Is Trump Worse Than Nixon?

My friend, Eric Andrew Gebert asked:

“I’ve only read and studied about the Nixon era, and the Watergate scandal (1972 to 1974) that led to Nixon’s resignation. To those that lived through it: is our current state of political scandal worse? The G.W. Bush era was definitely worse than Nixon. Even John Dean called it: WORSE THAN WATERGATE. That was followed up by Obama continuing the War On Terror; putting drone warfare into hyperdrive and going after whistleblowers. And placating capitalist-banksters who should have been prosecuted and put on trial. I feel like we are setting so many bad precedents that our Republic may never recover. This country needs a full-on Democratic reckoning and that doesn’t mean if we just elect Democrats that our Republic will begin healing. Needs to be more than that. It starts with civics and the rule of law.”

Eric, Here is how I remember it.

I lived through the Nixon Administration:

– being 18 in 1968 (and actively sought by the Draft Board for being mulched in the Vietnam War);

– when the Tet Offensive erupted (and the U.S. actually lost the Vietnam War);

– when Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated (on 4 April);

– when Bobby Kennedy (who started out working with Roy Cohn for Joe McCarthy, and then for his older brother President John Kennedy, running the covert ‘assassinate Fidel’ CIA program) was assassinated on 5-6 June;

– when horrendous urban riots, outbursts fueled by multi-generational despair, broke out in many cities after King’s assassination;

– when the corrupt Mayor Daley administration in Chicago sent the cops out on the bloody attack on young, peaceful and unarmed demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention (which veered to the Johnson Administration’s man, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and away from the antiwar egghead Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy having been removed a month earlier);

– and when Dick Nixon invented and used the “southern strategy,” which is the standard Republican strategy of today (consolidate the bigot vote), to win the 1968 election as the “law and order” (White Supremacy) candidate.

Nixon, with Henry Kissinger (National Security Advisor, and later Secretary of State), had sabotaged Johnson’s peace initiative with the Communist Party of Vietnam (the “North Vietnamese”) in 1968, with about 30,000 American soldiers already dead from the Vietnam War at that point; by having Madam Chennault (a Chinese woman associated with the Chiang Kai-shek Nationalist Chinese regime-dictatorship in Formosa) make secret contact with the North Vietnamese government leaders and tell them not to accept Johnson’s peace terms, so Nixon could get elected (because Johnson would be seen as a failure), and Nixon would give them better terms.

Five years later, and with over 20,000 more Americans dead (and millions of Asian dead), the North Vietnamese accepted the exact same peace terms from Nixon that Johnson had offered them. The U.S. military pulled out in 1973, prisoners were repatriated, and Nixon poured money into the corrupt South Vietnamese regime for arms, but so much was funneled into pure graft, and that regime collapsed in 1975 from the combination of rampant corruption, lack of popular support, and cowardice in the field (and the Communist forces were very good militarily).

From 1969, Nixon and Kissinger secretly expanded the war into neutral Cambodia. The U.S. bombing of Laos and Cambodia (along their eastern border areas adjacent to Vietnam: the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail) had been so massive and genocidal to Laotian and Cambodian peasant societies that the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime resulted in Cambodia: an insane nihilistic death cult. The “Secret War in Cambodia” was exposed in 1970, and that ignited ferocious protests in the U.S., one of which led to the killing of unarmed students by National Guard troops at Ohio’s Kent State University.

Nixon won a landslide reelection in 1972, over anti-war Democrat (and decent guy) George McGovern (a WWII B-17 pilot and combat veteran). Part of Tricky Dick’s M.O. was covert “dirty tricks,” like the Watergate Break-in to the offices of the Democratic National Committee, in June 1972, to spy on the Democrats’ plans. I graduated college that year. A similar dirty trick had been the break-in to the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to look for blackmail material against one of the men who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 (Anthony Russo was the other leaker, and it was he who recruited Ellsberg to the effort).

The Watergate caper unravelled in 1973, and led to televised Congressional impeachment hearings in 1974. I was then in graduate school, and we grad students would pass much time every day watching the hearings (on TVs in graduate housing common rooms), and the months-long cascade of damning revelations. Now, and this is a key point: there were vigorous Republican investigators in both the Senate committee (like Senator Howard Baker) and House Committee, and they focussed on crimes against the Constitution of the United States, which in the case of Nixon were direct violations of laws passed by Congress, of which the invasion of Cambodia was the most egregious example (a military invasion of a neutral country, without a congressional declaration of war).

While there were certainly many Republicans anxious to avoid electoral losses because of the deterioration of the Nixon Administration, and who soft-pedaled Nixon’s crimes, there were enough of them faithful to the idea of “defending the Constitution” to make it inevitable Nixon would be impeached if it came to a vote — as Barry Goldwater personally told Nixon it would. That is why Nixon resigned (his VP, Spiro Agnew, had resigned earlier because he was caught in a corruption scandal; Gerald Ford was the new VP, and ascended to the presidency when Nixon resigned, and soon enough after pardoned Nixon, which is why Ford was soundly defeated in the election of 1976 by Jimmy Carter).

The first half of the Carter Administration, 1977-1979 (or 1976-1978), was the peak of American political decency combined with freedom from foreign wars (what is conventionally called “peace”), at least since the late Eisenhower Administration (after the Korean War and McCarthyism). After that, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s NSA Director, took the Carter Administration back into Cold War nastiness, by setting the Afghan trap that sucked in the Soviet Army, and was the major disaster that led to the downfall of the U.S.S.R, from 1989-1991.

