the largest module on the International Space Station. The Japanese have spacecraft in the asteroid belt and spy satellites in earth orbit. These are civilian programs. 

The Japanese have, over the past fifty years, resurrected RIKEN, the laboratory complex used in their atomic bomb program during WW2. The lab employed two cyclotons, which the United States destroyed in a bombing run in 1945.

Today RIKEN labs sprawl across the islands of Japan in dozens of complexes that are impossible to police. The labs are involved in so many areas of research that no one can keep track of it all even if they wanted to. Some of the research is diabolical. One administrator was found hanging by the neck in his office in 2014. Enough said.

Although the military budget of the United States seems huge, people might want to consider that the USA spends one-third of its military dollars on salaries and pensions. No other military spends as much. It maintains 800 military bases in 70 countries at an expense of $200 billion—an expense that other militaries simply don’t have. Japan spends about the same amount on defense as England, France, and Germany. A controversial argument can be made that the combined military might of Russia, China, Japan, and North Korea exceeds that of the United States. It is an argument that is hard to prove, because countries lie about their military expenditures, war-fighting readiness, and technical capabilities. The chart above is misleading in another important way, because it doesn’t include expenditures on nuclear weapons—their production, maintenance, and modernization—which are state secrets in all the countries that possess them.  

The Japanese don’t have to make bombs from their plutonium stores to wreak havoc on an adversary. They can pulverize the metal into aerosols and release plutonium dust into the air over cities.

They can load plutonium into drone subs like rumors say the Russians have done and set hundreds of them in the coastal waters of our country. The subs can lie in ocean sand and silt for decades before releasing their poisons, should it ever become necessary.

Their advanced missile technology might enable Japan to overwhelm our defenses by launching multiple warhead missiles over our homeland. It might take a few months, but poisoned populations would eventually succumb to the release of toxic dust.

And, should they choose to make bombs, well, any country with the resources of a country as sophisticated as Japan can turn high-grade plutonium into bombs in a few days; they can possess the capability to create hell on earth in the blink of an eye, anytime they choose. With the right (or wrong) leadership they can unleash a nightmare of suffering far worse than the inferno we inflicted on them 72 years ago.

This plant is the place where the Japanese extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods. The Japanese have admitted on NHK television that they have 94,000 pounds of plutonium that they have no use for nor any place to safely store.

Plutonium is an artificially produced killing material that no human being, company, or country should ever be allowed to possess or use. It is a forbidden apple of physics that can only bring anguish to whoever uses or shares it with others. 

Japan has the potential to threaten the world with the same level of terror as the United States, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, and who knows what other countries. Many countries are conducting (in secret) diabolical engineering even now and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

What could be worse? Believe it or not, our predicament might already be much worse than anyone in the USA is willing to think about or imagine.

What about the possibility that North Korea and China are playing a game of good cop / bad cop with our military planners? What if Japan is toying with the idea of leading an unholy alliance? Behind our backs? Do we really have enough Japanese-speaking spies to keep track of all the secret Samurai cults that might be conspiring at the highest levels of government. Do we?

What if Vladimir Putin thinks: The United States lied to me. I helped to elect an American president who is ineffective—a buffoon who can’t help me the way he promised. Let’s get ’em!

Imagine an alliance of China, North Korea, Russia, and Japan; an alliance led by the one country that has the greatest lust for payback; the strongest ache to settle scores once and for all.

A Hunkpapa Lakota holy man, Sitting Bull, had the vision that led to the defeat of the USA’s 7th Calvary Regiment on June 26, 1876—one week before the USA’s 100th anniversary. Five of seven battalions were decimated—one led by Civil War hero George Armstrong Custer. Sitting Bull became a celebrity who worked in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Later in life he became a leader of the Ghost Dance movement, which terrified whites, because it prophesied the exodus of white people from native American lands. Ten days before Christmas—on December 15, 1890 during an arrest by police on reservation property—Indian Affairs agents shot Sitting Bull in the head and chest in front of his family and friends. Agents removed his body to Fort Yates, where they buried him in a makeshift coffin.  

A surprise attack by such an alliance would be nation ending. It might end like the Battle of the Little Bighorn. We don’t have enough soldiers or missiles or ships to fight a gathering of tribes who possess tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.

