Why Blast Off Into Space?

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

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Nate Hagens, on Earth and Humanity

Watch the video presentation “Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality,” (2:52:15) by Nate Hagens, linked below. Hagens presents an analysis and grand synthesis of the multi-entwined crises of unsustainable human society living in the rapidly degrading world climate of an increasingly resource-depleted and increasingly inhospitable Planet Earth.

I guarantee that you will find many of your own views on this topic reaffirmed by Hagens, and also that he will challenge at least one of your cherished beliefs about it. This is good for serious people, it prompts them to think anew, and to rethink their assumptions.

What impresses me about Hagens’ analysis is that it is based on a wealth of data — the lifeblood of any real scientific or economic analysis — and that it is a multidimensional systems analysis, and not merely a “one note Johnny” narrow expertise (just finance, or just physics), single “smoking gun” caused problem (as the “overpopulation” reductionists claim) or a promotion of a single route to salvation solution (as the “nuclear power” reductionists claim). Hagens’s is an integrated description of the dysfunctional global system, which Nature plus Humanity has become, rather than merely being an uncoordinated list of a myriad of disconnected disasters, pathologies, ruins and wrecks.

Hagens does make specific recommendations near the end of his video, aimed at getting us (particularly in the U.S.A.) to begin dealing with our ongoing global systems failure in a substantive manner. After that he adds a few seconds of wordless video that will delight all lovers of wildlife.

Any abstraction of Hagens’ presentation to a single phrase would wash away all its insights and nuance, and would be unjust to the cause of transmitting understanding to the public. But, if you want an indicative soundbite, here is my maximally reductionist summary: humanity needs to scale back its use of energy very very significantly, and permanently, and now — an energy diet — just like a forever-maintained eat-less food-calorie diet needed to break an individual free from obesity.

Hagens’ video will make any serious person think (and we all better get serious), and that is the first essential step for us ever having a chance to get out of the mess we’re in.

Earth and Humanity: Myth and Reality
16 May 2021 (Nate Hagens)
https://youtu.be/qYeZwUVx5MY

The following two paragraphs are my abstraction and consolidation of internet descriptions of Nate Hagens, with much of this information drawn from The Post Carbon Institute (https://www.postcarbon.org/our-people/nate-hagens/).

Nate Hagens has a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and a PhD in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He is a former editor of The Oil Drum and worked on Wall Street for a decade before “seeing the light.” Since 2003 Nate has shifted his focus to understanding the interrelationships between energy, environment, and finance and the implication this synthesis has for human futures. Previously, Nate was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice President at the investment firms Salomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers. Currently, he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar at the University of Minnesota ‘Reality 101 – A Survey of the Human Predicament.’

Nate focuses on the interrelationship between debt-based financial markets and natural resources, particularly energy, and the unplanned for risks from the coming ‘Great Simplification.’ He also addresses the evolutionarily-derived underpinnings to status, addiction, and our aversion to acting about the future and offers suggestions on how individuals and society might better adapt to the coming decades.

Jeff Gibbs 2019 video “Planet of the Humans,” released publicly on Earth Day 2020, was the most important presentation on the realities of our global “climate change” crisis to be made available in many years (https://planetofthehumans.com/). Nate Hagens’ new video “Earth and Humanity: Myths and Reality” is of much grander scope and at least of equal importance. See it and don’t get defensive, then refine your own stance from your points of disagreement with Hagens, and/or improve his systemic analysis, which is the type of thing needed to converge politically on what in all honesty would have to be called a World Plan for guiding human civilization through a transition — the Great Simplification — to a post carbon future, without suffering a catastrophic and life-ending collapse.

As a 20th century mechanical engineer who focused himself on the 19th century science of thermodynamics (and got away with a career in experimental nuclear explosions), I’ve said all what little I was competent to say about the physics and economics of “climate change.” So at this point all I can offer on the topic is bad poetry, and I’ll spare you that. But I can also recognize the value of new presentations like those of Gibbs and Hagens, and urge others to see them, study them, and act on them.

I am mindful of the urgent and totally justified demand posed by the next generation onto us world-controlling and world-destroying adults, through the voice of Greta Thunberg, for “action!” Nate Hagens’ systemic analysis is a very important step toward answering the questions of “what actions?” and “how do we implement them?”, and of actually working on Greta’s demand.

[Thanks to Isabel Ebert for pointing me to Nate Hagens’ video.]

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ADDENDUM:

Richard Heinberg both appears in “Planet of the Humans,” and leads the Post Carbon Institute.

The Most Colossal Planning Failure in Human History
May 2021
Richard Heinberg
https://richardheinberg.com/museletter-339-the-most-colossal-planning-failure-in-human-history

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Six Moody Reflections on America in Spring 2021

ONE

“I can’t remember the exact date, but the most mind blowing moment of my life was when after an exhaustive turning over of every rock imaginable, I realized there is no energy source which will allow us to continue our daily activities at the level Westerners have become accustomed to without the world and life as we know it being destroyed in the process….And once you accept that fact, that my friends is when you have reached the intellectual point of no return in your mindset as far as the inevitability of collapse…” — Forrest Palmer

My answer to Forrest Palmer:

Collapse is only inevitable by choice, and only if civilization is defined as being the present Western-Capitalist paradigm. There are no PHYSICAL limitations to fashioning a comfortable, equitable, intelligent, culturally rich, and ecologically harmonious (which is more than merely sustainable) world civilization. All the barriers are literally mental, and literally failures of personal moral character.

I agree that looking at human history and our world today, it seems “impossible” to ever achieve the global consensus necessary to realize that new hypothetical paradigm. But, from the Universe’s perspective, it is entirely possible if we humans can summon the collective will to do so.

TWO

Most people dislike truth because it is inconvenient, discredits their cherished biases, and illuminates responsibilities they want to avoid. And that is why the 1st Amendment is the least liked and most opposed of all of them. The first thing a corporation or government agency wants you to sign away, when they buy you, is your 1st Amendment rights.

In the U.S. “commerce” and “public service” aim to kill the 1st Amendment, with the exception of by a few principled people. You have the “right” to express yourself, but if somebody else fears what you say or write, because of their insecurity and dishonesty, then they want you silenced and unemployed, or dead. Look at Julian Assange.

THREE

Is This The End Of Forests As We’ve Known Them?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/10/is-this-the-end-of-forests-as-weve-known-them

“Is this the end of forests as we’ve know them?” It depends on who the “we” is. For the “we” that is intimately connected with the natural world, it may seem like the inevitable outcome from continuing human-species existence.

But most people today, particularly in the high carbon-spewing countries, do not have any real connection to “nature”; they don’t see and don’t notice the subtlety of its cyclic changes, nor the relentlessness of its ‘permanent’ changes; they just notice immediate effects on themselves, as obstacles to their wants (or needs for the poorest).

Most Americans are urbanites or suburbanites (no undisturbed nature there), or rural exploiters of “nature”; far fewer are sensitively connected to the land and its wildlife. The social and mental inertia of the unseeing and uncaring (and worldwide) majority is why the minority nature-loving “we” — which includes materially advantaged people with the luxury to be nature lovers — is seeing Paradise wither and burn away.

Awakening that vast self-focused ‘public mind’ to an actual commitment to fundamentally alter the physical routines of its existence, and swallow the economics necessary to do so, is the fundamental challenge — and probably an impossibility — of “climate change activists” (i.e., climate anti-change activists). It is easy enough to point out this and that current instance of environmental and biodiversity loss and/or collapse, and it is easy enough to say “capitalism must die for the world to live,” but none of that has had any impact on the vast public mind, as should be evident by now, and safe to say never will.

So, what if anything will? What ideas can be injected into the public arena that gain wide public attention — which means they have to suggest immediate improvements in the economic lives of the demos — and are sufficiently motivating to create significant physical+electoral actions by the public to really begin changing public/corporate/government institutions, for the ultimate near-term purpose of de-carbonizing civilization?

I find it easy to generalize, I find it incredibly difficult to think up a detailed “plan.” Exhortation alone will never be effective, organization is the key, but organization is very, very slow and, climatically, time is very short for implementing the massive alterations that are really needed.

What are the practical (a.k.a., ideologically ‘imperfect’) steps that we (the big “we”, in the public) as individuals can take — variously in our many different constituencies, regions and countries — to spur our governments to respond as promptly and effectively as possible to climate change as the emergency it really is? Doomism is not an acceptable response.

FOUR

DAC = Direct Air Capture of CO2 is hypothetical technology — an illusion — promoted by the oil industry so they can keep drilling out oil for us all to burn or turn into plastic waste. DAC is a sham in the same way that plastic recycling is a sham for allowing the continuation of oil/plastic companies’s profiteering at Earth’s expense. Only about 9% of all plastic waste is recycled, the rest is a growing mass of pollution poisoning our rivers, oceans, lands, foods and bodies. The only plastics with any possibility of being reprocessed for reuse are those labeled 1 and 2, and maybe also 5.

The fallacy of DAC is like trying to design a better helmet that allows you continue playing Russian Roulette. The obvious — surest, quickest, cheapest — solution to the problem is to just stop. And so it is with the production of CO2 and plastics. My physics analysis of DAC is given in these two articles.

The Improbability of CO2 Removal from the Atmosphere
9 August 2020
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/08/09/the-improbability-of-co2-removal-from-the-atmosphere/

Stream Tube CO2 Removal Machine
8 August 2020
https://manuelgarciajr.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/stream-tube-co2-removal-machine.pdf

FIVE

On 27 October 1962, Vasili Arkhipov single handedly prevented the launching a nuclear war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., by doggedly refusing to allow for the launching of a nuclear warhead torpedo against an American warship relentlessly depth charging his Russian submarine for five hours, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It took three senior officers on the submarine each with an individual key all needed in unison to enable the launch mechanism. Everyone else on that submarine favored the torpedo counterattack because they feared they were on the brink of being sunk. Vasili Arkhipov alone dissented, and that prevented the launching of nuclear weapons, and inevitably an intercontinental nuclear war.

The Man Who Saved The World, Vasili Arkhipov
https://youtu.be/iQYC6OlwC5k

The history of the Cuban Missile Crisis – Matthew A. Jordan
https://youtu.be/bwWW3sbk4EU

Vasili Arkhipov, 2017 Future of Life Award winner for averting nuclear war
https://youtu.be/iLokpu4ixQE

Preventing nuclear war, ending all war, really facing global heating worldwide and equitably right away and persistently ever after, which all mean ending poverty and hunger and disease and suffering and ecocide worldwide are the challenges and obligations we face today. We all need to become Arkhipovs confronting those challenges.