The year 1979 is when the UK inflicted the world with Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan’s campaign to ‘make America great again’ took off, and he won the presidency in the 1980 election. Carter was undone by the external circumstances of austerities imposed on Americans by the energy crisis (Arab Oil Embargo) and stagflation, and by the embarrassment to national pride of failing to negotiate the extraction of American hostages from Islamic Revolutionary Iran (and also having a military rescue raid fail), since Reagan had made a Nixon-type deal for post-election hostage release with the Iranian theocracy (what a guy). Reagan’s win in November, and then the murder of John Lennon in December, marked the coup de grace of postwar (WWII) American liberalism.

The “conservatives” had been gathering strength through think-tanks (for policy formulation and capital accumulation) since at least 1971 (after the “Nixon Shock” of dropping the gold standard, the Bretton Woods Agreement on currencies); to conservatives during 1968 to 1971, it had looked like a left-wing “revolution” might succeed in the U.S.

Trump is just the latest manifestation of that Reaganite neoliberalism that erupted and gained ascendancy during 1979-1981. Along the way we’ve had a string of neoliberal presidential tools: G.W.H. Bush, W. Clinton, G.W. Bush, B. Obama, and finally the Maddest Hatter of them all: Donald J. Trump.

So, is Trump worse than Nixon? Is 2020-2021 worse and more dangerous than 1968?

What was worse in 1968 was the magnitude of the foreign slaughter inflicted by the U.S. military, and that operation’s huge suction of young American men into psychological and physical destruction (about 58,000 of them got their names chiseled on a Black Wall as a consolation prize), and the massive loss of public trust in government, which was exposed as being manned by too many callous lying careerists. This rupture of public trust has never been repaired and is a direct cause of the ongoing degradation of American public life. The American people as a whole have paid a terrible price for the self-induced bloody catastrophe of the Vietnam War (not to negate the genocidal magnitude of its cost to the Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians), and compounded that tragedy by never having internalized the lessons of that war, by a transformation of American society in the same way that Germany (as an example) has transformatively and truthfully faced its Nazi past. Americans chose denial, and let themselves open to repeating similar catastrophes; though for a time there was a strong resistance to mounting subsequent foreign military adventures until Reagan and subsequent neoliberal presidents (all of them) rehabilitated militarized American imperialism with the now (from 1973 on) “volunteer” (or, economic draft) military.

What was better in 1968 (to about 1971 really, and at most to about 1977) were the economic conditions for working people. Up to the recession of 1971, jobs could be gotten, a man could work as a janitor in a school or office building and support a stay-at-home wife with children in a house with a front lawn! Recession and inflation came in 1971 and after, because of government waste-spending on years of war on top of trying to maintain Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and the implementation of the Civil Rights Laws (of 1964-1968): “affirmative action,” and the social concerns of the Office of Equal Opportunity (EEOC).

So the economic situation deteriorated significantly and quickly for many people, and the neoliberal movement (non-liberal Republicans, social and economic conservatives, and hardened corporatists) pushed on those economic conditions with initiatives of austerity: dump the little wage-slave guy to preserve the gain expectations of the bigger capitalists, and demonize the welfare-needing poor to redirect the anger of the increasingly impoverished wage-slavers onto the welfare-needing, and away from the exploiting corporatists and stock speculators. This remains Republican Party orthodoxy. And, as already mentioned, back then there were still liberal Republicans (people like Jacob Javits) and “defend the Constitution” Republicans capable of turning on Nixon. But all that liberalism was decaying along with the economic conditions — lots of good jobs — that were necessary to support it.

What is worse today is the complete putrification of the Republican Party into a completely anti-democratic organized conspiracy for gaining political power for purely factional aims of plunder to the benefit of high-end classists (the rich) and an overtly White Supremacist tribalism. Certainly such people existed back in 1968 and worked for the same ends as such people pursue today, but the broader extent of the relative prosperity offered by the economic system back then meant that there was less atrocious squeezing of the poor by the rich in order for those rich to lard themselves to their satisfaction at the national expense.

The whole idea today of giving workers, in or out of work, $2000 survival checks from the government during the pandemic, and extended unemployment insurance, is a specific indicator of the vastly impoverished national economy and economic management of today as compared with 50 years ago. The resistance to providing that economic relief today is because of a fear by the economic gatekeepers employed by the 1%, of reigniting memories of broader systems of economic equity and prosperity that obviated the need for such piecemeal and episodic economic survival crumbs-to-the-masses, like one-time $2000 checks. This realization is what Bernie Sanders tapped into, a return to FDR’s 1944 proposals of essentially expanding Social Security, with job and healthcare security for all. So far, such “socialism” is rationed to the U.S. military (and not all that generously for the rank-and-file), the political elite, and the corporate insiders.

Another clear degradation since 1968 is in the intellectual quality of much of American society and certainly of the American political classes; all coincident with the withering of educational quality over the decades, but ameliorated by a broadening of educational access to underserved communities (but again, not nearly enough of that, and over time increasing closed off by increasing costs-to-participate). So “leaders” like Trump and George W. Bush are clearly stupider than earlier generation leaders like Kennedy and even Lyndon Johnson. Leaders back then were hardly moral, so one can’t say that today’s political actors are vastly more immoral, though Trump does seem hellbent on pushing the envelope negatively in that regard. However, it is important to remember that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were/is truly evil because they were/are so intelligent and thus extremely capable of really well-thought out malevolence. Trump is closer to being a very maladjusted 3-year-old of 74 years of age and with no functional intellectual machinery, nor impulse control nor conscious moral ethics: he is just a destructive incompetent.

