News Briefs 17-11-2010

All this pain is an illusion

Quote of the Day:

Mind, through the long course of biological evolution, has established itself as a moving force in our little corner of the universe. Here on this small planet, mind has infiltrated matter and has taken control. It appears to me that the tendency of mind to infiltrate and control matter is a law of nature.

Freeman Dyson

Editor
  1. .:Buzz Buzz:.
    Re: Is Titan producing DNA in its atmosphere without water?

    Titan and Europa are two of the most fascinating places! Basically small planets in mini, quasi-solar systems of their own, they are the standard bearers for their respective neighborhoods. (Io lodges a firm protest!)

    And to learn now that Titan may be nursing O2 directly from Enceladus?

    (Just barely whispering the word, ‘panspermia’!)

    The planets and the… um, ‘stuff of life’ may be akin to a field of flowers where pollen is carried in the wind. And, who knows? Maybe those pesky UFOs are nothing more than interplanetary honey bees…

    .:Buzz Buzz:.

  2. CIA & the Nazis: BFFs

    The Nazi-hunting report was the brainchild of Mark Richard, a senior Justice Department lawyer. In 1999, he persuaded Attorney General Janet Reno to begin a detailed look at what he saw as a critical piece of history, and he assigned career prosecutor Judith Feigin to the job.

    After Richard edited the final version in 2006, he urged senior officials to make it public but was rebuffed, colleagues said.

    When Richard became ill with cancer [emphasis mine], he told a gathering of friends and family that the report’s publication was one of three things he hoped to see before he died, the colleagues said. He died in June 2009, and Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. spoke at his funeral.

    Conspiracy senses… tingling!

  3. “CIA gave shelter to Nazis”
    “CIA gave shelter to Nazis. Moral of the story kids? It doesn’t matter how you behave, as long you can build a damn fine rocket.”

    Oooh, that is some fine snide. It’s got lovely overtones of smug, and just enough bite of that late-adolescent aspiration to uber-ironic cool to move it right on up to 100% pure unadulterated interwebs snark. Well done, and my compliments to the chef!

    Otherwise, not to be too picky, but I note both you and the Seattle Times seem to think “Nazi” is the exact equivalent of and precisely interchangeable with “German”. I don’t see a single reference in the article to an allegation, much less a determination, that the scientists in question were indeed “Nazis”, or even had affinity for Hitler’s odious rule.

    That doesn’t save Rudolph from the judgment of history*, which is a completely separate question. I have no doubt Rudolph used slave laborers with full knowledge of their status, inhumane treatment, starvation and almost 100% mortality rate, at least for the less skilled -and thus less valued – workers. And certainly Rudolph demanded more such workers, surely knowing where they would come from and what would likely ultimately happen to them under his care and control.

    But then the article and your snark was more aimed at AmeriKKKa, and its eeeevil CIA. They used NAZIS! Well, yeah they probably did. Plus people who worked for Nazis. And? I mean, so? What then? What is your alternative? To have not sullied our hands with men who worked for a monstrous regime? To leave them to the Soviet brain-picking? (As happened in the event, as the Soviets acquired scientists, particularly rocket scientists, no less talented than those the US snatched.) Because Soviet ownership of their bodies and brains was the only alternative to taking Nazis, both real and facsimile. The only alternative.

    But I guess we’d have felt soooo clean if we hadn’t. Although I don’t know for how long we’d have felt anything, with an overtly hostile and saber-rattling USSR taking all the scientists in the Third Reich. So those Russkies might have taken all of Europe, with Britain thrown in for good measure, instead of just half if we’d let them take those nasty boys. And, yeah, millions more might have suffered and died than did under the brutal-enough Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe…but we’d have felt soooo noble. Well, except for the part about letting Europe fall in its entirety to the Soviets.

    *Oddly, Werner von Braun goes unremarked and unnamed in the article, even though he, by either the comfortably loose standards employed by The Times’ or the much stricter standards of generally accepted principles of responsible journalism, is certainly as due the title “Nazi” as Rudolph or the other, nameless German rocket scientists so denoted. But then von Braun worked very hard to stay in good with the press and public, and Old Uncle Wern’s un-Nazification was much more successful. Funny how that works.)

    1. Gestapo
      Not only were scientists given amnesty and a laundry treatment by the State Department under Operation Paper Clip —conducted by Allen Dulles himself— but many Gestapo agents were quickly put to work on counter-intelligence missions against the Soviets.

      They used NAZIS! Well, yeah they probably did. Plus people who worked for Nazis. And? I mean, so? What then? What is your alternative? To have not sullied our hands with men who worked for a monstrous regime? To leave them to the Soviet brain-picking?

      The alternative would have been to let them be executed along with all the other war criminals trialed and found guilty in Nüremberg. But I guess all those brave young men & women, members of the “Greatest Generation”, would have found greatly amusing to learn that their former enemies were given a better job than the ones they left to liberate Europe.

