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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Manuel García, Jr.’s Worldview, 2020

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Manuel García, Jr.’s Worldview, 2020

I am just over one-eighth of a billionth of humanity, and I think that the impact and value of my thoughts and ideas are about as significant. This year, 2020, I will be 70 years old, and I think that I have probably said everything original that I was capable of saying. I am sure that I will write more of my little essays, and put them out there, but they are more than likely to be repetitions and rehashes of what I have previously written. Right now I cannot imagine squeezing any new insights out of all the reading and studying (and living) I have done in physics, science, history, psychology, Buddhism, and literary fiction.

So, I have compiled a list of 20 of my essays (of recent years), which as a group I offer as representative of my “worldview,” as of 20 January 2020. I post that list here, “for the record,” and for the ‘benefit’ of people new to my web-pages. All of this represents my annual (in January) “state of the world” message.

I have no ego regarding my Internet publications; if they are useful and encouraging to you then great, if not then I think at least they have done no harm.

My plans are to continue absorbing things that interest me, learning as I can, and expressing myself as feels right and enjoyable. I am satisfied that at the very minimum I have improved just over one-eighth of a billionth of humanity.

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Eight Categories, and Numbers of Articles in Each:

1 TRANSFORMING U.S. AND WORLD SOCIETIES (3)
2 CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION VERSUS CAPITALISM AND MILITARISM (4)
3 THE PHYSICAL REALITY OF GLOBAL WARMING (2)
4 WAR IS A CRIME, AND THE FOLLY OF WAR WITH IRAN (2)
5 POPULATION GROWTH + CLIMATE CHANGE + ENERGY USE (3)
6 CLIMATE CHANGE FACTS AT THE MOVIES (2)
7 THE TRUE PURPOSE OF A HUMAN LIFE (2)
8 HOW TO FACE THE FUTURE: ENJOY, AND BE KIND (2)

3+4+2+2+3+2+2+2=20

Article titles are within their respective web-links

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TRANSFORMING U.S. AND WORLD SOCIETIES (1/3)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/04/09/whats-wrong-with-the-united-states/

TRANSFORMING U.S. AND WORLD SOCIETIES (2/3)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2018/10/16/the-inner-dimensions-of-socialist-revolution/

TRANSFORMING U.S. AND WORLD SOCIETIES (3/3)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/05/13/too-many-people-or-too-much-greed/

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CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION VERSUS CAPITALISM AND MILITARISM (1/4)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2018/11/19/climate-change-action-would-kill-imperialism/

CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION VERSUS CAPITALISM AND MILITARISM (2/4)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/09/09/climate-change-denial-is-murder/

CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION VERSUS CAPITALISM AND MILITARISM (3/4)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/06/27/american-climate-change-policy-you-dont-matter/

CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION VERSUS CAPITALISM AND MILITARISM (4/4)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/11/20/climate-change-is-a-war-crime/

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THE PHYSICAL REALITY OF GLOBAL WARMING (1/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/07/15/ye-cannot-swerve-me-moby-dick-and-climate-change/

THE PHYSICAL REALITY OF GLOBAL WARMING (2/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/12/20/co2-and-climate-change-old-and-new/

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WAR IS A CRIME, AND THE FOLLY OF WAR WITH IRAN (1/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/01/05/war-the-unending-theft/

WAR IS A CRIME, AND THE FOLLY OF WAR WITH IRAN (2/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/01/05/attacking-iran-will-save-the-world-redux/

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POPULATION GROWTH + CLIMATE CHANGE + ENERGY USE (1/3)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/06/02/our-globally-warming-civilization/

POPULATION GROWTH + CLIMATE CHANGE + ENERGY USE (2/3)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/06/09/oil-population-temperature-what-causes-what/

POPULATION GROWTH + CLIMATE CHANGE + ENERGY USE (3/3)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/06/09/linking-energy-use-and-human-development/

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CLIMATE CHANGE FACTS AT THE MOVIES (1/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/12/12/climate-from-catastrophe-to-cataclysm/

CLIMATE CHANGE FACTS AT THE MOVIES (2/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/12/31/climate-change-at-the-movies/

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THE TRUE PURPOSE OF A HUMAN LIFE (1/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/12/29/being-alive/

