Empty Days

Saturday, May 08, 2004



Other, less glamorous household items, that may cause death: bleach + ammonia = lethal gas.

Proportions are crucial though. The problem is of course low concentrations of either bleach or ammonia in household solutions.

***

Lethal dose for an average 75kg rat.

Some rat :-0

***

Acute Toxicity definitions :

Very toxic 50-500 mg/kg - Between a teaspoonful and an ounce - Caffeine - 192 mg/kg

Extremely toxic 5-50 mg/kg - Between 7 drops and a teaspoon - Sodium Cyanide - 6.4 mg/kg

Supertoxic < 5 mg/kg - A taste - Strychnine - 2.5 mg/kg (less than 7 drops)

In addition to the above criteria, if any of these three criteria are satisfied for a particular chemical, then it is considered extremely toxic:
1. A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD50) of 50 mg or less per kilogram of body weight when administered orally to rats.
2. A chemical that has a median lethal dose (LD50) of 200 mg or less per kilogram of body weight when administered by continuous contact for 24 hours (or less if death occurs within 24 hours) with the bare skin of rabbits.
3. A chemical that has a median lethal concentration (LC50) in air of 200 ppm by volume or less of gas or vapor, or 2 mg per liter or less of mist, fume, or dust, when administered by continuous inhalation for one hour (or less if death occurs within one hour) to rats.




The banality of evil - or not

Today I took drastic action and went to a jewelry supplies store - where I was cheerfully offered a pound of cyanide in a white plastic bucket (label: "cyanide" in big letters, and a big skull-n-bones sign).

It took me by surprise - I didn't expect it would be so easy, and I didn't expect the bucket would be so big and obvious. And as it was in the heart of downtown and I was on bike, I didn't feel comfortable transporting such an item in full view. I'd have had to strap it to the rack in a very casual manner. I don't know if you can be so casual with such a big label stating the contents.

Anyway.

What I know now is that I have easy access to something equivalent to a loaded shotgun - if used appropriately. There are many highly toxic substances in our appliances stores but with all of them death is long and painful. Cyanide is supposed to be different. Combined with acid (or hydrogen peroxide) it produces lethal gaz, hydrogen cyanide, which is the thing that actually kills. When concentrated, one whiff is enough to shut off central nervous system and everything else (cell-asphixiation). The chemistry is straightforward and powerfully toxic - just handling cyanide salt without gloves and mask is dangerous enough.

A less elaborate way is just to dissolve two teaspoons of that salt (potassium cyanide) in a bit of lemon juice and swallow on a very empty stomach (for acidity) - and you're as good as dead.

Ok.

I am not saying it's such a piece of cake to kill yourself. But at the same time it's a very banal act - it's just that: mixing some stuff in liquid and swallowing it. Nothing major, just waking up one fine morning and going through the motions. Or going to the store on the bike and buying a bucket of poison - nothing special either, I effectively did it today.

What I am trying to say is that there is essentially no line between life and death in a very practical, everyday sense. Nothing philosophical or grand about it - nothing much to think about. It's either - you do it or you don't. Now. That's it.

The only thing to think about is when you set it all up and then don't do it. Why not then? That's the only thing.

Fear?

I wasn't afraid when I went to buy the stuff today. And I won't be that much more afraid when I open the bucket in my kitchen and prepare the two-step operation. I will be afraid though for that one minute between end of preparations and actual act - either inhaling gaz or swallowing the drink.

I need a very good reason in my head to overcome that line of fear - the threshold to step over, like entering a new house.

Perhaps the thought of death becomes liberating when it becomes a decision, rather than an experiment. Going through the motions of self-killing in time and space is an experiment. Decision prefigures death - instead of an experiment it becomes a certainty.

I have not reached that point of certainty - though I am entirely capable of going through with the experiment (that it should be final in actuality is not the point - paradoxically).

I think what I want is to rip out the routine aspect of it (experiment) and make it a break-through before the fact. The certainty of death excludes choice - and that's the liberating aspect of it. As long as choice remains and prevails as wavering between the routine of life and routine of death, no liberation is possible.

Freedom rests on unwavering certainty - excluding choice and backing off.

That is the part I need to set up before I set up the chemistry lab. And if I can't do it, the mental break-through, then I will just go through with the "experiment" - without liberation.

That's the one nauseating aspect of death, when it's so routine.

Friday, May 07, 2004



Bad apples giving seed

I was going to write a long update on the Iraq Abuse Story (IAS) but my computer froze to death in the middle of a sentence and I don't have the patience to recreate the goddam post.