So from my perspective, the improved technocratic systems and technological machinery of government and the American industrialized civilization of today would be better able to address the physical and political challenges of today — primarily global warming climate change and the gross inequalities of standard-of-living (wealth, income, education, economic opportunity, job and health security) — IF we had both better government people to manage public affairs AND such politicians and technocrats (which includes the corporate sector) along with the majority of the American public had the desire and intention to implement a wholistic approach to managing the country for the benefit of all, rather than classistly (just for the 1%), tribally (just for White Supremacy) and factionally (competitively between narrowly defined special interests).

I see the failures of the management of American public life today as being primarily due to the poor moral, ethical and intellectual quality of the people doing that management, and the utter pettiness of their motivations and visions, rather than because of an overwhelming intractability of external circumstances, or technical deficiencies in the machinery of political management. Fifty years ago there was probably a greater fraction of better people in those roles (even though still with many, many horrible ones in place) but the magnitude of the military and financial disasters they had gotten themselves into (the Vietnam War, 1970s stagflation) were so great that they undid their more valiant efforts (like the War On Poverty, and Affirmative Action).

The neoliberal program, from 1979 onward, gained more control over of the catastrophe-prone external circumstances — like war, economics and welfare — by using improvements in technological knowledge and economic systems management to relentlessly impoverish an increasing proportion of the American public, from the bottom up economically, in order to preserve and grow the wealth of the wealthy. In a sense, the societal chaos that erupted in 1968 was natural and spontaneous, but today American society is so tightly controlled by being so thoroughly micro-managed to its impoverishment, that societal chaos is now an entirely managed effect, like the flow of a river throttled by the programmed releases of impounded water by hydroelectric dam engineers. The Trumpist Putsch of January 6, 2021, was just such an incompetently (thankfully) managed ejaculation.

So, which was/is worse: Nixon’s 1968 or Trump’s 2021?; or perhaps G.W. Bush’s exploitation of 2001’s 9-11, and his Iraq (and Afghanistan) War?

From the perspective of foreigners, Nixon was worse than Bush who was worse than Trump: 3 to 4 million dead in Indochina (plus all the bombing, land-mining and chemical defoliation); versus many hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq and with millions made refugees; versus thousands droned to death under Trump. But Trump gains many extra negative points for his tireless efforts to destroy the climate and ecosystems of Planet Earth, which ecocide directly cause fatalities.

From the purely selfish perspective of the American people, things have gotten steadily worse since Nixon because of the unrelenting vampirism by the 1% on the American economy, with its attendant impoverishment of wage-slaves (who too often contribute to their own enslavement by their myopic bigotry, anti-intellectualism and anti-environmentalism).

So in the grossest possible characterization:

– back in 1968-1971 the external circumstances of war and economics were worse and better, respectively, than today while the quality of the political class was better intellectually and professionally; in general society was freer because the economy was more expansive and supportive of popular aspirations despite still having many specific inequities (e.g., racist and sexist practices); also Earth’s climate and ecosystems were far healthier than today;

– today the external circumstances of war and economics are better and worse, respectively, than 50 years ago because the political class, despite being so much worse intellectually and professionally and so much more a captive appendage of corporate marketing departments, has a much tighter grip on external circumstances through a greater understanding of the levers of economic control; and society is more controlled and restrictive for “the working class” because their economic confinement and impoverishment is the mechanism by which the political class manages national affairs to further the enrichment of capitalist wealth, their patrons; and that intentionally worsened and worsening economic situation for “the working class” (the 99%) in order to exponentially enrich the wealthy is paid for by the now little-reversible ecocide and global warming destruction of the climate system.

In any case, we can’t go back. The best we could do — if we dropped the totality of capitalist neoliberalism (“fascism”) and its foundation of White Supremacy, and developed the moral character required for fashioning a wholistic “all in” national society — is to learn from the history of our national mistakes, and then apply those painfully gained insights to implement a societal transformation that adequately and equitably meets the existential challenges of today: the sustainability crisis with its global warming climate change, and nuclear disarmament.


Guy de Maupassant, and America Today


Guy de Maupassant, and America Today

Having now read 98 of the 290 short stories written by Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), from 4 English translation anthologies with many repeats between them, I am convinced that he was the best short story writer ever. The quality of his stories range from “good” to “masterpieces,” there are no mediocre nor bad ones.

Any writer aspiring to be a literary artist must read and learn from de Maupassant. He was a master of economy of style, brisk pacing, even-tempered wit, deep insights into human psychology that remain entirely relevant to this day, and of devising imaginative plots with deliciously apt denouements (endings).

He was superb at describing food, dining and cuisine, and also of sensory impressions like smells, with vividness. Also, he was a lyrical artist with his many passages describing natural settings: the sky at various times of the day and during various seasons, river environments, the woods, open hilly grasslands and plains, and weather day or night. The best equivalent I can recall in American literature is Mark Twain’s lyrical passage in “Huckleberry Finn,” on the early morning mists on the Mississippi River.

