Hi friends, music lovers, fellow cooks and miscellaneous under-rock dwellers,
I got one of the nicest and one of the not-so-nicest comments about my newsletter last week.
First, the Bad News:
"Please remove my address from your incessant stream of verbal diarrhoea. I'm sure that if you turn over enough rocks you will easily find someone to replace me."Richard W. Utah.
Now, the Good News:
"Joe, I cannot begin to say how much pleasure and stimulation your newsletter gives me. Nor how lost in admiration I am for the work you put into it. It is wonderful and amazing all at the same time .[I haven't tried the recipes, but I will.] Thank you." Terry L
As a double Libra, you can understand my obvious affection for a sense of balance (even if it involves including the obviously unbalanced.)
The Mighty Windy Rutles
I hope you all get a chance to see 'A Mighty Wind', the latest in a series of brilliant satire sort-of-pseudo-documentaries from Christopher Guest, the same mind that created 'Best in Show' and 'Waiting For Gufman.' Guest was Nigel Tufnel, the head-banging heavy metal guitarist in 'This is Spinal Tap,' another music 'doco' directed by Rob Reiner, but since then has done his own directing, as well as writing and acting.
But, the first and one of the most original and groundbreaking music satire films of this type came out in the 1960s. The film was called 'All You Need Is Cash,' produced by Saturday Night Live producer, Lorne Michaels, and starred The Rutles. The 'Pre-Fab Four' as they were referred to then were co-created by Monty Python Eric Idle, and UK musician and composer, Neil Innes (a.k.a. " Ron 'Sorry, he's unmarriageable, girls' Nasty "). This brilliant, funny and extraordinarily musical film was released during the height of Beatlemania and slipped right past many people (including me) who were too caught up in the semi-religious Beatle phenomenon to comprehend the irreverant and loveable send-up/tribute that was decades ahead of its time. But Beatle George Harrison twigged to it and gave The Rutles his blessing, even appearing in a cameo role in the film. You can find Neil Innes' website on the net with loads of interesting links and information about Rutlemania - "She Loves You, Yeah Yeah . . . Maybe." neilinnes.org
Here's one unusual work of criticism of The Rutles phenomenon that caught my attention (man, what was this guy smoking?): The Rutles and the Use of Specific Models in Musical Satire
Is Arnold Swarzenegger the First Republocrat?
Now that I've explained who Neil Innes is (you see, he's also on the receiving end of my newsletter - which he has described as Poultry in Motion) - he expressed some disappointment with me last week for sinking so low as to make this cheapshot joke: when asked which musical composer Arnold Swarzenegger would most like to portray in a bio-pic, Arnold said, "I'll be BACH.'
I apologise, Neil. What a load of J.S.! I wasn't thinking. Although Swarzenegger has stated that he has enough money and cannot be bought off, recent substantial financial contributions to his gubernatorial campaign have come from Jewish oilman, Al B. Beck, and South African cattle king, Albie Bok - the money apparently raised from the sale of their jointly-owned resort complex on the Isle of Bebok, purchased by a Iranian consortium headed by the elusive spiritual leader, Ayatollah Allah Bebakh.
Well, I'll be! Back . . . to other issues,
I guess I should really give Arnold the benefit of the doubt.
He is making some interesting choices lately. Although a Republican,
he has appointed Warren Buffett (henceforth referred to as 'the
Donkey') as the co-chair of his Economic Recovery Council,
although Buffett, whom I respect tremendously, is a Democrat.
Swartzenegger has also called pro-life people 'religious fanatics'
and has endorsed gay marriages with the comment, ' When it comes
to sex, I don't give a shit what anyone's trip is.' Perhaps, because
of his unusual cross-partisan marriage to genetic Kennedy Democrat,
Maria Schriver, and the inevitable political arguments they MUST
have around the house, Arnold might be our first mixed-blend party
candidate - let's call him a Republocrat, not necessarily a bad
thing. I can see why George W Bush (henceforth referred to as
'the Dwarf') is putting a little distance between Arnie's
people and himself.
Never Invest in Any Idea You Can't Illustrate With a Crayon
Besides 'the Donkey', two other financial writers and thinkers I respect and have learned from are Jim Rogers ('The Investment Biker') and Peter Lynch ('Beating the Street'). Both are originals and were tremendously successful A+ fund managers before moving on to greener pastures. Ironically, both have different opinions for the economical year ahead.
Peter Lynch's glass looks half-full:
"I think you have to learn that there's a company behind every stock -- and that there's only one real reason why stocks go up: Companies go from doing poorly to doing well or small companies grow to large companies. And that's what you ought to be looking for," he says.
