The fantasy of rising above the surface of the Earth and flying out among the stars is as old as the human imagination itself. After Marco Polo brought back Chinese gunpowder to the 13th century Europeans, they were able to militarize it into firearms, and the technology of chemically-propelled ballistics took off so that by the early 20th century rockets intended to fully penetrate Earth’s atmosphere and drift out into Outer Space were being visualized and tested.
William Leitch in 1861 and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1903 expressed the idea of using rockets to enable human spaceflight. From 1920 Robert Goddard proposed improvements to rocket design, and in 1926 built and launched the first modern rocket. That modernity was marked by the first use of a converging-diverging exhaust tube — known as a de Laval nozzle — which enabled the hot exhaust gases emitted by the combusting rocket fuel to convert their heat energy into outward unidirectional motion at supersonic speed: thrust!
But with the exception of tinkerers like Goddard, rockets were used as military weapons — artillery — most dramatically by Nazi Germany from 1943 with its V2 ballistic missile rocket-bombs. The American space program began in 1945 with the use of captured German V2 rockets to send cameras and scientific probes into the upper atmosphere. The USSR’s independent space program began in the 1950s, making a dramatic breakthrough — shocking Americans — with the lofting of Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite, which was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. It orbited for three weeks before its batteries died and then orbited silently for two months before it fell back into the atmosphere on the 4th of January 1958.
The major thrust of both American and Soviet rocket development throughout the 1950s and 1960s was to construct intercontinental ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads, and have such capability presented as a threat display to deter aggression by other technologically advanced and militarily powerful adversaries: the Cold War. Putting men as the payloads in such large rockets and blasting them into Earth orbit, and eventually out to the Moon, was primarily a flagrant display to all, signaling the possession of awesome military power. Science exploration was a minor byproduct of the space race, but ultimately some of that scientific curiosity yielded the most beneficial results from the entire rocketry endeavor.
Now, 52 years after Neil Armstrong first set a human foot on the Moon, propelled by American public funding, at least three of our attention-seeking Billionaire Boys are competing to burn up disposable bundles of their money to launch themselves into space joyrides, and to then exploit the technology they have paid to have built as the basis of “space tourism” businesses.
On Tuesday, 20 July 2021, Jeff Bezos and three others were blasted in his rocket up to an elevation of 106 km above the surface of the Earth, for a two-way trip totaling 10 minutes and 10 seconds. To some this is a laudable achievement of the free market system, while to others it is a pathetic expansion of conspicuous consumption to a new exorbitant level. Many ask: could the billions extracted from the labor of Bezos’s exploited and precarious workforce not have been better spent to alleviate hunger and homelessness?, and could the massive amount of chemical energy expended to pull off this stunt not have been better used with much greater efficiency to power broadly beneficial purposes on the surface of the Earth? But such questions mistake applying standards of human solidarity and social responsibility to seek understanding billionaire’s egotistical behavior. Here, I will provide one answer to the energy question.
The minimum energy needed to loft any mass up to 106 km above the surface of the Earth is 1,022,842.066 Joules per kilogram (J/kg). So, for the total energy expenditure in any specific case, multiply the mass of the fully loaded rocket (in kg) by 1,022,842.066 Joules/kg. One joule is the energy required to lift a medium-sized tomato up 1 meter (3 ft 3 in), assuming the tomato has a mass of 101.97 grams (3.597 oz). Lofting a mass up to 106 km above the surface of the Earth requires as much energy as lifting it only 1 meter above the Earth’s surface 104,265 times.
Outer Space is considered to begin at elevation 100 km, which is called the Von Karman Line (after a renowned aerodynamicist). Satellites in Low Earth Orbit have elevations between 180 km and 2,000 km; in Mid Earth Orbit, 2,000 km to 35,780 km elevation; in Geosynchronous Orbit at 35,780 km elevation; in High Earth Orbit beyond 35,780 km; and the Orbit of the Moon occurs at a distance of 378,032 km from the Earth’s surface.
It requires 9.81 Joules of energy to lift a 1 kg mass 1 meter above the surface of the Earth (or 9.81 of those 3.597 ounce tomatoes, all at once). In terms of “g’s” pulling a mass “down” toward the center of the Earth, the g-force at the surface of the Earth is 1g, the g-force at 106 km is 0.968g, the g-force at 180 km is 0.946g, the g-force at 2,000 km is 0.579g, the g-force at 35,780 km is 0.023g, and the g-force at 378,032 km (the distance to the Moon) is negligible at 0.0002747g.
Satellites in stable orbits around the Earth need an additional energy to accelerate them up to an orbital velocity, and it is this boost to lateral momentum, in combination with the “centrifugal” (radial) pull by Earth’s gravity, that results in the curved trajectory that describes the satellite’s stable orbit, which can be either circular or elliptical.
I do not know the weight of Bezos’s rocket (I have not seen it published), but IF I assume it weighed as much as a fully loaded Boeing 707 jet airplane, 150,000 kg, then the total (minimum) energy to lift it up to 106 km would have been 1.534×10^11 Joules = 153.4 gigajoules (GJ). Whatever the actual weight was, lofting it to an elevation of 106 km requires at least 1.023 megajoules/kilogram (MJ/kg).
I am guessing that small rockets, perhaps comparable to Bezos’s, could weigh half as much (or less) as a Boeing 707 airplane (~10s of thousands of kg), and I am certain that Bezos’s rocket was much smaller than the the Saturn V rockets that lofted the Apollo Moon missions, and which initially weighed about 2.8 million kg.
The real issue is that blasting stuff up into space — away from Earth and against its gravity — is immensely energy intensive. Given that one has that energy in the first place, why use/waste inordinate amounts of it to loft small payloads into space? For a few items like weather and GPS satellites, space telescopes, and tiny robotic planetary probes, I think it is worthwhile for the expansion of scientific knowledge and the physical improvement of social conditions. But for almost all else, and most especially manned space flight, it is the total waste of space junk littering militarism and propaganda.
And now, symptomatic of our dysfunctional economics, manned space flight has also become just another item of supremely exclusive and very showy personal conspicuous consumption. As Eeyore would gloomily intone in the Winnie-the-Pooh books: “Pathetic.”