The USA has the power to destroy the whole world if we must, but we can’t save ourselves; we can’t save our country; we can’t save the planet.

In the conflagration that took the hyper-alert Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer by surprise, all his ribbons and medals; all his accolades; all his friends in high places couldn’t save him, his men, or even his horses. The battle of the Little Bighorn was a massacre that dwarfed Custer’s reputation for being a really good person; a hero of the Civil War loved by every patriotic American.

To those who say, Billy Lee, you’ve gone paranoid on us… the Japanese would never organize an attack against America unawares… not a nuclear attack… they know how bad it would be… they suffered through one… they know better than anyone… and look at them, how they smile when we tell bad jokes. The last thing on their minds is revenge. The very last thing!

I say, you are so right!  The Japanese would never hurt us. I lived in Japan for two years after the war. The Japanese have their quirks, yes, but most of them are not cruel or insensitive. They don’t enjoy watching torture videos for entertainment, most of them. Tying up women and twisting their bodies to prepare them for rape is not something most Japanese men would have any part in. Am I right? Of course I am.

The Japanese are not monsters. They are a kind and gentle people who don’t farm or ranch or mine, because they are resource impoverished. When I lived there our Japanese house-maids and yard-boys were as sweet as they could be. They meant us no harm. I see that now. 

But how on earth are the Japanese going to get rid of the 47 tons of plutonium poison they have produced? And how will they dispose of the eight tons they plan to produce each year into perpetuity—plutonium which they admit has no longer any peacetime applications whatsoever?

Everybody knows plutonium has a radioactive half-life of 24,000 years. It’s never going to go away. Someday, through inattention or from whatever other cause, plutonium containment structures are going to rot, and the poison will leach into the soils, the oceans, and the atmosphere to kill all living things. It is Earth’s best case scenario—the scenario where nuclear war never happens, the world disarms, and plutonium is tucked away out of reach and out of sight of war makers and other terrorists.

The process that will sterilize the planet of all life is already well underway and cannot be stopped—not over a period of tens of thousands of years. Read the essay, RISK, elsewhere on this site. Humans are likely to be extinct by the time the unnatural poisons of war and opulence first make their advance against the innocent, less intelligent life-forms that we will leave behind—like chipmunks and kittens, for example—who will never be able to understand what is killing them or why.

Our new president is in Tokyo as I’m writing this essay. Anyone who asks him will learn—because he’s not afraid to say it—he is really smart and bigly educated. He understands people and how best to manipulate them to maximize his advantages and get what he wants. You don’t believe it?  Ask him—for the love of God—ask him. 

Maybe we should help the Japanese store their plutonium in a safe place—a place much safer than their earthquake tormented islands that float within the largest fisheries of the Pacific Ocean. We could store the plutonium perhaps deep in a cave somewhere. Maybe we could store it beneath the volcanic cauldrons of Yosemite—or some other remote location, like a trench astride the San Andreas fault.

Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s do that.

If we talk nicely, will the Japanese listen? Maybe they will, if our new president has the sense to ask. Does anyone have a better idea? For the love of God, tell someone. 

Billy Lee

ILLUSIONS

I read a report about the lunatic in Las Vegas; he was a multi-millionaire who owned nearly fifty high-powered guns plus a lot of other scary stuff. His dad was once on the FBI’s ten most wanted list—he was a fugitive for ten years.

These guns that many civilians now own were designed to shatter the bones and scramble the internal organs of victims—in violation of the spirit of international norms, agreements, and treaties that were agreed to by all countries before and after the second World War.

These Geneva Convention prohibitions (and others) were crafted to make hollow-point style ammunition illegal. To evade these restrictions, US gun-makers designed weapons to fire high-velocity bullets that tumbled—they inflicted crippling injuries with more ferocity than even the banned hollow-points.

Billy Lee has never visited Las Vegas nor does he plan to. It was built as a stopover during WWII for GIs on route to the west coast, where they boarded ships to fight their way to Japan. According to legend, criminal syndicates built “Sin City”. People say the bad guys moved out. The president owns a hotel there. The Editorial Board

During combat officer training in the Vietnam era, I fired one of these weapons (an M16 rifle) at a bucket of water. The bullet went in clean but blew out the back. Shards of metal and water flew everywhere. The container exploded, basically.

