Cinema Art From 1968 For Today

For me, 1968 was the most consequential year in American history since the end of World War Two. It was a year filled with uplifting superlatives like: the explosion of fierce creativity and variety in popular music and the arts generally, including the premier of that revolutionary television program for as yet unconditioned humans, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; and it was a year filled with disastrous superlatives like: the meat-grinder crescendo of the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, and the urban riots sparked by anger over King’s murder and America’s stubbornly embedded racism.

I think that in the fifty years since, the U.S. has regressed socially, culturally and intellectually (except in a few important areas regarding the treatment of women and LGTB people) while simultaneously advancing technologically. But, so much of that technological advancement has been skewed and debased with wasteful profit-seeking and idiotic consumerism. We are a country of lowered imagination, aspirations, expectations, hopes and economic opportunities, awash in highly advanced electronic technologies diffusing stupidity and disinformation for continuous mass distraction and disempowerment.

So, I found it bracing and reinvigorating to recently see three movies — playing in theaters this summer of 2018 — that are each masterpieces of or about that time half a century ago, and remain fresh and compelling today.

WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, a superb and touching documentary about Fred Rogers and his long-running and revolutionary children’s television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, is actually a film of 2018. Its very existence begs the question: why is such television programming no longer being broadcast daily as a government-funded public service? (I know, commercialism über alles). Among the many amazing stories in this film is that of the overt and explicit anti-war message of Fred Rogers’ TV show in its first week of broadcast, in February 1968, which was during the height of the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War and also the month of the highest rate of fatalities of US soldiers in that war (it was far worse for the Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians all the time).

Remember, Fred Rogers aimed his messages against war, against bigotry, about facing death, about dealing with your parents’ divorce, and about many other real world experiences both big and small, to children in the toddler, pre-school, kindergarten and very early grammar school years; amazing!

In being free of the macho insecurities so closely guarded and secreted by so many of America’s outwardly manly men, and with his strength of character and absolute commitment to love and to the respect of children, he remains for me “the strongest man in America.”

“Love is at the root of everything, all learning, all relationships, love or the lack of it.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhwktRDG_aQ

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY premiered 50 years ago. Now, it has been gloriously reprinted as a 70mm six channel soundtrack Cinerama spectacular, and is once again being shown in selected theaters this summer. We saw it today (17 August 2018). Not only is this a movie masterpiece, it is one of the great works of art of the 20th century, and it remains an advanced work of conceptual, philosophical and cinema art today, and is likely to remain as such for quite some time to come.

This film conveys a visceral experience of encountering utterly alien intelligence in the unbounded expanse of unworldly space-time, by use of expansive and profound visual imagery combined with lush, majestic and enveloping music — classical music! — and by the use of deep silences and grandly unhurried pacing, which is so alien to our cacophonous myopic zero attention span hamster wheel earthly circus.

This movie rewards whatever exercising of your intellect you engage in as a result, by resonating with your own pondering and speculations on ultimate questions. It was grand immersing myself in this masterpiece again, on the big screen with the big sound, my eyes filled with wonder, my mind abuzz with transcendence.

“Open the pod bay doors, HAL.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oR_e9y-bka0

YELLOW SUBMARINE premiered 50 years ago. Now, it has been gloriously restored and is once again being shown in selected theaters this summer. We saw it last month, a wonderful experience. See it if you can, on the big screen with the big sound: Beatles music with imaginatively unrivaled animated imagery.

Now more than ever we need the spirit of Yellow Submarine to permeate the populace, because the Blue Meanies are out there in force devastating our world with their dour dumbfounding deadly doofusness. Revolution is first and foremost a matter of heart — many revolutionary good, strong and happy hearts — and this movie has a lot of heart. It also remains an advanced work of art, given the sad reality of our decayed, stagnant and backward culture.

“All you need is love.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOlwwoZLoKE

I don’t want to come across as an old fogy disparaging today’s youth by complaining that “things were better when I was a kid than they are today.” What I do wish to encourage is that people look back with appreciation to the real gems of the not-that-distant past, to both learn from and be heartened by them, and to help today’s vibrant (young!) people to infuse their now-time with heart, love and revolution, and thus help create both artistic and material advances of real human value to our shared national and world societies.