I think I’ll remember every 27 October as “Arkhipov Day,” or Human Solidarity Day.

SIX

Stan Goff wrote: “In my early childhood, we had duck-and-cover drills. As I reach the sunset of this life, we have active-shooter drills. God bless America.”

That prompted these thoughts of mine:

For me the worst such moment was 22 October 1962, watching JFK on TV during the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis. My parents were glued to the B&W TV in our New York apartment, and I was glued to them watching that TV (I was 12). We didn’t know if Khrushchev would incinerate us in NYC with Russian nuclear-tipped ICMBs before or after JFK incinerated my grandparents in Havana with US nuclear-tipped ICBMs. We didn’t care about Moscow at that point. Fortunately, both Arkhipov and Khrushchev felt a greater connection to humanity than did Kennedy, because of their (all 3) searing memories of WWII losses, and defused the standoff at the Nuclear OK Corral.

So, I was free thereafter to pursue my boyish dreams in the sunny 60s and 70s, only limited by my degree of perseverance (high), relatively modest talents, political naïveté, the Vietnam War draft (dodged a bullet there), the Glass Ceiling protecting White Supremacy (the Prime Directive, as I found out), and the randomness of luck and lucklessness (can’t complain too much here).

When I saw families with naked children begging in the streets of Havana, in June 1959, I became viscerally aware that there were many people undeservingly much worse off that I was, and I have never lost that feeling. And over time my rage against authority (and against people in general when I’m at my glummest) has only grown because they continue to allow that to continue, and even worsen in many places — which I know is entirely unnecessary — and all because of selfishness: bigotry and greed.

As I look toward the sunset of my life, I just hope to love my family and delight them, amuse my few friends on occasion, enjoy health and art as long as I’m able, and forgive myself for my own degree of selfishness (which I know I am not going to relinquish) and for my amateurish ineffectiveness (and, frankly, laziness) at prompting any significant social improvements. In brief: my human imperfection.

My legacy is imprinted on the wind, and as the fleeting memories held by a few I hold dear. My message to the world: have fun, and be kind.

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Why Not Nuclear Power?

I am asked in an e-mail:

“I’m assuming that in 30 or 40 years, everyone will (pretty much) be using nuclear power for their energy needs. By last count, there were 440+ nuclear reactors in the world, with dozens more planned for installation. France (of all countries) is roughly 70% nuclear. My question: Why are people still pretending that nuclear energy isn’t the cleanest, most efficient method available?

My answer: Because it’s not.

The first answer I devised, in 2012, to this question was (“solar power at 1% conversion efficiency on 2% of the land area of the United States of America would produce the total electrical energy use of the nation, 4 trillion kilowatt-hours per year (4T kWh/y)”):

https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/06/08/energy-for-society-in-balance-with-nature/

My next answer (“nuclear weapons are obsolete”) was to the collateral question about nuclear weapons (which collateral question comes out of the “proliferation” issue associated with civilian nuclear reactors. I presumed the e-mail correspondent’s original question was prompted by my remarks on nuclear weapons posted on CounterPunch on February 1st, https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/01/why-it-is-the-way-it-is/)(appended below) was:

https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/08/09/nuclear-weapons-are-obsolete/

The two factors that would argue against nuclear power are responsibility and efficiency:

1. The “responsibility factor,” (MONEY).

Nobody wants to be the person/entity legally-financially responsible for insuring the nuclear power companies and reactor operators. The cost of “nuclear power malpractice insurance” is literally infinite.

So, governments that do have nuclear power must become (pass laws making) themselves the responsible parties of last resort — which means the public gets stuck with the bills and physical and health risks from all sorts of possible “accidents”: meltdowns and wide area contamination (like Chernobyl and Fukushima), waste storage (nuclear waste gets thermally hot, and if clumped too close or not cooled can explode, as in Russia in 1957) and guarding (from diversion by terrorists) forever (hundreds of thousands of years).

2. The “efficiency factor,” (the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics).

All the work (human and mechanical; intellectual-engineering and physical-construction) that would be required to build up a nuclear power infrastructure (like for mining uranium and refining the ore to reactor grade; and building power plants and waste disposal methods and sites), plus all the related security services needed (to ensure the refining plants don’t take the process to “bomb grade,” and then divert that into nuclear weapons, or it gets stolen!) ‘in perpetuity’ can be quantified as a total energy (or power flow into) needed to create and maintain the nuclear power industry/infrastructure (including its administration and finance agencies).

Does the energy extracted FROM nuclear power…

…(over the lifetime of its plants, whose remnants must be ‘disposed’ of as radioactive and toxic waste; so also over the time required to maintain and guard the disposal sites)…

…EXCEED the energy investment INTO nuclear power, to make that “engine for powering civilization” socially useful? This is called EROEI: energy return on energy invested.

EROEI is used by the oil industry to determine if any well/oil field is worth being pumped. If the energy needed to work the pumping is MORE than the potential energy that can be generated from the oil that could be extracted, then it makes no sense to pump it out. Instead, just use that original energy investment directly into other technical means to produce the work desired for social and economic purposes.

Another reason that re-insurers (the big big money like Credit Suisse that insures insurance companies) mark their costs for nuclear power at INFINITY (kind of like an inversion of Pascal’s Wager) is because they calculate that investments elsewhere (for energy generation) are more profitable (i.e., efficient).

Governments like the USG maintain nuclear power for military reactors, as on aircraft carriers and missile-carrying submarines, because these weapons systems are the technological infrastructure of their imperialism, their global-reach political power (and dick enhancements of the egomaniacal bigwigs in charge) to extract economic advantages (both real and imaginary) from the rest of the world (and entirely for Big Capital, which underwrites and profits from the Military-Industrial Complex: the MIC).

But this is neither energetically nor financially efficient; it is a definite national cost (a pure loss for the public) which is borne by civil society as a degradation of their standards-of-living (the combination of their political freedoms degraded because of “secrecy” and “security,” availability of social services, economic/job opportunities and thus income, and health and safety as it is impacted by the whole nuclear materials/weapons/power complex; guns versus butter).

After the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown, I wrote this poem:

Which would you rather live in?
A country of 200 nuclear plants, or
A country of 100 million solar collectors?
Which would you rather live in
After the air raids?

If the total current investment into nuclear materials/power/weapons, for all kinds of investments and from all sources, were channeled instead into “green energy” (the technology) and “eco-socialism” (the society powered by that technology), we would all live much much better and more securely and all at much less cost (which cost reduction would include much more effective action to counter climate change).

The great psychological barrier here is the usual one of people of all kinds being resistant to alter their behaviors and adapt to new thinking and technology because they are afraid of losing their personal advantages (money, wealth, jobs, “importance”), their social and economic status (in prejudicial hierarchical societies), and of “losing out” by relinquishing the old ways of “getting ahead,” because of sociological and technical advances (as John Henry, the “Steel-Driving Man,” was resistant, https://youtu.be/oEKAwslJ-_M). This is like the warped and economically unnecessary motivation that keeps Icelandic and Japanese whalers going on today in an activity that is a pure degradation of our interconnected natural world.

And that is why nuclear power continues: because of the mental inertia of those who “can’t” change their ways of life (of ‘taking advantage’ and ‘getting ahead’ of the rest of the world), and which dummies include the vast swathes of Joe Sixpacks and Karens and Jamie Portfolios and Nancy Fashionistas, who just want the continuity of their illusions of “good deals” on guns and granite countertops and big plasma-screen TVs and low-fat de-caff lattes, without any thought about the pesky “weather.”

For all such people, “nuclear energy as the cleanest most efficient method of powering our good life” is confidently held as an obvious truth.

All forms of power (physical and electrical utility power) are statements about the kinds of societies that are envisioned — by their controlling ‘visionaries’ (sic) — as being necessary.

So, the fundamental question is actually: what kind of society do we want? And from that the kind of power technologies that should be mounted can then be most clearly defined and invested in and built and used.

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Why It Is The Way It Is
28 January 2021

Here are my reactions to three articles in the 28 January 2021 edition of Counter Punch.

Why We Can’t Give Up on the Idea of a World Free From Nuclear Weapons
https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/01/28/why-we-cant-give-up-on-the-idea-of-a-world-free-from-nuclear-weapons/

The “inability” to relinquish nuclear weapons is entirely a function of the “inability” of power elites to pry their cold dead hands off the levers of power. This is in every way like the “inability” of gun nuts (euphemistically: 2nd Amendment Patriots) to relinquish their guns and military gear costumes; the acting out of a dick measuring contest by deeply insecure people unable to let go of the security blankets they hide behind and which project their illusions of confidence, manhood (and/or penis envy), power and enviable popular acclaim and fear. This is no different from Achilles dragging Hector’s body behind his chariot before the walls of Troy to safely chest-thump his hubristic pride in himself and to inspire terror.

Another, secondary aspect of this clutching onto the obsolescence of nuclear weapons is pure pork-barrel and corporate welfare. It has nothing to do with the logical pursuit of war aims under any conditions. But the disturbing element here is the possibility of an illogical actor — a pure irrational — somehow gaining control of some nation’s nuclear weapons infrastructure Doomsday Machine, as many feared a nutty American president (take your pick) might have done.

I would say that the ideal and polar opposite alternative to the continuation of the Nuclear War Club Delusion is a combination of: the outlawing of war with a robust International Criminal Court with full world participation as championed by Ben Ferencz (https://youtu.be/meDbZemxuK4), with an equally robust worldwide participation in a concerted effort to respond to climate change as urged with fervent and penetrating clarity by Greta Thunberg, and to which I have made my own individual (and I’ll admit amateur) efforts to flesh out with policy visions (as in my last CP article, https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/01/28/from-fractiousness-to-sustainability-is-it-possible/).

While America Was Sleeping
https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/01/28/while-america-was-sleeping/

Alfred W. McCoy describes how the United States has steadily slipped from its long-standing position of world leadership (from 1945 to 2017), both politically but most crucially economically, and which decay of American imperial power and world respect for it is most hideously reflected by the previous four years of the Boobus Americanus Administration.

The increasing economic isolation of the United States from world markets, with Europe, Asia and Africa being steadily drawn into market conformity with China, and effectively assisted by Boobus Americanus’s inept “America First” isolationism, leads me to think that the centroid for the production of carbon-dioxide planetary poisoning has moved to China, with this relocation of World Capitalism’s economic engine.