And basically - fuck it. When you drill the whole nation to believe it is superior to everybody else and that it's fighting some rabid terrorists that are not even human, why the fuck are you surprised when some GIs get all fucked up and confused and start treating everybody as subhuman scum?

Here, get a clue:



Why are those guys in Iraq? To fight terrorists first and foremost. And how "liberation" comes into this has never been very clear. And I don't blame them - because it just doesn't add up no which way you put it.

Graphic "verbal account" to go with the above picture (from American Samizdat):
Abu Dhabi TV interviewed one of the released Abu Gharib prisoners. He had his head covered to disguise his identity. Here's a translation of his statement:

"They brought us a bucket of water, and the American men urinated in it, so we did not drink from it. So they brought Hajj Muhammad - they beat him to death. They did not know how to control us ... hitting and putrid smells. Then after about two days or three - God have mercy - two or three days, one guy came and he urinated on us and then left. After a while, they took one of us - they put us inside a room, naked. I swear, this is the truth. God is my witness. The American soldiers came in, and one of them would sodomize a prisoner. The Americans would sodomize the Iraqis. They would yell at us. They would masturbate on us, and urinate on us. They urinated on a guy whose name was Sheikh Ali. They urinated on him. They hit us."

The person being interviewed was clearly fighting back tears as he spoke, and finally broke down and sobbed.
And so on and so forth. Another "lying Arab" perhaps? Whatever.

***

And blogs are trying to resurrect that story by a Canadian reporter about muder of a few thousand Talibans in the early days of Afghanistan war. But it won't come to much, because in that case there are just not enough witnesses or will to investigate, and those who disclosed the story were killed in the meantime. So it's a story that will never go anywhere - even though this certainly happened and certainly with the full complicity of US Special Forces (as I described in another post). But when the problem is too "systemic", it is always kept as deeply buried as possible - and in this case we're talking full-blown war crime, on par with Saddam's mass graves.

***

It is abnormal to expect from the perpetrator to investigate himself - the Army sent the Guantanamo general to overhaul Iraqi prisons. Which is extremely absurd, given the very murky reputation of Guantanamo. Billmon has a few words to say about this:
The higher ups, on the other hand, appear to have realized fairly quickly that exposing the abuses at Abu Ghraib would draw global attention to the entire system - Gitmo, the prisons in Afghanistan, their entire kinder, gentler gulag archipelago. So it looks like they adopted a strategy of letting the CID investigations run their secret course, while allowing Taguba's report to sit on the bureaucratic shelf.

The photographic evidence, however, couldn't be controlled -- the gang should have seen that from the start -- and somebody (Taguba?) became so angry about the way the report was being buried that they leaked it to Sy Hersh. The stonewall crumbled.
....
I'm not sure the mainstream media, much less the American public, can absorb much more than they already have. It's not easy to admit you live in a country that now owns and operates its own system of gulag camps - instead of contracting the entire job out to friendly despots, sight unseen, as in the good old days.

In other words, the administration has the public's desire not to know on its side.
That's exactly right - rather not know that acknowledge you're rolling down the nazi path. Heil Bush. And those sweet pictures of caring President hugging a distraught teen? Well, Stalin loved to pose with kids - and so did Saddam. So much for father-figure leaders.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004



Deep shit I

The less I talk about real life the better. In fact it so happens that as soon as I get my head into the internet, it gets filled with stuff that is so extraneous to my real life, I almost forget where I am and who I am - this is the drug-like quality of the internet for me and this is why I get withdrawal problems when I am deprived (no connection or no computer or both).

So for example bitching about politics is of course a consequence of having my head filled with extraneous stuff.

This is actually pretty natural because I obviously want to escape thinking about real life. Sometimes I look at other bloggers who seem obsessed with politics and I wonder what it is they're escaping from - must be something dreadful because they're so dead-serious about their blogging. Oh God. I just can imagine what it is behind all this portentious preoccupation.

But the bottom-line is that there is no point trying to think through personal reality. It's a useless effort and all it does is it produces either exasperation from facing too much shit too closely, or disgust from wasting time over things that don't matter.

One thing I can't circumvent is that there is no gas left in the tank - so to speak. You can't budge if you've got no gas and no means of getting some. That's metaphorical description of "existential" mechanics and that's what it feels like - not going anywhere on account of complete exhaustion of natural resources.

I don't even find anything to complain about - it's so utterly my own lack of life-fuel, and that's all there is to it really.

***

That's whining, right. When you down yourself openly, it's called whining - because whoever is subjected to such noises immediately projects and gets a whiff of what state of mind this implies, and since it is indeed a totally appalling state of mind there is a natural defensive reaction which is either pity (projected self-pity) or disgust (same thing).