It is easy to find critics, from de Maupassant’s day to ours, who dislike him. This is because he was so truthful, and so matter-of-fact about it; never an appealing trait for people protecting cherished illusions and prejudices. Indeed, Guy de Maupassant does not show any prejudices, except perhaps for a marked dislike of cruelty, and a marked enjoyment of life, from which springs his enormous compassion for the very very flawed creatures that we human beings are.

Reading Guy de Maupassant as a social critic of the French Second Empire (1852-1870) and Third Republic (1870-1940), it is easy to see why that Third Republic fell in 1940. Jean Renoir’s 1939 film, “The Rules of the Game,” is a gem in this regard. The health of a nation is based on the attitudes of its people, and the attitudinal corruption riddling the Third Republic, despite its wonderful cultural elegance peaking during its Belle Époque (1880-1914), undermined its political strength against the subsequent assaults by fascism.

The attitudinal weakness and sociopathology of Americans today, as say compared with the awesome fortitude of the Russians of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during the 2 year 4.5 month siege of that city during 1941-1944, or of the Cuban population for over half a century since 1961, is similar to the classism and dissolution of the French bourgeoisie during the Third Republic. But, today’s Americans are practicing their dissolution and societal enervation without the culture, grace or elegance of the 19th and early 20th century French.

That 70 million Americans could vote for Donald Trump in 2020 is the saddest commentary one can imagine on the abysmal state of the American Public Mind. While I have now read many thoughtful and statistically supported analyses, from November 2020, of the erosion of Trump’s political support and the electoral collapse of his regime, I remain convinced that his appeal was always based on one factor: bigotry by white people (and minority individuals who hankered to join the capitalist übermensch club) whose xenophobia is expressed as fear of being economically swamped by demographic dilution.

I acknowledge that Marxist analyses of the November 2020 election, based on their economic focus using their class analysis dissection of American society, are excellent; and that perhaps a few of the pop-psychology and ‘cultural’ commentaries on that election’s aftermath also offer some insights; but I think it all boils down to identity politics (voting for the projected ‘me’ reflected by a candidate), electorally, and gut “race-consciousness” emotionalism, which is stronger the less educated the individual. That very highly educated very rich people would also vote consistently for Trump and the Republican Party is entirely a function of their parasitism, but even with them gut-level racism is a factor in their sociopathological outlook on human society.

What is wonderful in Guy de Maupassant’s stories is that they are filled with a wide variety of characters, and many of these reflect the attitudes I just described with respect to American voters in 2020. So, one gets sharply drawn personified images of the many shades of those attitudes. Another aspect of his sharp insights into human nature is that we are not strictly governed by our rational minds (which rationalist-materialist stricture I see as the biggest gap in the Marxist analysis of human society), because humans in fact are much compelled by genetically programmed behaviors and tendencies erupting out of our ancestral evolutionarily honed instincts: our monkey genes. It is so easy to see Trump’s rabidly naïve functionally psychotic evangelically bigoted zombie horde as a purely reactive monkey troop defending its imaginary territory from “them!”

As regards American society in November 2020, the best that I can see is the growth of refreshing and enlightened attitudes in so much of the young population (under 45 years old), which was crucial to the electoral defeat of Donald Trump; and the best I can hope for is that a revival of real education occurs so that an increasing fraction of our younger citizens can learn how to better enjoy life by developing their minds beyond the limbic tendencies embedded in our monkey genes. It is such people who will propel any economic and political improvements that may occur in American society in the coming years, and which are absolutely essential for making credible organized responses to the challenges posed by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the destruction of world environments and the loss of biodiversity, and the overarching threat from global warming climate change.


I Rebel, Therefore We Exist, 2019


I Rebel, Therefore We Exist, 2019

When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke of her origins and family today (19 October 2019), I remembered my own story because they are so similar. My mother, too, is a lovely Puertorriqueña; I too was born in the Boogie-Town island stolen from the American Indians (Manhattan); we too lived in Parkchester, in the Bronx, in a basement apartment (concrete floor, concrete walls, tiny windows at the top at shoe-level to the sidewalk); I too have felt the glass ceiling pushing me down (my whole career), along with other melanin-rich talent.

My rebellion was never as brilliantly insightful nor as spectacularly successful as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, but it still goes on in my own idiosyncratic and annoying way (my unpopularity is deserved, and I’m proud of it). So I can easily bypass the cynicism and miffed sense of superiority of the self-regarding left intelligentsia who are so obviously jealous of the genuine popularity — and political effectiveness — of Alexandria and Bernie.

I can relish the first possibility for a real change in American politics, economics and life that I’ve seen since my heart sank on November 8, 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected president, defeating Jimmy Carter, and since December 8, 1980, when John Lennon was murdered and Ronald Reagan went on the air to defend guns and the NRA. It was so clear America was plunging into an abyss as blithely and stupidly as the British, French and Germans marched into World War I in 1914; and America has in every way, hasn’t it?

Maybe now, 39 years later, enough people have been hurt by the institutionalized criminality of the American political economy that many of the survivors of those times — the workers, not the parasites — and our new, younger generations are really ready to join up and actually create a successful revolution. I have no shame in appearing to be “utopian” or “dreamy” or “immature” or “foolish” or “naïve” in holding and vocally proclaiming such a hope and such a wish. Bernie’s got 9 years on me, so I’ve seen almost as much as he has of 20th and 21st century American and world history; and I know what can be because it already was once, I lived in it. And I want the best of the past for my three children (two older than AOC). And for their children if they have them, and for everybody’s children, and all children everywhere.