THE TRUE PURPOSE OF A HUMAN LIFE (2/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/08/04/what-is-the-purpose-of-life/

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HOW TO FACE THE FUTURE: ENJOY, AND BE KIND (1/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/12/11/living-confidently-in-times-of-climate-change/

HOW TO FACE THE FUTURE: ENJOY, AND BE KIND (2/2)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/05/04/what-can-i-do-about-climate-change/

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I Rebel, Therefore We Exist, 2019

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I Rebel, Therefore We Exist, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Videos of Bernie and AOC, 19 October 2019

“Bernie’s Back” Rally with AOC in New York
19 October 2019
[complete speeches by all, at the rally today]
1:31:50 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
1:51:10 AOC ->to-> Bernie
2:52:04 end of Bernie’s speech.
https://youtu.be/0HbS65oiN18

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Bernie For President
19 October 2019
[Solo studio video appearance, 3:05]
https://youtu.be/DDGf39NkZe0

AOC’s Bernie Endorsement: HIGHLIGHTS
[Excerpts of AOC’s address at the 19 Oct. 2019 rally, 5:54]
https://youtu.be/QW-Nx1g8EpI

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Letter to a Man Dejected by a Woman’s Leaving

Mother and Boy-Child

We received your “fish out of water” poem today, and each read it. I know how disappointed you are, and we are each sorry for you.

I can’t offer any advice, because that’s always unwise, and because I wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what to suggest that might do any good. I think it’s all a matter of luck.

Over time I have observed that every woman is the hub of a wheel, and that wheel is a family. The family can be real in the sense of actually existing children, or perhaps other emotional dependents to whom she is “necessary” (as Ralph Waldo Emerson defined it), and at the pathetic extreme maybe just house cats or a husband-on-a-leash dog.

For most younger women their family-wheel — beyond their parents, grands and uncles and aunts — is potential. It may be the conscious thoughts and plans for the future application of their fertility, or (more likely) the unconscious behaviors that work toward the accumulation of resources and the “building of the nest,” which in our capitalist society is conceived of as “security.”

We males are merely pollinating drones to these queen bees, so they can sprout the entangling vines of their family-wheel potentialities, regardless of whether we are lovingly used over a long period, or briefly squeezed like a travel-size tube of toothpaste then immediately discarded. It’s just nature’s way. Romantic love for a man is nature’s way of short-circuiting his intellect so he will enjoy falling for the mating interaction long enough to possibly help fulfill the statistical necessities of maintaining the species by reproduction.

As I said, whether the experience of any man’s use by a woman to fulfill her biological (including psychological) imperative (whether overtly conscious, or unconsciously instinctive) is a happy or unhappy expenditure of a portion (or all!) of his life-force, is a matter of luck, pure luck.

So poetry is an excellent tonic to accompany, or wake, the experience.

Specifically about the family-wheel, I observe that any man wooing a women with children is doomed to fail unless and until those children become enthusiastic supporters of his aims. This is not usual. The children (regardless of age) always want primary access (and for some even control) of their mother (biological or not). This grows out of their dependency/survival psychology, as I’m sure you can see (the needy id).

Also, as already noted, mother’s first allegiance (except for sociopath and deep narcissist moms, like drug addicts) is always to her “children,” whether human, animal or imaginary. It is a foolish man who tries to separate a mother from her children in order to capture her love for himself. The good quality or dysfunctionality of these children is irrelevant. Little Red Mother Hen will always clutch her chicks under her wings rather then strut off with Rooster Cockburn no matter how long and loudly he crows. That Rooster Cockburn does get in every now and then is purely a matter of luck and on the run.

My own sweetie has recently been renting a lot of “modern” movies of old people finding love even as they and their best friends are dying off. It makes some sense that after one is retired (these movies are about white people with more than adequate financial means living in advanced countries — like the well-paid actors playing the parts), and the kids are grown and “gone” that senior citizens who would like some canoodling could find each other for some periods of enjoyable shared company.

But these movies would not be nearly as enjoyable if they included the many dreary realities and personal compromises that are necessary to keep two mature adults in an extended romantic haze. Older people have their ways, their quirks, their likes and dislikes pretty well cemented in, and it is not such an easy thing for any two oldsters to mesh these without serious compromise. It would seem to me that “dating” for old people would work best as a smattering of sequential quickies. For me of course this aspect of love remains theoretical, and I have no inclination whatever to engage in experimentation to verify my theoretical analysis of senior citizen romance.