A short report in PDF form is freely available to anyone interested in the details of my calculations, at
A extensive televised BBC News story of 16 July 2021, titled “Catastrophic flooding across western Europe as politicians blame climate change,” showed the devastation caused by the rapid massive flooding in the region of Western Europe at the confluence of the borders of Germany, Belgium, France and Luxembourg during the third week of July 2021, when three times the monthly average of rainfall was dumped in only a day or two. In that report, the likely next Prime Minister of Germany forthrightly assigned blame for the catastrophe to global warming climate change, and urged serious and immediate national, European and world action to counter it by reducing anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide. (https://youtu.be/8A65JzDltY4)
If this flooding in Germany and Belgium this last week, and the vast fires and massively deadly heat in Northwestern USA and Canada, and Siberia the previous week, can cause such devastation despite occurring in the most technologically sophisticated and economically advanced and developed countries on Earth, how do you think such similarly “natural catastrophes,” amplified and accelerated by global warming, would affect (and are affecting) the hundreds of millions — even billions — of the Earth’s poorest and most vulnerable people — as in Sub-Sahara Africa, Amazonia, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and the Pacific Islands?
This is real life Apocalypse Now. It will continue to “explode” much more slowly than the pacing within our very short attention spans — of seconds to maybe as long as months — and that explosion of catastrophe will continue for decades and even centuries if humanity continues to remain inert before this planetary reality.
The problem — that millions and billions more people have not yet been spurred into action by the all-too-obvious degradation of the climate-weather-biosphere interlocking systems — is far beyond the simple confusion of a deer-in-the-headlights problem. Fundamentally, it is the human inertia of the retreat into reassuring habit to mask the denial of existential fear, rather than a forthright confrontation of it with intelligent action.
Our destiny has been handed to us: either we exhibit triumphs of the human spirit by acting vigorously and cooperatively to counteract global warming, or we perish ignominiously in a degrading piecemeal fashion as willfully ignorant victims of our own stupidity, narcissism and witless folly.
What amazes me is how, in the face so such evident and advancing climate catastrophes, so many can be so enveloped in their illusion bubbles and remain completely blind to the ongoing collapse of the world, both natural and human: bubbles of greed illusions in desperation to acquire more exclusive corporate and “insider” subsidies in order to “compete”; bubbles of bigotry illusions ever in search of public affirmation and normalization of their favored brand of supremacist apartheid; bubbles of fear illusions ever in search of more armed protection from other “types” and “classes” and “foreigners”; pathetic bubbles of self illusions ever in search of “power” by phishing telemarketing of fake automobile warranties and “free money,” and hacking websites large and small and Facebook pages; and the narcissistic illusion bubbles of billionaire boys trying to explode mass media paroxysms of stupidity by ejaculating their ego rockets into space; and the hubristic bubbles of unmoored superpower illusions ever seeking to project power “geo-strategically”, to monopolize hydrocarbon deposits and trade, and to stifle small countries with marginal economies, as with Cuban socialism just south over the Caribbean horizon from a sinking, collapsing and sea-level-rise-flooding Miami.
In that BBC report, Britt Blom, a café owner helping to clear the masses of debris clogging her village streets after the flood waters had receded, said: “We need to stay positive, we can cry all day but this will not help anything. So, better smiling and keep working.”
And for the rest of us in this ever shrinking wide world, that “working” means: to help clean up after the tragedies “here,” to help other victims of tragedy both near and far, and to face up to global warming climate change and biodiversity collapse, with real and cooperative action to help slow the pace of our expanding planetary catastrophe.
I have always been impressed by the fragility of White (a.k.a., Gringo) Supremacy. It is amazing to me that so many of these freedom-loving patriots (a.k.a., parasites) can be so incensed that the Cuban government is trying to contain and suppress the anti-government — really anti-austerity — protests going on now in Havana (and island-wide), while same said Americans having long continued to be so tolerant, and even in favor of:
— massive racialized incarceration,
— evident KKK slants in policing,
— the suppression of anti-corporate — and thus accurately equated to anti-government — protests, as with pipelines, immigration and nuclear disarmament (with federal and state convictions of protesters to long prison sentences),
— accuracy in historical education (a.k.a., “critical race theory”) being legislated against,
— vote and voter suppression by racially-motivated legislated restrictions,
— generous tolerance for minimized punishment of criminal acts committed by individuals engaged in Storm Trooper type anti-government actions (a.k.a., riots by “conservatives”),
— blatant U.S. Government interventions of obviously imperialistic nature in Latin America, with a special animus toward Cuba (because it resists being raped).
That strident outrage at the state-imposed limitations on personal freedom in Cuba, without the least concern for the evident, inequitable, wide-ranging and deepening suppression of human rights and personal freedoms in the United States, is a testament to the profundity of the tribal fear in American White Supremacy, and is the root from which sprout expressions of hypocritical outrage over the limitations of freedom in Cuba, that small and luxuriant and resistant island nation so close by and that Gringo Supremacy would love to make into the U.S.’s Gaza Strip.
In the end, tragically, it all comes down to the Melian Debate in Thucydides.
Why does the U.S. maintain a war against Cuba? Besides the traditional Monroe Doctrine white supremacy impetus of US foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, it is all about the endless and ever fruitless search for revenge over JFK, since the killing of Che was nowhere near satisfying enough, and all out war with Russia is not an option.
Excellent essay by Dave B. McDonald III. Add nuclear power to his list of energy sources in his discussion of Jevon’s Paradox (wood, peat, coal, oil, natural gas, “green energy,” and also nuclear power = the energy ladder).
“In one aspect, lots has happened since last year….From another perspective, pretty much nothing has been done.”
This sums up Planet of the Humans. Despite everyone’s efforts, global atmospheric CO2 yesterday was at 416.98 ppm, the highest level ever measured. Yet the U.S. has 63,794 installed wind turbines and Germany has 29,844. What is going on?