Enjoy!

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Climate Change Bites Big Business

“Electoral politics is not the solution to the Earth-threatening problems we face.”
– Jeffrey St. Clair (10 August 2018, Counter Punch)

There is now no non-violent way to reverse climate change. Even with morally unrestrained action, it is probable that there is now no physical possibility of reversing climate change. The time for action was 1973-1979, the time of the two oil embargoes (the post Israeli War – against Egypt and Syria – Arab Oil Embargo of 1973; and the related-to-the-Iranian-Revolution vengeful price gouge oil embargo of 1979). This was the period of the Watergate-climax finale of the Nixon Administration, the Ford Administration, and the Carter “energy crisis” Administration. Politically, the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 killed the possibility of US climate change action.

From Reagan through Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama to Trump, the mentioning of climate change – as one of government’s highest priorities, as one of corporate America’s foremost concerns (to be addressed, not suppressed), and as one of mainstream media’s primary and continuing focuses and leading stories – was minimized if not altogether absent. If anything, climate change denialism was heavily promoted by corporate and partisan (right wing) media, and by legions of corporate agents, flacks and factotums masquerading as elected representatives in federal and state governments. That has now changed.

Climate change is now all over the front pages of the newspapers and is the headline story of the mainstream mass media, primarily because of the massive fires in California whose smoke has even reached New York City. Why this new overt and blaring mainstream news attention to climate change, a subject that was officially hush-hush, trivial and fake news so recently in the past? Obviously because climate change has begun costing big money to major sectors of American capitalism.

In the case of the 2017-2018 California wildfires, one of the costs to capitalism is the financial threat of bankruptcy via liability suits against Northern California’s regulated monopoly utility company, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which is being held responsible for causing the Sonoma and Napa Counties fires of 2017, because electric power lines swung into too-near tree branches during high winds setting off sparks that ignited fires that raced across the dry countryside, incinerating many communities and much industrial infrastructure (e.g., for telephone, internet and TV distribution, and also numerous small business facilities, croplands and vineyards).

A second set of costs to capitalism from California’s vast wildfires of 2017-2018 are the high losses to fire insurance companies, prompting their threats to leave the California insurance market, which in essence would mean a very sharp increase of fire insurance rates for California residents, homeowners and businesses. It seems unlikely to everybody that multi-countywide wildfires like those of 2017 and 2018 are a fluke unlikely to reoccur next year and thereafter.

Companies offering flood, tornado and hurricane insurance along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States, and in Puerto Rico, may now also be smarting from the increased damage caused by more frequent and more powerful hurricanes, and the drenching and flooding rainstorms of the last few years. As with the vaster wildfires and longer wildfire season in the West, the more frequent and extensive flood and tornado disasters in the Great Plains and Gulf and Atlantic coasts have likely seeded thoughts of insurance flight and massive rate increases, and loan rate increases, in the minds of the moguls of the liability underwriting industry and the investment banking industry.

Higher insurance and loan costs hamper any business operation, and dampen real estate construction and sales activity, as well as adding usually unproductive costs to the living expenses of homeowners and renters seeking to buy a little security against unanticipated personal catastrophes.

It is good to remember that the reason the nuclear power industry (for electric generation) is dead is because the insurance industry worldwide rates nuclear power as an infinite liability and thus an uninsurable risk. Nuclear power can only exist where government assumes 100% of the liability in perpetuity. Insurance companies are starting to get the queasy feeling that perhaps wildfires in California (and probably the Great American Desert west of the Mississippi), as well as hurricanes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States, are growing into potentially bankrupting infinite liability insurance risks.

A true and honest free market zealot would say: “So what, if companies like PG&E are at fault for wildfire apocalypses then let them get sued into bankruptcy. Another set of entrepreneurs will take their place as providers of electricity and natural gas for consumers, and profit as they deserve for providing safe and reliable service. Also, if some insurance companies are too scared to underwrite the risks of wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, then let them run away or price themselves out of the market, because newer entrepreneurs will become new insurance providers who will take advantage of capturing an underserved market by offering affordable insurance, and thus profit by gaining a large customer base that would then dilute their aggregate risk.” Yes, zealot, but “true and honest” does not usually pair with “profit” when we are dealing with Big Money operators. So, what is more likely to happen?