I think the best we can do at any point in our lives is to work and play at those activities and tasks that give us our sense of fulfillment. I’m thinking of artistic, intellectual, manual and body-active, and social activities — not “work” or “business” activities — that just absorb you and make you feel alive. Things that are the best use of your irreplaceable time; things that may seem “boring” and “trivial” and “selfish” to others because such personal activities don’t make you an accessory to fulfilling the desires of these “friends” for receiving unearned entertainment and attention. You act out of a sense of appreciation and enjoyment in being alive — almost autistically, rather than acting so as to define yourself by the approval of others, and in the hope of happiness coming from the outside world into you: independent centeredness versus a hollowness of dependency at the mercy of a fundamentally selfish and uncaring world.

Anyway, a man of independent centeredness (emotionally, psychologically) toodling away happily in whatever his form of engaging craziness may be, could bump into another independently centered person (possibly female) who shares enough of his interests that the idea of sharing company for a while seems appealing. I think this is the best way to luck into love. It requires a light touch, as regards pressing requirements on the other person’s way of life so as to make it “better” for you. I think the required light touches are more likely to occur with partners (it’s always “temporary” but of unknown duration) who meet in this independently centered way.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t discount the possibility of deep love and strong long-term emotional (and financial) commitments between couples. It’s just that I think they are best, and most likely to succeed (be fulfilling to both), when the individuals are independently centered and aware to relate — and extend their caring — with a light touch. Even so, whether if turns out “good” or “bad” is mostly luck.

I suppose this is all just a theory of karma. If I’m just leading a fulfilling life in an honest way then I’m more likely to find myself in the company of another person (or persons) who are doing the same thing in their own way. Maybe there will be enough overlap of interests to make it attractive for both to share (some of, all of?) the doing. Even in this ideal though, you know that “the other” is always an independent life-force entity whose flight plans and orbits are never slavishly determined by the gravity of your being (or at worst your self-centeredness).

So, like you I have at times both surfed the waves of love with incredible exhilaration (1), and I have also been dashed to smithereens against the rocks of bitter dejection, by catastrophes of ruptured love (2). What I’ve learned is that it is pointless for me to even pretend I now know something about romantic love (even though I may assume this pretense to write a novel), or “relationships,” or “women,” or (gulp!) “sex.” But I do think I know a little bit about “people,” and my talk about “independent centeredness” and “light touch” reflects that (3), and goes far beyond the confines of romantic and sexualized love, which for most people is merely desire labeled as “love” (4).

Finally, time and your own good sense to keep busy doing what you love doing, what you are good at doing and gives your time alive its sparkle and zest, are the best balms to soothe the tenderness of a broken heart. Your true friends will give you the space you need to work out your new accommodation with reality at your own pace, and they will be happy to know that you’re still here in our wild and woolly life-zone, toodling away at your unique line of creative independently centered insanity.

My only advice: keep writing poems.

Over and out,
Mangogarcia.

(1) Fuck Yeah!
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/12/23/fuck-yeah/

(2) Pre-Traumatic Stress Syndrome
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2016/11/30/pre-traumatic-stress-syndrome/

(3) The Touch of the Open
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2017/08/31/the-touch-of-the-open/

(4) Love and Desire
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2018/08/28/love-and-desire/

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What’s Wrong With The United States?

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What’s Wrong With The United States?

In his 1995 book, The Demon-Haunted World, Science As A Candle In The Dark, Carl Sagan wrote:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. *

Isn’t this all true today? We have Ubu Roi Trump as US President and officially in control of the most awesome nuclear annihilation button on Earth. We are mostly galley slaves chained to our capitalistic economic and perceptual oars, implacably driving ourselves into the geophysical tempest of climate change. We have cracked the secrets of genetic modification and have let this incredible power be held by tight-fisted corporations only interested in their own financial gain. We have a growing infestation of measles, a disease that in 2014 was thought to be nearing extinction but which has since 2017 expanded due to a decrease in immunization, reflecting an idiotic anti-vaxxer superstition justified as a “protect-my-child” panic. Our infotainment media is a wholly-owned subsidiary of plutocracy, for the electronic diffusion of corporate propaganda against the public interest, and for the mass virtual pithing of the public mind.