"That's what the 1990s teach us: If the companies do well, the stocks do well." (more)
Jim Rogers glass looks half-empty:
"Bubbles," Alan Greenspan said toward the end of his speech, "thus appear to primarily reflect exuberance on the part of investors in pricing financial assets Bubbles appear to emerge when investors either overestimate the sustainable rise in profits or unrealistically lower the rate of discount they apply to expected profits and dividends." He said he did not know there was a bubble and could have done nothing even if he had figured out there was a mania. I wonder if he really believes that. Even my mother knows there was a bubble. Is he a charlatan or a fool? Perhaps both as we will see from his own earlier words and deeds.
I've got news for you, Alan: This stock market bubble was yours and could have been prevented. It didn't have to happen. Don't go blaming investors for so-called exuberance, irrational or rational. The only one who has acted irrationally, it seems to me, is you. You could have prevented it in the first place and certainly could have stopped the bleeding a long time ago. " (more)
- As for myself, readers, it's irrelevant whether the proverbial glass is half-empty or half-full, when, as any hard drinking country-and-western singer knows, you can simply say, 'Bartender, fill it up!'
I think both Lynch and Rogers arguments are worth reflecting on, as there is an element of unpredictability and paradox in economics and politics. But I tend to side, for the most part, with Peter Lynch's position. In all things, I am always attracted to leadership filled with Hope, rather than guidance laced with fear. Lynch flew out once from his office in Wall St to visit some seventh graders at St. Agnes School, in Arlington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, because the class had outperformed the Dow Jones two years running. He wanted to meet their teacher and find out their secrets. He discovered principles like:
" Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon."
Lynch also wrote this great essay on keeping a cool head during panic attacks in the stock market:
The Story of the 40 Declines
by Peter Lynch
(During the 13 years Peter Lynch was the manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund, until his retirement in 1990, Magellan was the top-ranked general equity mutual fund in the US. Time Magazine called Lynch the Nation's #1 money manager.)
The Even Bigger Picture
It's simple enough to tell yourself, "Gee, I guess I'll ignore the bad news the next time the stock market is going down and pick up some bargains." But since each crisis seems worse than the last, ignoring bad news is getting harder and harder to do. The best way not to be scared out of stocks is to buy them on a regular schedule, month in and month out, which is what many people are doing in the 401(k) retirement plans and in their investment clubs. It's no surprise that they've done better with this money than the money they move in and out of the market as they feel more and less confident.
The trouble with the Dr. Feelgood method of stockpicking is that people invariably feel better after the market gains 600 points and stocks are overvalued and worse after it drops 600 points and the bargains abound. If you don't buy stock with the discipline of adding so much money a month to your holdings, you've got to find some way to keep the faith.
Keeping the faith and stock picking are normally not discussed in the same paragraph, but success in the latter depends on the former. You can be the world's greatest expert on balance sheets or P/E ratios, but without faith, you'll tend to believe the negative headlines. You can put your assets in a good mutual fund but without faith you'll sell when you fear the worst, which undoubtedly will be when the prices are their lowest.
What sort of faith am I talking about? Faith that America will survive, that people will continue to get up in the morning and put their pants on one leg at a time, and that the corporations that make the pants will turn a profit for the shareholders. Faith that as old enterprises lose momentum and disappear, exciting new ones such as Wal-Mart, Federal Express, and Apple Computer will emerge to take their place. Faith that America is a nation of hardworking and inventive people, and that even yuppies have gotten a bad rap for being lazy.
Whenever I am confronted with doubts and despair about the current Big Picture, I try to concentrate on the Even Bigger Picture. The Even Bigger Picture is the one that's worth knowing about, if you expect to be able to keep the faith in stocks.
The Even Bigger Picture tells us that over the last 70 years, stocks have provided their owners with gains of 11 percent a year, on average, whereas Treasury bills, bonds, and CDs have returned less than half that amount. In spite of all the great and minor calamities that have occurred in this century - all the thousands of reasons that the world might be coming to an end - owning stocks has continued to be twice as rewarding as owning bonds. Acting on this bit of information will be far more lucrative in the long run that acting on the opinion of 200 commentators and advisory services that are predicting the coming depression.
Moreover, in this same 70 years in which the stocks have outperformed the other popular alternatives, there have been 40 scary declines, 13 have been for 33 percent, which puts them into the category of terrifying declines, including the Mother of All Terrifying Declines, the 1929-33 sell-off.
I'm convinced that it's the cultural memory
of the 1929 Crash more than any other single factor that continues
to keep millions of investors away from stocks and attracts them
to bonds and to money-market accounts. Sixty years later, the
Crash is still scaring people out of stocks, including people
in my generation who weren't even born in 1929.
If this is a post-Crash trauma syndrome we suffer from, it's been very costly. All the people who've kept their money in bonds, money market accounts, savings accounts or CDs to avoid being involved in another Crash have missed out on 60 years of stock-market gains and have suffered the ravages of inflation, which over time has done more damage to their wealth than another crash would have done, had they experienced one.