I want the thieves robbing today’s youth of their futures — as they rob and have robbed their wage-slave parents and grandparents — along with the unctuous slimy hypocritical bottom-feeding careerist political ass-kissers (you see them daily on TV) — who tell you a decent life for you is impossible, or costs too much, and who pimp justice to claw their way to the top — to rot in a hell for them where they are discarded, ignored, profitless and robustly taxed: a new American society that is socialist, and democratic, and universally just, and enthusiastically ethical and intelligent.

Vision must precede any reality that one wants to realize, and so in these times don’t repress your vision out of fear of the future or (worse yet) fear of your public image being ridiculed. Let your vision be grand, let it soar, because we want that vision to take us as far as the yet unknown political opportunities of the next year may allow us to go. Don’t be so fearful of being disappointed by the “imperfections” of whatever the political outcome is in 2020 and beyond, that you repress your thinking and emotions in favor of the entirely possible “impossible dream” that Bernie Sanders (above all others) has articulated to the nation.

The “revolution,” as Bernie calls it, will never be perfect, no revolution ever is, but that is not the point. The goal is to get as much revolution as American politics, physical reality, and the inherent chaos of the universe will allow the American people, united in both uplifting aspiration and just purpose, to achieve. And not just in 2020, but continually from this moment on.

So, again, I don’t care how foolish I look or sound. Over my life I’ve seen too much lying, betrayal and exploitation palmed off as “the way things must be,” and I also know the opportunity of a lifetime when I see it. We blew it in 2016, but by now it should be obvious to everybody that a tsunami of change must drown the cold dead vampire of American capitalism, beginning with the ballot boxes on November 3, 2020, and then continuing far beyond electoral politics into every aspect of American society and American life.

So go ahead, be “foolish,” have a dream, have vision, pump out the vibes, because every revolution is powered by a unity of human aspirations, and every advance of civilization occurs as a jolt along the fault-lines of human society: by revolution. “I rebel, therefore we exist.” (Thank you, Albert Camus.)

Videos of Bernie and AOC, 19 October 2019

“Bernie’s Back” Rally with AOC in New York
19 October 2019
[complete speeches by all, at the rally today]
1:31:50 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
1:51:10 AOC ->to-> Bernie
2:52:04 end of Bernie’s speech.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Bernie For President
19 October 2019
[Solo studio video appearance, 3:05]

AOC’s Bernie Endorsement: HIGHLIGHTS
[Excerpts of AOC’s address at the 19 Oct. 2019 rally, 5:54]


The Political Realities of Science Work

The author at work, 1983

The author at university, ~1970


The Political Realities of Science Work

Josue De Luna Navarro had an article published (in two parts) in the 4 and 7 October 2019 editions of Counterpunch, on how fossil fuel companies are distorting the orientation of engineering and science education to their favor by making large funding grants to universities to promote the idea that geo-engineering schemes can make it possible to continue with fossil fuel extraction and burning indefinitely:

How Fossil Fuels Pollute STEM Education

Geoengineering is a Scam

I agree with Navarro’s criticisms completely, and I add the following.

Mr. Navarro points out a fact that has always been true of the engineering profession (and also most other highly refined professions) that its students, first seeking education, and then as graduates seeking employment and lengthy careers, are destined to serve monied patrons, the Golden Rule: “those that have the gold make the rules.” Four to five millennia ago those patrons would have been called “Pharaoh,” and later “king,” “caesar,” “emperor” and “queen,” and in more recent centuries “the company” and “the corporation.” Professional expertise, like high art, has a dependency on patronage by the wealthy without whose largesse professional ambitions would be nearly fruitless (for there are always some successful independent scientists, like Charles Darwin).

My engineering education and physics career (1968-2007) was funded (besides by my parents paying my tuition and living expenses during my undergraduate years) by U.S. government money (the public) funneled through the military. Most decent paying options for employment after schooling were with manufacturing, electronics or energy corporations, defense (war industry) corporations, and government agencies. A tiny fraction of engineering science jobs were in academia. In any case, all such engineering science employees were servicing the aims of the Big Money: profitability for the corporations, greater military power through advanced technology, and the combination of both as greater global political power for the policy-making elite of the nation. Same as in Khufu’s day.

Because America’s militarism-backed capitalism is fossil fueled, both in my time and Navarro’s the oil and gas industry has been a major buyer and owner of engineering and science talent, as Navarro states. The great challenge for any engineer and scientist working in today’s government-funded paradigm of science professionalism is to try to keep body and soul together through corporate and government (and academic) employment while at the same time trying to produce work that is as much in the public interest as possible. A very difficult ideal to achieve, and not all engineers and scientists even try to. Our engineering professors were reluctant to talk about the political realities of our profession, and our economic captivity by the Big Money and its Capitalist Government, because they saw no alternative to it.

Navarro is right to excoriate the fossil fuel industries’s efforts to corrupt the intellectual integrity of the engineering and physical sciences, by urinating money on our professions’s training academies to drench them in the odor of the narrowly self-serving corporate mindset of fossil fuel burning forever, and for the endless profitability of oil and gas (and coal) extraction. Even so, it is up to each individual engineer and scientist to learn the facts about global warming and climate change and environmental degradation, and the unfortunate political realities governing the economics of their profession, as a matter of professional ethics and personal integrity. This is the necessary first step for them to have any possibility of producing work for the public good.