Planet of the Humans, directed by Jeff Gibbs and produced by Ozzie Zehner, has been viewed (5/14/20) by 7,745,866 on Youtube alone. Everyone is astonished at the massive viewership, not least Gibbs, Zehner, and Michael Moore, who has lent his prestige to the film as executive producer. But POTH has also prompted a flood of anguished denunciations from people in the environmental movement who feel unjustly attacked and demonized. We will dip into a particularly cogent public attack on…
Syria is at the center of a geo-political vortex of conflict that has suctioned the petroleum-fueled ambitions of the three international powers of our day — the United States, Russia and China — into an interlaced complex of bitter regional wars within the oil-rich highly fragmented and excessively inequitable Islamic and Israeli Middle East.
The Syrian Civil War broke out on 15 March 2011 as one of the numerous Arab Spring revolts and revolutions of that year. The initially peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations by the Syrian people against oppression by the state and in favor of democracy were brutally suppressed by the Al-Assad regime and thus engendered a violent defensive reaction. The ensuing Syrian Civil War quickly devolved into a power vacuum within which swirled a chaotic and inhuman multi-party scramble for political control through armed conflict.
The Shia-based affinity between the Alawite-centered Al-Assad family dictatorship in Syria with the Hezbollah Political Party in Lebanon and with the Iranian theocracy bonded these last two into arrangements and intrigues of military assistance to the Al-Assad regime.
The Sunni-based oil-rich Gulf States, which are aligned with the Washington Consensus, pursued their ideological and regional ambitions by supplying military aid to sub-state factions and terrorist groups combatting the Shia-allied forces in Syria. Israel and Turkey each also continued to pursue their own regional ambitions with a similar perspective relative to Syria.
In September 2015 the Russian government, under the direction of Vladimir Putin, intervened massively in the Syrian Civil War, conducting airstrikes and other military operations for the defense of its long time client, the Al-Assad regime, thus boosting it to a military victory in its civil war, which has been and continues to be a humanitarian catastrophe for the Syrian people. Syria hosts one of the three Russian foreign military bases outside the confines of the former Soviet Union and the former East Bloc (out of a total of 21 military bases outside of Russia proper).
That Syrian-hosted Russian military presence is actually sited at two bases: a naval facility in Tartus, and the Khmeimim Air Base. From its Syrian military base complex, Russia can project military power westward from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, northward to Turkey and beyond that to the Black Sea and Crimea, eastward into the Levant, and southward into Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula.
Russia’s purpose in maintaining such wide-ranging possibilities of power projection from its Syrian bases are diplomatic, they are not preparations for invasive war. They are what in the animal world is known as a threat display, a broadcast signal — mainly directed at the Washington Consensus — saying: do not think to attack our nation because we can reach far out to claw your eyes out, and rip open your petrol-carrying veins. Russian history easily justifies such a defensive posture.
What all three world powers understand is that their degree of control of world affairs rests on the extent of their control over the world’s fossil fuel commerce. The national ambitions of lesser states are easily throttled by the squeezing of the control hands wrapped around the petroleum arteries of world economics. Japan launched its Pacific War of 1941-1945 because of just this fear, sparked by the U.S. embargo of petroleum to Japan on 26 July 1941 in response to Japan’s 1937 invasion of China and its ensuing Sino-Japanese War, which then merged into World War II as one of its theaters of conflict.
Radiating out of this collective understanding of world power are: Washington’s lavish patronage and protection of the Gulf States in its orbit, Russia’s zeal at piping its abundant geological hydrocarbon bounty to Europe, and China’s unquenchable thirst for Iranian, Central Asian, and any other petroleum to help fuel the continuing expansion of the world’s largest national-regional economy.
And Syria is the stinging nettle at the center of this turbulent geo-political swirl.
With malicious desperation during its multi-faceted war against the aspirations of the Syrian people, and against the infiltrating sub-state and ideologically fanatical militias seeking control of the Syrian state, as well as against militias acting as proxy forces of foreign intervention (sometimes the same for these last two), the Al-Assad regime deployed chemical weapons on many occasions: chlorine and sarin gas aerial bombs and artillery shells. “The deadliest attacks were the August 2013 sarin attack in Ghouta (killing between 281 and 1,729 people) and the April 2017 sarin attack in Khan Shaykhun (killing at least 89 people)… The most common agent used was chlorine, with sarin and sulphur mustard also reported.” 
In prior decades from the 1970s, Syria had built up an arsenal of chemical weapons, with the technological help of Russia and Egypt, as its weapons-of-mass-destruction shield against external threats to the continuation of the Al-Assad regime as the Syrian state. This Syrian chemical “doomsday machine” was intended as its ultimate defense against Israeli aggression, in the same way that the nuclear powers present their arsenals of nuclear-tipped rockets as shields against existential threats to their national sovereignty. 
The worldwide abhorrence against the use of chemical weapons acted as a diplomatic pressure against this tactic by the Al-Assad regime domestically, and was also used as an excuse by the Washington Consensus to justify its various forms of demi-covert intervention in the Syrian Civil War. There has been much propaganda, anti-propaganda, dissimulation, lying and cover-up associated with the reality of chemical warfare in Syria, the slants and biases in the reporting and commentary of which depend on the ideological allegiances of their sources, every faction trying to muddy the waters of public perception in its favor.
In 2013, under intense international pressure against its chemical warfare and fearing a Libya-style NATO intervention, the Al-Assad regime with Russian encouragement acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. It agreed to eliminate its arsenal of chemical weapons under the supervision (and protection) of Russia. But the complete elimination of that arsenal did not occur, as witnessed by subsequent chemical attacks by the forces of the Syrian regime.
In 2014, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission in Syria concluded that the use of chlorine was systematic and widespread. The following year, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (OPCW-UN JIM) was established to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria. The OPCW-UN JIM blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad for the sarin attack in Khan Shaykhun, as well as three chlorine attacks. They also concluded ISIL militants used sulphur mustard. According to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the Syrian government carried out 33 chemical attacks between 2013 and September 2018. A further six attacks were documented by the Commission, but the perpetrators were not sufficiently identified. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 85 confirmed chemical attacks occurred between 21 August 2013 and 25 February 2018, and the Syrian government was responsible for the majority of the attacks. HRW said the actual number of attacks was likely higher than 85. According to a Global Public Policy Institute study, at least 336 attacks have occurred. The report said 98% of these attacks were carried out by Assad’s forces and 2% by ISIL. 