I am brought back to John Lennon’s thought that the world is run by insane people for insane purposes (https://youtu.be/YspNkm0BKgw). The intellectual refinement and seriousness of the mentalities that carry on the complex and sober work of perpetuating the objectively insane obsession with political domination for exclusionary wealth accumulation — most heinous when self-focussed, but understandably forgivable when aimed at poverty reduction nationally — is breathtaking for its utter disregard to its consequent destruction of our planet. This is “circling the drain-hole” terminal addiction on its grandest scale.

Federal Secrecy Protects the Crimes of Every President
https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/01/28/federal-secrecy-protects-the-crimes-of-every-president/

James Bovard shines a strong light on the putrefaction of American democracy by its envelopment with the hyphae of the “classification” of rightly public information as “state secrets.” Very little of the information generated by government activities needs to be classified either for public safety or the defense of the Constitution (remember, the two official duties and purposes of the USG and its officers) against the attempted hostile actions by ‘enemies’ (who they?) of the American people.

I once had large locking safes filled with blueprints and computer printouts of engineering details of nuclear explosive devices (a.k.a. “bombs”), and I agree those should be classified. But even so, if such blueprints were posted on the internet it might do less for nuclear proliferation than you might imagine. Certainly a few nuclear powers, like North Korea and maybe Pakistan, would be able to improve their own nuclear weapons designs from a study of the U.S. nuclear weapons technology.

But all members of the nuclear weapons club already know how to blend very high level classical physics and engineering with the use of exotic radioactive compounds, gases, metals and salts (the material guts of nuclear bombs) into the construction of functional nuclear explosives. The threat to others from Nuclear War Club members is exponentially amplified when such members also possess high-speed delivery systems with long reach (missiles, submarines and worst of all: satellite platforms).

Most states would never (well, almost never) be able to develop their own nuclear weapons even if they possessed a huge cache of “blueprints” from say the U.S. or Russia or China or England or France or Israel, because they could never mount the huge complex infrastructure necessary to manufacture nuclear explosives, nor accumulate the many exotic materials needed.

But, it is true that any state with civilian nuclear reactors could apply that technology to generate low-grade (and yet super extremely toxic and harmful) nuclear material and waste, which could be used in crude terroristic attacks. So the single best strategy for the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear terror and nuclear weapons is the strict international (U.N.) control of the possession and transport of nuclear materials. Secrecy in the operations of such a nuclear materials policing agency is certainly a public good.

But, as has long been known and which Bovard points out, government secrets in general and the explosion of “classification” by the USG in particular are mostly about embarrassment-control and impunity-perpetuation by and for the lever-pullers in governments.

And it all makes this nerdy très petit bourgeois kid from the Hippy Era, who is irrelevantly far out from the insane consensus on world management, think gratefully of Ben Ferencz, fondly of John Lennon, and wistfully of Greta Thunberg.

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This Is Now (U.S.A.)

Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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This Is Now (U.S.A.)

In his CounterPunch column on 30 October 2020 [1], the editor-publisher, Jeffrey St. Clair, made the following refreshing comment:

“In his resignation letter, Greenwald goes a little far in claiming his story was ‘censored.’ Call it the victim of a strong editorial hand. Cockburn used to apply his frequently to my stories and his normal scalpel was replaced by a ruthless chainsaw whenever my subject matter strayed onto the fraught terrain of climate change, assault weapons or catch-and-release trout fishing.”

I have had the same experience with my articles and papers in every single publication I have submitted them to (even CP). I came to learn that each journal has its ideological boundary, within which is its acceptable orthodoxy, and outside of which is rejected heresy. The arbiter determining the exact contour of that boundary is the editor, and moreso when also the publisher.

This is not necessarily bad if the precepts of the orthodoxy and contour of its boundary line are clearly stated, and uniformly adhered to. Then you as a reader and writer know how to pick and choose what to get into, or not. We all prefer to sing in our own choirs and thus perpetuate a world of mutually repellant cacophonous babel, because it is so much easier to maintain our ignorance and prejudices that way.

Having said this, I have to add in all fairness that CounterPunch has been the most tolerant of any journal toward my submissions (better than 50%). If you want to eliminate all censorship and editorializing on your writings, then just publish them yourself in a blog, or just don’t bother. Believe me, most people don’t want to hear or read what you think, however much your ego would be pleased to think they do.

At this point I thought I would editorialize a bit more on the editorial just cited.

+= Jeffrey St. Clair
– = MG,Jr.

+ Biden losing Texas because he made little to no effort to secure the Hispanic vote and couldn’t effectively distance himself from Obama’s inglorious record as deporter-in-chief will be one of the most biting ironies of this strange campaign.

+ The Biden campaign has made two shrewd strategic decisions: One, to limit Biden’s own appearances; and two, to keep Bill Clinton off the campaign trail, even though Bubba might have drawn some bigoted white men over to Biden in Georgia and South Carolina.

– Spanish speaking Americans are most likely voting overwhelmingly for Biden anyway as the obviously preferable lesser evil to raging Trumpian Hispanophobia. We (i.e., ‘Hispanics’) always know that U.S. elections are competitions between two corrupt gangs of ‘pasty-faced knuckle-headed palookas’ (a fabulous phrase from the Three Stooges) united by capitalist ideology. We make inroads as we can with young new progressives, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and with the numerous non-PFKHP activists over the years. Also, in time we will demographically bury PFKHP Trumpphilic America, because we are way better lovers.

+ Usually, the lies get more grandiose the closer we get to an election. This year, however, there’s been a refreshing outbreak of honesty. Biden has pledged that he will “not end fracking.” And Trump’s chief staff Mark Meadows has vowed that Trump “will not control the pandemic.”

– It’s all about the money. It has always been all about the money. This is the United States you’re talking about: “Capitalism is a religion. Banks are churches. Bankers are priests. Wealth is heaven. Poverty is hell. Rich people are saints. Poor people are sinners. Commodities are blessings. Money is God.” — Miguel D. Lewis

– Fracking = fossil fuel = power for U.S. military machines = international political power = profits = careerist orgasms; therefore the Next White (or Whitened) Guy In The White House is 100% for it.

– “Controlling the pandemic” is a tax on “the economy” a.k.a. the exclusive corporate casino subsidized by the public, both by their tax submissions and by their acquiescence to death by incompetence and neglect. Also, laissez-faire as pandemic control is the mentally easiest policy for PFKHPs to manage.

+ The grooming of AOC for a leadership position in the party seems to be well underway. Consider her placid reaction to Biden’s retreat on fracking: “It does not bother me … I have a very strong position on fracking … However, that is my view … It will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House, but we need to focus on winning the White House first.”

– Lighten up on AOC. She and Greta Thunberg have done more to wake people up to working for a better U.S. and better world than all the U.S. politicians and pundits of the last 50 years, excepting the activist kids of 2018 from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

– AOC has made the most startling and effective puncturing of the PFKHP political bubble since god knows when, and has near-instantly built up a political potential so threatening to PFKHP patriarchal control that its flaccid intelligentsia across its entire spectrum for reactionary Trumpofascism to Pelosischumer liberal pablum has been driven into apoplectic frenzies of attack against the future that AOC personifies: young, female, feminist, inclusive, non-PFKHP (and non-‘Karen’), multilingual, socialist, smart, honest, engaging and effective.

– Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s newly reelected Labour Prime Minister, is another personification of that advanced political future (a reality in New Zealand, as yet a dream in the U.S.). The fact that AOC is also urban and a Puertorriqueña is icing on the cake (for this Nuyorkino). The great fear in weakling PFKHP minds is demographic dilution, and they see their projected image of that fear as AOC, before whom they tremble: rage as pretense for fear.

+ Who will tell DiFi? McConnell, just after the Senate voted to limit debate on Amy Coney Barrett: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

– Climate change (crisis, emergency, catastrophe) is a universally acknowledged fact, often brutally so in the wake of hurricanes, floods, droughts and wildfires. The culpability of major corporations in fueling global warming by the overproduction and sale of fossil fuels and petroleum products (like plastic by the Coca Cola Company) for the last half century, and of doing their utmost to cover up the scientific findings about the root causes of global warming (that’s where “anthropogenic” comes in) so as to continue maximizing their profits by destroying the environment, are all now public knowledge.

– Therefore, it is inevitable that the public will increasingly point the accusatory finger at the oil companies (for CO2 pollution fueling global warming) and plastic producers (for ocean and biodiversity destruction) in the form of class action lawsuits. The evidence of guilt is overwhelming; there is no exculpatory evidence. The only way that future corporate defendants would be able to secure favorable judgements once they have been harpooned by such lawsuits would be to advance payments now into insurance policies known as campaigns to install as many corporate-friendly judges into the higher echelons of the corporate-friendly U.S. judiciary as possible, and as soon as possible. This is how to buy judges legally in the United States, where “justice” is a commodity.

– And that is what the frenzy to install Amy Coney Barrett into the Supreme Court was all about. Her daddy was an oil exec, so she’s part of the family of the petrocorp ancien régime. Her religious fundamentalism is incidental to the corporatocracy (though it’s a great distraction for the hoi poloi); it’s all about the money.

+ Reporter: “What do you say to Philadelphia residents that are outraged by yet another unarmed Black man being shot by police?”
+ Biden: “What I say is that there is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence.”

– Except by the PFKHP supremacist U.S. military abroad, and occupation troops (a.k.a. ‘police’) domestically. It used to be called “manifest destiny,” now it’s called “exceptionalism.” What the ancien régime fears most is having its own tactics used against it, and its various euphemistic expressions of that fear, as given by Biden here, are its most forthright admissions of guilt.

+ It’s become a fixture of American political culture where those who later apologize for being wrong about a disastrous policy (regardless of the body count) are given more attention and credibility than those who made the right call from the beginning.

– This is because such heartwarming forgiveness is dispensed by the U.S. mass media, which in aggregate is the privatized propaganda ministry that touts disastrous-for-the-public corporate-friendly government policies with alacrity. These are sinners forgiving their own sins, which the public had to become impoverished and bleed and die to underwrite (as in the 2008 financial meltdown, and Vietnam and Iraq Wars).

+ In the last two years, Trump’s Department of Energy has blocked the release of more than 40 reports on renewable energy: “They just go into a black hole.”

– The U.S. Department of Energy is a government agency for the maintenance of U.S. nuclear weapons capability, infrastructure and production. Anything else they may do is auxiliary. While there is much more that the US DOE could do to further renewable energy (I know, I used to work for them through a contractor, and my renewable energy reports just ended up on my blog), that is not a concern of the petrocorp ancien régime that owns the government.