Navarro is correct to call geo-engineering to attenuate global warming a scam. It’s like trying to design a more effective helmet that would allow you to continue playing Russian Roulette. The most energy efficient, cost effective, socially beneficial and rapid solution to the fundamental problem is to simply stop the damaging behavior, which in the case of climate change is greenhouse gas emitting capitalism. But, that would be economically leveling and fatal to militarism, so unacceptable to the courtiers of capitalism, in all their national factions.

Like all engineers, I like machines and gizmos and gadgets, and I especially like flows of energy. But the best use of such engineered mechanisms are as adjuncts in harmony with the workings of nature for the beneficial maintenance of a sustainable society. There are so many delectable challenges to be enjoyed in the fashioning of a non-fossil fueled civilization, a Green New Deal, that operates within the natural tolerances for the continuation of a stable and benign (interglacial) global climate, that all the 21st century engineers could be fulfillingly employed for their lifetimes to help fashion and maintain that kind of world society. The immediate challenges are twofold: transform energy systems and industrial and food production operations to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and toxic chemical pollution, and stop environmental damage and engage massively in environmental restoration of lands and the oceans. Planting trees and cleaning up plastic pollution are just two examples of specific tasks that easily come to mind.

So I circle back to the same conclusion as always: our problems are not technological but political. So long as our politics are bad — our economics held captive by fossil fueled capitalism and militarism, to the general detriment of the public — our technologists will be directed by the self-interests of the Big Money and the War Industries, and not by the public good of engineering and managing a decent society in harmony with Nature.


Mister Rogers


Mister Rogers

a man who does not have to protect his cool —
that is power!
He could look a child straight in the eye
and speak slowly, gently,
with utter respect,
acknowledging the God within,
the intelligence before him.
He stood tall —
without apology, without embarrassment, without fear —
for compassion,
indiscriminate compassion.
What man alive dares be so reckless?

The second coming —
all look for a Jesus to come back and save them,
something more than just the three days of Easter,
and yet, that second coming is here now,
every time a person becomes infused with the spirit of Jesus —
awakens, becomes a bodhisattva —
and walks among us
manifesting the eternally animating principles
that walked in the footsteps of Buddha,
that walked in the footsteps of Jesus,
that walked in the footsteps of Dorothy Day,
that walked in the footsteps of countless others –
known and unknown –
that walked in the footsteps of Mister Rogers,
that could walk in your footsteps,
and mine,
but for a dose of courage,
a courage that seems to come easily
once belief permeates into experience.
Love and compassion and power and peace
must be breathed into life.
“It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.”

2 March 2003


In 1969, President Nixon wanted to cut Public Television funding in half.
Fred Rogers had 6 minutes to try to convince the Senate otherwise.

May 1, 1969: Fred Rogers testifies before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications



Fred Rogers (20 March 1928 – 27 February 2003)


Why Won’t White Parents Integrate Public Schools?

“We need white parents to want integration for the sake of integration, to really value it as an end in itself.” (citylab-dot-com, 29 January 2018). My answer to Rodney Pierce:

Americans accept a class system for schools, so quality correlates to location in higher property tax neighborhoods and school districts (unlike in France or Finland where schools are nationally funded and staffed so all neighborhood schools are of equal quality). And Americans are competitive and all want their particular children to attend the “best” schools* — (so they can then graduate to become Ivy League trained bankers and real estate moguls like Donald Trump – really rich successes, yea!)… *the best schools parents can get their kids into, which is why a child’s “address” can sometimes be that of a grandparent or other relative even if the child doesn’t actually live there.

The question being asked in this post is: why don’t people who are better off (richer, with more opportunities and higher level networks) make a personal sacrifice regarding their children’s potential future by having them attend “lesser” public schools so as to raise the quality of the student body in those needy schools? I think the answer is obvious.

What we learned from first hand experience (with a non-black child who went to a largely black student-body urban school) is that the single best hope for student success regardless of economic class or ethnicity or race – but most importantly if poor, of the lower economic classes, and often from the black community – is that giving a child a reliable, kind and parents-living-together long-term stable home-life is the key to student success.

While it is true many schools are flakey, bureaucratically dysfunctional, with semi-literate and even incompetent teachers, and idiotic curricula, and a mediocre (and worse) student body (and worst of the worst: demanding, stupid and spoiled brat parents) – it is clear that everyone prefers to blame the schools out of shame to admit the actual problem: an epidemic of dysfunctional family life caused by low-moral-character selfishness by many (millions?) of individuals who abandon their responsibility to care for the children they produce, which can only be done by living thoughtful and upstanding lives in the long term. There is no such thing as a “vacation” from good parenting.

Out of embarrassment about this unspeakable national truth, we all quietly agree to blame the schools for not “post-processing” our children “correctly.” After all, how could it be me/us? If you wait for “society” to finally become compassionate and “accept” your “need” and share your burdens (as Jesus told the rich man to sell his goods and give to the poor), then you will wait till the universe ends, before the schools in America will universally improve. If you can’t wait that long for your children to have a decent chance of getting and succeeding through some reasonably good schooling (or any schooling), then the quickest and surest remedy is to give them a safe, stable and loving home-life. It all depends on how much you really care for the children you’ve brought into this world.