Every massacre involving these weapons reaps what we sowed. The USA violated both the spirit of the international consensus and basic common sense nearly six decades ago. Our country put the lethality of heavy weapons into rifles that handled like toys. Weapon manufacturers created bone smashing ammo.

People shot by these guns don’t recover. Survivors carry their wounds to the grave.

Modern high-tech guns and ammunition are inhumane, lethal, and crippling. The military shouldn’t use them; neither should civilians; especially civilians who aren’t properly trained or supervised; some civilian gun owners have an unhealthy obsession with these kill-sticks; some are lunatics.

Flags are set at half-mast across the USA to honor the fallen in the Las Vegas attack. This pic was taken by Billy Lee in a Belle Tire parking lot. The Editorial Board

As for hollow-point ammo, police inside the United States ignore the international prohibitions. Many agencies use black-talon style hollow-points to reduce the penetrating power of tumbling slugs (that can kill bystanders) while dramatically increasing debilitation to the person shot.

Misunderstanding of the second amendment has put four million tumbling-slug killing tools into the hands of ordinary people who have no accountability and who are in some cases insane.

After all these years only God knows where these weapons are. What could possibly go wrong?

Despite being a pontificator who by definition lacks expertise, I don’t generally speculate about things I know nothing about. I really don’t. I try to not think about the hundreds of mass shootings that have taken place during past decades, because it is depressing and demoralizing (and scary) to believe that going to public venues is dangerous.

It’s hard to say who is worse off during these mass-casualty events, the dead or the wounded or those who witness the violence up close and personal. So many people are traumatized for no good reason. I suspect that even viewers of television coverage get a sick feeling in their stomachs when these horrors occur. I know I do.

The recent attack in Las Vegas was strange. A number of active duty U.S. military personnel—recently returned from Afghanistan, along with their wives and partners—attended the Route 91 Harvest country music festival.  Daesh — called ISIS or ISIL in the U.S.—claimed that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, was a contractor who worked for them. He was a kind of sleeper mercenary who was well-paid, apparently, and did what he was told when his time came.

His handlers—who may have helped to set up the killing zone—occupied the hotel suite alongside him during the attack. They might have killed him to make it look like suicide and exited the building via a service elevator disguised as hotel workers—maybe. It’s possible.

Another disturbing possibility is that they let the shooter live expecting that he would escape and join them in another attack. He might have been disabled by gas—perhaps injected under the door by police. If so, he is now in custody.

Anything is possible, when conspiracy theories start percolating. The shooter might have been a kind of patsy, like Lee Harvey Oswald claimed to be (for those readers who have convinced themselves that Oswald did not conspire alone).

If the Las Vegas massacre was an ISIS attack (as ISIS claims) it’s not likely that the United States will give the group the satisfaction of an acknowledgment. Disclosure would undermine confidence in law enforcement’s capability to protect the public from terrorist attacks. [Editors Note: As of January 2018 the number of casualties stands at 58 killed and over 500 wounded.]

Agencies will instead work behind the scenes to uncover, debrief, and terminate with extreme prejudice all the players. Justice will be served. It will be methodical and relentless. It could take time—months or even years.

This vehicle is being tested for battle-worthiness.

Most Americans never fully understood the Iraq War that spawned ISIS and filled its ranks with experienced and ruthless fighters; nor have they grasped how powerful is Saddam Hussein’s family, his friends, and his army — once one of the world’s largest and most formidable. I’ve heard people say some dumb things about what all that fighting in the Middle East was about those many years ago.

Accounts I’ve read and heard from people I trust say that before the Iraq War Saddam’s family was one of the world’s wealthiest; they owned a lot of stuff—popular magazines and food franchises, even sophisticated enterprises, some with an international reach.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, second in command in Saddam’s Iraq and founder of ISIS.

Saddam’s closest advisor and deputy — who President Bush called the King of Clubs — was never apprehended. His name is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. He is considered to be the mastermind behind the formation of ISIS.

A few years ago reports appeared in the press that Ibrahim died during an attack on his security detail. But no one saw him die. No one attended his funeral. His body (including DNA evidence of his death) is missing. Some say these stories of al-Douri’s demise were planted by ISIS agents. Ibrahim faked his own death. Who knows?