In October 2019, former OPCW employee Brendan Whelan acted as a whistleblower codenamed ‘Alex’, teaming “up with Wikileaks, to expose what appeared to be a major scandal with global implications – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), had ‘doctored’ a report in order to fabricate a chlorine attack in Syria when no such event had actually occurred… [Brendan Whelan] had been part of the team that investigated the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018 in which at least 41 civilians were killed. This was done, insinuated ‘Alex’, in order to frame the Syrian government and justify the missile strikes launched by the US, UK and France against forces loyal to the government of Bashar al-Assad in the days following the attack on the town of Douma in April 2018.” 
Russian state media and the Assad regime seized upon these leaks to claim that the chemical attack was staged and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had been hijacked by Western nations and was no longer fit for its intended purpose.
“A draft version of a letter seen by Bellingcat and not publicly released by either ‘Alex’, Wikileaks or any of the journalists who have covered the so-called scandal, proves that a chemical attack did occur. It shows that any notion of a cover-up at the OPCW is false and confirms that the organisation acted exactly as it was mandated to. Further, it also reveals that at a diplomatic level behind closed doors, the Russian and Syrian governments have both agreed with the conclusions of the OPCW report. Yet in public – and with the help of a number of Western journalists and academics – Russia has launched a widespread and concerted effort to undermine both the OPCW and the conclusions of its report on Douma.” 
The unreleased letter referred to above (the relevant portions of which can be seen in ) was drafted by several members of the OPCW in June 2019 and then sent by the director general of the organisation, Fernando Arias, in reply to a letter from Whelan where he claimed there was no evidence of chlorine being used as a weapon in Douma, and traces of chlorine that were found were not consistent with the release of chlorine gas. In his reply Arias explains why Whelan’s assumptions are wrong – he simply wasn’t aware of the latest scientific techniques used by the OPCW because they were developed after Whelan had left the organisation. It was these techniques that allowed the OPCW to conclude chlorine gas had been released in the building in which the Syrian civilians died.
Arias wrote: “Your letter further refers to 2,4,6-trichlorophenol as being used erroneously as an indicator of chlorine exposure, and you rightly point out that this chemical can be present for a variety of reasons that do not require chlorine gas exposure. However, there were additional chlorine-containing chemicals found in samples taken from Douma, and in particular, chlorinated pinene compounds that have been shown to form in certain types of wood that have been exposed to chlorine gas. One of the Designated Laboratories that analysed samples after you completed your tenure has developed methods of analysing wood exposed to chlorine gas that can distinguish between different types of wood in the signatures of chlorinated compounds produced. This laboratory’s analysis of wood samples taken from Douma indicated that the wood indeed had been exposed to chlorine gas.” 
In short, the OPCW did exactly as mandated and established that a chemical weapon had been used at Douma; the OPCW had not falsified evidence nor fabricated a fictitious (false flag) chemical attack.
Arias also wrote that: “I would further like to point out that the conclusion of the final Douma report is not in question. No State Party has questioned the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that a toxic chemical was used as a weapon in Douma. This includes the Syrian Arab Republic and the Russian Federation, which in recent weeks have each sent us comments and questions on the final Douma report in notes verbale in which they themselves have indicated their agreement with the conclusion of the final report. These notes verbale, as well as our replies to them, have been made available to State Parties.” 
A July/August 2021 news brief by the Arms Control Association states:
“An investigation into 77 allegations of chemical weapons use by Syria has concluded that chemical weapons were likely or definitely used in 17 cases, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported to the UN Security Council on June 3 …
“OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias announced that the world’s chemical weapons watchdog will be addressing new issues during future consultations with Syria, including ‘the presence of a new chemical weapons agent found in samples collected in large storage containers in September 2020.’ He said that the organization had notified Syria of its intention to conduct on-site inspections and requested visas for its expert team, but never received a response…
“That is not the first time that Syria has declined to cooperate. In April 2020, the OPCW Executive Council demanded further information regarding three alleged chemical weapons attacks that took place in 2017. Syria declined, and in response, the organization in April suspended Syria’s ‘rights and privileges,’ marking the first time that the OPCW had taken such action since its formation in 1997…
“Russia has consistently defended Syria and criticized the OPCW and its investigators. In response to Arias’ report, Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, accused the OPCW of exclusively using information ‘from biased sources opposed to the Syrian government’ and of relying on ‘pseudo witnesses,’ according to media reports. He also claimed the OPCW ‘was established illegitimately’ and that therefore it is unfair to expect Syria to comply with its regulations. Russia joined 14 other states, including China, in voting against the measure to restrict Syria’s rights within the multilateral organization…
“Despite Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 under heavy international pressure, questions remain about the validity of the country’s chemical weapons declarations. Arias reported that one of the deadliest attacks took place in 2017, three years after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared that the destruction of the country’s chemical weapons program was complete.” 
So as of mid 2021: the Al-Assad regime remains in control of the Syrian state; there is no convincing evidence that its entire stockpile of chemical weapons has been destroyed and that it no longer has a chemical weapons production capability; there is no guarantee that Syrian military forces will never again deploy chemical weapons against Syrians opposed to the Al-Assad regime; Russian military forces in Syria, along with Russia’s diplomatic clout internationally, continue to protect the Al-Assad regime, as well as maintain Russian foreign-based military power in Syria.
Over the ten years and four months of the Syrian Civil War (so far) over 606,000 people have been killed, 6.7 million Syrians are internally displaced, and 6.6 million Syrians are refugees. The pre-war population of the Syrian Arab Republic was estimated to be 22 million. 
The elimination worldwide of both chemical and nuclear weapons from military arsenals — and threat display diplomacy — remain as yet unfulfilled dreams for a more peaceful and secure world.
I see Plato’s book, Republic, as logic-based epistemology applied to political philosophy. Anyway, that would be my claim in my undergraduate Philosophy 101 essay on Plato.