      So those Russkies might have taken all of Europe, with Britain thrown in for good measure, instead of just half if we’d let them take those nasty boys. And, yeah, millions more might have suffered and died than did under the brutal-enough Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe…but we’d have felt soooo noble. Well, except for the part about letting Europe fall in its entirety to the Soviets.

      Oh yes, I forgot that God appointed you directly to be the protectors of the Free World 😉

      The moment one begins to justify evil actions by taking “the bigger picture” into consideration, then I guess everything gets easier: the illegal searching of private telegrams under Project Shamrock, the counter-intelpro actions against “radical” left-wing groups under Operation Chaos, not to mention the mistreatment of black men with syphilis under the Tuskegee Project (and the deliberate infection of men with syphilis in Guatemala) or the terminal experiments conducted on mental patients under the MK-Ultra and MK-Search projects —and that’s the stuff we know of…

      But hey! anything’s better than being a dirty Commie, right? 😉

    2. Arguing for or against?
      [quote=Sardondi]Otherwise, not to be too picky, but I note both you and the Seattle Times seem to think “Nazi” is the exact equivalent of and precisely interchangeable with “German”. I don’t see a single reference in the article to an allegation, much less a determination, that the scientists in question were indeed “Nazis”, or even had affinity for Hitler’s odious rule. [/quote]

      Not to be too picky, but it’s in the actual OSI report:

      “Rudolph was one of the first Germans to come to the United States under Project Paperclip; he arrived in December 1945. Although INS knew that he had been a member of the Nazi party and that he had worked at Mittelwerk, there is no indication that they had any information about his use of slave labour”.

      [quote]What is your alternative? To have not sullied our hands with men who worked for a monstrous regime? To leave them to the Soviet brain-picking? (As happened in the event, as the Soviets acquired scientists, particularly rocket scientists, no less talented than those the US snatched.) Because Soviet ownership of their bodies and brains was the only alternative to taking Nazis, both real and facsimile. The only alternative.[/quote]

      So, to try and summarise what you’re saying, basically the moral of the story is “It doesn’t matter how you behave, as long you can build a damn fine rocket”? I dunno man, sounds a bit snarky.

      1. You quote the OSI report:
        You quote the OSI report: “Rudolph was one of the first Germans to come to the United States under Project Paperclip; he arrived in December 1945. Although INS knew that he had been a member of the Nazi party and that he had worked at Mittelwerk, there is no indication that they had any information about his use of slave labour”.

        Wish that had been in the article…but it wasn’t. From all information available in the linked article, there was no reference to any such finding. It appeared more of the too-common contemporary journalists’ tendency to insert “Nazi” where German was the worst that could be supported by facts. It would have made a difference to me, regarding Rudolph, had this information been included.

        But as to the larger issue of using Rudolph as a literal Nazi, along with other scientists who very well may have been culpable in their knowledge and utilization of slave laborers in Mittellwerk, the point remains. It would have been the height of irresponsibility for the West to have turned its back on the immense and unique knowledge of the Paper Clippers and instead immediately [as commenter “Gestapo” (Jeez Louise, man) suggested just before lapsing into semi-lucid froth] “to let them be executed along with all the other war criminals trialed (sic) and found guilty in Nüremberg”.*

        Do you really think the West’s principles demanded such a wasteful demonstration? For me the sticking point is the post-war elevation, even to the point of lionization, of Rudolph which was made possible by the CIA and Army and Air Force intel. I’m guessing a determination was made that his unique knowledge made it a necessity. I don’t like that the Nazis and their fellow travelers came out smelling like a rose, but they didn’t consult me. I still prefer it to letting their research scatter to the winds, or worse, all go to the Soviets. I still see what the CIA did as the only realistic alternative.

        Oh, and regarding my snark, it’s not “just a bit”: my snark cup runneth over, all the time. It’s just that I’ve always felt posters should be above snarkerization. They need to be brave, strong and true, as well as helpful, courteous, clean, reverent and kind. They should instead leave snarking to the commenters.;)

        *The bean-counting of a just reckoning for the horrors of the Holocaust is distasteful at best, if possible at all. But I suggest to Herr Gestapo that he take a look at the type of German war criminals actually executed. IIRC there was not a single executed defendant, whether convicted at Nuremberg or any of the other sites of war crimes trials, whose degree of culpability was similar to Rudolph’s. In WWII it took a good deal more direct involvement in and responsibility for concentration/slave-labor camp deaths than Rudolph had. And as to Gestapo’s predictable (and predictably incoherent) mockery of the dangers posed by the USSR during the 1945-1990 Cold War: I was around and engaged for most of it, and know the chief reason citizens of Western European nations did not join the scores of millions of Eastern Europeans as closely-held “guests” of the Soviets for half a century, was indeed the US’s willingness to undertake the role of guarantor and protector of their security and freedom. But then no good geed goes unpunished.