In the official postmortem of the 2017 Northern California wildfires, PG&E was pointed to as the primary (essentially only) culprit because of the arcing contact between live electric cables and dry tree limbs during the high winds preceding the fires. PG&E is required by regulations to maintain a set clearance between its power cables and all trees near them. That clearance was obviously insufficient, either because of an inadequacy of the state regulations, or an insufficiency of tree trimming maintenance by PG&E’s tree trimming contractors, or both. Fingers will point, courts will be busy.

However, the idea of thousands of burned-out wildfire victims suing PG&E into bankruptcy will not happen because the state of California would then have the colossal headache of finding a new enormous and technically competent business entity to seamlessly take over the operations of producing and distributing electric power and natural gas to many millions of Californians populating a large and geographically diverse terrain. So, California state government will revise old laws or craft new ones to provide too-important-to-fail utilities like PG&E (and Edison International, and San Diego Gas & Electric) with some legal protection from the financial threat of bankruptcy over the liability of causing wildfires. (See the citation at the end for the legalistic details.)

The FIRE combine (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate; and their meshing as Wall Street speculation), along with the War Industries Complex, has a stranglehold on today’s U.S. Government. Recall that FIRE owned the political career of Barack Obama, who dutifully protected them from justifiable prosecution and punishment for the greatest robbery of all time, in 2008; and that military-related expenses and subsidies consume over 70% of the federal budget (our taxes). While American Big Business includes many other rich and politically powerful sectors, like Big Pharma, I think that FIRE and the War Industries Complex are the largest forces in American capitalism today.

It seems to me that now that climate change is biting Big Business in a big way, the mainstream media is excited to report all the lurid details of catastrophes spawned by climate change, because it is echoing the fears of their prime and patronizing audience: the loss of big money by Big Business, and its fear of the loss of future certainty of uninterrupted profitability. Big Capital is now openly scared about climate change, and that is what we are now seeing as headline news.

We will also be seeing urgent promotions – presented as mass media news and commentary – for varieties of government subsidized protection for those sectors of Big Business that feel most financially threatened by the biting furies of climate change. The little that California state government is now doing for moderating the potentially infinite liabilities of its wildfire-haunted electric utilities is only the beginning of what we can expect in the way of publicly subsidized climate change insurance for Big Business.

I think that the pretense of climate change denialism by the Big Money has crumbled, and we are now entering a period of overt climate change acknowledgment coupled with fanatical efforts to gain public subsidies for private interests to both insure and indemnify them against climate change-related financial losses, and to also preserve the nature of their businesses even if they are major CO2 and organic vapor polluters, like the petrochemical and coal companies.

Notes:

California Governor Taking PG&E Closer to Fire Law Changes
July 25, 2018
https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2018/07/25/496015.htm

Facing $17 Billion in Fire Damages, a CEO Blames Climate Change
By: Mark Chediak
August 13, 2018
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-13/facing-17-billion-in-fire-damages-a-ceo-blames-climate-change

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This article appeared first as:

Climate Change Bites Big Business
14 August 2018
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/08/14/climate-change-bites-big-business/

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Guesstimating Our Own Götterdämmerung

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Guesstimating Our Own Götterdämmerung

We humans are our own Gods, and advancing climate change is the prelude to our own Götterdämmerung. Here then is my speculation (wild ass guess) of a schedule for the possible catastrophic events leading to human (and other) extinction by the year listed, or of those events greatly accelerating its arrival after the years listed.

2100:
A nuclear war with Russia within the next 100 years, if such were to occur, could cause our (and others) extinction.