So in the end whining is best done privately and not publically - because it fucking infects whoever comes in contact. It's normal, fuck. Don't whine to your friends and family, folks, because it's poisonous to other people - it absolutely is and it gets people down, always.

Blogs and fiction writing are best means for whining because at least the reader has a chance to get away. It's also true that there is great relief in whining to other people because it transfers some of your burden on them - hard to resist such a temptation. And if there is hidden ill-will, then it can even be construed as a form of psychological torture.

Heh.

***

My father has been whining to me (and whoever available) for years and years - I can't even recall him as a normal person with a relatively sane psyche, which was over 20 years ago and I was still too much of a kid to remember. So most of my life I've been watching him whine loudly and mercilessly, and after my own life took a wrong turn it became unbearable for me to be in contact with his whining. So for a period of nearly 10 years I basically cut him off in a very major way, just for the fact that I didn't have the resources to sustain his whining as it hit too directly at my own weaknesses and as a result got me angry beyond control. It still gets me angry, and I basically avoid contact as much as possible, and the funny thing in all this is that I can't explain to my father that it's because I get angry - he can't understand this.

But I've experienced time and again to what extent I can't do anything about the anger that this whining provokes. It just sweeps over me and I shut down completely, probably in order not to talk back too violently - after all you're supposed to have mercy on the weak and the suffering. You can't hit them on the head or anything like that.

Ideally I should be impermeable to whining - and I used to be. When I was much younger and still reasonably strong on my feet (figuratively speaking) I took enourmous amounts of whining without apparent side-effects. I sat there for hours and hours listening to the most disturbing self-demolitions and raging rivers of angst and I didn't get angry or even disgusted, I just listened and listened and listened. All this patience is long gone now. I just turn away and leave whenever I hear this stuff these days - and I can't explain that this is because it gets me so fucking mad.

***

In view of which it is only natural that I also shun friendships - since I myself can only produce whining due to the way my life has developped, and there is no point in burderning other people with this. I can officially testify that friendships and human relationships need to be built of sound grounds - and misery is destined to solitude because that's where its place is. This way I do not complain of solitude since it is a natural by-product of my inner life - and not the other way around, as some equally solitary people seem to imagine all too often.

It's up to you to open your mind and go seek out people - that's how you bond with others. If you don't have enough life-fuel to do that, too bad but you're screwed.

Perhaps it's a bit of a harsh view but the alternative is sucking the life out of others with your whining and bitching - and I have way too much experience with that "modus vivendi". Yes, you will survive longer that way but it's basically not worth it, I am sorry.




I've had a heated discussion with my whole family (they're pro-war) about Iraq and basically this is a consistent reaction with them:
With each setback and blunder in Iraq, the administration has reacted this way, cheerfully denying that anything happened and sticking to its original plans while international support for the occupation has steadily fallen to its current minimal level. Recovering from this latest horror will require a lot more than that sort of business as usual.
This quote comes from yet another outraged article about Bush. But if I judge by my family psychology re Iraq, I can see why Bush and Co can't be bothered by anything short of a small nuclear bomb exploding in the center of Baghdad - that's because they're 100% convinced they're doing the right thing, that it will be alright in the end, and that their motives are whiter than the snow. Self-examination just doesn't enter into such a shiny picture - no matter how reality proves to be different. Everything that somehow goes against this self-view is necessarily dismissed as "isolated incidents", "bad apples" and "isolated pockets" or "terrorists".

My mother was appalled by the pictures of pow abuse - but of course the first thing that came to mind was that it was an "isolated incident" and that somehow it will all be alright in the end - "americans will take care of it" since they're fundamentally good and pure.

I didn't argue against that. Because it's useless. My view is that you have to figure out things by yourself. If you are dead-set on believing that Americans can never do no evil, then be it. Once upon a time I've read a lot of memoirs of people from Stalin's and Hitler's days. They too were dead-set on believing that their respective regimes were fundamentally good. It's hard to imagine from the outside how this can be, but let me tell you - this is basic human psychology. If you are not prepared to question the "system", you gonna keep believing - no matter what you see or hear. And your system doesn't have to be a brutal regime - it's still a system and it has grave faults, and if you don't wanna admit that, then you will dismiss, dismiss, dismiss.

Such is the force of high ideals that they can obscure less than noble realities. Believing yourself to be on the side of goodness is unfortunately the first condition for legal blindness. A little less shine is the more pragmatic route - I admire those who find the strength to do good without shirking from facing their own shortcomings.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004



Unpleasant truths

The Iraq POW story is producing very driven investigation - like the New Yorker article Torture at Abu Ghraib, with Hersch on PBS today both on Jim Lehrer and Charlie Rose, and maybe elsewhere but I didn't see it.