The conceptual range of “logic” and “epistemology” and “politics” in Plato’s Republic is that of a sophisticated and prosperous well-educated aristocrat of late 5th Century and early 4th Century BCE Athenian-Greek society. That conceptual range is free of prehistoric animism, and Asiatic and Celtic mysticism; it is solidly materialistic and absent any “depth psychology” of the type that would be popularized by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung (the psychology of the “unconscious”). That conceptual range is also absent any qualms about hierarchical society structured on hereditarily-conferred class-based social status and functional roles, and which includes slavery.
So it is easy to see Plato’s Republic as the stone at the center of the plump fruit that is Western Philosophy with its inner flesh of Christian mythology and irrationality — which appropriated, subsumed, reformulated and blended prior pagan myths and mysticisms to serve the needs of temporal political hierarchy — its middle layer of Renaissance and Enlightenment rationalism, and with its outer flesh and skin covering as later envelopments by early 19th Century Romanticism — emotionalism — and late 19th Century Nietzschean anti-religious intellectualism, Freudian-Jungian depth psychology as a substitute for discredited and discarded Christian metaphysics, and the proletarian-socialist consciousness engendered by industrialization.
As 20th and 21st Century individuals, parts of each of us live in various prior periods of the development of Western Consciousness, depending on the particulars of the arcs of our personal psychological, family, ethnic, cultural, educational, economic and political situations.
The slow inter-bleeding of Eastern and Western Thought, at least since the 19th century, has somewhat diluted both, more fundamentally in the East that has become quite enthusiastically capitalist since the 20th Century, than in the West that has added a minor flavoring of Eastern philosophy into the self-absorbed and self-indulgent aspects of its materialistic consumerist obsessiveness.
In his book, Republic, Plato lays out his political philosophy for the establishment and maintenance of a stable, well-ordered and just society. In his time societies were city-states, like Athens in the time of Socrates, Plato and Diogenes. The essential element of Plato’s scheme is the “guidance” of the city — “governing” is too strongly “micro-management” of a word — by a class of “guardians” who were carefully selected and trained from youth for the task, and who were wholly devoted to it for their lifetimes: basically philosopher-guru-priests.
However, I note that the viability of Plato’s political formulation for the construction and operation of just societies rests primarily on the incorruptible moral character of its central and guiding personnel, the guardians, and secondarily on the reasonably stable decency of behavior of the citizens: that is to say, their morality.
Please note that by “moral” I do not at all mean “religious”; there is no functional correlation between the two (and in my view more likely an anti-correlation).
At least since the end of the Neolithic, the idea developed that a stable, well-ordered society (whether just or unjust, but always to the liking of its rulers) could be established solely by political means, such as in: monarchies, parliamentary democracies, socialist and communists states (most pointedly those sharply Marxist materialist), and dictatorships (whether purely materialistic or theocratic).
By political I mean social arrangements for societal management that are constructions external to the individual person. Note that such political structures can include elements of physical compulsion on individual behavior, and elements of thought-control by indoctrination and propaganda to capture, shape and distort individual thought, and that such political structures will still be external to the individual as a moral being.
So, I do not believe it is possible to ensure the stable continuation of any momentarily just society, whatever its political structure, solely on the basis of the forced maintenance of that political structure, nor solely on the basis of a change of political structure whether that change is reformist or revolutionary. Justice as societal stability requires a taproot into incorruptible moral character by a majority of the citizens. Justice is good politics and good political structure, and is a natural outgrowth of good and intelligent morality, which in turn is individually personified as character.
Given the above, I believe that any social movement aiming to “permanently” evolve, reform or revolutionize a society in need of anything from improvement to drastic change in order to make it universally just, has to base its efforts on developing the moral character of its movement adherents and the mass of citizens it wishes to convince, for lifetime incorruptibility. Here, we have faith that a society with a majority of its citizens being of incorruptible moral character will ensure the continuation of such in succeeding generations, by the operation of its educational systems.
Of course any serious movement for social change will act politically whenever it can to counter existing injustices and respond to humanitarian emergencies. But it must never lose sight of its chronic fundamental task — instilling ethics — regardless of the frequency and variety of crisis flare-ups it reacts to during the daily spectacle.
Yes, this prescription for engineering permanent social change for the better is an idealization that may seem impossible to implement, as witnessed by the history of human civilization, but I think it is nevertheless true and has been the most powerful force that has helped bring about whatever degree of decency any of our human societies possesses today.
I have played many sports, mainly as a boy but also as a young man, playing them entirely as games with other amateurs: for fun. The most fun I had was when the games were only trivially competitive, and the least fun I had — and even hate — was when I was in competitive leagues run by “sports fan” adults. I have not followed professional sports for decades, but I thought I would express myself here on competitive sports anyway, because I know there is a huge, huge international obsession with them, such as with the World Cup (football = soccer), the Olympics, the National Football League (American football), the National Basketball Association (male ballet in the U.S.A.), and the National Baseball League (baseball being the most game-like and least warlike of American sports; fun on a summer day with hot dogs and beer — even though that makes for sloppy playing!).
There is always great controversy and outrage when an elite athlete is disqualified because one or another chemical trace was detected in their bodies, in a concentration above some arbitrary amount (such as marijuana in anybody, and testosterone in women); or when a referee make a “bad call” affecting the subsequent competitive rankings of teams; or for stupid and violent behavior by a player frustrated at not getting what he or she wants.
Why so much public outrage over such incidents? Because “sports fans” are overwhelmingly obsessed with the competitive aspect of sports, with “winning,” and thus: status, notoriety, fame, money; and the fans’s vicarious association with their revered “winners.” There is much less interest — I think basically none — in the beauty of movement, the dance of the sporting activities: the grace of lithe bodies in peak physical condition artistically expressing skills of coordination and timing, and thus being elegant dynamic displays of the human form. But, nope, it’s all about “getting ahead.”
Professional sports organizations (which includes the Olympics and college leagues) seek to maintain the illusions of the “purity” of their sports, so they have many regulations and invasive testing procedures to try to ensure none of the athletic competitors “cheats” by boosting their performance abilities with supplements (hormones, chemicals) or other technical methods of enhancement (a la Frankenstein to their bodies, or by technological enhancements to their equipment).
But competition remains the real focus of everyone’s attention, so there is an eternal conflict between keeping the sports “pure” as “games”, and running them as what everyone really wants: unapologetic all out wars where all is fair in order to win. And so, there is much much hypocrisy around every cheating, disqualification, injury and abuse incident in professional sports; and in professionalized “amateur” sports by people like sports fan dads, and college donors.