        1. More incoherency

          And as to Gestapo’s predictable (and predictably incoherent) mockery of the dangers posed by the USSR during the 1945-1990 Cold War: I was around and engaged for most of it, and know the chief reason citizens of Western European nations did not join the scores of millions of Eastern Europeans as closely-held “guests” of the Soviets for half a century, was indeed the US’s willingness to undertake the role of guarantor and protector of their security and freedom. But then no good geed goes unpunished.

          Kind of predictable that as well —you being engaged in fighting the Evil Empire, as Ronnie was fond of calling them 😉

          And it was also very predictable the fact that you declined on comment on any of the things I pointed out in my previous incoherent message —and that was on the top of my head yesternight, I could have also mentioned the CIA-endorsed coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile, and that ensued the American/British sanctioned dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, during which countless Chilean citizens were tortured and disappeared.

          I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves. Henry Kissinger

          Thank you Uncle Sam for setting us straight —whether we want it or not 😛

          1. evil is as evil does
            Oh sure, the Soviets were just running a misunderstood, shy type of operation. No empire, no evil there eh?

            These types may look harmless in the historical view from Mexico. If you were Eastern European, or Central Asian, its a different story.

            There also were these stories that the Soviets were trying to gain control of Western Europe after WW2. The main reason these stories were believable was that they were true.

          2. Manicheism
            This is not a defense of the Soviet regime, my friend. Far from it.

            The thing that I always found ironic about the use of the term “Evil Empire”, is that the US strove for a very long time to show themselves as the champions of the Free World, fighting the forces of darkness. The idea was to see things in terms of black and white.

            And yet, as this discussion has brought up, the white-hat Yanks were not above using similar or worse methods than those of their enemies. So it’s all a matter of fighting in a gray battlefield, while marketing a black & white image —just as the Soviets did!

            Meanwhile, the rest of the world suffered while these two empires engaged in their quarrels. Particularly in Latin America, where the US felt entitled to dictate the behavior of all those other countries “fortunate” enough to share the same continent with them.

            Sure the Soviets meddled too. But the idea is to respect the sovereignty of governments, right? Right?

          3. meddling
            Actually no, the original point was that the original suggestion seemed to be that the CIA and the US were the main forces of evil at the time, by making use of Nazi scientist. The original point was not about sovereignty.

          4. Eviler and Evilest
            It was never my intention to go and suggest the CIA was/is the worst evil force in the world. But, if you think about it, it is much more disappointing when you find that the people who always claimed to be on the side of good, turn out to be no better than the “baddies”.

            It’s like the accusations of pederasty among members of the Church. It’s not that there aren’t many other child molesters out there who should be arrested and condemned. What shocked the world is that this was all done (and maintained in secrecy) by an organization that is supposed to conduct by an above-average moral code.

            But getting back to the CIA, the problem is that at some point in the history of the United States, someone gave those intelligence agencies a blank check with not strings attached, and no accountability.

            And what’s more disturbing is NOT that we’re finding out about it after so many years; what’s disturbing, is that most people nowadays read about it and say “So?”.

          5. finding out
            Well, perhaps some of the press is saying that we just found out about this. It thought is was pretty much common knowledge for the last few decades.

            At least I had been under the impression that plenty of former Nazis were in leading technical and governmental positions in many countries. In the US, the Soviet Union, East Germany. I was also under the impression that a lot of middle level Nazis emigrated to South America, having discovered the joys of large scale agriculture.

            And of course Greg’s original comment is correct – if you are good enough in a critical field, a lot of your sins will be forgiven.

            There is no such thing as international law.

          6. Breaking News
            Well, there’s different layer of “finding out”. Right now I’m not sure when exactly was project Paperclip revealed, but at least I’m aware that the X-Files mentioned it in a few episodes. So one might conclude that by the 1990s Paperclip was part of pop culture.

            And yes, obviously the public was widely aware that quite a few German scientist were working on several critical projects at NASA and the military; but back in those days of the post-war, the State Department conducted a thorough PR campaign with them: they were presented as scientists who had reluctantly supported the Reich’s war effort, but had not personally committed any reprehensible crimes; I guess the public saw them as liberated prisoners of sorts, and probably imagined Von Braun working at Peenemünde with a big shackle tied to his ankle 😉

            But then again, there’s the fact that no matter how many times you “reveal” something to the public, some folks just don’t pay attention —or they simply don’t give a damn.

          7. singing
            I have no doubt that a lot of the scientists sang the tune of whoever paid them and/or let them work on their projects.

            To what extent that makes any individual guilty varies considerably.

            I also have no doubt that a lot of these people would today be considered worthy of prosecution. Of course they are all dead, so we can now consider the whole lot guilty.