– It may help to remember that John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was fond of saying: “The people who own the country should run it.” By “people” Jay meant wealthy merchants and slave-owners like himself. This is what the Supreme Court has always been about (with the exception of a few deviations by people like William O. Douglas, Thurgood Marshall and surprisingly by Earl Warren): the defense of property against democracy.

+ The Arctic’s giant methane deposits are beginning to leak their climate-wrecking fumes. Adjust your doomsday clock accordingly.

+ A worst-case climate scenario could produce almost $500 trillion in damages—about twice all the wealth in the world today. A best case still inflicts about $30 trillion in damage, a new study in Nature estimates, with intermediate scenarios between $69 trillion and $131 trillion.

+ According to a post-debate Morning Consult poll, only 28% voters oppose transitioning away from the oil industry. 52% of independents support transitioning away, and even 41% of Republicans.

– The exploding magnitude of the problem of global warming is only matched by the degree of reluctance by politically organized human society to reformulate its civilization into balance with Nature, and thus into harmony with the continuation of biodiverse Life-On-Earth. The mental inertia behind our non-action is from the static self-images many people have of themselves (‘I have to keep living and working this way because I can’t imagine otherwise’), and from our near-universal fetishizing of money.

– “The economy” is an artifice that can be constructed any way “we” want — so people could easily be made more important than profits — and money is just a token that is easily printed on government paper, and is now even generated as electrons vibrating in computer memory circuits. It doesn’t matter how much “money” it costs to formulate a decent society in harmony with Nature; money is shit, and shit is fertilizer.

+ Trump’s war on wolves just went nuclear…
+ The decision to remove the protections for gray wolves across all 48 states is going to have lethal consequences in Wisconsin, where the state’s “wolf hunt” will be immediately reopened.

– What it really is, deep down, it is the pleasure of inflicting cruelty on the helpless by terrified weaklings.

+ Ned Norris Jr., Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, on the border wall’s desecration of Indigenous sacred sites: “As Americans, we all should be horrified that the Federal Government has so little respect for our religious and cultural values.”

– It’s all about the money; it is the pleasure of inflicting cruelty on the helpless by terrified weaklings; it is so much easier to maintain ignorance and prejudices that way; it is a reaction to the increasing fear of demographic dilution and the puncturing of the political bubble of PFKHP patriarchal control; it is manifest destiny and exceptionalism; it is the fearful wrath of the American money-constipated ancien régime.

– Capitalism must die for the world to live.

[1] https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/10/30/roaming-charges-high-anxiety/

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Global Warming is Nuclear War

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Global Warming is Nuclear War

The average global surface temperature rose by 1°C during the 110 years between 1910 and 2020.

During the 50 years between 1910 and 1960, the average global temperature rose by 0.25°C, an average rate-of-increase of 0.005°C/year. Another 0.25°C of biosphere heating occurred during the 25 years between 1960 and 1985, a rate-of-rise of 0.010°C/year. During the 20 year span between 1985 and 2005 another 0.25°C of temperature was added, a rate-of-rise of 0.0125°C/year. During the 15 year span from 2005 to 2020 another 0.25°C of temperature rise occurred, with an average rate-of-rise of 0.0167°C/year.

While the average temperature rise of 0.25°C was the same for each of the four intervals, the first (between 1910 and 1960) required 45.5% of the 110 years between 1910 and 2020; the second (between 1960 and 1985) only required 22.7% of the 110 years; the third (between 1985 and 2005) required the smaller fraction of 18.2% of the 110 years; and the most recent period (between 2005 and 2020) took the smallest fraction of 13.6% of the 110 years.

Given that a 1°C rise of the temperature of Earth’s Biosphere (EB) is the equivalent of it absorbing, as heat, the energy yield of 109 billion Hiroshima atomic bomb explosions, we could imagine the EB being bombarded by an average of 1 billion Hiroshima bombs per year between 1910 and 2020 (within 109 year-long intervals). If that yearly bombardment were done uniformly, it could represent 2 Hiroshima bomb explosions per square kilometer of the Earth’s surface once during the year; or it could represent one Hiroshima bomb explosion per day in each 186 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface, for a worldwide bombing rate of 2.74 million/day. Global warming is very serious!

Let’s refine this analogy so it reflects the acceleration of global warming since 1910.

The 27.25 billion Hiroshima bomb equivalents of heating that occurred between 1910 and 1960 would represent a bombing rate of 545 million/year; or 1.5 million/day spaced out at one daily explosion per 342 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface.

The 27.25 billion Hiroshima bomb equivalents of heating that occurred between 1960 and 1985 would represent a bombing rate of 1.09 billion/year; or 3 million/day spaced out at one daily explosion per 171 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface.

The 27.25 billion Hiroshima bomb equivalents of heating that occurred between 1985 and 2005 would represent a bombing rate of 1.36 billion/year; or 3.73 million/day spaced out at one daily explosion per 137 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface.

The 27.25 billion Hiroshima bomb equivalents of heating that occurred between 2005 and 2020 would represent a bombing rate of 1.82 billion/year; or 5 million/day spaced out at one daily explosion per 103 km^2 patch of the Earth’s surface.

The heating rate for the 1°C temperature rise of the EB since 1910, averaged on a yearly basis, was 5.725×10^24 Joules/110years, or 5.2×10^22 Joules/year, or 1.65×10^15 Watts of continuous heating. This rate of heat storage by the EB (into the oceans) is only 0.827% of the continuous “heat glow” given off as infrared radiation by the EB (mainly at the Earth’s surface), which is 1.994×10^17 Watts at a temperature of 288.16°K (Kelvin degrees; an absolute temperature of 288.16°K = 15°C+273.16°C; absolute zero temperature occurs at -273.16°C).

If we were to imagine impulsively infusing the EB with the same amount of energy, by a regular series of “heat explosions” each of energy release equivalent to the Hiroshima bomb, then the 1 billion explosions per year (the 109 year average) would have to occur at a rate of 31.7 per second.

Atomic bombs release their energy explosively within 1 microsecond, representing a radiated power of 5.25×10^19 Watts for an energy release equivalent to the Hiroshima bomb yield (5.25×10^13 Joules). In this hypothetical exercise, I am lumping all the atomic bomb explosive yield into heat, but in real atomic explosions energy is released in a variety of forms: heat, nuclear radiation (gamma rays, energetic neutrons, X-rays, radioactive material) and blast pressure. The energy forms emitted by atomic bomb explosions ultimately heat the materials they impact and migrate through, and this is why I lump all of the bomb yield as heat.

An explosion sphere with a 56.4 centimeter diameter (22.2 inches) radiating heat at 5.25×10^19 Watts during a burst time of 1 microsecond would present a 1m^2 surface area at a temperature of 5,516,325°K = 5,516,051°C. Imagine 32 of these popping into existence at random points around the world during every second of the day and night since 109 years ago. We would certainly consider that form of global warming a crisis deserving our attention.

Because the invisible low temperature heat glow style of global warming that we actually experience does not rudely punctuate our lives with random blasts of such intense X-ray conveyed heat that any human standing nearby would simultaneously be vaporized while the molecules of that vapor were atomized and those atoms stripped of all of their electrons down to the atomic cores, we ignore it. But the heating effect on the biosphere is energetically equivalent to what we are causing with our greenhouse gas and pollution emissions.

Thermodynamically, we have greenhouse gas-bombed out of existence the pristine biosphere and its habitable climate that first cradled and nurtured the infancy of our species 2000 centuries ago, and then fed and protected the development and growth of that fragile chimera we call “civilization,” which our potentates have been proudly boasting about for at least 8,000 years. And we’re still bombing, now at an ever increasing rate.

All of the numbers quoted here come out of the results described in my report “A Simple Model of Global Warming” that I produced to help me understand quantitatively the interplay of the major physical effects that produces global warming. I invite both the scientists and the poets among you to consider it.

Global Warming Model

70% or less of the sunlight shining onto the Earth reaches the surface and is absorbed by the biosphere. From this absorbed energy, in combination with the presence of water and organic material, all life springs. The oceans, which cover 70.2% of the Earth’s surface and comprise 99.4% of the biosphere’s mass, form the great “heat battery” of the planetary surface. All weather and climate are generated from the heat glow of that battery. A portion of that heat glow, equivalent to the solar energy absorbed, must escape into space for the planetary surface to remain in heat balance, at a constant average temperature. For that temperature being 15°C (59°F), 62.31% of the heat glow must escape.

30% or more of the incident solar energy is reflected back into space, with 24% of that reflection by clouds, and 6% of that reflection from land and ocean surfaces. While snow and ice are the most nearly perfect reflective of such surfaces, they only cover 10% to 11% of the planet and that coverage is slowly being reduced by global warming, increasing the solar heating.

Our introduction of greenhouse gases and pollution particles into the atmosphere has added to the already existing load of naturally emitted humidity, organic vapors and grit from volcanic eruptions and windblown dust. These components of the atmosphere absorb and retain heat (infrared radiation), blocking some of the necessary heat glow loss, and thus warming the planet. The increasing accumulation of these components — because a warmer world has higher humidity producing more clouds, and because of our continuing emission of atmospheric pollutants — scatter an increasing portion of the incoming sunlight back into space, which is a cooling effect called “global dimming.” The imbalance of all these effects is dominated by warming and the biosphere’s temperature is rising at an accelerating rate.

My life is a race against the clock of a certain though indeterminate finality. The COVID-19 pandemic has made me very conscious of this inevitability. After seven decades of existence I cannot do everything I want, in terms of living, fast enough. This is not irrational terror, it is awakened appreciation and understanding. There is all of Shelley yet to read, and Keats, and so many more; and so many more birds and flowers, and daylight and nighttime beauties of the Nature to see, and so many more differential equations and physical problems to solve, to not want to go on living. The urge for continuation is innate, genetically programmed, whether in robotic virus particles or in cognitive life forms like cats and human beings. For me, that cognition includes the irrational emotional desire to combat global warming so that future generations of all Earth’s life forms have decent chances of continuing.

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Mutually Assured Madness: Immunity to the 25th Amendment

When Ronald Reagan first arrived at the White House after his big electoral victory over President Jimmy Carter in November 1980, and was now cleared to see and know all the secrets and issue commands, he was asked what he wanted to do first. He asked to see the War Room. The aides, handlers, military and security people were puzzled, what War Room? Reagan described the one with the big circular table and circular-arc overhead light, and the big screen-map of the world that would show the progressive trajectories of B-52 bombers making a nuclear attack on Russia, in the event of such an attack. Reagan was told there was no such War Room. “But I saw it in a movie!” he protested. Indeed, we all saw it in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 phenomenal cinema satire of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) nuclear war (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; https://youtu.be/vuP6KbIsNK4).