That conflict catches up many athletes, and ruins their careers — which is to say their quests for records, glory, status, notoriety and most importantly wealth — because those athletes made one or another little slip in trying to thread the needle of their career along the ragged edges of the nonaligned complexes of “pure sport” and “competition.” The supreme hypocrisy of both the professional sports organizations and the sports fan public is that any athlete’s failure to perfectly suture pure sport with competition is put on them as a personal failure, rather than a systemic one. I find that hypocrisy detestable and, along with the obsession with competition, has turned me off to sports beyond the level of games children engage in and run for themselves without any adult involvement.
So I have a proposal to eliminate that chronic and endemic sports hypocrisy: eliminate all the restrictions. That’s right, unleash sports from the illusion they are fun games, and let them be all out wars: pure competition. Let athletes do to themselves whatever they think will help them win, by: ingestion, injection, implantation, surgery; anything. Test no one for anything: no drug tests, no sex tests, no behavioral reprimands; nothing. Let the games begin! What sports fans really want is gladiatorial contests: winner take all, losers die. So, free it all up and cut all the hypocrisy. We really don’t care if athletes ruin their health, or steal team signals, or surreptitiously enhance their equipment, or gamble on the outcome of matches. Winning is the only thing.
Horrors!, some will say, won’t that ruin the sports? No, it will purify them. Those people who want to engage in sports as just games to play for fun will form their own noncompetitive leagues. And they will then play with vigor but no obsession about the final score: they will play for enjoyment and without any prospect of money rewards. So such sporting activity will be inherently amateur, and entirely community: festivals instead of wars. No TV broadcasts, no multi-million dollar contracts, no big business, no celebrity culture, no national and international spectacle and drama: boring as entertainment. But fun for the festival participants.
Then the full scale big business industrial war of professional sports can really go all out to the maximum thrill of its enthralled fans, and to offer the maximum possibility of competitive (i.e., status, money, power) success for its driven careerist individuals: modern gladiators. As stories of successful intrigues and spying for advantage become known, they will enhance the sports fan public’s delight with the competitive spectacles they are devoted to.
The small number of sports afficionados who would like to see graceful game-playing on TV from the comfort of their couches, by enthusiastic and vigorous athletes who are nevertheless intrinsically noncompetitive and playing from pure joy, may possibly have some community access TV channels broadcasting local game-festivals, and even possibly internationally over the internet. In that way such fans may be able to find opportunities to watch “pure play” by non-enhanced athletes remotely, as well as by actual physical attendance at local game-festivals: hence socialist sports. All sports fans will certainly be guaranteed the ability to see all-out big-money professional sports anytime anywhere on broadcast and internet TV, and such broadcasts will be lushly garnished with corporate advertisements — which is the whole point of capitalist sports. And therein is an abstract of the politics of sports.
So there you have it: hypocrisy-free sports are possible as purely amateur socialist intrinsically noncompetitive (i.e., money-free) game-festivals, and professional sports will be liberated to carry on as their hardcore fan base and careerist athletes truly desire: all out wars for glory, fame and money.
I would see any outrage at this proposal as a de facto defense of the bloated hypocrisy enveloping all professional and professionalized sports organizations and their ‘fandoms’.
Finally, as a note of full disclosure, I have played my sports with sufficient competitive vigor to get numerous sports injuries, on: feet, ankles, legs, knees, hands, fingers, and torso.
By Stan Goff on 2 July 2021 (on the death of Donald Rumsfeld):
No one cracked on Donald Rumsfeld harder than I did for a few years there.
Just finished DB Hart’s book on universal salvation, which contends that even Rumsfeld falls within the ambit of Christ’s salvation. I found it utterly convincing.
Some know I don’t do ritual corpse kicking, which I see as virtue-signaling in far too many cases (and which I’ve done!); and posting this right now may seem a little masochistic . . . like I’m inviting people to protest this claim (don’t worry, plenty of Christians also still cling to the idea of some eternal torture for those of us who went waaay off the rails in this life).
We think Donald Rumsfeld made himself the way he is, because we cherish the belief that we make ourselves the way we are, and moreover (unstated) that those of us who didn’t turn out like Rumsfeld (or ‘choose your villain’) never even contained the potential to become like him. That we are ourselves not superior beings, and not substantially determined by a complex chain of “nurture,” by luck or lack thereof, by history, and by accidents.
I thought Stan Goff’s comments important enough to comment rather fulsomely on, as follows:
I found C. G. Jung’s comments on this question illuminating. His were given post WWII, about Nazism and Nazis, and “collective guilt” of the German population (and others).
Jung advocated people learning about their “unconscious” (which he wrote so much about) because most of us (our personalities) are contained in (or is) the unconscious.
Among the elements of our entire psyche, Jung included a “shadow”, a part of us which we (our conscious ego) denied about ourselves. This deep “negative” part is where we have the dirty, nasty, perverse and violent thoughts THAT WE ALL HAVE, but block from affecting our actions by the workings of the more conscious, logical and moral (and educated) part of our consciousness.
Jung’s point was that the many self-styled “moral” people who claimed ‘I would never have been a Nazi nor acted like one, because of my morality’ were precisely those most in danger of becoming so, because they were blind to their intrinsic potential to become so — as everyone is — and thus unprepared (a deficiency of consciousness) to recognize the external psychological influences pulling one into that direction (basically: brainwashing you).
For Jung, the successful operation of “morality” to keep an individual free (safe) from the worst potentialities of evil erupting from their unconscious into action, was knowing that: ‘anything the worse villain — like a Nazi — can do, I am equally capable of doing, so I must consciously keep myself from falling into that, I cannot rely on remaining safe from it unconsciously.’
In more modern times we might say that, genetically, we all sprout from the same root, and all the potentialities of human form and expression are coded within us, and those that are actualized have emerged by a combination of our personal genetic spectrum (our alleles) and our learned conscious (logical and moral) behavior.