Anyway, my understanding is that ISIS was formed by members of Saddam’s family and loyal remnants of his army who are trying to take back what they lost during the Bush presidency. That’s how many see it, including reporters at Haaretz, an Israeli news organization.

When the USA conquered Iraq, Saddam’s army (and leadership) melted away, but they had billions of dollars stashed in banks, the walls of buildings, and in holes underground. They have not been afraid to spend it.

ISIS travels first class. It has the best of everything, including trucks, cars, weapons, and drones. It captured an astounding amount of USA war fighting machinery in fights with Iraqi Shiites (ISIS is Sunni) after the USA exited Iraq.

Some of the captured equipment included MRAPs (see earlier illustration). It seems unbelievable, but its true. (Note from the Editorial Board: Billy Lee helped design the run-flat wheel that permitted fighting vehicles in the Gulf wars to stay mobile after their tires were shredded, punctured, or shot through.)

Billy Lee helped develop for Chrysler the run-flat technology used by combat vehicles like this one. The Editorial Board

The way I understand the conflict, the Sunnis of Iraq could reasonably be compared in some ways to the southern whites who served the confederacy during America’s Civil War. The Shiites in this analogy would be the negro slaves.

Think about it. After the Iraq War, the downtrodden Shiites (with help from the USA) took control of Iraq from the entitled Sunnis, much like blacks took control of the southern states after the Civil War with help from the north’s military occupation (called Reconstruction).

Southern whites eventually wrested control from their former slaves, but it took twenty years of terrorism by the Ku Klux Klan to make it happen. A similar dynamic is underway in the Middle East today, it seems. The Sunnis are reestablishing their control through terror, for the most part. Eventually they may win, like the Ku Klux Klan won their fight. In the meantime, a lot of innocents are getting hurt and worse.

The territory that ISIS controls in the Middle East is vast. It is comparable in size to the country of Egypt. Yes, some ISIS cities and towns have been recaptured by USA backed forces in recent months, but the fights have been costly in lives and treasure; the victories do not seem to have turned the tide of the war, at least not yet. Every time the USA hits ISIS hard, as it has in recent months, ISIS seems to find a way to hit back.

It’s difficult (some would say, impossible) to defeat a determined foe in their own country. We learned this lesson in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. The fight against ISIS is going to be a long one. Our country might go bankrupt before victory comes. It’s possible.

No one wants to admit it, but the USA is teetering on the edge of financial collapse right now, as this essay is being written. Our last president, Barack Hussein Obama, (now called Barry Obama by friends) worked out some fixes to stave off an economic crisis, but the current president seems hell-bent on bringing our country to ruin.

The president and his wealthy friends seem to want to eliminate the estate tax so that they can leave thousands of millions of dollars (they call them billions) to their crazy kids who can flee with our national treasure to whatever solvent country will welcome them after the dust settles.

I’m told that the people around the president are Christian patriots who are determined to prevent really big screw-ups from being implemented. The country is safe.

More importantly, Christians don’t do genocides. They don’t do mass killings of civilians like that lunatic in Las Vegas. Yes, Hitler said he was Christian, but history has judged him differently.

The Christian patriots in the White House won’t permit the president to first-strike North Korea, for example, with nuclear weapons. They won’t kill ten to twenty million people over a few missile tests, which many countries conduct without threat of retaliation, including the United States.

Atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll. Hydrogen bombs are much larger.

The USA dropped dozens of hydrogen bombs in the Pacific Ocean, remember, and no one did anything about it. Countries around the world have conducted 520 atmospheric nuclear explosions and 1,352 underground detonations. We aren’t going to exterminate an entire country like North Korea over a few low-level, underground atomic tests. No rational, humanity-loving civilization would even contemplate such an atrocity.

So far, so good, I guess. Yes, we are in good hands, I’m told. No one is insane—not here; not there. 

In time, no one will remember the killings in Las Vegas, anyway. No illusions. Everyone knows the truth when they see it, right?

When given a choice, decent people do what’s right, don’t they? Of course, they do. They show mercy; it’s what the Bible says God wants.

Billy Lee  

Begging For It

Nikki Haley is the daughter of Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India. She served as governor of South Carolina until she became UN Ambassador in the Trump Administration.