Rodney Pierce: Point taken. However, I don’t think you completely take the blame off of schools. Yes, home stability and parental involvement are the single best determinants of success, but to dismiss the factor of schools, I don’t think that’s good. It’s like we’re letting them off the hook. I say this as a public school teacher in a largely, rural poor county in northeastern North Carolina. I see the effect of dysfunctional homes on a daily basis, but that doesn’t excuse our role in trying to provide an education of substance for our students. If anything, I think it puts more of a burden on us, as we become in loco parentis according to the law or de facto parents while they’re with us.

Manuel García Jr.: I don’t take the blame entirely off schools, I assign them second place. All the ills about schools, which I mentioned, we experienced first hand. The combination of stupid national and state mandates and required idiotic curricula, and beyond-stupid pacing, all fall squarely on the national, state and local schooling managers (and funding bodies of lawmakers). The idiocies and inadequacies inside the schools fall on the administrators and teachers – this criticism being partially mitigated by the poor funding of schools, and so the low pay does not universally attract the best teaching and administrative talent: Americans prefer to pay football payers millions than to pay real wages – at a Masters and PhD level – for the teachers in public (no tuition) schools. In many countries with rational education policies, schools are treated and administered as a NATIONAL system – this makes all the schools “equal” and their personnel “equally good.”

Finally, despite the disinterest Americans and their corporate rulers have about good primary and secondary education – nationally – there are still an amazing number of teachers who fight these disincentives and who go above and beyond the call of duty to help their students overcome all their life challenges (many of which are unfair challenges for children).

But, it doesn’t have to be this way: first and foremost the parents have to get their shit together and provide a stable home for growing kids into adults (most wildlife – like birds with their nests – do a better job of this than most American parents!). Why don’t they (parents) do this?: because they have never grown up themselves and insist on acting like spoiled brat crybabies, for decades beyond when that should be tolerated.

Second reason why it doesn’t have to be this way (i.e., having “bad” schools): because Americans tolerate a capitalism that finds it profitable to debase American educational systems, and finds it an unnecessary “overhead expense” to invest what is needed to bring up succeeding generations – ALL the kids – to a robust intellectual maturity.


Marisa Garcia Aoki: While these factors all exist, the biggest problem in the way of solving them is that we (society in the US in general) don’t value any of these things (we say we do, but our actions don’t support the words). I think it’s safe to say most people agree that both a good home-life and good schooling have big impacts on a student’s opportunities for future success, but no one is willing to fund that. In the US, there is plenty of research and parental pressure to “be a good parent” but is there ANYthing in our system that teaches or funds this? We just expect people who live in poverty to magically become good parents when they probably grew up with a difficult home-life as an example. How the heck is a 15 year old kid with Dad in prison and Mom working 3 jobs going to be an ideal parent? And we know that some of the WORST offenses against children come from the foster care system, which is supposed to be a social net to support the kids with difficult home-life situations. It is the same in schools. Research comes out showing something is good. So it becomes a mandate, which by the way has no additional funding, includes no training for school personnel, and has no clear guidelines for creating a path to successful implementation (just a maniacal end goal that we must all reach or fear for our livelihoods).

Basically, the method the United States uses is similar to someone who is overweight and unhealthy, knows they are overweight and unhealthy, wishes it were different, tells himself it needs to change, even mentally blames himself and beats himself up, but doesn’t change any of the circumstances in his life; then is shunned by others for being a failure.

You want to see a change in behavior? Motivation is part of it, but without:

1) a clear plan outlining a step-by-step pathway toward what success looks like

2) a social network of support (see Japan’s way of using lesson study for teachers to collaborate and learn from each other). This also includes the room to fail without fearing for your livelihood – instead there should be a system of supporting that person to do better in the future (embedded into the social support mechanism). Think about it – a gym would never survive if it found out a member went on a binge and ate 2 pizzas by themselves, and then kicked them out…

3) funding and time to make this happen. As a teacher, I do care about doing my best. I actively work towards learning new things to make myself better at my job. But I have to pay for all of that myself, and NONE of it is getting counted on my pay scale. I would LOVE to get a masters degree. But I can’t afford it – not the money or the time – because I work ALL. THE. TIME. And I still get paid less than starting wages of the jobs I could get if I instead went into the field I am teaching!

So the problem isn’t discovering the problem. The problem is that we aren’t willing, as an entire group of concerned citizens of this country, to put into place the systems that make the necessary changes a possibility. Instead, we want individuality and capitalism to rule. So we keep blaming and complaining and the few rich jerks who believe that they deserve their billions of dollars because they are better/smarter than everyone else get to call the shots. (Because let’s be honest, what we call democracy is just a puppet show run by a machine of money). And why would they want anything to be different?


Message #1 to a Young Artist

I want to commend you (give you praise) for your resolve to study deeply, even if that means taking “hard classes” with “lots of work.” Any creative person who produces worthwhile work is a person who has studied deeply, whether formally at a school or independently and intuitively by conscientious practice (or both). Good and great work comes out of a prior build-up of deep study. On a simple and practical level it is best to get as much “learning” as you can out of a school you are paying to attend. But beyond that, it is artistically and intellectually most beneficial to gain as much information, insight and understanding as possible about your chosen craft, and about the history of the culture you come from and the society you are living in, so your knowledge has depth, which will be the well from which you will draw the elements of your future creative works. When you remain committed to this “career” of study, and focussed on your personal artistic (and intellectual) vision, you will be able to move through your schooling (and life) with greater ease even as friends and acquaintances drop in and drop out of your social circle: you will be able to navigate beyond others’ dramas with less distraction and damage to yourself, and you will find that there will always be new and delightful people who can come into your life without being clingy drags. Over time, the experiences (both good and bad) you gain from your self-motivated course of study and practice build up as a growing fund of wisdom, which improves your ability to continue navigating your voyage through life, and improves your ability to create finer art. I am writing you this because I do not want you to get discouraged by the loss of friends, and the fleeting nature of many seemingly close friendships. There is no blame, just the unknowable chaos of the flow of life. Be happy in being immersed in your learning and in doing well in your creating. Love.