So, yes, “corpse kicking” is embedded in the Id (“virtue signaling”), and can be recognized as such, and re-channelled, by the Super-Ego (the non-asshole top layer of the Ego). We all want Rumsfeld to “burn in hell,” but what’s the point? (It’s too late for prosecuting him in a war crimes trial. The U.S. must have the world’s best “social security” and legal immunity programs for retired war criminals: as, why no Nuremberg II for the Vietnam War?)
The best we can do about people like that (successful war criminals who have moved on) is to — as best as we can — clean up their messes, care for the surviving victims, and try embedding that tragic past into our society’s historical memory as a lesson (accepted and learned) for eliciting safer and better behavior in the collective future.
This is the kind of commentary, and commentator that pisses me off. Yes, an honorable, intelligent, patriotic former career soldier, and highly respected military-political commentator comes to forthrightly state that the war-crazed dysfunction of the American state now seems fatally terminal, and one might have found glimmers of that realization as far back as 1969, such as in Kurt Vonnegut’s new book that year Slaughterhouse 5, though Bacevich finally acceded to it in mid-Trump Administration.
WOW! I fucking knew this in 1968 as an 18 year old! I read SH5 in 1969, and Catch-22 in ’68, and had read Helen Hunt Jackson somewhere between 1963-1967 (which was before Dee Brown’s “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” was published).
Okay, so now the old West-Pointer Bacevich has finally read SH5, and published his erudite books on the stupidity of American militarism, and been forthright about his previous white American exceptionalism careerist wrong illusions, and made sincere and public efforts to advocate for an inclusive, just, “progressive” America, and write as here about the complete toxicity of Trumpianism and the Republicans, and the pathetic flaccidity of the less than B-minus grade Bidenites — great, all welcome and good (and Stan Goff would tell me to be accepting of anyone’s personal redemption — okay), but DAMN! it took long enough!
The whole damn Vietnam War genocidal catastrophe wasn’t enough to wake you up by 1975? by Reagan-time? by Bush II time and the Iraq War? How come so many of us dumber unimportant people can figure this stuff out decades before you super-informed, super-plugged-in brainiacs and lever-pullers?
Well, okay, you’re good now Bacevich, and thanks for the accurate insights about today. I’m guessing that just as (some) serious people like Bacevich have woken up to the evils of American militarism 50 years after the Vietnam War, that equally in 50 years time we’ll see a heartening swelling in the ranks of today’s serious lever-pulling people who have woken up to the Planetary Crisis encompassing global warming climate change, collapsing biodiversity and its attendant social inequities. And then (forgetting about all the bodies buried since then) they’ll want to do something about it. By then palm trees might sprout in Greenland, and we may even have a smaller world population (involuntarily).
Okay, rant, part 1, is over. Now for part 2.
From Wikipedia: The Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States, on Wednesday, April 19, 1995. Perpetrated by anti-government extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing happened at 9:02 am and killed at least 168 people, injured more than 680 others, and destroyed more than one-third of the building, which had to be demolished.
From Wikipedia: On June 24, 2021, at approximately 1:30 a.m. EDT, Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium building in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida, experienced a sudden partial collapse. At least 12 people died, and 11 others were injured.[as of 30 June 2021] About 35 people were rescued from the uncollapsed portion of the building, 2 people have been rescued from the rubble, and 149 people remain missing as rescue operations continue… As of June 28, 2021, 12 people are known to have died during the collapse, and 11 more have been injured. 11 of the 12 fatalities have been publicly identified, including two Venezuelan nationals and two Cubans. Up to 149 people remain unaccounted for.
So, it looks like the Champlain Towers South will have snuffed out 162 lives. “Missing” and “unaccounted for” are the terms used to describe people that have been killed but whose bodies have yet to be recovered, and for whom, illogically, their loved ones hope (and who can blame them!) that they will miraculously return alive.
So this building collapse — in all probability — nearly equals the death toll of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing of 1995, though it did not cause any noticeable number of other injured. But the Oklahoma tragedy was “terrorism” and required a swift and vigorous government response, both to care for the victims and to apprehend and punish the perpetrators. But the Surfside (Miami) building collapse tragedy is not “terrorism” by rising seawater intrusion climate change undermining heedless shoreline real estate development, so: hold your horses!, let’s not rush to judgment!, let’s not act hastily — meaning at all — about that uncertain “climate change” scare tactic. Yeah, sure Gomer.
The mainstream finger of blame is pointing to faulty building construction and maintenance — which is undeniable — but that mainstream public consent-directing ministry (“of Truth”) has a massively pregnant silence about (the unthinkable!, the unmentionable!, don’t “politicize” tragedies!) CLIMATE CHANGE! But, well, “the possible excessive ingress of salt water” MIGHT have also been involved.
The bottom fell out and has been falling out not only of the Champlain Towers South, but of the whole damn Idiocracy clinging to and dangling from their high hopes of exponential prosperity for the ‘serious’ and ‘worthy’ (a.k.a. “exceptionalist”) denizens of the United States of Amnesia. Victims R Us.
“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.” — Matthew 7:26, King James Bible.
Here is video of the Miami beachside condominium that collapsed at ~1 AM on 24 June 2021 (https://youtu.be/KR29pLccutY). There are many news stories about this now.
An engineering professor at Florida International University has used satellite data on ground elevation (a measurement technique used since at least the late 1970s) to write about the steady sinking of land in Miami, including the site of the condo, since 1990. There is a lot of beachside construction in Florida on landfill. This condo was actually built on sturdier ground (I’m guessing an ancient barrier island), but landfill is right next to it on the west side, where other similar buildings are located (and thus a bit further from the shoreline).
In 2018, a building inspector engineer issued a warning that there was serious damage to the building stemming from an inadequacy of foundation integrity. Nothing was done. In another report, I read that the development-friendly local and state authorities had freed the Miami real estate industry from “excessive” regulations by only requiring building inspections every 40 years! (I find this hard to believe, but it was a news report posted on the internet).
By now it is clear that the cause of the collapse was the softening of the ground under the building by the infiltration of seawater over the years since the building’s construction. Because such a large building is very heavy, especially in comparison to a simple beachside bungalow, the weight of the structure put tremendously higher downward pressure on the ground below its foundation, diminishing the integrity of the increasingly soaked soil, and thus speeding its ultimate loss of cohesion.