What is wrong with the United States? It is the failure of its people to unite with the vision of “with charity — and justice — for all, and malice toward none,” but instead to debase themselves into passive entertainment-dependent robots, or into ambitious careerists “led by their materialism and instinctive worship of power.”

The United States Of America is both classist and tribal. These are the fault lines of American greed and politics. The varieties of American bigotry arise out of envy and resentment, from within our classes and tribes. The nation itself is big and powerful, but greatness eludes it because its people are unwilling to overcome their pettiness. Internally, the classes and tribes are fragmented by ageism and sexism, as well as by racism where a class or tribe happens to be multi-racial.

As is always true when speaking about society, all generalizations are formally wrong because one can always find individual counterexamples. However, what is wrong with the United States is that the number of such counterexamples to the sweeping criticisms made here do not count up to an overwhelming majority of the American people. If they did then everything in our society would be different, as would everybody who is now “in charge.”

The decadent nature of our society is a mirror of our cowardly denied national consensus for a pathetic tolerance of anti-intellectualism, ignorance, superstition, moral irresponsibility within our particular class and tribe, shameless sociopathic egotism, criminality labeled as capitalism, bigotry labeled as religion, and religion practiced as hate-crime.

There is no sociological fix that can come down to us, externally, from our political and judicial systems — whose only functions are to protect capitalism from popular democracy and to mediate capitalistic disputes — nor from organized religions, which arrogantly claim to hold the answers to ultimate questions (they don’t), and which demand to regulate and compel social morality.

The only possible fix is the combination of attitudes and behaviors that emerge individually out of personal commitments to principled and thoughtful living, and then merge into a mass socialist consciousness, from which collective economic, social-humanitarian, technological and self-defense actions can be logically organized.

To say that this emergent (as opposed to external) sociological fix is “utopian” is simply to dismiss the possibility of ever seeing it achieve any degree of reality, however modest. I think it better to be realistic than defeatist: our “utopia” is easily possible if we “all” want it, and though that is highly improbable it is better to align our intentions for personal conduct with this vision than to acquiesce to a personal debasement of becoming another trivial mind-numbed soul-dead unit in the official hypocrisy of decadent materialism.

Why is it better? Because you would develop and realize more of your human potential, and because you would acquire greater lived experience that would justify an authentic and satisfying sense of freedom and self-respect. Also, you would have a greater positive effect on the people you personally come in contact with, most importantly your family. I believe the abstractions we apply to the masses and label as “socialism” and “utopia” and “green new deal,” and so on, can only materialize by bleeding out of the realities of individual lives of integrity, and then mixing into a rising tide of socialist revolution.

So, what movement should you join?, politician should you vote for?, petitions should you sign?, charities should you contribute to?, job should you try to get?, sect should you fight in in our sectarian wars for political purity?, in short what is “the right way?”

How do I know? All my specific choices to these questions can be argued with — even by people who agree with me in the global abstract — because every person’s experience of life is different. Our individual templates for personal action will inevitably be ill-suited for most of each other. The persistence of people pushing their own “right way” orthodoxies onto others, whom they share a grand fuzzy vision with, is what dissipates popular energy that could otherwise propel a worthwhile — if fuzzy — collective purpose, and which instead thus leads to an enervating argumentative fragmentation of the original socialist unity.

So, at this point I am left with only platitudes and a reliance on high-minded innuendo, if tasked to spell out a detailed program to fix our society “once and for all,” to wrest it from it’s late-stage capitalist Kali Yuga.

What I believe is that the effort to do this is and will always be never-ending and myriadly multifaceted, and that any worthwhile elements of socialism that successfully make the transition from popular aspiration to realities that can be experienced, will have had to emerge atomistically from individual lives of integrity — rather than being imposed deus ex machina — in order to blend and bond organically into the humane, compassionate and intelligent future society we can so easily imagine.

All I can offer here are recommendations for aspirational solidarity, such as expressed by Albert Camus: “I rebel, therefore we exist,” and for intentional moral character, such as expressed by Thucydides as a quote by Pericles: “Honor is the only thing that does not grow old.”

Maybe from such airy notions, and a bit of personal pride, we can surprise ourselves into finally making America decent for everybody. And that would be great.