Because the famous Crash was followed by the Depression, we've learned to associate stock-market collapses with economic collapses, and we continue to believe that the former will lead to the latter. This misguided conviction persists in the public mind, even though we had an under publicized crash in 1972 that was almost as severe as the one in 1929 (stocks in wonderful companies such as Taco Bell declined from $15 to $1) and it didn't lead to an economic collapse nor did the Great Correction of 1987.
Perhaps there will be another Big One, but since I'm not equipped to predict such matters - nor, obviously, are my learned colleagues on the Barron's panel - what's the sense of trying to protect myself in advance? In 39 out of the 40 stock-market corrections in modern history, I would have sold all my stocks and been sorry. Even from the Big One, stocks eventually came back.
A decline is stocks is not a surprising event, it's a recurring event - as normal as frigid air in Minnesota. If you live in a cold climate, you expect freezing temperatures, so when you outdoor thermometer drops below zero, you don't think of this as the beginning of the next Ice Age. You put on your parka, throw salt on the walk, and remind yourself that by summertime it will be warm outside.
A successful stockpicker has the same relationship with a drop in the market as a Minnesotan has with freezing weather. You know it's coming, and you're ready to ride it out, and when your favourite stocks go down with the rest, you jump at the chance to buy more.
After the Great Correction, when 508 points were shaved from the Dow Jones average in a single day, a symphony of experts predicted the worst, but as it turned out, the 1000-point decline in the Dow (33 percent from the August high) did not bring on the apocalypse that so many were expecting. It was a normal, albeit severe, correction, the latest in a string of 13 such 33 percent drops in this century.
The next 10 percent decline, which may already have occurred since I've written this, will be the 41st in recent history, or, if it happens to be a 33 percent decline, the 14th. In Magellan's annual reports, I often reminded the shareholders that such setbacks were inevitable.
The story of the 40 declines continues to comfort
me during gloomy periods when you and I have another chance in
a long strong of chances to buy great companies at bargain prices.(Beating
the Street, by Peter Lynch, Simon & Schuster, NY.)
- Here's a song I wrote a few years ago just before the Tech Bubble burst: DeadCatBounce
It is well known that Albert Einstein, seeing how nuclear power had been misused by the military, wished that he could un-invent his controversial discovery. I wonder if he'd also like to re-think another one of his famous pronouncements?
When asked "What is the greatest power you ever witnessed?", the genius wit flashed, "COMPOUND INTEREST!" Einstein thought it was the human race's greatest invention, and is also credited with discovering the compound interest 'Rule of 72'. (Divide 72 by the percentage rate you are getting on your investment and that gives you the number of years it takes to double your investment. i.e. $1000 invested at 6%. 6 into 72 goes 12 times. In twelve years, at 6%, compounding annually, you'll have $2000.) Einstein called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world and is quoted as saying: "It is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time."
This contrasts however with the comment made by President Obasanjo of Nigeria after the G8 summit in Okinawa in 2000, referring to Nigeria's debt: "All that we had borrowed up to 1985 or 1986 was around $5 billion and we have paid about $16 billion yet we are still being told that we owe about $28 billion. That $28 billion came about because of the injustice in the foreign creditors' interest rates. If you ask me what is the worst thing in the world, I will say it is compound interest."
The Terrorism of Debt
by Wanda Fish
Ten years ago, economist J. W. Smith warned, "The size of the debt trap can be controlled to claim all surplus production of a society, but if allowed to continue to grow the magic of compound interest dictates it is unsustainable. The third world debt has been compounding at over 20 percent per year between 1973 and 1993, from $100 billion to $1.5 trillion [only $400 billion of the $1.5 trillion was actually borrowed money. The rest was runaway compound interest]. If Third World debt continues to compound at 20 percent per year, the $117 trillion debt will be reached in eighteen years and the $13.78 quadrillion debt in thirty-four years."
More shocking than the magnitude of the figures (how does one fathom a quadrillion dollars?) is the chilling fact that the debt trap robs all the surplus production of an entire society. Debt does much more than forcing a country to work for nothing. This form of terrorism punishes the children, abandons the sick, and enslaves the adults. (more)
Suggested Bumper Sticker Ideas for 'The Dwarf' in 2004
Bush/Cheney '04: Four More Wars!
Bush/Cheney '04: BU__SH__!
Bush/Cheney '04: Because the Truth Just Isn't Good Enough.
Bush/Cheney '04: Leave No Billionaire Behind
Bush/Cheney '04: Over a Billion Whoppers Served.
Bush/Cheney '04: Thanks For Not Paying Attention.