Nikki Haley, the UN Ambassador, told the world that North Korea is begging for war. Her statement reminds me of the rape defense that bad men used in decades past at trial before court—she was begging for it, they would always insist.

The victim—always a woman—exercised her constitutional right to dress any way she chose. A prowling lunatic observed her and believed instead that she was advertising a willingness to copulate with a grease-ball, so he attacked.

In today’s United States the grease-ball defense no longer works. Women (and countries) have rights. The courts protect them, most of the time. When they don’t, women have recourse to civil suits.

All countries (and women) have the right to defend themselves. It shouldn’t have to be said. But the United States has mucked-up the waters of international affairs by waging pre-emptive wars against communist and socialist countries for the past seventy-five years. It seems like these wars will never end.

It is the policy of the United States to undermine any country that espouses communism; it attacks using whatever methods are devised and recommended by the brilliant, depraved minds of our intelligence community. Despite all the evidence, despite all the complaints lodged against the United States before international courts and at the United Nations, most Americans refuse to believe it.

This war-policy against collectivism was birthed in the early 1900s when the first communist revolutions undermined the noble classes of eastern Europe. The well-connected saw what happened in Russia and Hungary and decided to do something about it. Writers like Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), George Orwell (1984), and Ayn Rand (We the Living) wrote short, easy to read tracts that portrayed life under communism as a personality-destroying nightmare. The public ate it up. 

After World War II, the job of suppression was handed over to our newly formed intelligence agencies who gave the fight its name: the Cold War. With the recent CIA assisted transformations of the Soviet Union and Red China into oligarchies (marking a putative end to the biggest conflicts) other terms have emerged from inside the intelligence community to describe how the USA is continuing to war against what few holdouts remain. The current buzz phrase is strategic strangulation.

Billionaires don’t look at the world in the same way as the disenfranchised and exploited. In the neglected and overlooked far reaches of the world where billionaires don’t live, common people sometimes try to organize themselves by producing wealth cooperatively and sharing it as best they can. Once they attract the attention of the powerful, the powerful send in missionaries and agricultural-aid workers to undermine and disenfranchise their leaders.

If God and food don’t work, they send in assassins. It’s true. Since WWII, the United States has gone to war with one out of four countries. It has overthrown (or co-opted) many states, including Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Poland, Iraq, Afghanistan and dozens more. 

Eventually, the USA sends in Coca-Cola and other first-line-of-attack companies to overwhelm the nascent economies of the sharers and cooperators. The wealthy move in to buy the arable land and lock up the country; billionaire power-brokers make it their business to bury every way of governance that might threaten their right to administer an economic empire built for one purpose only: to empower their own families and the families of their friends to rule unimpeded into perpetuity.  

This billboard appears all over the island of Cuba. It says: BLOCKADE: THE LONGEST GENOCIDE IN HISTORY. It shows a Klansman’s noose strangling the island. Inside the United States intelligence community, it’s called strategic strangulation. Our leaders have enforced the embargo of Cuba for fifty-five years. Odds are it will never end.

The USA is very good at undermining socialist countries. It’s why socialism doesn’t do well. When a communist country like Cuba manages to hold on somehow, they are tormented by embargos, infiltration by agents, sabotage, disinformation, slander, assassinations, and so on. Radio Free Whatever is beamed into the targeted country to undermine morale and brainwash listeners with the most seductive psychological warfare techniques in our arsenal. It’s why communist countries seal their borders.

The United States makes sure that no administrator can relax; none can kick back without constantly looking over their shoulder and keeping guard. As long as the privately-owned United States exists, countries of the opposite sex, that is socialist countries, are going to get blamed for however the rich and powerful choose to hurt them. The better these socialist countries do for their people, the bigger the target they become. Their success is their mini-skirt; their low-cut blouse. Obviously, they are begging for war, as Madame Haley so eloquently put it.

Blaming the victim is as old as Cain and Abel. It’s as old as history. The bullies win. They put on coats and tails, send their kids to exclusive schools, learn to speak with a different accent, and set themselves apart. They tell wonderful stories about themselves on TV, movies, radio, books, magazines, and the internet until people start to actually believe deep in their hearts that wealthy people are more wonderfully made than they or their kids ever will be.