            Then lets move on to Korolev, who is also dead so he doesn’t care. Surely we can consider him guilty for a good part of the crimes the Soviet regime committed in connection with their space program, and their nuclear weapons program. And for a bunch of terrible things they undoubtedly did in Kazachstan. He should get his sentence reduced though, by the time spent in popular Soviet vacation spots in Siberia.

          8. Responsibility
            Ok, that’s an interesting argument to delve upon. How much or little is Ethics considered when embarking in scientific pursuits. Is a guy dealing with researching new metal alloys morally accountable for if those alloys are mainly used to build ballistic missiles? Sometimes scientists just want to focus on their work and care very little about what’s going on around them; they became engulfed in the intellectual challenge of it, and don’t take time to look at the bigger picture.

            I know that happens to me when I begin to work on a project —what if I’m designing a wine cabinet for a client, and that client drinks too much one night and runs over a poor kid with his car, eh?

            Von Braun had a dream since childhood: to build a rocket that could travel to Mars; and if pursuing that dream meant making weapons that could be used to destroy the city of London, or the use of prisoner camps as slaves performing dangerous tasks, then maybe he was at peace with that. Maybe he told himself that he wasn’t responsible for the applications of the technology he was creating, or the way it was financed —kind of a mercenary attitude if you ask me.

            But, getting back at the original arguments for a minute, you should ask yourself this: if scientists who worked for a defeated enemy shouldn’t be accountable for the malignant application of their past research, then why the need to give them new identities and keep their Nazi affiliations secret?

            (to protect them from being kidnapped by Soviet spies, you might say. Well, then why keep the secret until 2010, when there’s no more Soviet spies or Soviet Union to worry about, and all those German scientist are dead?)

            Call me a helpless idealist, but I for one think that scientists should consider carefully who they work for, and what’s their research intended for. Equally difficult and challenging is to find ways to help humanity, than to hurt humanity.

            PS: And you’re also missing what I pointed out at first: that not only scientists were brought to the US with new fake identities and a cleared past, but also officers of the Gestapo that were very good at all the wonderful traits cherished inside the dark world of spies.

            PPS: Furthermore, Truman ordered that no German scientist that were affiliated to the Nazi party, or were strong supporters of the Reich, would be given amnesty under Paperclip. Problem was, some prominent scientists would have been found ineligible —the solution? to lie about their Nazi ties.

          9. protection
            They would have needed protection from the locals, who had been told for the previous few years how evil the Nazis were. And in the war before that, the locals had been told how evil the Germans were, just on general purposes. Let’s face it, Germans have been unpopular for about 100 years. Partly because of the Nazis, and partly just because they opposed the British empire.

            As for scientists considering all the consequences of their research – yes that would be rather idealist. Sometimes it is practical, sometimes not.
            For one thing, when you make new methods and tools you don’t know how will use them, and for what. And then there is the cliché but correct argument that if you don’t do it, somebody else will. Sooner or later – in the case of the hydrogen bomb, it was pretty soon.

          10. Brainwash
            So it was a measure against entrenched prejudice, you say? That’s kind of unlikely, since the State Department would have been careful enough to choose a suitable place of residence for these newcomers. And I think that during the first years (correct me if I’m wrong) these scientists were kept under a very strict surveillance.

            But, for the sake of argument, I’ll buy: so first the government brainwashes the population into convincing them that they must liberate Europe and stop the Nazi hordes; and then they brainwash them again to think that these nice scientists with a funky accent have nothing to do with those other horrible Nazis that tortured and killed Jewish prisoners on Auschwitz, and that they need them to stop the new hordes of Soviets. And so the brainwashing keeps going on and on…

            You know, one could make the argument that Paperclip was probably the very first step in the slow eroding of democracy in the United States. Before that the citizenry had a more robust system of checks & balances in order to restrain politicians and the status quo. But after the postwar the National Security State became so powerful that they practically became detached entity from the very people they were supposed to serve. Nowadays American citizens have no way to object against the obscene spending of money into top-secret black budgets, or put a stop to black-ops that keep blurring the line between just and unjust —Guantanamo anyone?

            And then there is the cliché but correct argument that if you don’t do it, somebody else will. Sooner or later – in the case of the hydrogen bomb, it was pretty soon.

            The argument responsible for too many self-fulfilling prophecies, I’m afraid.

          11. somebody else
            This is not self-fulfilling, it just recognizes that the rest of the world is not far behind. Sure, when you are the absolute lone leader in the field, you can slow things down by a few years. But when you are merely in the top 1000, there isn’t much you can do.

            Look at the spread of nuclear weapons – everyone who really wanted them, had them by 1965. It wasn’t that hard.

            Of course given all that, would I develop weapons technology for China today? Even though they act relatively harmless today, probably not.

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