Bush/Cheney '04: This Time, Elect Us!
Bush/Cheney '04: We're Gooder!
Bush/Cheney '04: Asses of Evil
Bush/Cheney '04: A Brainwave Away From the Presidency
(Thanks to Alicia Bay Laurel.)
We're waiting, Bill. . . .
At 1:45 a.m. on August 6, 1945, a US B-29 bomber, named Enola Gay, took off from Tinian Island in the Mariana Islands. It carried the world's second atomic bomb, the first having been detonated three weeks earlier at a US test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Enola Gay carried one atomic bomb, with an enriched uranium core. The bomb had been named "Little Boy." It had an explosive force of some 12,500 tons of TNT. At 8:15 a.m. that morning, as the citizens of Hiroshima were beginning their day, the Enola Gay released its horrific cargo, which fell for 43 seconds before detonating at 580 meters above Shima Hospital near the center of the city.
Here is a description from a pamphlet published by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum of what happened immediately following the explosion:
"The temperature of the air at the point of explosion reached several million degrees Celsius (the maximum temperature of conventional bombs is approximately 5,000 degrees Celsius). Several millionths of a second after the explosion a fireball appeared, radiating white heat. After 1/10,000th of a second, the fireball reached a diameter of approximately 28 meters with a temperature of close to 300,000 degrees Celsius. At the instant of the explosion, intense heat rays and radiation were released in all directions, and a blast erupted with incredible pressure on the surrounding air."
As a result of the blast, heat and ensuing fires, the city of Hiroshima was leveled and some 90,000 people in it perished that day. The world's second test of a nuclear weapon demonstrated conclusively the awesome power of nuclear weapons for killing and maiming. Schools were destroyed and their students and teachers slaughtered. Hospitals with their patients and medical staffs were obliterated. The bombing of Hiroshima was an act of massive destruction of a civilian population, the destruction of an entire city with a single bomb. Harry Truman, president of the United States, upon being notified, said, in egregiously poor judgment, "This is the greatest thing in history."
Three days after destroying Hiroshima, after
failing to find an opening in the clouds over its primary target
of the city of Kokura, a US B-29 bomber, named Bockscar, attacked
the Japanese city of Nagasaki with the world's
third atomic weapon. This bomb had a plutonium core and an explosive force of some 22,000 tons of TNT. It had been named "Fat Man." The attack took place at 11:02 a.m. It resulted in the immediate deaths of some 40,000 people.
In his first speech to the US public about the bombing of Hiroshima, which he delivered on August 9, 1945, the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Harry Truman reported: "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians." While Hiroshima did have a military base in the city, it was not the base that was targeted, but the center of the city. The vast majority of the victims in Hiroshima were ordinary civilians, including large numbers of women and children. Truman continued, "But that attack is only a warning of things to come." Truman went on to refer to the "awful responsibility which has come to us," and to "thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies." He prayed that God "may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purpose." It was a chilling and prophetic prayer.
By the end of 1945, some 145,000 people had died in Hiroshima, and some 75,000 people had died in Nagasaki. Tens of thousands more suffered serious injuries. Deaths among survivors of the bombings have continued over the years due primarily to the effects of radiation poisoning.
Now looking back at these terrible events, inevitably our collective memory has faded and is reshaped by current perspectives. With the passage of time, those who actually experienced the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become far fewer in number. Although their own memories of the trauma to themselves and their cities may remain vivid, their stories are unknown by large portions of the world's population. The message of the survivors has been simple, clear and consistent: "Never Again!" At the Memorial Cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is this inscription: "Let all souls here rest in peace; for we shall not repeat the evil." The "we" in the inscription refers to all of us and to each of us.
Yet, the fate of the world, and particularly the fate of humanity, may hang on how we remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If we remember the bombings of these cities as just another point in human history, along with many other important points, we may well lack the political will to deal effectively with the challenges that nuclear weapons pose to humanity. If, on the other hand, we remember these bombings as a turning point in human history, a time at which peace became an imperative, we may still find the political will to save ourselves from the fate that befell the inhabitants of these two cities.
In the introduction to their book, Hiroshima in America, Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell write, "You cannot understand the twentieth century without Hiroshima." The same may be said of the twenty-first century. The same may be said of the nuclear predicament that confronts humanity. Neither our time nor our future can be adequately understood without understanding what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki there has been a struggle for memory. The story of the bombings differs radically between what has been told in America and how the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki recount this tragedy. America's rendition is a story of triumph triumph of technology and triumph in war. It views the bomb from above, from the perspective of those who dropped it. For the vast majority of US citizens, the creation of the bomb has been seen as a technological feat of extraordinary proportions, giving rise to the most powerful weapon in the history of warfare. From this perspective, the atomic bombs made possible the complete defeat of Japanese imperial power and brought World War II to an abrupt end.