The poor and disadvantaged admire their employers, because no one is left to help them understand that they are slaves; fools before a noble class that thinks of them as having no more value than farm animals. They live in the cow-pastures outside the gates of the wealthy. A few unlucky cows get a glimpse from time to time of what has been stolen from them; most of the time they are too incredulous before the view to believe their own eyes.

Today the billionaires are planning, as they have for the past seventy years, to obliterate the North Koreans. Tens of millions of Koreans will die in the first hours. The North Koreans and their Chinese allies were the first countries to challenge America after WWII. Apparently, our arsenal of atomic weapons didn’t intimidate them. The USA has a long memory.

If we use nuclear weapons in a first strike, no one will ever live on the peninsula again. That this threat has been floated by our new president (fire and fury like the world has never known) makes it easy to understand what the USA is all about.

Despite denials in the press, America may in fact have neutron bombs in its arsenal which kill people, but leave infrastructure intact outside the immediate impact zone. Only bunkers constructed from heavy concrete that is impregnated with barium sulfate can shield against both neutrons and the gamma ray by-products of collisions between neutrons and the proton-rich substate of heavy concrete.

High level command bunkers are likely to be built with these materials. Otherwise lead and other heavy metals are generally used as barriers to nuclear radiation. Heavy metals are transparent and ineffective against neutron bombardment.

Neutron bombs emit little residual radiation, so they don’t contaminate the attack zone. An occupying force can be inserted with little risk of radiation poisoning. It’s possible the USA will use neutron bombs against civilians for the first time, if the Koreans continue begging our country to kill them all. A follow-on insertion of Marine and Airborne divisions would locate and destroy any surviving command bunkers.

The United States always seems to be first to try diabolical things. We used anthrax against Chinese troops during the Korean war back in the 1950s. Everyone knows about it but us, of course. We have short memories when it comes to remembering our own sins, like the genocidal Vietnam War and other cruelties such as the war against Iraq and the destabilization of the Middle East.

And no one seems to remember that it was a CIA agent (yes, he was disgruntled and no longer employed, the agency has insisted) who blew up the first commercial airliner and wiped out the Cuban Olympic fencing team. It was an act of terrorism that never happened, if you ask most Americans. Lee Harvey Oswald was disgruntled and no longer employed too, come to think of it. 

Speaking of begging for war, is anyone out there begging for peaceThe USA killed two million North Koreans during aerial bombardments approved by President Truman. What’s stopping us from doing it again?

During the first days of the Korean War, the South rounded up one-hundred thousand of its own citizens and summarily executed them, believing that each of their victims might be a leftist sympathizer of the North. The Korean War was an atrocity, which I’m not going to devote blog space to explain or explore. Click on links, those who want to know more.

South Korea from North Korea’s point of view. A massive China has their back. South Korea’s capital is close to their border—a tempting target. (Click on map to produce full-size view in a new window.)

The point is, we aren’t listening to the North or South Koreans. Most want the peninsula unified. We don’t. Most folks want to live in a safe and fair place where billionaires don’t reduce the average person to poverty. South Korea doesn’t want us to sacrifice millions of its own citizens in a military strike, possibly a nuclear conflagration, to make a point. It’s simple, really. 

The only sensible solution is to leave Korea and to assist reunification as best as we can, if we are invited to do so. We aren’t leaving, obviously, because our policy is to topple socialism wherever it takes root.

We have demonized in the past so many of our enemies that it is confusing to know who the bad guys are this time around. We once called native Americans savages. We exterminated their food supply (buffalos), then their populations.

Right now, no one knows who to trust. With our new president, we will never know what the facts are. We will never know for sure who is begging for war, us or them.

Billy Lee

From the EDITORIAL BOARD:
Billy Lee supports private and public ownership of property (a mixed economy), but advocates for international limits to personal incomes and estate sizes to reduce the temptation that drives the wealthy to burn down democratic processes on altars of their own greed. Read his essay Capitalism and Income Inequality

Billy Lee opposes war on humanitarian grounds. During war people get killed and are maimed in huge numbers. It sometimes takes generations for both winners and losers to emerge from the trauma and the horrors.

Billy Lee supports the United States during war, but in peacetime reserves his constitutional right to pontificate freely.