* [Thanks to Dan Kaminsky and Ivan Sudofsky for pointing me to the Carl Sagan reference and passage.]

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I Learn About F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, with daughter Scottie

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I Learn About F. Scott Fitzgerald

After decades of resisting the writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), thinking him and them as inconsequential and passé, I finally fell under their spell. He was a literary genius, a great romantic and perceptive and fundamentally tragic writer. His novel, The Great Gatsby, is shimmering, transcendental (beyond the powers of cinema to capture), and – from the perspective of our limited human lifetimes – eternal. A collection of his short stories compiled in 1960, Babylon Revisited, is fascinating, showing how inventive he was at devising characters and plots detailing the intertwining of the psychologies of those characters. And he would present it all with fluidly lyrical prose of amazing compactness. What has drawn me to his stories is his implicitly deep understanding of the human heart, which he conveys from behind the casual facade of both manic and faded Jazz Age settings. What I see from his own personal story is that every true artist must constantly struggle to be able to do the work that expresses their art and gives their life meaning, despite the enervating drag of the many demands heaped on one by the needs of economic survival, exhibiting sufficient conformity for social acceptance, and the emotional needs – and illusions – of close family. I think that is the great heroic epic of each artist’s personal life: somehow producing the work held deep in the heart and soul and mind, despite both the intentional and indifferent impediments placed before that artistic drive by life’s banalities. Some succeed better than others, and some are broken and fail in that they themselves are lost to life and their unknown art stillborn. With all that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, I think that we are only seeing fragments of his potential, even given that he was one of America’s supreme literary artists. I appreciate his decades of struggle to produce those gems. It can be very hard to be an ordinary, imperfect human being gifted to be an instinctive channel to a primordial artistic insight and creative drive. His gift to us is the wider awareness we may gain by reading his stories, and immersing ourselves in his enthralling lyricism. I’ve now embarked on Tender Is The Night, which he called “a confession of faith.” In the last year of his life, F. Scott Fitzgerald earned $13.13 in royalties. Since his death in 1940, more than 10 million copies of his books have been sold throughout the world.

Winter Dreams: F Scott Fitzgerald’s Life Remembered (PBS, 2001)
https://youtu.be/XnEO8yT_ApM

Sincerely, F. Scott Fitzgerald (BBC, 2013)
https://youtu.be/cCfUsaX5F10

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American Deathwish

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The American people are the captives of and resources for the drive by its aristocracy, of super-wealth and corporate power, to fulfill its supreme desire for ultimate temporal power: to be the gods of the Earth. This beyond trillion dollar, fossil-fueled, multi-megaton nuclear-armed power-trip can only achieve its grandest capitalistic orgasm by causing a catastrophic global climate change that will inevitably collapse civilization, and possibly cause the extinction of humanity. The obsession for and complicity with this drive is the American Deathwish.

Noam Chomsky described this unbelievable situation very clearly in recent comments about the Trump Administration, which were video-recorded. (https://youtu.be/uQvig0KvUaE). Here is my transcript of that video:

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From the point of view of US power, he’s harming it. But from the point of view of US elites, he’s giving them everything they want. I mean, in fact what’s going on in the United States, if you think about it, is a kind of two-level wrecking ball, if you want to call it that. Trump, his role – whether this is conscious or not, I don’t know – but you can see what’s happening. Trump’s role is to ensure that the media and that public attention are always concentrated on him. So every time you turn on a television set, it’s Trump; open the front page of the newspaper: Trump.

 

And in order to maintain – he’s a conman, basically a showman – and in order to maintain public attention you have to do something crazy, otherwise nobody is going to pay attention to you. If you do normal things you’ll be, you know, way back somewhere. So every day there’s one insane thing after another and then, you know, he makes some crazy lie: you know, he had the biggest crowd in history, or something, and the media looks at it and says “No, that wasn’t the biggest crowd.” But meanwhile he’s onto something else and then you go to that one.

 

And while this show is going on in public, in the background the wrecking crew is working. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, the guys in the Cabinet who write his executive orders, what they’re doing is systematically dismantling every aspect of government that works for the benefit of the population. This goes from workers’ rights, to pollution of the environment, rules for protecting consumers, I mean, anything you can think of is being dismantled. And all efforts are being devoted, kind of almost with fanaticism, to enrich and empower their actual constituency, which is super-wealth and corporate power, who are delighted. That’s why the stock market goes up. The stock market has not much to do with the economy, but keeps booming because that’s the rich people, and they love being granted.