And so was displayed the lack of boundary between reality and fantasy, between fact and belief, in the mind of Ronald Reagan at the outset of his presidency in 1981, the new man with his finger on THE BUTTON. (The story about Reagan and the War Room was told by James B. Harris, a collaborator of Kubrick’s at the time, in later years for a documentary.)

Reagan would go on to bulldoze though American public affairs — to our detriment to this day — with the plow of his prejudices leading his way while the fog of his fantasies insulated him from accurate sensory feedback from reality. One of his cold-hearted policy directives was to have the Department of Agriculture classify ketchup as a “vegetable” as regards meeting the nutritional needs of children who were eligible for publicly funded school lunches (a.k.a., poor hungry kids). In the late 1990s poetry and spoken word events I attended in Berkeley, California, I would often hear poet Mark States regale us with his line: “Ronald Reagan told us ketchup was a vegetable, and now he is a vegetable.” Reagan’s mind had been lost to Alzheimer’s Disease, he had been diagnosed in 1994, five years after leaving office, and died in 2004. How much could creeping dementia have impaired (or improved?!) his performance as U.S. President during 1981 to 1988 is a matter of partisan argument.

How can we tell if a U.S. President is mentally incompetent, what would be unmistakeable signs of compromised rationality, and who is empowered to make such a determination and act on it?

Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution deals somewhat ambiguously with the the question of presidential succession in the cases of a sitting president’s removal from office (after conviction by the Senate in an impeachment trial), or of his/her death, or resignation (as with Richard M. Nixon), or “inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office.” The 25th Amendment was adopted in 1967 in an effort to clarify the ambiguities in Article II regarding presidential “inability” and succession.

Section 4 of the 25th Amendment reads as follows:

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

“Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.

“Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.”

So in effect, the removal of a president from office for “inability” would require a sustained mutiny by the Vice President and a majority of the 15 cabinet officers, who are the secretaries of: State, Treasury, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and the Attorney General. Congressional approval would undoubtedly also be required. Clearly, a president would have to bust out as a really scary looney for that many of the executive officers to sustain a mutiny, and for Congress to condone it.

People generally achieve high executive posts by having displayed years of obedient service (coupled with deft back-stabbing), so it is extremely unlikely that any Cabinet would rebel against their chief executive regardless of how disconcerting the President’s behavior had gotten. And, it is quite likely that Cabinet officers could be just as nutty as the President who appointed them, so why mutiny?

This theme of officers relieving their captain of his/her command was explored in Herman Wouk’s 1951 novel, The Caine Mutiny, which was made into a memorable 1954 movie with Humphrey Bogart cast as Captain Queeg, the paranoid, petty, ineffective and unpopular captain of a U.S. Navy mine-sweeper who has a mental breakdown during a typhoon that threatens to sink the ship, and so his first officer relieves him of command, without opposition from the other officers. In the subsequent court martial of the first officer, Captain Queeg on the witness stand descends into an incoherent rant under the pressure of the defense attorney’s questioning (https://youtu.be/KekChFdIe00).

The court turns against the captain, and the first officer is cleared (as are his pals, by association); but their post-trial celebration is quashed by their getting a tongue lashing from the defense attorney, who tells them their first duty was to support their captain, and make up for his deficiencies to ensure the success of assigned missions, rather than conspiring to undermine his command (https://youtu.be/Jw6gwGawbXA).

So: yes he’s nuts but your duty was to shield the rest of the world from any ill consequences of that while getting the ship’s job done without upsetting and disrupting the established chain of command. I have no doubt that every U.S. Cabinet officer since 1954 has seen and remembers this movie, and quakes at the thought of deviating from that injunction to loyalty, even to a crackpot president.

Now we come to Donald Trump. Some people have become very concerned that President Donald Trump has really become unhinged, and should be legally ineligible to stand trial in the Senate (after his impeachment in the House of Representatives) on the grounds of mental incompetence: insanity. They point to his televised interview on January 22 in which he seems to speak of Thomas Edison (1847-1931) and Elon Musk (1971-) as living contemporaries (https://youtu.be/gxEwTFJG1DQ). Is this really Trump’s “Queeg moment,” or is the twisted thread of his atrociously ungrammatical babble just offering sufficient ambiguity so as to allow for such an interpretation despite his potentially having a sound mind?

The non compos mentis interpretation was voiced by Maya Wiley, a former attorney for the ACLU and NAACP, and seconded by others as noted in an article in Salon about Trump’s maybe Queeg moment (https://www.salon.com/2020/01/24/trumps-fitness-to-stand-trial-questioned-by-professionals-serious-signs-of-deterioration/). That article notes that Yale psychiatry professor Bandy X. Lee had previously been joined by hundreds of psychiatrists from around the country in calling on Congress to convene a panel of mental health professionals to evaluate Trump’s mental state. Lee wrote a joint op-ed with former White House ethics chief Richard Painter warning that Trump should not be tried by the Senate, because he “may not be mentally competent,” and the law requires that only those who are mentally competent can be made to stand trial.

Perhaps Donald Trump is certifiably nuts but his Republican party mates are loyally shielding the country from his worst tendencies while conscientiously attending to the nation’s business; or perhaps they are just cynically keeping Trump — whether really unhinged or merely rabidly befuddled while yet legally sane — manageably distracted in his presidential and Mar-o-Lago playpens while they busy themselves with looting the country with their class war by the plutocrats against everybody else; or maybe Trump is completely sane and fully in command, but his critics cannot bring themselves to believe that a sane mind, as U.S. President, could pursue such a horrid, bigoted and self-aggrandizing agenda, with the faithful support of so many federal officials.

I suppose if we view the last three scenarios as possible quantum states of the Trump Administration, that the “real” situation could be a continuing and unpredictable evanescent flickering between these three states, as well as various superpositions of them. In any case, the invocation of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment seems well beyond the bounds of probability. Given the Republican majority in the Senate — and their loyalty to their own self-interests (clinging to power, getting rich, legalizing their bigotries), as well as peripherally to their own Captain Queeg — Trump’s acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial is a forgone conclusion. Removing Trump from office (before 2025) will require an electoral victory in November 2020 by an opposing presidential candidate.

I think we can conclude that the materialistic careerist power-hungry back-stabbing sycophants and ass-kissers, who scum up to the uppermost tiers of corrupted political bureaucracies, are allergic to enacting administrative procedures for the removal of high officials on the basis of incompetence and mental dysfunction however justified such individual cases might be, because the acceptability of using such removal procedures would threaten them all. In Trumpistan (at the very least): It’s not what you can do to the country, it’s what your country can do for you.

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Mutually Assured Madness: Immunity to the 25th Amendment
29 January 2019
https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/01/29/mutually-assured-madness-immunity-to-the-25th-amendment/

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See “Official Secrets”

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See “Official Secrets”

The movie Official Secrets, which is just out, is about Katharine Teresa Gun, the British translator in the U.K. government’s equivalent to the U.S.’s NSA, who leaked a top secret memo in an effort to prevent the Iraq War (in which up to 1 million Iraqis and over 35 thousand U.S. and U.K soldiers died, and many hundreds of thousands of others were injured).

That war was entirely illegal because: 1, Saddam Hussein (Iraq’s dictator in 2003) did not have weapons of mass destruction — as G.W.Bush and Tony Blair lyingly claimed, so there was no “necessity” of preemptive war as an act of self defense by the U.S. and U.K; and 2, because the U.S. and U.K. did not get a U.N. Security Council resolution to go to war against Iraq, because the world body did not see Iraq as a threat to the rest of the world. The failure to get that U.N. resolution was a result of the publication of Katharine Gun’s leaked information.

The memo Katharine Gun exposed was from a “Frank Koza” at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ, the U.K.’s NSA equivalent) asking the Brits to help bug the communications of other members of the U.N. Security Council (the non-permanent members at the time) to dig up dirt to be used to blackmail them into voting for war as Bush and Blair wanted — despite the lack of evidence (no WMDs) that war was justified.

Gun’s information eventually made it to the public, and caused such embarrassment to the British Government that after a year of terrifying harassment of Gun (including almost deporting her Turkish Kurdish husband), and taking her to trial (with a long sentence if found guilty of “treason,” and she had confessed), they dropped the case rather than reveal the government documents requested as evidence by the defense, because those documents (findings on the question of the legality of the proposed war, by Lord Goldstone, the U.K. attorney general) in fact explicitly stated that the war was illegal and Bush and Blair were fabricating fake intelligence to try and pull the wool over the eyes of the U.N. and the American and British public.

Katharine Gun (and the reporters and attorneys who worked to expose the government lies and defend Katharine) were exonerated, and she is a real-life heroine of historical significance — Daniel Ellsberg stated that her actions were more significant than his! Bush, Blair and their government associates, who perpetrated the massive Iraq War Crime (20 March 2003) — whose massively bloody and tragic consequences continue to this very moment — remain free, wealthy, untroubled by even a hint of Nuremberg style prosecutions, and are now even nostalgically “rehabilitated” (in the media stories aimed at the gum-chewing ADHD public, as by a sweet-smiling Michelle Obama cozying up to “oh gosh” Georgie Porgie) by comparisons to Trump today.

Once again, America managed to destroy a country, Iraq, and consume monumental amounts of American national treasure, and sacrifice thousands of American lives (as well as thousands of British lives, and hundreds of thousands to perhaps a million Iraqi lives) to lose a war — “lose” since it had no value to the public from the get-go — a war of choice, and an illegal war of aggression (just like Hitler’s war in Poland on 1 September 1939) which our highly privileged war criminals perpetrated. But, they got away with it.

America as a nation failed again (remember Vietnam?). The United Kingdom as a nation failed. To the extent that the American people and the UKanian people do not remember all this, and apply the tragic lesson of the Iraq War — and the Vietnam War — today to prevent the new called-for wars: on Iran, or in Yemen (to help the war criminal Saudis? to help the war criminal Israelis?, really?) and elsewhere that our highly privileged war criminals think they can make a buck and puff up their Wall Street portfolios; to the extent that these publics are so out of touch that they have no flaming anti-war consciousness, they and their nations are failing miserably. Failure is paid for in oceans of blood shed by innocent, naïve, common people, both foreign and domestic.