In the minds of many, if not most US citizens, the atomic bombs saved the lives of perhaps a million US soldiers, and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is seen as a small price to pay to save so many lives and bring a terrible war to an end. This view leaves the impression that bombing these cities with atomic weapons was useful, fruitful and an occasion to be celebrated.
The problem with this rendition of history is that the need for dropping the bombs to end the war has been widely challenged by historians. Many scholars, including Lifton and Mitchell, have questioned the official US account of the bombings. These critics have variously pointed out that Japan was attempting to surrender at the time the bombs were dropped, that the US Army Strategic Survey calculated far fewer US casualties from an invasion of Japan, and that there were other ways to end the war without using the atomic bombs on the two Japanese cities.
Among the critics of the use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were leading US military figures. General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander Europe during World War II and later US president, described his reaction upon having been told by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson that atomic bombs would be used on Japanese cities:
"During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, attempting to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'. . . ."
In a post-war interview, Eisenhower told a journalist, "...the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing."
General Henry "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General of the US Army Air Forces during World War II, wrote, "It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse."
Truman's Chief of Staff, Admiral William D. Leahy, wrote,
"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender.... My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children...."
Despite these powerful statements of dissent from US World War II military leaders, there is still a strong sense in the United States and among its allies that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified by the war. There is insufficient recognition that the victims of the bombings were largely civilians, that those closest to the epicenters of the explosions were incinerated, while those further away were exposed to radiation poisoning, that many suffered excruciatingly painful deaths, and that even today, more than five decades after the bombings, survivors continue to suffer from the effects of the radiation exposure.
The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are in the past. We cannot resurrect these cities. The residents of these cities have done this for themselves. What we can do is learn from their experience. What they have to teach is perhaps humanity's most important lesson: We are confronted by the possibility of our extinction as a species, not simply the reality of our individual deaths, but the death of humanity. This possibility became evident at Hiroshima. The great French existential writer, Albert Camus, wrote in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima:
"Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests. Before the terrifying prospects now available to humanity, we see even more clearly that peace is the only battle worth waging. This is no longer a prayer but a demand to be made by all peoples to their governments a demand to choose definitively between hell and reason."
To rely upon nuclear weapons for security is to put the future of our species and most of life at risk of annihilation. Humanity is faced with a choice: Eliminate nuclear weapons or continue to run the risk of them eliminating us. Unless we recognize this choice and act upon it, we face the possibility of a global Hiroshima.
Living with Myths
In his book, The Myths of August, former US Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall writes:
"In the first weeks after Hiroshima, extravagant
statements by President Truman and other official spokesmen for
the US government transformed the inception of the atomic age
into the most mythologized event in American
history. These exhilarating, excessive utterances depicted a profoundly altered universe and produced a reorientation of thought that influenced the behavior of nations and changed the outlook and the expectations of the inhabitants of this planet."
Many myths have grown up around the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that have the effect of making the use of nuclear weapons more palatable. To restate, one such myth is that there was no choice but to use nuclear weapons on these cities. Another is that doing so saved the lives of in excess of one million US soldiers. Underlying these myths is a more general myth that US leaders can be expected to do what is right and moral. To conclude that our leaders did the wrong thing by acting immorally at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, slaughtering civilian populations, flies in the face of this widespread understanding of who we are as a people. To maintain our sense of our own decency, reflected by the actions of our leaders, may require us to bend the facts to fit our myths.
When a historical retrospective of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which was to include the reservations of US military leaders such as Eisenhower, Arnold and Leahy was planned for the fiftieth anniversary commemorations of these events at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, a major outcry of opposition arose from veteran's groups and members of the US Congress. In the end, the Smithsonian exhibition was reduced under pressure from a broad historical perspective on the bombings to a display and celebration of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.
Our Myths Help Shape Our Ethical Perspectives
Our understanding of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
helps to give rise to our general orientation toward nuclear weapons.
Because of our myths about the benefits of using nuclear weapons
at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there is a
tendency to view nuclear weapons in a positive light. Despite the moral issues involved in destroying civilian populations, most US citizens can justify reliance on such weapons for our "protection." A good example of this rationalization is found in the views of many students at the University of California about the role of their university in the management of the US nuclear weapons laboratories.
Recently, I spoke to a class of students at the University of California at Santa Barbara. I presented the students with a hypothetical situation. They were asked to imagine that they were students at a prestigious German university during the 1930s after the Nazis had come to power. They discovered a secret laboratory at their university where professors were researching and developing gas chambers and incinerators for the Nazis to use in exterminating their enemies. I then posed the question: What were their ethical responsibilities after making this discovery?