 

Now, the worst policies that he’s carried out, the most dangerous, are barely discussed. Those are the two existential threats that we face. We have to face the fact that humans are now in a situation which has never arisen in human history. This generation has to decide whether organized human existence is going to continue – and it’s not a joke. It’s global warming and nuclear war, those are the major issues. They ought to be big headlines every day. And Trump’s actions are making both of them much more dangerous.

 

In the case of nuclear war, the policies are significantly increasing the threat of nuclear war. In the case of global warming, it’s almost indescribable. Not only has the U.S. pulled out – uniquely alone in the world – it’s pulled out from the international efforts to do at least something about it. But, beyond that it’s – the Trump Administration is going out of its way to increase the threat. Look, listen to his State of the Union Address, the only phrase about global climate was to talk about “our beautiful clean coal,” the worst polluter there is, which we have 1,000 years of it, you know. And look at the new budget that’s coming out, sharply cuts research and support for any kind of renewable energy; more subsidies and support for the most polluting, destructive things.

 

And, it’s not just Trump, it’s the entire Republican leadership. So, if you look at the 2016 election, at the primaries, every single candidate, not a single exception, either denied that global warming is taking place or said “Maybe it is but we shouldn’t do anything about it,” which I think is worse. They were called the moderates, like Kasich. So then, and if you look at Trump himself, or say Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, they know perfectly well that humans are causing global warming. In fact, Trump has golf courses all over; he hasn’t built a wall in Mexico yet but he’s building walls around his golf courses to make sure that the sea level doesn’t destroy them.

 

Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil – since the 1970s scientists at ExxonMobil have been – we now know, they been made public, forced to be made public – they’ve been producing severe warnings to the leadership about the effect of the use of petroleum on destroying the environment. So they all know about it but they’re not doing anything about it, which is a level of criminality that is almost hard to find words to describe. I mean, here are, you know, educated well-off rich people, upper elite, who know that what they’re doing is destroying the prospects for human – organized human life – and do it anyway because they make more profits tomorrow. Can you think of an analog for that in human history? I really can’t.

 

I mean, I’ve said sometimes, what’s considered an utterly outrageous comment, that today’s Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history. Sounds outrageous, but think about it for a moment. I mean, Hitler didn’t intend to destroy the prospects for human existence. Attila the Hun didn’t intend that, nobody has. But that’s what these guys intend. And it’s not ignorant, uneducated, you know, religious fundamentalists, whatever you want to blame people. These are the most educated, best supported people in the world. And they’re doing this eyes opened, because you make more profit tomorrow. It’s hard to imagine anything like it.

 

And it’s not just my opinion. Take, say, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – the Doomsday Clock – famous Doomsday Clock that’s set up by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists since 1947. Each year they gather distinguished physicists, political analysts, others to look at the state of the world and make a judgment of how far we are from terminal disaster; midnight is terminal disaster. In 1947, the clock was at 7 minutes to midnight, that’s after the atom bomb, moved up and back since. Now it’s at the closest it’s been to midnight ever. They just moved it to 2 minutes to midnight, that’s where it was in 1953 when the U.S. and later the USSR exploded thermonuclear weapons which were, could totally destroy the world; so it went to 2 minutes. Now it’s back to 2 minutes, and that’s the Republican Party. That’s the ones who are running the country and dominating the world. There’s never been a situation like this.

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Thank you, Professor Chomsky.

So, why are the Trump Administration, the Republican Party, their sucker-fish flunkies clinging on in hopes of getting scraps, and the super-wealthy and corporate sponsors, patrons and owners of them all so driven to pursue this American Deathwish?

They are each compulsively working on immorally rational schemes for satisfying their obsessions to experience the euphoria of having supreme power and unrivaled wealth: to be able to lavish their senses with opulent materiality, exult their egos with an unlimited supply of utterly subservient slaves and with a complete absence of responsibility and legal liability, and to command the envy and fear of multitudes as the confirmation of their personal victories in gaining domination over the rest of humanity.