2200:
With no prior nuclear war having occurred and no new efforts to curtail CO2 emissions since 2015, the prominent “extinction force” would be runaway global-warming/climate-change leading to a “Hothouse Earth” without glaciers and permanent ice caps:

– which in turn would lead to vast continuous wildfires worldwide;

– shrinking agriculture (from droughts and fires);

– shrinking fishing/aquaculture (from ocean warming, acidification and plastic pollution);

– frequent category 5 hurricanes and typhoons in the tropics
— causing extreme wind and mudslide damage;

– massive eco-collapse refugee streams from tropical latitudes to the north and south;

– continuing anti-immigrant wars by First World Nations against 2nd and 3rd World populations
— (as during the Roman Empire against German tribes),
— on land (e.g., Africa, Mexico), like Israeli military strikes against Gaza;
— on sea (e.g., Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea), the outright sinking of refugee ships;

– the expansion to high latitudes of old and new disease pathogens and parasites,

– American oil war aggression (Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia) to secure hydrocarbon fuel for its vastly expanded military at war continuously worldwide (to repel immigrants/invaders, and get the oil ahead of its other First World rivals doing the same);

– massive die-offs of 3rd World populations, because of inhabitability, starvation, disease and war;

– a “Fortress America,” “Fortress Europe,” etc. mentality, leading to abandoned 3rd World “outlands.”

There would still be humans left, but in a situation of “negative” feedback [where I mean “positive feedback” enhancing effects of negative desirability] as regards increasingly chaotic and deteriorating organized human life/society.

A nuclear war occurring late within this period would likely ensure complete extinction.

2300:
Humans surviving after 2300 would probably be “survivors” of the above, and looking forward to a steady slide into “caveman existence,” which is to say living off-the-land and entirely at the whim of environmental conditions, resource availability and climatic forces.

Also, the survivalist individuals in caveman existence would likely have to contend with the universal hostility from other members of their own species.

One possible climatic force could be a new Ice Age initiated by the stopping of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current, which would be caused by the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, in turn further chilling and freshening – making less salty – the North Atlantic, which effect would stop the AMOC. (I’ve described this physics elsewhere.)

The stopping of the AMOC prior to 2300 would accelerate the schedule of catastrophes and the degradation of habitability for humans (and others).

Finally
Please note that humanity is not compelled to follow this schedule. It merely represents my estimate of the logical consequences of the collective attitudes we now hold, and the political, economic, militaristic, sociological, consumption and environmental choices we have made as of today.

As the Old Gypsy Fortune Teller said: “The stars foretell, they do not compel.”

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You Can’t Sue Fossil Fuel Industry Over Climate Change

”Turns out cities can’t sue oil companies for climate change” reads the title of an article in Wired.Com magazine (https://www.wired.com/story/climate-lawsuits-dismissed/).* Well, obviously; the purpose of the US judiciary is to protect massed capital from popular democracy.

The truth is that climate change denial is primarily a failure of the U.S. Government (and other governments), from – at a minimum – the Reagan and then George H. W. Bush Administrations. Government scientists as well as government supported academics in the meteorological/atmospheric, oceanic, geological, and energy sciences all had combinations of observational data and computer models that clearly showed the advance and effects of global warming/climate change. The first definitive modern peer-reviewed scientific publication (in the journal Nature) describing the mechanism of CO2-caused global warming (the inability of the oceans to absorb all the CO2 being emitted, hence its buildup in the atmosphere, hence the growing heat retention by the CO2-laced atmosphere, hence the continuing rise in average air-ocean-earth temperature) was published in 1955.

By 1988, when James Edward Hansen (NASA’s chief scientist on atmospheric modeling and global warming at that time) gave his testimony to Congress – stating that global warming was man-made by CO2 emission – essentially all physically and mathematically reasonable computer models of the atmosphere and/or oceans, internationally, gave the same overall result: the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the higher the global average temperature; and the observed rise in global average temperature with time tracked the rate of increase of CO2 (and other organic gases and vapors) in the atmosphere. The National Academy of Sciences, as well as every real scientific and engineering professional society also agrees with this conclusion and states so.

The failure of protecting the public interest falls squarely on the political leadership class, who populate succeeding administrations of the USG and who collectively chose not to face the obvious facts presented by America’s (and the world’s) scientists, because that political leadership class did not want to accept or act on the clear societal implications of the scientific facts. Why? because the political leadership was more concerned to protect the financial self-interests of currently entrenched and very wealthy capitalist combines (in particular fossil fuel industries and the financial industries associated with them) than it was concerned to protect the long-term interests of the majority of the public for survival and well being (workers, wage earners, “ordinary people” relatively few of whom one could consider as “investors” in stocks, bonds and paper securities).

In brief, our politicians have for decades preferred to sell out the long term survival (and sustainable prosperity) of “the people” in favor of protecting the exploitative profitability of capital-intensive CO2-polluting industry and economic gamesmanship, and the super-wealthy (who are invariably corporatists and investor/speculators banking on those capital-intensive CO2-polluting industries). So, while it is true that the energy companies were very deceitful in funding P.R. campaigns of climate change denial while their own scientists/technologists knew that climate change was real and caused as a result of using their fossil fuels – just to keep raking in huge short-term profits – we had ample ways of knowing the truth without needing the fossil fuel companies to admit it, because we have had the publicly funded and publicly available scientific results of world-wide modern geo-science for decades.

American cities trying to sue energy companies for lying about climate change and hence “causing” damage to such municipalities has some legal logic to it as a way for these cities to “recover” financial compensation for their climate change-related “damages.” However, as noted here that is really a rather limited, petty, and at least partly hypocritical finger-pointing response to the accelerating climate change crisis, because that crisis is essentially the direct consequence of a willful (intentional!) failure of American (and other national) government, which was in cahoots with the CO2 polluter industries (and especially the Pentagon) and related finance capital industries.

Basically, capitalism is a fossil-fueled political-economic parasite feeding off the public good, both in its societal and environmental dimensions, and the US government (and others with similar energy and finance capital policies) is entirely in the business of protecting capitalism (the economic parasites) against the personal and societal interests of the majority of the national population (e.g., the ensuring of sustainable environmental security and long-term habitability, and having national political power controlled by popular and populist democracy rather than institutions of concentrated wealth).

And that’s where it stands today. We are on an accelerating plunge into extinction by climate change induced disasters (vast wildfires, collapsing agriculture, desertification and the poisoning of aquifers, the expanding range of disease pathogens, very destructive wind and rain storms) from the bottom up (first the poorest, last the richest) driven by a mad obsession to further concentrate the financial wealth of the wealthiest. It’s really all just a mass psychosis, and all our wars and military rivalries (nuclear armed no less) and political forms of oppression, repression and cruelty, and all our myopically fanatical exercises for maintaining control of factional and personal advantages parasitic to the public good are just ripples on the surface of the one great oceanic reality of our time: the survival of organized human life in the face of accelerating (and still out of our control) climate change.

Collectively, we humans just don’t want to face the fact that to have any useful (for our survival, and for social equity) impact on the present course of climate change we would have to change EVERYTHING, and NOW. Hypothetically, humanity has the capacity to do this, but realistically, based on the observation of past human behavior, it seems that the high degree of long-term cooperative altruism required to make such a complete change of world society (i.e., “the revolution,” or the “instant” conscious evolution of humanity’s super-ego) may be beyond the capacity of our collective social psychology. For now we each remain the randomly surprised victims of the sporadic disasters that erupt from our accumulating karma of obsessive-compulsive fossil-fueled climate change denial.

As an engineer, the only wild-ass guess of a solution that I can think of today is to hope for a miraculous “world satori” – a collective spontaneous and consensus-forming waking up of “everyone” to the same new vision of world society – and this then leading to our world buckling down to doing the numerous (and monumental) technical tasks of transforming all the structures of our civilization into a new paradigm in harmony with nature. Admittedly, this is an extremely fuzzy and rarefied engineering solution. What’s your idea?

*(Thanks to Michael Huff of Philadelphia, for the reference to the Wired article.)

See also:

Noam Chomsky: Survival of Organized Human Life is at Risk Due to Climate Change & Nuclear Weapons
30 July 2018
https://www.democracynow.org/2018/7/30/noam_chomsky_survival_of_organized_human

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