The hypothetical generated a lively discussion. The students took their ethical responsibilities within the hypothetical situation seriously. They realized that there would be danger in overtly opposing the development of these genocidal devices. Nonetheless, they were willing to take risks to prevent the university from going forward with their program to develop the gas chambers and incinerators. Some were ready to go to the authorities at the university to protest. Others were prepared to form small groups and make plans to secretly sabotage the program. Others were intent upon escaping the country to let the world know what was happening in order to bring international pressure to bear upon the Nazi regime. The students were not neutral and most expressed a strong desire to act courageously in opposition to this university program, even if their futures and possibly their lives would be at risk.
After listening to the impressive ethical stands that the students were willing to take and congratulating them, I changed the hypothetical. I asked them to consider that it was now some 70 years later and that they were students at the University of California in the year 2003. This, of course, is not hypothetical. The students are in fact enrolled at the University of California at Santa Barbara. I asked them to imagine that their university, the University of California, was involved in the research and development of nuclear weapons, that their university managed the US nuclear weapons laboratories that had researched and developed nearly all of the nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. This also happens to be true since the University of California has long managed the US nuclear weapons laboratories at Los Alamos and Livermore.
After presenting the students with this scenario, I asked them to consider their ethical responsibilities. I was expecting that they would reach similar conclusions to the first hypothetical, that they would express dismay at discovering that their university was involved in the research and development of weapons of mass destruction and would be prepared to oppose this situation. This time, however, only a small number of students expressed the same sense of moral outrage at their university's involvement and indicated a willingness to take risks in protesting this involvement. Many of the students felt that they had no ethical responsibilities under these circumstances.
Many students sought to distinguish the two scenarios. In the first scenario, some said, it was known that the gas chambers and incinerators were to be used for the purpose of committing genocide. In the second scenario, the one they were actually living in, they didn't believe that the nuclear weapons would be used. They pointed out that nuclear weapons had not been used for more than 50 years and, therefore, they thought it was unlikely that they would be used in the future. Further, they didn't think that the United States would actually use nuclear weapons because our leaders would feel constrained from doing so. Finally, they thought that the United States had a responsibility to defend itself, which they believed nuclear weapons would do.
Frankly, I was surprised by the results of this exercise. I had expected that the students would oppose both scenarios and that their idealism would call for protest against their university's management of the nuclear weapons laboratories. In the second scenario, however, they had many rationales and/or rationalizations for not becoming involved. This scenario was not hypothetical. It was real. It would actually demand something of them. Many were reluctant to commit themselves. Most had accepted the mythology about our leaders doing the right thing and the further mythology about nuclear weapons protecting us. They had not thought through the risks associated with possessing and deploying large numbers of nuclear weapons. They had not considered the risks of accidents and miscalculations, the dangers of faulty communications and irrational leaders. They had not considered the possibilities that deterrence could fail and the result could be future Hiroshimas and Nagasakis, in fact, globalized Hiroshimas and Nagasakis.
Most of the students were able to avoid accepting personal responsibility for the involvement of their university in the process of developing weapons of mass destruction. Some also dismissed their personal responsibility on the basis that the university did not belong solely to them and that in fact nuclear weapons were a societal problem. They were, of course, right about this: nuclear weapons are a societal problem. Unfortunately, it is a problem for which far too few individuals are taking personal ethical responsibility. The students represented a microcosm of a larger societal problem of indifference and inaction in the face of our present reliance on nuclear weapons. The result of this inaction is tragically the likelihood that eventually these weapons will again be used with horrendous consequences for humanity.
Making the Nuclear Weapons Threat Real
Just as most of these students do not take personal ethical responsibility to protest involvement in nuclear weapons research and development by their university, most leaders and potential leaders of nuclear weapons states do not accept the necessity of challenging the nuclear status quo and working to achieve nuclear disarmament.
What helped me to understand the horrendous
consequences and risks of nuclear weapons was a visit to the memorial
museums at Hiroshima and Nagasaki when I was 21 years old. These
museums keep alive the memory of the
destructiveness of the relatively small nuclear weapons that were used on these two cities. They also provide a glimpse into the human suffering caused by nuclear weapons. I have long believed that a visit to one or both of these museums should be a requirement for any leader of a nuclear weapons state. Without visiting these museums and being exposed by film, artifacts and displays to the devastation that nuclear weapons cause, it is difficult to grasp the extent of the destructiveness of these devices. One realizes that nuclear weapons are not even weapons at all, but something far more
ominous. They are instruments of genocide and perhaps omnicide, the destruction of all.
To the best of my knowledge, no head of state or government of a nuclear weapons state has actually visited these museums before or during his or her term in office. If political leaders will not make the effort to visit the sites of nuclear devastation, then it is necessary for the people of their countries to bring the message of these cities to them. But first, of course, the people must themselves be exposed to the stories and messages of these cities. It is unrealistic to expect that many people will travel to Hiroshima or Nagasaki to visit the memorial museums, but it is not unrealistic to bring the messages of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to communities all over the world.