Now, some words about structural stability in a gravitational field. Earth’s gravity arises from its huge mass (compared to anything else humans are used to) and it points toward the Earth’s center, which means “down.”
Buildings, bridges and many other structures erected by humans on the surface of the Earth are designed to remain stable by having rigid vertical structural members (i.e., columns) to transmit the weight of the structure into the ideally “solid” ground below, which in turn distributes the pressure of the building’s weight (as mechanical stress) into the body of Planet Earth. The contact zone between the building and the Earth is usually a cross-braced foundation structure.
Those weight-bearing vertical supports are cross-braced by horizontal rigid structural members (i.e., beams, and in stronger designs by triangular frames: trusses). This way the entire building has the structural integrity of a “block”: the Earth holds it up, and its cross-bracing holds it together.
Essential to the building’s stability is the integrity of the earth below it: its solidity. When that solidity is lost, such as by water infiltration softening, and becomes nonuniform, then the building can begin to sink in a lopsided manner. Such tilting means that now gravitation forces no longer align perfectly with “vertical” columns (since they are tilted) but also has “lateral” components of force directed along the cross-bracing (which is also tilted).
Such new lateral forces transmitted by the cross members against the sides of the columns add a sideways momentum now pushing to tilt the building over, and are also forces working to tear the building apart from top to bottom.
At some point of building tilt, such unevenness of the distribution of gravitation stress throughout the structure, now no longer strictly vertical, puts more tensile or compressive stress (depending on the orientation of the member) than one or more of the structural members can sustain without buckling; or some of the bolted, riveted or welded joints between members can sustain to keep from ripping open.
Such structural failures remove pathways for the building’s gravitational stress to find its way to ground. So the structural members of the building’s frame that are still connected see an increase in the stress they must contain and transmit to Earth to hold up the building.
This takes those still intact members and joints more quickly toward their failure points, and the weakest among them give way. In this way an accelerating cascade of structural failures occurs, and the entire building can seem to suddenly “deflate” and collapse.
Such a collapse will be seen to propagate through the building as a wave of “deflation” from the regions of first failures to last failures, which, depending on the configuration of the undermining forces, can be left-to-right or vice-versa, and bottom-to-top or vice-versa.
The World Trade Center Towers building collapses of 11 September 2001 occurred from the top down: the dynamic force of collapsing mass above any given floor (the conversion of gravitational potential energy into mass acceleration) being beyond the yield strength of the vertical columns and cross-bracing joints at each floor-level, which were only designed — with a significant safety factor — to withstand the static stress imposed by gravity. The collapse of the smaller World Trade Center Building 7 proceeded from the left to the right because of a buckling of a column weakened by fire softening.
The Miami condominium collapse of 24 June 2021 progressed from bottom to top, first on the “left” side, and then on the now laterally unsupported “right” side (as seen in the video captured by a surveillance camera).
I would guess that what is happening now in Miami — and elsewhere — is a scramble to point fingers assigning blame and to evade responsibility; people seeking to sue somebody for losses of relatives, property and illusions; to get insurance payments, or to avoid paying them; to protect their money, investments, property and advantages of location; and to run away from their fears and hide from facing up to the realities of implacable Climate Change (in the form of sea level rise for Miami) plowing steadily into the American “good life.”
Climate Change is like an enormous steamroller that is inching slowly but implacably along the open road of our projected expectations, to roll over and flatten our comfortable situations.
Since we are all “cemented in place” in those personal comfort situations, that steamroller is bit by bit squashing us: first ‘here’ then ‘there’; some by sea level rise; some by hurricanes razing all; some by wildfire; some by deepening and eternal heat and drought; some by waves of disease pathogens sprung from out of formerly deep recesses in the wild; some by the increasing withdrawal of food availability; and some by the infighting all this sparks among us and that causes casualties from our war with ourselves.
First we lose our illusions, then we lose our money, and finally we lose our lives.
Those who refuse to face reality and relinquish their illusions will cause the most damage to their fellow human beings, by being rabidly competitive, as they slide down the cascade of suffering longer and ever obsessed to the death with their unrelieved anxieties of avoiding losses and pain. Those who jettison their illusions and face reality will a least gain the comfort of finding the company of similar people.
Even as the steamroller inches forward toward us, for everyone “the future is uncertain, and the end is always near.” One can pin oneself to an obsession with “the end,” and its avoidance; or one can open oneself to an appreciation for the processes of life, and to the sharing of such appreciation.
Climate Change is now our great teacher, and its lessons range from stark terror to transcendence. We have no choice but to live out those lessons, but we do have some choice in which of those coming experiences we can aim our personal selves to.
Photos from the news story (series) linked in two comments, below:
The beachfront looks like an ancient barrier island to me (my guess). The “flats” behind it look like landfill (“reclaimed land”). I suspect all this land is “wet” below a shallow depth from the surface. I also suspect that depth has been decreasing with the sea level rise over previous decades, and which continues.
27 June 2021, using Picture #1 for reference:
The surveillance camera that took the video of the collapse is located at the left-most, furthest ‘up’ seaward-side corner of the blue pool seen to the left in this photo, just below the large area of greenery. The camera was pointed diagonally across that pool, straight at the central portion of the building that collapsed. That central portion collapsed first, from the side closer to the surveillance camera and then dragging its backside (the side furthest from the surveillance camera) down. To me it seems that “the bottom dropped out” and not that the roof collapsed and pancaked down pulverizing the building. After that central section was all down, the squarish tower portion closest to the beach tottered, twisted ‘slightly’ clockwise as viewed in this picture, and then also collapsed by “the bottom dropping out.” You can see the higher pile of rubble left by that tower section collapse. I would guess that the section of ground (subsurface) between that outer tower section and the part of the building still standing, and aligned parallel to the shoreline, is the area of greatest weakness and loss of integrity. It is also possible (as others are commenting) that there had been a weakening of the reinforcing steel inside the concrete columns of the building because of the corrosive action of salty sea air and underground flooding since 1981 when the building was constructed. The conclusions of the forensic engineering reports, which will doubtless take many months to finally arrive at, will be interesting — if they are not distorted by CYA.