What's important about this story is that it lets the press probe a whole slew of previous "abuse incidents" with full credibility - all those reports that went by with too many people turning away and saying it never happened or never meant anything.

The media probe will certainly continue with renewed focus on similar stuff that's been going on in Afghanistan and Guantanamo and inside US under the Patriot Act. Because it's all happening under one single header: War on Terror. And the question is not just about some wacko incidents - it's about how the fundamental ideological framework and actual policy of this War reflect on treatment of detainees - POWs and not only.

What we're dealing with here is the fundamental hypocrisy of this ideology, first-hand, on-the-ground, and not just in abstract editorials on abstract concepts. The humanitarian mask is falling off the face of the real thing. It's time people saw it for what it is.

Why it's important? Because, as this story made clear: if western press does not do its bit, the "authorities" never will, or would just sweep it under the carpet - which actually means that similar incidents will not be prevented.

Transparency vs secrecy - that's the bigger implication of this story.

The blogs are already on the case: a total scoop on civilian contractors by Billmon, a round-up of previous abuse reports at TalkLeft, and Outside the Beltway is so freaked out he's continually monitoring developments (the other links come from comments on his blog).

***

Another reason why this whole investigation is crucial is the terrific potential for blatant disinformation that such explosive stories create if not pursued in a thorough and credible way.

Examples are already at hand: the photos in Daily Mirror of similar abuses by UK troops are being disputed as fabrication (and probably are), and on some websites CBS photos are mixed with stuff from hard-core sex sites which are themed as "rape by troops in Iraq" but are obvious porn stunts.

At the same time, last summer investigation of abuse by UK troops also involved photos but it doesn't look like they ever reached the press.

***

As to how all this affects public opinion in the Arab world and especially in Iraq... It looks bad - but given the amount of pre-existing rumors concerning precisely this sort of abuses in detention centers which are clouded in secrecy and are off-bounds to visits by family (Iraqi "detainees" do have families, who even worry about them - surprising as it may sound to some), given all this it doesn't look like it came as such a shock. It came as a confirmation - which is perhaps worse than shock.

One very surprising good thing that may come out of all this is that the Coalition military will make its centers of detention more accessible to Iraqi families and to investigation. This would be the first step on the road to any sort of legality and genuine respect for the population.

Isn't that what usually results when some police departments or prisons back home are discovered to be corrupt and abusive?

Sunday, May 02, 2004



Extremely rotten days.

Things just seem to fall apart of their own.

Received one-line email signalling death of a relative. At this rate several more such announcements are to be expected in the next few months. When people who've always been there in the back of your mind die, it feels like somebody invisible is shooting at everything around you - it's a sniper bullet. And invariably it means - "you're next", in no particular order.

***

I started looking for another flat but at the very same time I can't help feeling that there's no real point to this - trying to change external circumstances, moving aimlessly from one geographical location to another, but the meaningless of all this activity is only too evident.

It's very hard to describe or convey the kind of disgust I feel for life and everything that it consists of. This disgust sits somewhere in the pit of my stomach and refuses to budge.

I truly cannot grasp what I am doing in here.

***

Found some temporary relief in reading alt.suicide.methods newsgroup where people are all so composed and doing dogged research in order to terminate their sorry life in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

I was especially inspired by the examination of cyanide poisoning - and what it takes to procure this substance in a highly regulated society. At the same time found out that the popular "you're drunk on Kool-Aid" quip refers to the 1978 Jones Town mass suicide (Waco type group) which involved a soda drink laced with a fair amount of cyanide salt - for everybody.

Perhaps it makes more sense in the end to die in a group and for a false belief, than alone and with no beliefs at all.

***

One thing to remember about potassium cyanide (KCN) - it only really works as lethally as possible if interacting with some acid. Which is why it is recommended to dissolve in lemonade and swallow on a really empty stomach for increased gastric acidity. In which case the brain shuts down within seconds and you don't feel the convulsions as the rest of the body goes into arrest. Basically you're entirely dead within 10-15 minutes.

The body is a machine albeit organic. Dying is about wrecking that machine.

***

People tend to stare at me in the street these days. I've asked my parents why they think that is (they haven't seen me in a while and have a fresh eye) and they said it's probably because I look so worn down, as if I were a junkie - and my shabby attire probably plays into popular imagination as well.

I lost some weight, that's true. And I look pretty unhealthy, though I don't really feel that way.

I knew a girl of about my age who kept losing weight and finally was discovered to have cancer phase IV. Which is pretty advanced. The funny thing about cancer is how late it manifests its presence.

I am not sure I should count on such a timely coup de grace though.

***

MayDay.





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