For Message #0 to a Young Artist, see:

Art versus Stomach


Poverty Draft

B-25 (WWII medium bomber) in 1987.

I don’t think that poor young men and women should have to risk their lives to increase the fortunes of rich old men and women. The G.I. Bill of a bygone era was a just and kind gesture of gratitude by the USAmerican nation to its surviving veteran warriors. Today, that gesture has been prostituted into an unjust and dishonest baiting of the hopes-for-their-futures of our youth, to drag them down into a militarized indentured servitude – a term of slavery – with the possibility of gaining funding for a modest education if they survive to request it. A better nation would fund the education of all its youth lavishly, and fund its war industries and their speculators poorly if at all. Today, it isn’t that educational and medical costs are “high,” it is that moral standards are low.


Tony Judt was on it (the failure of neo-liberal “globalization”) in 1997.

Today’s belated admission of what has been obvious for 38 years (at least):

MG,Jr. was on it (the failure of neo-liberal “globalization”) in 2003:


Memorial Day 2017, Unfiltered.

John Kennedy’s grave, April 1964

Thank God!, Betsy DeVos (US Secretary of Education, and fanatical crusader for school privatization) realizes that what American parents really want is what the State of Israel has now: the US government-subsidized apartheid of their choice.

The American people do not have the right to healthcare, or job security, or food, or childcare, or a good education, or housing security, or clean water, or truth-in-advertising, or climate security, or internet access, or public transportation, or respect from police, or fiscal equality before the law, or protection from corporate monopolies, or privacy, or equality of treatment based on gender, or the freedom to choose which toilet room to pee and poop in. But, the American people do have the right to their bigotries, and the right – proportional to their wealth – to have them subsidized by the US government. This is what we mean by “freedom” in America: the freedom to exercise the bigotry of your choice without government interference!

Kissinger is still unindicted, Bush is still unindicted, Colin Powell (the officer in charge of keeping the My Lai massacre under wraps) is still unindicted, Elliot Abrams is still unindicted (again), Oliver North is still unindicted, Bush is still unindicted, Cheney is still unindicted, Condoleezza Rice is still unindicted, and many more. America certainly must hold the record for hosting the largest number of unindicted war criminals, in lives of comfort and even luxury.

“War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” (Smedley Butler 1881-1940)

America lost the Vietnam War, but its war criminals got away with it.

An Iraq War veteran, on being thanked for his service: “I didn’t serve, I was used.”

So many graves with American flags flying over them are, sadly, burials of used soldiers, and also of this nation’s morality.

PBS will air a Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War this fall. I’m sure it will be infotaining. To what extent it will expand the public mind, and elevate the American public’s moral character, is hard to say. The PBS promo trailer prompted these thoughts:

“Those who have forgotten the past are condemned to repeat it.” As are those who only remember their illusions, preferences and prejudices about past and present reality. There is a great deal the American people (and their “leaders”) could learn about themselves and their (not very equitably shared) country, by absorbing the many painful lessons of the Vietnam War. However, that has not happened, and I doubt it can happen for quite some time (ever?). Having lived through the period, I look at America today and I think: hopeless. If ignorance is bliss then America is paradise.

My own shrine to the victims and the truly noble of that war is here:


Do-It-Yourself Alternative High School

High School in the United States is about training for conformity, and molding for obedience. High School gets in the way of becoming educated, in the same way that organized religion gets in the way of realizing spirituality (“knowing God”). The following is a list of 20 books I would gave to a student for a do-it-yourself education (an intellectual expansion) of a type American High Schools cannot deliver. I offer this list to you, and to American teens today, because I think that as a set they represent an entry to the endless path of awakening to the great wide world (reality), and to the art of self-teaching. Anyone who would read all these books, and work out the problems in them (if such), would merit the Alternative High School Diploma, which comes in the form of the personal satisfaction in having enjoyed learning many interesting things, and in how to think better.

How To Solve It
(G. Polya)

Desert Solitaire
(Edward Abbey)

Cat’s Cradle
(Kurt Vonnegut)

The Divine Proportion
(H. E. Huntley)

The Periodic Table
(Primo Levi)

The Ancestor’s Tale
(Richard Dawkins)

Gods, Graves and Scholars
(C. W. Ceram)

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court
(Mark Twain)

The Oedipus Trilogy

Slaughterhouse Five
(Kurt Vonnegut)

David Copperfield
(Charles Dickens)

Four Plays by Oscar Wilde:
– The Importance of Being Earnest
– An Ideal Husband
– Lady Windermere’s Fan
– A Woman of No Importance
– and if you want a 5th one: Salomé

Stranger In A Strange Land
(Robert Heinlein)

The Lathe of Heaven
(Ursula K. Le Guin)

Nineteen Eighty-Four
(George Orwell)

Animal Farm
(George Orwell)

Brave New World
(Aldous Huxley)

On The Road
(Jack Kerouac)

Eichmann In Jerusalem
(Hannah Arendt)

Cadillac Desert
(Marc Reisner)