[extropy-chat] Witch-hunting

David Lubkin extropy at unreasonable.com
Thu Feb 19 07:12:28 UTC 2004

I wrote:

 >I'm trying to imagine how much freedom and life would have been preserved
 >had we had effective counter-intelligence and anti-Communist zeal instead.
 >When would the USSR have had atomic weapons, absent the spies? We surely
 >would have been able to block the Soviet imprisonment of Eastern Europe
 >without the presence of influential Communists in FDR's administration.

Brent Neal wrote:

>We had plenty of anti-Communist zeal. Unfortunately, it was used as a 
>political tool domestically. Eventually, people stopped believing the BS.

The intended parsing of my sentence applies the adjective "effective" to 
both "counter-intelligence" and "anti-Communist zeal." There were genuine 
enemy agents detected and removed during the HUAC era but the greatest harm 
had already occurred, years or decades earlier.

>And its not like an atom bomb is terribly difficult to build. Bohr's 
>papers show that German scientists were well on their way towards building 
>one of their own, and well, Russia has always had good physicists.

Yes, but they didn't always value them. In the Soviet Union of the 1930's 
(and somewhat of the 40's), modern physics was considered a dangerous 
threat to the "victorious tides of dialectical materialism." Bohr was 
denounced for promoting bourgeois ideas. Houtermans, who escaped from the 
Nazis to the USSR, was arrested and tortured. Gamow took the hint and 
repeatedly attempted to defect, eventually succeeding. Landau was arrested 
in 1938 and sentenced to ten years; only Kapitza's courage got him out.

Again, timing is everything. Under those circumstances, the first Soviet 
atomic and nuclear weapons might have been delayed a few more years without 
the espionage of the Rosenbergs, Klaus Fuchs, and their colleagues.

I wrote:

 >I sympathize with reasoned opposition to domestic defensive measures or an
 >interventionist foreign policy. The question is what to do instead, in the
 >face of the presence of a persistent group determined to hurt us. Starting
 >from where we are today, not presupposing anarchotopia or libertopia.

Brent wrote:

>Well, I'm not sure what else you propose to do under these circumstances, 
>but clearly, handing the goverment more power to imprison and search and 
>investigate is neither going to catch more malefactors nor increase our 

Whether it catches more malefactors or not remains to be seen. *Some* 
aspects of Patriot seem to be common-sensical updates in the face of new 
technology -- such as allowing a court order for a wiretap to apply to any 
phone the subject uses, not just a predetermined number.

If we agree that there is a threat worth protecting against, then we can 
turn to what might be effective. A number of ideas have been discussed here 
since 9/11. I'd argued for distributed, decentralized solutions. For 
example, I proposed several alternatives to let many more people qualify to 
be armed on planes. I think we also talked about a federal law to guarantee 
CCW reciprocity nationwide.

The omnipresence of cell phones is a good step. Apparently in Japan so many 
people have video cell phones that tv news broadcasts will often go live 
with amateur phone video from an accident or crime scene.

I'm glad the Pentagon took Robin's ideas seriously, even if the press 
distorted it.

-- David Lubkin.

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