In Santa Barbara, where the Nuclear Age Peace
Foundation is located, we have tried to bring the message of Hiroshima
to our community and beyond. On the 50th anniversary of the bombing
of Hiroshima we created a peace memorial
garden that we named Sadako Peace Garden. The name Sadako comes from that of a young girl, Sadako Sasaki, who was exposed to radiation as a two-year-old in Hiroshima when the bomb fell. Sadako lived a normal life for the next ten years until she developed leukemia as a result of the radiation exposure. During her hospitalization, Sadako folded paper cranes in the hopes of recovering her health. The crane is a symbol of health and longevity in Japan, and it is believed that if one folds one thousand paper cranes they will have their wish come true. Sadako wished to regain her health and for peace in the world. On one of her paper cranes she wrote this short poem, "I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world."
Sadako did not finish folding her one thousand
paper cranes before her short life came to an end. Her classmates,
however, responded to Sadako's courage and her wish for peace
by finishing the job of folding the thousand paper
cranes. Soon Sadako's story began to spread, and throughout Japan children folded paper cranes in remembrance of her and her wish for peace. Tens of thousands of paper cranes poured into Hiroshima from all over Japan. Eventually, Sadako's story spread throughout the world, and today many children in distant lands have heard of Sadako and have folded paper cranes in her memory.
In Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park there stands a monument to Sadako. At the base of that monument is this message, "This is our cry. This is our prayer. For peace in this world." It is the message of children throughout the world who honor Sadako's memory.
Sadako Peace Garden in Santa Barbara is a beautiful, tranquil place. In this garden are some large rocks, and cranes are carved in relief onto their surfaces. Each year on August 6th, Hiroshima Day, we celebrate Sadako Peace Day, a day of remembrance of Sadako and other innocent victims of war. Each year on Sadako Peace Day we have music, reflection and poetry at Sadako Peace Garden. In this way, we seek to keep the memory of Hiroshima alive in our community.
In addition to creating Sadako Peace Garden and holding an annual commemoration on Hiroshima Day, we also made arrangements with the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Peace Memorial Museums to bring an exhibition about the destruction caused by the atomic weapons to our community. The museums sent an impressive exhibition that included artifacts, photographs and videos. The exhibit helped make what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki real to many members of our community.
At the time of the exhibit, several hibakusha, survivors of the bombings, visited our community and spoke in public about their experiences. They brought to life the horrors of nuclear weapons by relating their personal experiences. There are also many books that collect the stories of atomic bomb survivors. It is nearly impossible to hear or read of their experiences without being deeply moved.
Here is the description of one hibakusha, Miyoko Matsubara, who was a 12-year-old schoolgirl in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing. Her description begins upon awakening from being unconscious after the bombing:
"I had no idea how long I had lain unconscious,
but when I regained consciousness the bright sunny morning had
turned into night. Takiko, who had stood next to me, had simply
disappeared from my sight. I could see none
of my friends nor any other students. Perhaps they had been blown away by the blast. "I rose to my feet surprised. All that was left of my jacket was the upper part around my chest. And my baggy working trousers were gone, leaving only the waistband and a few patches of cloth. The only clothes left on me were dirty white underwear. "Then I realized that my face, hands, and legs had been burned, and were swollen with the skin peeled off and hanging down in shreds. I was bleeding and some areas had turned yellow. Terror struck me, and I felt that I had to go home. And the next moment, I frantically started running away from the scene forgetting all about the heat and pain. "On my way home, I saw a lot of people. All of them were almost naked and looked like characters out of horror movies with their skin and flesh horribly burned and blistered. The place around the Tsurumi bridge was crowded with many injured people. They held their arms aloft in front of them. Their hair stood on end. They were groaning and cursing. With pain in their eyes and furious looks on their faces, they were crying out for their mothers to help them. "I was feeling unbearably hot, so I went down to the river. There were a lot of people in the water crying and shouting for help. Countless dead bodies were being carried away by the water - some floating, some sinking. Some bodies had been badly hurt, and their intestines were exposed. It was a horrible sight, yet I had to jump in the water to save myself from heat I felt all over."
After describing her personal struggle as a
survivor of the bombing, Miyoko Matsubara offered this message
to the young people of the world: "Nuclear weapons do not
deter war. Nuclear weapons and human beings cannot co-exist.
We all must learn the value of human life. If you do not agree with me on this, please come to Hiroshima and see for yourself the destructive power of these deadly weapons at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum."