So I urge you to see the movie Official Secrets. It is well-made, well-played, literate, intelligent, riveting, honest. By doing so you can thank and honor an incredibly brave woman of inspiringly solid moral principle — Katharine Teresa Gun — as well as the journalists and lawyers who made their best efforts to prevent an illegal and unnecessary war; and you can use that viewing experience to help invigorate you own convictions to become aware of truth and not be lulled by indolent comfort or stupid bigotry into acquiescing to the war crime schemes (and the theft from the public commons schemes) of our all-too immune highly privileged war criminals, past and present.

By the way, a kid in my high school class (1968) was called “Frank Koza.” Don’t know if he’s the same one.

Here is the trailer to “Official Secrets”
https://youtu.be/V3vIYy38Fys

Here are the two parts of a round table interview of Katharine Gun, conducted by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!; as well as of the movie’s director, and the two key journalists who broke the story using Katharine’s information.

PART 1:
This U.K. Whistleblower Almost Stopped the Iraq Invasion. A New Film Tells Her Story
July 19, 2019
https://youtu.be/u6n1VFDJ3CY

PART 2:
15 Years Later: How U.K. Whistleblower Katharine Gun Risked Everything to Leak Damning Iraq War Memo
July 19, 2019
https://youtu.be/CWtIu7mbnbM

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For more about my photo taken at the Iraq War protest in San Francisco, in 2003, see:

https://manuelgarciajr.com/2016/04/10/iraq-war-protest-sf-2003/

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Climate Crisis, Elite Panic, and Mass Exclusion

John Davis’s interesting article in Counterpunch,

Are We Moderns Or Terrestrials?
7 February 2019
https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/07/are-we-moderns-or-terrestrials/

Describes the idea of “social triage” practiced by a global wealth elite, to exclude the mass of Earth’s people from the finite natural bounty our planet can supply to humanity; this drive being accelerated by the obvious threats of the accelerating Climate Crisis. Davis writes:

In [the book] Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime, 2018, Bruno Latour, the French philosopher and sociologist, writes, “To the migrants from outside who have to cross borders and leave their countries at the price of immense tragedies, we must, from now on, add the migrants from inside who, while remaining in place, are experiencing the drama of seeing themselves left behind by their own countries”.

Davis’s article reminds me of earlier sallies on this topic.

The most prescient, to my mind, was Tony Judt’s essay The Social Question Redivivus, which appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs in 1997 (and is still behind a paywall) and was reprinted as the last selection in Judt’s book Reappraisals, Reflections On The Forgotten Twentieth Century (Penguin Books, 2008). Except for the mention of Climate Change, Judt’s 1997 article laid out a very detailed exposition of the same form of triage as Davis (and Latour) now describe 22 years later.

I wrote a short gloss on Judt’s books and this topic in particular as

Tony Judt, Edward Snowden, And “The Excluded”
1 July 2013
http://swans.com/library/art19/mgarci66.html

Also, on the idea of triage being practiced by the global wealth elite to separate “the excluded” from the finite bounty of the Earth, a very similar idea formed the core of Joseph Heller’s 1994 novel Closing Time (Simon and Schuster, 1994), which is both a reminiscence of their youth by WWII generation Brooklyn NY Jews, and a scathing satire of late 20th century American political attitudes. In the novel, a nitwit President of the U.S. plays a video game called Triage, which is actually a command console connected to an underground technological complex (based on the Reagan Administration idea of an underground mobile MX missile complex) for secretly controlling the day-to-day process of manipulating both selected individuals and the population as a whole, and ultimately of mass exclusion by nuclear war.

Davis notes that the basic practice by wealth elites of working hard to exclude the mass of people from prosperity, and to enslave them, is ancient. His (and Latour’s) point is that climate change is adding pressure to that elite drive for mass immiseration.

The implication of the above is that some form of serious and vigorous populist movement that successfully addresses climate change despite elite opposition (combining geo-technical strategies of direct mitigation, individual and societal adaptation, and — obviously — economic justice, a.k.a. “socialism”) is necessary for an organized human survival with decency.

We all know the problem. Our challenge (which may be tragically beyond us) is to triumph over the Climate Crisis and the elite selfishness driving it.

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“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013

This essay is a summary of U.S. history, which I lived through from 1963 to 2013 (primarily during the 1960s and 1970s). This essay is simply a combination of two of my items published by Swans (now gone) in 2013. I wrote them for the benefit of younger people. In writing these essays, I did make an effort (research) to verify my statements of fact. I am posting this compendium here because 2018 is the half-century mark after 1968, which I consider the most consequential year in U.S. history since 1945.

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part I: 1963-1968
18 November 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci75.html

Fifty-Year Look Back 1963-2013, Part II: 1968-2013
2 December 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci76.html

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“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013
(Part I, 1963-1968)

(November 18, 2013)   November 22, 2013, is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We can expect many commentaries on, remembrances of, and uses and misuses made of this anniversary during this month of November. My contribution to that chatter is this look back at the last fifty years in American history, from my personal perspective. I make no claims of scholarship, inclusiveness, balance, or attitudinal and interpretive “correctness,” only that the following characterizes how I remember what I’ve chosen to focus on with respect to the “big picture” of American history that I have lived through.

Before 1963

The America of November 1963 was a country that had seen the collapse of European colonialism in Asia and Africa during the post World War II period of 1945-1960. America’s own imperialistic Monroe Doctrine presumptuousness was sorely tried by the Cuban Revolution of 1959, which openly declared itself communist in 1961. The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 had brought the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Russia) dangerously close to nuclear war, but was fortunately defused, and subsequent diplomacy led to a treaty limiting nuclear weapons testing.

There had been about 100 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, primarily by the U.S. and the USSR, during the period 1951-1956 (there had been about 9 between 1945 and 1950). The annual number of nuclear tests jumped to over 40 in 1957, and over 100 in 1958. There was a voluntary halt to testing during 1959-1960 (except for a few tests by France) in response to public fears about the radioactive fallout contamination of the milk supply. The peace symbol, which is now an icon of our culture, was designed by Gerald Holtom in 1958, and first popularized as a badge by Eric Austen, both nuclear disarmament advocates in Britain. In 1961 — John Kennedy’s first year as US president — the USSR launched a major series of over 30 nuclear tests, and the U.S. mounted about half that number. This weapons race accelerated wildly to a frenzied peak in 1962, with 140 tests performed (over 90 for the U.S. and nearly 40 for the USSR). Except for 1958 and 1962, there have never been more than about 90 nuclear tests in any year (and from 1971 usually under 60), and only very few since 1992, the last year of US testing (post 1992 testing has been by France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea). The numbers I quote for nuclear tests in a given year are read off a chart and rounded. (1)

The environmental movement was born on September 27, 1962, with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, on the ecological devastation caused by pesticide pollution.

In 1963

The negotiations initiated in October 1962 to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis blossomed into the crafting of, signing (August 5, 1963), US ratification (September 24, 1963), and implementation (October 10, 1963) of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.

The Civil Rights (anti-apartheid or anti-segregation) movement for black Americans had been very vigorous in the southern U.S. from the beginning of John Kennedy’s presidency in 1961. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream speech” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

From 1961, John Kennedy had sent US military advisors to aid the anti-communist Ngô Ðình Diêm regime of South Vietnam in its fight against a communist insurgency (the will of the peasantry) allied with communist North Vietnam. By late 1962, there were 12,000 US soldiers in South Vietnam. Disappointed with Diem as an anti-communist unifier for North and South Vietnam, Kennedy approved a CIA program to aid Diem’s generals in a coup to produce new leadership, which occurred on November 2, 1963, with the deposed Diem summarily executed.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a disaffected American seeking glorious recognition as a leftist hero, acted as a freelancing James Bond (the world’s favorite fictional Tory) to impress the Dirección General de Inteligencia de Cuba (DGI, the Cuban intelligence service) by assassinating President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The DGI had been locked in a battle with the CIA to keep Fidel Castro from being assassinated, a project pushed hard by the Kennedy brothers, John and Robert. Lyndon Baines Johnson, John Kennedy’s successor, stopped the CIA’s Fidel assassination program shortly after taking office. The Soviet Russian intelligence service (KGB) had found Oswald too unstable to rely on as an agent, and happily let him return to America from his self-imposed exile in Russia (October 1959 to June 1962). The DGI had the difficulty of being a much less powerful organization situated far closer to its small nation’s overwhelmingly superior enemy. Thus, the DGI unlike the KGB might be willing to exploit the improvisations of a volunteer useful idiot. Oswald spent the last week of September 1963 in Mexico City, visiting the Cuban and Russian consulates seeking a visa to travel to Cuba, and as a consequence met DGI agents. The DGI was too professional to compromise itself by inducting a delusional American outcast into its ranks, but the DGI seems to have been either gutsy enough or desperate enough to allow Oswald to imagine he would be welcomed in Cuba should he accomplish something of significant value for the Cuban Revolution. Oswald returned to Dallas on October 14, 1963. (2)

During 1964-1968

1964:

The Beatles conquer America by capturing the hearts of its teenage girls. We boys had no choice but to follow.

Lyndon Baines Johnson wins a landslide electoral victory over conservative Republican Barry Goldwater (Au-H2O), who had said in his nomination acceptance speech, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” The Johnson campaign exploited Goldwater’s strident public image with the most explosive political advertisement ever devised, the famous Daisy commercial. (3)

The Johnson administration bequeathed America the national tragedy experienced as the Vietnam War (between 1964 to 1968, after which the Republican administration continued it till 1975), but also the towering civil rights triumphs codified by three laws:

– Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin by federal and state governments as well as some public places.

– Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits states and local governments from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

– Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, creed, and national origin.

1965:

Unsafe At Any Speed, Ralph Nader’s book about deficiencies of automotive design as regards passenger safety, launches the consumer product safety movement.

President Lyndon Johnson sends American troops into South Vietnam; by July there are 75,000. On July 28, Johnson announces he is increasing the troop level to 125,000 and doubling the monthly draft calls (from 17,000 to 35,000). A gradual and sustained aerial bombardment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), Operation Rolling Thunder, had begun on March 2, 1965, and would continue until November 2, 1968.

1967:

Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) valves, which are simple pollution control devices, are mandated for internal combustion engines. This was the first regulation for automobile exhaust pollution control. Since Silent Spring in 1962, numerous concerns had combined into a broad environmental movement: the flooding of Glen Canyon on the Colorado River in 1963 behind the new Glen Canyon Dam, the logging of old growth redwood trees, air pollution — smog — caused by auto and truck exhaust gases, river and coastal pollution from industrial and farm wastes, and the danger of ecological damage by oil spills from offshore drilling platforms, which infamously occurred at Santa Barbara, California, in 1969.

The Six Day War, between Israel and the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, takes place in early June. Israel is victorious, and the present Palestinian crisis of Israeli occupation begins.

Ernesto “Che” Guevara is captured and executed on October 9, 1967, by the Bolivian military aided by the CIA. One of many blows by a perpetually petulant US establishment vainly seeking a satisfying vengeance for the Kennedy hit.

1968:

The Tet Offensive, launched by the Communist Party of Vietnam on January 30, stuns the Johnson administration as well as the US public. It was now clear that the American war for South Vietnam was futile, but nevertheless it would continue till 1975.

On March 31, Lyndon Baines Johnson announces that he will not seek reelection; it is a presidential election year. Robert F. Kennedy (John Kennedy’s younger brother and attorney general) was a senator at that time, and had announced his own bid for the presidency on March 16.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated on April 4, in Memphis, Tennessee. Major rioting breaks out in many cities. Because of the extensive damage and fires caused during these urban riots, and the deployment of National Guard troops to restore order, the television images of these scenes on US soil had an eerily disquieting resemblance to images of Stalingrad in 1943, Berlin in 1945, and Hue and other Vietnamese cities besieged during the previous three months during the Tet Offensive. Many Americans became very frightened, and a diversity of Americans had their various prejudices deepened.

Robert Kennedy is assassinated after a campaign speech in Los Angeles on June 6 by a resentful Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship, Sirhan Sirhan, who is still serving a life sentence for that crime. Robert Kennedy had captured the imagination of liberals, especially young ones, who were ignorant of his earlier political career (as a McCarthy-type commie chaser, and the zealous prosecutor of the Fidel assassination project) and crushed by his loss. Robert Kennedy had been deeply affected by John Kennedy’s death and the politics behind it, and as a result he had undoubtedly become much more sympathetic to the aspirations and suffering of marginalized populations, like the Mexican-American farm workers that Cesar Chavez was organizing in California’s Central Valley. However, the degree to which Robert Kennedy had become more “revolutionary,” or “socialist,” or just moral after 1963, and how such a presumed deepening of compassion and conviction might express itself politically, are matters of pure speculation mooted by his death. Hubert Humphrey, the vice president and eventual 1968 Democratic nominee for President, was the quintessential mainstream liberal politician of the 1960s.

Richard Milhous Nixon, a Republican from California, wins the 1968 presidential election with a campaign promoting “law and order” and appealing to anti-civil rights southern white resentment (Dixiecrats become Republicans). Nixon’s winning concept was called “the southern strategy.” It would become the formula applied by all subsequent Republican presidential contenders to this day, very effectively by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, who vastly increased the formula’s content of rhetoric and cant on fiscal soundness and the evils of taxation, but unsuccessfully by Willard Mitt Romney in 2012 because of the changed demographic composition of the American electorate since 1968 and 1988.

Notes to Part I

1.  Nuclear Weapons Testing,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_testing

2.  Manuel García, Jr.,
“Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
Swans, 23 April 2012,
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

Some Words About JFK,
see the section “Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/11/20/some-words-about-jfk/

3.  Daisy Commercial (1964),
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Id_r6pNsus

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“Fifty-Year” Look Back At Lived History, 1963-2013
(Part II, 1968-2013)

(December 2, 2013) This two-part series is a look back at the last fifty years in American history, from my personal perspective. The thread of my historical narrative begins in Part I (1963-1968). (1)

Enjoy the show.

The Vietnam War and the US Presidential Election in 1968

On January 30, the Communist Party of Vietnam launched its stunning though costly and ultimately stymied Tet Offensive across all of South Vietnam. For the Vietnamese Communist Party, the Tet Offensive was a propaganda victory and foreign relations coup; for the Johnson administration and the American public it was a crippling blow to self-confidence about the conduct of the war. The number of American troops in Vietnam peaked at 543,482 in late April.

The year was the most expensive in the Vietnam War with America spending US$ 77.4 billion (US$ 519 billion in 2013) on the war. The year also became the deadliest of the Vietnam War for America and its allies with 27,915 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers killed and the Americans suffering 16,592 killed compared to around two hundred thousand of the communist forces killed. The deadliest week of the Vietnam War for the USA was during the Tet Offensive, specifically February 11-17, 1968, during which 543 Americans were killed in action and 2,547 were wounded. (2)

On March 31, Lyndon Johnson announced in a nationally televised address that he would not seek reelection as US president in the November election. That same month, to encourage the North Vietnamese to begin negotiations, he halted the aerial bombing of the northern portion of North Vietnam, which includes those regions surrounding the capitol city Hanoi but not those areas bordering the 10 kilometer-wide 1954 treaty line — the DMZ or demilitarized zone — marking the separation into North and South Vietnam. The parties agreed to conduct the negotiations in Paris, and met for the first time on May 10. However, the North Vietnamese were adamant in demanding the Americans halt all aerial bombing in the North before discussing anything else, which Johnson finally acceded to on October 31, after which serious negotiations began. (3)

On November 5th, Richard Milhous Nixon, a Republican from California, won the 1968 presidential election with a campaign promoting “law and order” and appealing to anti-civil rights southern white resentment (Dixiecrats become Republicans). Nixon’s winning concept was called “the southern strategy.” It would become the formula applied by all subsequent Republican presidential contenders to this day, very effectively by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, who vastly increased the formula’s content of rhetoric on fiscal soundness and cant on the evils of taxation, but unsuccessfully by Willard Mitt Romney in 2012 because the demographic composition of the American electorate had changed significantly since 1968, and 1988.

The Arc Of American Liberalism

The years 1964 through 1980 spanned the arc of American liberalism, arising out of the optimism of the Kennedy administration and plunging into the sour witless eruption of neo-liberalism: Thatcherism (1979) and Reaganism (1981)
.
The legislative triumphs of civil rights occurred during the same years as the vast expansion of the Vietnam War, 1964 to 1968. The accumulating costs of that war combined with the growing costs of social welfare programs to cause fiscal problems and a mild recession in late 1969 through 1970, and a monetary crisis in 1971 (the Nixon Shock, the end of the Bretton Woods system of international financial exchange, and the beginning of the present situation of freely floating currencies).

The Oil Crisis of 1973 (the Arab Oil Embargo in retaliation for the US support of Israel during its October 1973 war with Egypt and Syria) introduced Americans to the energy crisis: shortages of gasoline and fuel oil, with a quadrupling of prices. The recession triggered by the 1973 oil crisis lasted until 1975. By that time, American economic productivity (or profitability) had fallen from its peak levels during the previous thirty years of the post World War II boom (Les Trente Glorieuses), in part because advanced automation could now replace more human labor, and in part because of increased foreign competition, since the post WWII recovery of Europe and Japan had advanced rapidly though the 1950s and matured in the 1960s.

The reductionist quest for profitability led to the “outsourcing” and “offshoring” practices of seeking minimum cost foreign labor (with minimum investment in foreign health, safety, environment, and taxation) to produce products for sale and consumption in the United States. The inflation of the 1970s coupled with slow economic growth (“stagflation”) spurred the intensification of well-financed campaigns by corporate interests to acquire political influence, which could be used to lower corporate taxes, eliminate or loosen government regulations on business practices, and break unions. This neo-liberal ideology of corporatism above all considerations of social democracy became the American paradigm with the arrival of the Reagan administration (1981-1988), and continues to the present despite its destruction — catastrophically in 2008 — of the American economy for over 90% of the population.

The long, horrible, drawn-out bleeding of the Vietnam War was totally unnecessary. The 1973 Oil Crisis was never addressed as it should have been, by the development of sustainable, non-nuclear energy and power sources not based on fossil fuels (or combustion). I think of how much better off Americans and the world would be today if these two problems had been solved compassionately and intelligently. The successors of the Vietnam War have been briefer, more streamlined, and far too numerous. The newest American wars are now carried out as computer games of automated assassination, equipped with real remotely-controlled unmanned bomber aircraft and missiles, and programmed directly from the White House. The energy crisis that erupted in 1973 has now metastasized into the anthropogenic global warming problem. To my mind, the way to move the United States beyond its present glut of drone wars and military adventurism and wastefulness, as well as most effectively address the energy and global warming dilemma, is to be found by abandoning neo-liberalism and embracing its exact opposite, social democracy.

Vietnamization For “Peace With Honor,” Mega-Death For “Credibility”

For Americans, the Vietnam War had a slow buildup. It began during the Harry S. Truman administration with the behind-the-scenes provisioning with military equipment for, and the financing of, the French colonial forces in Indochina in 1945-1952. The Dwight D. Eisenhower administration (1953-1960) continued this support after the French defeat in 1954, with the propping up of anti-communist regimes in the southern half of Vietnam, and supporting anti-communist factions in Laos.

The forces of communist North Vietnam completed the north-south Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1959, along the eastern margins of the countries west of Vietnam: Laos in the north, and Cambodia in the south. This route for the clandestine re-supply of communist forces in South Vietnam would be the key to the eventual communist victory in 1975. The trail was camouflaged to evade aerial surveillance and bombardment. American aerial bombardment along the Ho Chi Minh Trail between 1964 and 1973 was so intense that Laos has the sad distinction of being the most bombed country on a per capita basis.

During the Richard M. Nixon administration (1969-1974), the American bombardment of North Vietnamese military activities in eastern Cambodia was secretly expanded to include an invasion with ground forces (in 1970). The officially neutral Cambodian government, led by Prince Sihanouk, had publicly protested the violations of its territory in the east, but quietly accepted both: the North Vietnamese infiltration, in order to maintain the possibility of good relations with the Vietnamese communists who Sihanouk saw as the inevitable victors; and Sihanouk accepted some of the American bombardment of the North Vietnamese in Cambodia’s east so as to placate the Americans, discourage the Vietnamese communists from openly invading and occupying Cambodia, and to keep the small Cambodian communist factions from gaining popular support. Unfortunately, the American bombardment was so massive, unrelenting, and deadly, that many survivors among the rural population in both Laos and Cambodia became radicalized and joined the communist forces in their countries, who all swept to victory in 1975.

Richard Nixon knew the Vietnam War was a lost cause, and his plan to gain “peace with honor” and extricate the United States from the meat grinder of war-making was to build up the military forces of the anti-communist regime in South Vietnam while simultaneously withdrawing American personnel. This was called “Vietnamization.” From a certain distance, Nixon’s plan had a reasonable cast to it. The idea was to prosecute the war by substituting well-trained and amply equipped South Vietnamese troops for American troops, and in so doing show the world that the United States “kept its promises” to allies, and it would thus retain its “credibility.”

You have to hear Henry Kissinger’s leaden intonation of “American credibility” to understand why an additional 21,257 deaths of Americans in Vietnam, and over a million Vietnamese deaths, and hundreds of thousands of combined Laotian and Cambodian deaths had to be sustained between 1969 and 1975. The arc of American mortality because of the Vietnam War, grouped by presidential administration, was a follows: 9 Eisenhower (1956-1960), 191 Kennedy (1961-1963), 36,756 Johnson (1964-1968), 21,195 Nixon (1969-1974), 62 Ford (1975-1976), and 7 during 1987-2006. (4)

The Vietnamization process to retain “American credibility,” that is to say the international reputation of the American foreign policy-making elite, was based on thinking in which individual American lives were mere ciphers to be churned in the calculations of force projection to gain diplomatic advantage for elite geo-strategic gamesmen, while the individual lives of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians were not even considered up to the level of ciphers. A ceasefire, truce, declaration of defeat, withdrawal of American forces, and less violent consolidation of communist power in Indochina could have been accomplished much sooner, with the stated goal of stopping bloodshed and limiting casualties by accepting the inevitable. That course of action would have lost the United States one form of “credibility” but it would have gained it another I think far more valuable.

The Nixon-Kissinger Vietnamization policy was an egotistical face-saving crime of genocidal proportions. Thinking back to it leaves me wondering if human history is farcical tragedy or a tragic farce.

Some Incidents In The History Of My Times

The following incidents made impressions on me, for one reason or another.

20 July 1969. Neil Armstrong lands on the Moon, and a gesture is fulfilled. The other side of the coin was the CIA-sponsored killing of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia on 9 October 1967. The American Gods must be propitiated. (5)

1 December 1969. The first Draft Lottery, and the beginning of the end for antiwar protests in the U.S. For my little story about that see (6).

22 April 1970. The first Earth Day, the environmental movement at its height, the most radiantly hopeful day I ever had dreaming about the future. It was pure bliss, and I was also in love.

7 November 1972. Richard M. Nixon wins a landslide presidential electoral victory against antiwar Democrat George Stanley McGovern. I liked McGovern.

11 September 1973. Chile’s Marxist president, Salvador Allende, dies and his government falls in a very violent coup led by a fascist Chilean general, Augusto Pinochet, aided by the CIA as directed with disgusting enthusiasm by Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor to Richard Nixon, and then Secretary of State (from 22 September 1973).

17 June 1972 – 9 August 1974. The Watergate scandal unfolds, Nixon resigns, and his former vice president, Gerald Ford, advances to the presidency and pardons Nixon, immunizing him from all Watergate-related prosecution, making Ford unelectable in 1976.

20 November 1975. Francisco Franco, the pseudo-fascist monarchist-authoritarian Spanish dictator, dies, and Spain carefully emerges out of its enforced medieval slumber of 36 years.

1977-1980. The Jimmy Carter administration is the twilight of American political liberalism (the unifying concept being the social welfare state), which effectively ends in 1978 as Carter’s initiatives became more militarized.

18 April 1977. Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on energy. This could have been the start of the sustainable and solar energy revolution in America, but it wasn’t. Think of how much better served and secure we would be today if it had.

28 March 1979. Three Mile Island nuclear accident, a partial meltdown of a commercial nuclear reactor at a power station in Pennsylvania. The worst such accident in the U.S.

15 July 1979. President Jimmy Carter addresses the nation on its “crisis of confidence” during its 1979 energy crisis (oil and gasoline shortages and high prices, consequences of the Iranian Revolution). This address would become known as the “malaise speech,” though Carter never mentioned “malaise.”

August 1979. Paul Volcker is appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve by President Jimmy Carter, and his monetary policies cure the persistent inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s.

1979. Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, initiates the covert transfer of billions of dollars in arms to the Afghan mujahideen militants opposed to the Soviet military forces that had invaded in support of the allied central government, which itself faced insurrection. Osama Bin Laden, from Arabia, led one such mujahideen group in the ensuing Afghan War prosecuted by the Soviets. That war proved to be a quagmire for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and drained sufficient resources and caused enough human suffering and resentment among Russians that it initiated the political instability that eventually led to the collapse of communism in the USSR.

4 November 1980. Ronald Reagan is elected president, and the neo-liberal shredding of the 1945 postwar social contract begins. My heart sank that day, and of Americans I thought: “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” (An anonymous ancient proverb wrongly attributed to Euripides. This variant is spoken by Prometheus, in The Masque of Pandora (1875) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)

1980-1988. The Shah of Iran is deposed by the Shiite theocratic Iranian Revolution of 1979, and American embassy personnel are held as hostages for 444 days, being released shortly after Reagan’s inauguration. Iraq under the control of its dictator, Saddam Hussein, attacks Iran in 1980, initiating an eight year Iran-Iraq War during which the United States government aides Iraq by providing satellite reconnaissance information about Iran to the Iraqis, and eases the transfer of materials and technology that Iraq uses to fabricate and then deploy chemical weapons against Iranian troops, and later dissident Iraqi populations. It is estimated one million lives were lost in the Iran-Iraq War.

1981-1989, The Reagan Administration launched proxy wars against the peasantry in Central America (Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras). The underlying conflicts between an impoverished peasantry and a wealthy land-owning elite that sponsored the national military and police establishments had erupted into armed struggle (again) after 1959, becoming ferocious by the late 1970s. Using the excuse of fighting communism putatively infiltrated into Central America by Cuba, the Reagan administration supplied and funded local anti-communist and reactionary militias as proxy military forces, to destroy popular social democracy by despicable terrorism. These proxy militias, or “contras” (“against” the revolutions), were usually police and army personnel acting out of uniform in Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras, or in Nicaragua they were former police and army personnel of the Somoza regime, which had been deposed by the Sandinista Revolution of 1979. The savage cruelty inflicted on the ethnic Mayan peasantry by the contra forces reached their crests of genocidal magnitude under Reagan Administration sponsorship. These Central American Wars all trailed off in the 1990s.

20 August 1985 – 4 March 1987. Iran-Contra Scandal. (7)

26 April 1986. A nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl power station in the Ukraine explodes, spewing radioactivity far and wide, and the fuel core melts down. The Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident until the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. Also during 1986, Ronald Reagan has the solar hot water system removed, which had been installed on the roof of the White House during the Carter Administration. The spirit of Earth Day 1970 had been executed.

17 October 1987. “Black Monday” stock market crash. The Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced a drop of 22%. Alan Greenspan had just been appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve by Ronald Reagan, replacing Paul Volcker. This crash occurred during the midst of the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s.

23 June 1988. In testimony before the US Senate, NASA scientist James Hansen stated that anthropogenic global warming had begun.

22 November 1988. Twenty five years since the assassination of John Kennedy, and twenty five years before today [2013].

9 November 1989. The Berlin Wall falls, communism in Eastern Europe crumbles. I was elated and exhausted. I believed nuclear disarmament was now immanent, as well as a revamping of the US war economy (Defense Department funding) into a robust “peace” and “green” economy. Clearly, I was naively delusional.

2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991. The Gulf War (Persian Gulf War, First Iraq War) is successfully prosecuted by a NATO combined force under US direction, acting to reverse the annexation of Kuwait by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. America’s ally to punish Iran during 1980-1988 had since fallen out of favor. The chemical and biological weapons, and some nuclear technology held by the Saddam Hussein regime were now seen as intolerable threats to American interests.

26 December 1991. The USSR formally ceased to exist. The twelve republics that had comprised the USSR were declared independent.

Into The 21st Century

William Jefferson Clinton Administration (1991-2000)

Bill Clinton is a 1960s center-right Republican dressed up as a 1960s liberal Democrat. He went along with deregulating the banks (repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933) and financial industry (signing the Commodity Futures Trading Act of 2000, allowing easy trading in derivatives), which together set up the casino environment that would lead to the publicly-damaging financial collapse of 2008.

George Walker Bush Administration (2001-2008)

G. W. Bush spent profligately on tax cuts for the rich, and the Iraq War (20 March 2003 – 15 December 2011), using the 11 September 2001 attacks as an excuse. The loose money policy of Alan Greenspan, chairman at the Federal Reserve, fed a housing bubble that peaked in 2006, deflating into an expanding financial crisis in late 2007, and a catastrophic banking collapse in October 2008.

Barack Hussein Obama Administration (2009-2016)

Barack Obama is a corporatist Democrat in the Clinton mold, and shepherds the financial industry’s interests by managing the economy with a bias for public austerity maintained to preserve speculator (a.k.a. investor) accumulations (gains), and the continuing regime of insufficient regulations and taxes on trading. Keynesianism to lift the economy out of its chronic joblessness is denied. The current official unemployment rate (based on definitional sophistry) is about 7%, the real unemployment rate is about 23%. (8)

Obama is a master of symbolism, and much of a wishful-thinking public allows that symbolism to distract them from reality.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, today’s [2013] leading Democratic Party contender for president

Hillary Clinton is the presumed frontrunner in the race to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in the 2016 election. She has already captivated the attention of those Americans for whom the symbolism of “the first female US president” overwhelms all rational considerations. So, perhaps the underwriting of her presidential campaign will pay off for corporate America, in giving the first female president the historic privilege of privatizing Social Security, and staking multi-millionaire Wall Street gamblers with an abundance of other people’s money they can play with risk-free. The symbol-awed will never notice.

Notes to Part II

1.  Fifty Year Look Back 1963-2013,
(Part I: 1963-1969)
 [above here]

2.  1968 in the Vietnam War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_in_the_Vietnam_War

3.  Paris Peace Accords
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Peace_Accords

4.  Statistical Information about Fatal Casualties of the Vietnam War
U.S. National Archives
http://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics.html

5.
“Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
Swans, 23 April 2012,
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci46.html

Some Words About JFK,
see the section “Castro And The Kennedy Image After The Checkmate”
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/11/20/some-words-about-jfk/

6.  The Promise Of Remembered Soundtracks
7 October 2013
http://www.swans.com/library/art19/mgarci72.html

7.  Iran-Contra Affair
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Contra_affair

8.
“Official” US Unemployment Rate
http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

“Real” US Unemployment Rate
http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts

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