I can think of four factors that, either separately or in combination, could make up the psychology of the American Deathwish obsession: competitiveness, delusions of invulnerability, a sociopathic religious vision, and malevolent nihilism.

Competitiveness:

This is the fascination with racing: to “win the race” for the most goodies, for first place, for the most glory and attention, to get the “good stuff” before as many other people as possible, before the supplies run out, and to keep them for oneself ‘forever’ after, to be able to monopolize them and sell them at whatever price you want. This is the obsessive compulsion to kill the last rhinoceros to capture the last rhino horn, acing out everyone else in the entire world who wants it, so you can profit monumentally and also ever after be known as The One who got this unique prize, to forever exclusively possess the glory of being the ultimate winner of a race no one can ever run again, your victory ensuring the eternal loser status of every other would-be contender after you: you will have become a god.

Delusions of Invulnerability:

Imagining that power to resist fate, or bend it to your will, is granted by virtue of possessing great wealth. In human societies that deify money, individuals who possess and control great stores of it are effectively venerated as gods: superior beings who can “save” or “condemn” you “eternally,” so far as your lifetime is concerned. The higher such temporal monied godlets are elevated, the easier it is for them to imagine that they are shielded from life’s hazards, and so the easier it is for them to take more daring risks and more destructive self-aggrandizing actions, because the painful consequences of those risks and the destructiveness of those actions will fall entirely on an anonymous mass of powerless and impoverished people.

Sociopathic Religious Vision:

When people are their own gods, there is no consciousness of any connection to Nature and to the rest of humanity, whether as individuals or en masse. The way to deify yourself without being nagged or embarrassed by the realization of your all-consuming selfishness and egotism, and by the evident void of compassion and empathy that you have become, is to present yourself as a “saint,” a fully committed worshipper, devotee and follower of a “supreme being” in whose “true” religion you are a faithful member, ‘obeying’ His commands (which are always of benefit to you) and exerting yourself in community with your saintly cohorts – the elect – to enforce His will and prosecute His punishments on an erring, sinful, and darkly debased humanity. In this way you are preferentially deserving because of your intimate and favored connection with the Ultimate Authority. You are a minister in the court of the King of Kings. Hallelujah! Whatever the Supreme Being chooses to do, you are assured of getting the message first and of being most favored in the consequences of His exercise of supernatural power, even if cataclysmic.

Malevolent Nihilism:

Some members of the über elite will not be susceptible to religious delusions, but will be hard-as-nails materialists and even nihilists. One form of nihilism can be a complete indifference to everyone and everything; you just do whatever you want whenever you want without ever a concern for the consequences even as regards your own life and death. This variety of nihilism could almost be seen as similar to the happy-go-lucky attitude of an itinerant Zen Buddhist poet, or a ronin samurai, except that it lacks any compassion and empathy for others, any sense of responsibility, and any valuing of grace, refinement and elegance. A much more likely attitude for a nihilistic über elitist would be malevolence: the pleasure derived from the confirmation of their über elitist status, and the acclaim for their über elitist victories, that confirmation and acclaim being in the form of the evident massive sufferings of others, which are consequent to the achievement of those victories. “If Earth is doomed, and we’re all going to die, I might as well get everything I can out of it as I piss my defiance on all of existence.”

Are We Destined For Extinction by Loss of Soul?

People at any level of wealth, power and social status who lose their souls and are sucked into the cult of the American Deathwish (or its analogs elsewhere around the globe) are moral weaklings, even moral vacuums, invertebrates as regards character. They are zombies being led, as Gustave Flaubert put it, “by their materialism and their instinctive worship of power.”

Can the Captains Ahab of our ships-of-state, and the barons of our latifundias of capitalism, ever be morally reformed or rationally converted?, ever be dissuaded from harpooning the great White Whale of their feverish fantasies? Billions of us so dearly hope so, but I fear: no. Yet, our vision of a better and – so easily achievable – compassionate world demands that we continue to pursue all the conscionable avenues available to us to gain those moral reformations and rational conversions, because the only other alternative to end the mad pursuit of the American Deathwish is the equivalent of a French Revolution with 21st century weaponry, probably on a global scale. Such an explosion of bloody, terrifying, desperate and chaotic violence would in itself seem like the end of the world, and perhaps it will be, as the ripened fruit of the American Deathwish.

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