A Simple Proposal
I would like to offer a simple proposal related to remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which is also a way to confront the deadening myths in our culture that surround the bombing of these cities. I suggest that every community throughout the globe commemorate the period August 6th through August 9th as Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days. The commemoration can be short or long, simple or elaborate, but these days should not be forgotten. By looking back we can also look forward and remain cognizant of the risks that are before us. These commemorations also provide a time to focus on what needs to be done to end the nuclear weapons threat to humanity and all life. By keeping the memory of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki alive we may also be helping to keep humanity alive. This is a critical part of our responsibility as citizens of Earth living in the Nuclear Age.
Each year on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days, August 6th and 9th respectively, the mayors of these two cities deliver proclamations on behalf of their cities. These proclamations are distributed via the internet and by other means. Copies may be obtained in advance and shared on the occasion of a community commemoration of these days. It is also a time in which stories of the hibakusha, the survivors, may be shared and a time to bring experts to speak on current nuclear threats.
The world needs common symbols to bring us together. One such common symbol is the photograph of the Earth from outer space. It is a symbol that makes us understand immediately that we all share a common planet and a common future. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are other common symbols. We know that these names stand for more than cities in Japan; they stand for the massive destructiveness of nuclear weapons and for the human strength and spirit needed to overcome this destructiveness.
The world needs to recall and reflect on the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as symbols of human strength and indomitable spirit. We need to be able to remember truly what happened to these cities if we are going to unite to end the nuclear weapons threat to humanity and all life. We need to understand that it is not necessary to be victims of our own technologies, that we are capable of controlling even the most dangerous of them.
In their book, Hiroshima in America, Lifton and Mitchell conclude:
"Confronting Hiroshima can be a powerful source of renewal. It can enable us to emerge from nuclear entrapment and rediscover our imaginative capacities on behalf of human good. We can overcome our moral inversion and cease to justify weapons or actions of mass killing. We can condemn and then step back from acts of desecration and recognize what Camus called a 'philosophy of limits.' In that way we can also take steps to cease betraying ourselves, cease harming and deceiving our own people. We can also free our society from its apocalyptic concealment, and in the process enlarge our vision. We can break out of our long-standing numbing in the vitalizing endeavor of learning, or relearning, to feel. And we can divest ourselves of a debilitating sense of futurelessness and once more feel bonded to past and future generations."
The future is in our hands. We must not be
content to drift along on the path of nuclear terror. Our responsibility
as citizens of Earth and of all nations is to grasp the enormity
of our challenge in the Nuclear Age and to rise to that challenge
on behalf of ourselves, our children and all future generations.
Our task must be to reclaim our humanity and assure our common
future by ridding the world of these inhumane instruments of indiscriminate
death and destruction. The path to assuring humanity's future
runs through Hiroshima and Nagasaki's past.
(Thanks to Maireid Sullivan.)
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Green Salad with Mixed Seeds
I made this over the weekend and it is a refreshing variation to pasta or a great way to serve left-over meatballs.Use the LITTLE GRANDMA'S MEATBALLS recipe in the Recipe Archive. Make the polenta by stirring 1 cup of cornmeal into four cups of boiling water and stirring over medium-low heat until a wooden spoon can stand up in it unassisted. Turn out onto a wooden board and let it firm up.When cool, cut the polenta into slices and either reheat in a pan with some of the tomato sauce, or serve as it is, with meatballs and sauce on the top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and chiffonaded parsely. Make a green salad of mixed small tender leaves and dress it with some olive oil and a little Balsamic vinegar. Toast some sesame and sunflower seeds in a pan and sprinkle over the salad. Serve side-by-side on a plate.The toasted seeds, polenta and meatballs intermingle to make brilliant textures and flavour combinations. (note: Leftover polenta can be served reheated, with maple syrup or honey, butter and some vanilla essence, with or without milk, for a nice dessert, or for breakfast. Kids love it.)
You know how you get that never-ending stream of spam porn emails - and most of them are pretty straight forward about what they are offering (such as this recent one that I'm actually quite fond of: ''Can I use your pecker as my personal favourite licking station?') - but then there are the ones that are always trying to trick you into opening them. Always trying to outwit you from deleting them outright. Like putting in the Subject Heading: 'Your Account is about to be Cancelled,' or 'Regarding Your Enquiry,' 'Final Attempt: Your check is Waiting,' etc. - and when you open it, there's a dwarf having it off with a donkey or something like that? Well, I can usually spot the tricky ones which I just trash unopened, but I got suckered in a few days ago. The Subject Heading said, 'Please Stop Sending Me This Rubbish' and I opened it naturally assuming it was someone else wishing to be taken off my newsletter list - but Lo! it read, 'Stop sending me this rubbish about how difficult it is to get laid when on our website you can . . . (have it off with a dwarf and a donkey etc etc. Arghhhh!!!) So: