Belief, Truth, Science, Religion and 9-11

On 2 September 2021, Counterpunch published my article ‘Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911’ (https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/09/02/confessions-of-a-secret-controlled-demolitions-special-operative-for-911/).

Some readers believe this story is entirely true, and confirms suspicions they “have always known to be true” about 9-11 being “an inside job.” Other readers believe this story is a hoax, something like the Piltdown Man fake fossil of 1912 that was only definitively refuted in 1953. And a third group of readers vacillate maddeningly with their uncertainties between these poles of true belief and complete non-belief. The present article is my reflection on all of this.

FIRST, about me

I gained a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1972 (Magna Cum Laude). I was awarded a Ph.D. in Aerospace and Mechanical Sciences by Princeton University in 1978. My graduate studies were centered on the classical and quantum physics of molecular and ion gas mixtures that in macroscopic quantities are fluid masses, and quantified by the branches of physics known as: fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, chemical thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, electrodynamics and magnetohydrodynamics and plasma physics. My thesis work focused on supersonic flow electric discharge molecular infra-red lasers, specifically with gas mixtures containing CO (carbon monoxide) or CO2 (carbon dioxide), and non-lasing inert species like diatomic nitrogen (N2) or helium (He, atoms). The following are images of my experimental apparatus: a supersonic windtunnel (flow is right to left), with a variety of electrodes for creating and spreading out ionization. The first image shows the unit in a static condition, the second shows it in operation, with blurred photo-images of vertical arcs being swept horizontally at Mach 2.2 (740 meters/second).

Image of Discharge Channel, static (#1)
Image of Discharge Channel, ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (#2)

Because of my scientific knowledge about the molecular physics of the interaction (absorption and emission) of infrared radiation (IR) with heteropolar molecules like CO2 and CO, and its loss by them through molecule-molecule and molecule-atom inelastic collisions, and in this way mechanically transferring internally stored IR energy (held in excited rotational-vibration quantum levels) to other particles (like N2, O2, He, Ar, and unexcited heteropolar molecular species) as enhancements to the energy of motion (heat) of those other species — I have long been aware of the detailed physics of global warming through CO2.

Between 1978 and 2007, I had a physics experimentalist job that was dominated by nuclear radiation physics, as well as including aspects of plasma physics, magnetohydrodynamics, classical hydrodynamics, physical chemistry, and electronics. Also, throughout my entire scientific life, up to the present, I have done a great deal of mathematical physics modeling, mainly analytical but also computational, and based on the solution of systems of differential equations (both linear and nonlinear).

From 2003 to the present, I have written articles for the general public explaining physical phenomena in Nature (like global warming) and human society (like 9-11, and chemical warfare), and articles advocating antiwar, anti-racist, leftist-progressive political, and logical-rationalist orientations. Between 2006 and 2008, I wrote detailed reports — for the public — on my independent analysis of the many mechanical and thermodynamic phenomena that occurred during the building collapses of World Trade Center Buildings 1, 2 and 7. My original copies of those four reports are now collected at, and viewable from, the following webpage. https://manuelgarciajr.com/2019/09/05/mgjr-9-11-physics-reports-originals/.

Since 2006, I have received many many e-mails expressing the full spectrum of ‘belief’ to ‘non-belief’ about my descriptions of the 9-11 phenomenology. I have also received the full spectrum of praise to condemnation that accompanies the entire ‘belief spectrum’ attached to the 9-11 events.

So all of this is the background from which I wrote ‘Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911.’

SECOND, what I have learned about you all

Most Americans (and many others) in these modern times live out their lives by employing 20th-21st century technology with minds mired in medieval conceptions and fearful superstitions. This closely-held ignorant conservatism more than anything else kills the promise of possible enlightened societal advancement. We are witch-burning gods-fearing emotionally reactive apes with nuclear weapons.

I have learned that people believe what they want to believe, because that is how they construct their images of themselves. Any outsider who tries to change that runs into furious defensive opposition. Any outsider who supports that is warmly received.

Also, it is impossible for me to “change your mind” about anything. Only you can decide if and when you wish to reevaluate a currently held belief, perhaps prompted by a dramatic or traumatic life experience that shifts your consciousness into doubting previously held certainties. Such life shocks are usually what prompt people to reorient their thinking about life and about themselves: we only ever learn from ourselves.

At most, the only influence an outsider like me can have on your “change of mind” is if in your personal ruminations you choose to include some of the facts or arguments I advance in my publications, to formulate the final synthesis of the new orientation you will now operate from.

So it is pointless for me to argue with people about their belief systems, and I will never be a missionary, but I will always be a scientist: rational, logical, empirical. (I will also always be a poet: lyrical, romantic, philosophical; but that is another discussion.)

Clear thinking — also known as critical thinking — is performed with a rational mind that employs logic and wields Occam’s Razor.

My advice to all younger people on how to live fulfilling lives is: have fun, think clearly, and be kind.

THIRD, belief spectrum on my “confessions” article

The tripartite split of responses within one day after publication was: 60% True Believers (TB), 20% Vacillators (V), 20% Great Joke (GJ).

Vacillators mainly wanted to be reassured that it was all true, so a bipolar characterization of the first day responses could be: 80% TB (with 3 out of 4 fully confident, 1 out of 4 apprehensive), and 20% GJ.

FOURTH, what my “confessions” article really is

‘Confessions of a Secret Controlled Demolitions Special Operative for 911’ is a satire sprinkled with truthful incidental details to provide it with verisimilitude. You could think of it as Part II of Orson Welles’s radio broadcast on Halloween 1938 of the Mercury Theater’s play based on H. G. Wells’s novel ‘The War of the Worlds’.

Nearly every assertion in my article can be checked out against factual reality, with some internet searches performed with a rational mind that employs logic and wields Occam’s Razor, to slice away the elaborately improbable from the much simpler most likely.

A scientist allows preferred belief to fall before the superior force of verifiable facts, even if undesirable. A religious believer — for that is what all faith-dominant beliefs are: religions — will be undeterred by facts and hew to the faith, condemning all contradictions to it even if factual, and welcoming all agreements with it even if fabulous.

My “confessions” is a mirror to the reader’s chosen belief values on the reality or unreality of the 9-11 events, and on the believability or unbelievability of my elaborate “inside job” story about them.

Did I have fun writing “confessions”? You bet!

What parts are real and what parts are fake? That’s for you to decide.

FIFTH, what are my answers to your belief choices and “more details” questions?

In truth, at this point in my life I really don’t care what you believe about 9-11, or about what I’ve written on it.

To ‘truthers’ miffed at my tweaking of their noses: touché, for all your many troll e-mails to me over the years.

To people laughing at the satire: I’m glad you enjoyed it.

To vacillators anxious that I quell their doubts: stop being lazy, use your brains and work it out for yourselves; gaining knowledge takes work, and then it rewards you with confidence.

To most everyone (and especially those not scientifically minded) you doubtless take your set of beliefs as core elements that define your personality — not just to others but to yourself: your self-image. Thus it is very likely that anything anyone might say or write that contradicts one of your self-image defining beliefs will be met with hostility because you would experience it as a personal attack.

When a person takes a scientific approach to holding a set of observations and empirical and theoretical findings, synthesized into a unified hypothesis or body of knowledge (whether general or topical), as separate from themselves, then like all scientific knowledge such belief systems will be considered tentative-in-waiting until new information comes to light requiring you to gladly correct those beliefs.

This scientific process of evolving your belief systems insulates you from the emotional turmoil of feeling personally attacked when reality finds your ideas in error and dumps bad karma on you if you persist in failing to correct them. Remember, our goal as rationalists, realists and scientists (like Sherlock Holmes) is to maintain the most accurate description of reality available to us. That is what makes us happy to hold the belief systems we keep, and to change them as needed by the dictates of reality.

SIXTH, Science versus Religion, Rationality versus Irrationality

In his book ‘The Rebel’ (L’Homme révolté) Albert Camus made a very apt distinction between two orientations toward reality and meta-reality, those being a “rational” or “irrational” perspective. The conflict between faith-based people and “scientists” (characterized as agnostic or atheist: like Darwin, Einstein, Steven Weinberg, and many others, BUT NOT ALL) is of the type that Camus was describing in his book (which is superb). In my experience that conflict is entirely a result of believer insecurity.

Science is a method of logical and empirical inquiry. Results that have been shown to be reproducible by others are then taken as “scientifically proven facts” (e.g., enabling excellent engineering, invention and technological developments) until such time as new data calls them into question, as with supremely accurate Newtonian physics and Maxwell’s electromagnetics, which were refined with Einstein’s new revelations of 1905. Einstein’s corrections to 17th century mechanics and 19th century electrodynamics are essential for making late 20th century GPS satellite technology work.

So all science is always tentative in that scientists accept the possibility that new data and knowledge may require updating, correcting and refining old results; as for example with the refinement of Darwin’s formulation of the fact of evolution, with modern genetic science, which is essential for producing items like changeable flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

Scientific “laws” are not legalistic restrictions, but simply facts that no one has yet found contradictions too (like: heat always flows from a hotter point to a colder one). Scientists are also aware (or should be) of the wider implications of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem: that no axiomatic-logical system can contain within itself all the elements (definitions, rules of transformation) needed to prove every fact or hypothesis that can be constructed from those elements contained within the system. Loosely: no one theory can prove everything imaginable.

So, items like arguments over “proofs” or “disproofs” that God (or gods) exists or doesn’t exist, are beyond the purview of science. Metaphysics (“beyond physics”) is a matter of belief, that is to say irrationality: faith, intuition, hunch, but not rational, logical, scientific analysis.

And on belief, people believe what they want to believe, especially about how they wish to mediate their personal connection to the infinite. What science does do is provide us with the most accurate description of reality that is currently available to us (which window of availability has steady expanded — with a few hiccups — throughout human history), knowing that the totality of reality is always beyond the limits of human knowledge.

It has been my experience that people uncertain in their irrational beliefs (“faiths”) are more likely to attack science and scientists (impugning their honesty, for example as “all” being paid-off shills) as a defensive-by-attacking acting out, rather than scientists being more likely to go out of their way to attack faith-beliefs/”believers” — unless they are doing public harm, such as with creationist pollution of public education, vaccine avoidance, promoting poisons as alternative medicines, and climate change denial.

Fantastical “inside job” conspiracy theories about 9-11 are minor obstructions to the public good, in comparison to the four public harms I just mentioned. But their damage to both the public good and the wellbeing of the individuals holding them is still real, like the damaging effects on our politics and society by the entire complex of biases and delusions and hucksterism that I would term the Trumpian Neurosis, or the Cult of Rage. This kind of stuff stymies a better running of our public affairs, and bogs down the potential for advancing enlightened societal progress.

It’s bad enough that malicious power-seeking politicians and special interests will work to divide the citizenry by appealing to their competing bigotries, fears, superstitions, mental laziness and ignorance — all for the sake of their careerist self-aggrandizing agendas — without us making that easier for them by deluding ourselves with irrational beliefs and conspiratorial fantasies. Thinking is freedom: when it is done right.

Again: how you formulate your personal relationship with the infinite and eternal is for you alone to decide. This is outside the bounds of science.

However, the damaging social consequences, or “collateral damage,” that your irrational beliefs may have on other individuals and on the public at large are rightly matters of public concern and enlightened containment by society. Obvious examples of this today, in dire need of correction, are the imposition of White Supremacy biases through violent policing on Black, Latino, Amerindian and refugee people, and the imposition of sexist domination of women by men intrinsically fearful of female sexuality and psychology, through legalisms (or worse yet ‘honor killings’) aimed at usurping women’s control of their own bodies, their reproductive functioning, and to whom they choose to direct their affections.

9-11 ‘trutherism’ is a minor secular cult, or self-willed mental weakness, and springs primarily, I believe, from a deep-seated desire for personal attention, and deep-seated insecurity. It is a symptom that it would be well for those who have it to recognize as such, so they can then choose to improve their experience of life by developing and strengthening their ability at critical thinking. Teaching oneself how to think clearly is how one gains reality-based self-confidence, and the equanimity that emerges from that.

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On Gloating Over The Death Of A War Criminal

By Stan Goff on 2 July 2021 (on the death of Donald Rumsfeld):

No one cracked on Donald Rumsfeld harder than I did for a few years there.

Just finished DB Hart’s book on universal salvation, which contends that even Rumsfeld falls within the ambit of Christ’s salvation. I found it utterly convincing.

Some know I don’t do ritual corpse kicking, which I see as virtue-signaling in far too many cases (and which I’ve done!); and posting this right now may seem a little masochistic . . . like I’m inviting people to protest this claim (don’t worry, plenty of Christians also still cling to the idea of some eternal torture for those of us who went waaay off the rails in this life).

We think Donald Rumsfeld made himself the way he is, because we cherish the belief that we make ourselves the way we are, and moreover (unstated) that those of us who didn’t turn out like Rumsfeld (or ‘choose your villain’) never even contained the potential to become like him. That we are ourselves not superior beings, and not substantially determined by a complex chain of “nurture,” by luck or lack thereof, by history, and by accidents.

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I thought Stan Goff’s comments important enough to comment rather fulsomely on, as follows:

I found C. G. Jung’s comments on this question illuminating. His were given post WWII, about Nazism and Nazis, and “collective guilt” of the German population (and others).

Jung advocated people learning about their “unconscious” (which he wrote so much about) because most of us (our personalities) are contained in (or is) the unconscious.

Among the elements of our entire psyche, Jung included a “shadow”, a part of us which we (our conscious ego) denied about ourselves. This deep “negative” part is where we have the dirty, nasty, perverse and violent thoughts THAT WE ALL HAVE, but block from affecting our actions by the workings of the more conscious, logical and moral (and educated) part of our consciousness.

Jung’s point was that the many self-styled “moral” people who claimed ‘I would never have been a Nazi nor acted like one, because of my morality’ were precisely those most in danger of becoming so, because they were blind to their intrinsic potential to become so — as everyone is — and thus unprepared (a deficiency of consciousness) to recognize the external psychological influences pulling one into that direction (basically: brainwashing you).

For Jung, the successful operation of “morality” to keep an individual free (safe) from the worst potentialities of evil erupting from their unconscious into action, was knowing that: ‘anything the worse villain — like a Nazi — can do, I am equally capable of doing, so I must consciously keep myself from falling into that, I cannot rely on remaining safe from it unconsciously.’

In more modern times we might say that, genetically, we all sprout from the same root, and all the potentialities of human form and expression are coded within us, and those that are actualized have emerged by a combination of our personal genetic spectrum (our alleles) and our learned conscious (logical and moral) behavior.

So, yes, “corpse kicking” is embedded in the Id (“virtue signaling”), and can be recognized as such, and re-channelled, by the Super-Ego (the non-asshole top layer of the Ego). We all want Rumsfeld to “burn in hell,” but what’s the point? (It’s too late for prosecuting him in a war crimes trial. The U.S. must have the world’s best “social security” and legal immunity programs for retired war criminals: as, why no Nuremberg II for the Vietnam War?)

The best we can do about people like that (successful war criminals who have moved on) is to — as best as we can — clean up their messes, care for the surviving victims, and try embedding that tragic past into our society’s historical memory as a lesson (accepted and learned) for eliciting safer and better behavior in the collective future.

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The Lethal Hypnosis

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The Lethal Hypnosis

The more stupid you are, the easier it is to be racist. The more racist you are, the easier it is to be more stupid. Racism — and gun toting — is the pathetic effort by ignorant people, who are fearful about their irrelevance, to hide their lack of self-confidence behind racist bravado and “manliness.” Self-cure is the only way out of it, but the individual has to become motivated for that by going through some difficult or traumatic experience. They can’t just be talked out of it by “friends.”

The 2nd Amendment is both a religion and a mental illness. That illness is the psychosis of seeing oneself as a self-guiding unit entirely divorced from the organic integration known as Nature. One is then the hunter, the survivalist, the extractor, miner, chemical factory farmer and rancher, the conqueror, the capitalist, the owner, the dominator.

The biome within our gut mirrors the biodiversity without; the deforestation and soil denudation without has its connection to the parallel destruction of our gut biome, and consequently of our immune system. When we are thus weakened we become allergic to and even poisoned by the food that Nature provides, and the many microbes that flood the entire World Biome that is both outside us and within us.

That the biome within mirrors the biodiversity without, and vice versa, is an incredible insight (for those of us who did not previously have it) wonderfully presented in Episode 3 of the new television series HUMAN: The World Within (https://www.netflix.com/title/81139212).

So many of our autoimmune diseases are from the loss of microbial biodiversity within our guts. Those microbes feed on the insoluble fiber within the vegetables and fruits that we eat. We feed on the sugars, carbohydrates and protein those foods convey to our guts where they are processed to produce glucose, which is absorbed with the aid of insulin by our blood and carried to all our cells to feed those 37 trillion little metabolic engines.

Each of us is organically entwined within Nature, whether we recognize that fact or choose to believe in the anti-organic schizo-materialistic psychosis. We are not only connected through our guts to the World Biome and World Biodiversity without, but we are also connected with each other — whether we like it or not (and I do not always like it) — not merely through conscious awareness and volition as expressed in our acknowledged emotional attachments and in our civic awareness and political attitudes, but also through many unconscious connections made by both our physical reflexes mediated by our electro-chemical nervous systems, and our instinctual emotional reactions mediated chemically by our amygdalas sprouting from our brain stems, and even by our thoughts, memories, feelings and behaviors triggered by our olfactory systems sensing pheromones: each others’ smell, and also some of the immense olfactory sensory field of the external world that all other animals and insects sense so much more of than we do. Up to half of a dog’s brain is connected to olfactory sensors.

The economic structures in that part of the Human World we called Developed are nearly all capitalistic, despite how they are labeled in each national jurisdiction, and the political structures erected by their capitalist owners to maintain their capitalist economics are thus entirely dominated by the mentality of anti-organic schizo-materialistic psychosis. That illness within the human species infects the Natural World as a whole, so that it reacts feverishly in the manner which we have labeled “climate change” and “biodiversity loss,” and which pathological complex includes the vast inequities in the Human World, all of which is encompassed by the name: Planetary Crisis.

To the psychosis mind all problems invade the human isolates from an external world, and all solutions to those problems are technological assaults against it. But look at the human history of “developed economics”: nothing ages faster than technology, and nothing matures more slowly than human thought and morality. The difference between the collisions of deer-in-the-headlights, and “developed” humans-facing-climate-change, is that the humans have their eyes closed.

Snapping our species out if its lethal hypnosis by the anti-organic schizo-materialistic psychosis will doubtless require a widespread traumatic shock equivalent to that required to snap a racist individual out of his or her racist mental fog and into a genuine thirsting for self-cure from that malady. One symptom of the popular denial of our interconnectedness during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic is the laxity displayed by many regarding compliance with the infection-prevention protocols: conscious person-to-person social distancing, the wearing of exhalation-filtering face masks, and becoming doubly vaccinated with the newly developed anti-viral serum.

In essence, a responsible recognition of our interconnectedness would see us all expand the mesh-spacing of our social network, while containing our effluent breath plumes, and immunizing ourselves as soon as possible; all so the SARS-CoV-2 virus does not propagate further through our species by exploiting our human interconnectedness that so many ignore and are even hostile to. Much COVID-19 death is a consequence of denialism by anti-organic schizo-materialistic psychotics.

Can we humans overwhelmingly snap into an awareness for organic reintegration before being decimated by our own fearful and willful denial of it? Uncertain. Yet, Nature, which includes our marvelous human bodies, is wondrously responsive to new conditions, including new human attitudes and actions, so we already know that the organic reintegration of humanity into the long cycles of healthy Nature, and thus the ensuring of long-term sustainability for all planetary life, is more likely to occur the sooner we try to achieve it. All must change now. It is that simple.

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For A Better World

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For A Better World

Utopia is an illusion that can be experienced dynamically, not statically; locally, not universally. You can maintain it for yourself for a while by a continuous effort, in the same way that a juggler maintains the ephemeral sequential image of three, four or five balls suspended as a constellation in midair. Your utopia is like that flickering image of uplift defying the gravity of oblivion because it is entirely an expression of your unrelenting artful input of purposeful energy: it is you. The constellations you juggle into flickering existence have as elements the people you relate to and trade influences with. When your juggling and theirs have resonances, your utopias become shared and sympathetic. If such sympathetic resonances have sufficient scope their utopian dynamic may last beyond a human lifetime, being passed on to subsequent generations. But, how large a scope and long a duration can we reasonably expect such personal utopias to have? Probably that of a family’s experience for a generation or less.

So, the challenge for the person who wishes to live in a world of compassion, of enlightenment and of justice, is to make and continue the effort to juggle a bubble of utopia into existence, despite the evident lack of compassion, enlightenment and justice throughout human history, and throughout so much of the world of the present day: to be ethical, generous, moral and tolerant in a world that seems forever dominated by venality, greed, lack of principles, and brutal intolerance. The challenge is to remain a steadfast and good-humored agent of good while being carried away by a torrent of corruption cascading to perdition: it is to be quixotic without shame. How is one to maintain such a purpose and find fulfillment in such a thankless role? Oblivion’s gravity is endlessly capable of sapping your energies to exhaustion, and oblivion’s glitter is endlessly capable of shattering your ambitions by ridicule and by trapping you into temporal failure: a lone monkey shunned by the collaborationist troop.

Why would anyone persist as such a challenger then? It seems clear that such perseverance emanates out of a sense of self-respect and self-worth: the maintenance of personal character measured against an absolute scale of moral conduct, without reliance on social bonds for the support of morale. This is pure defiance and pure celebration, the ultimate in self expression and self abnegation. It is the brave social insanity of a fully aware and fully sane person immersed in the insanity of a cowardly and tribal world, and resisting it. The radiation of such personal power, by lived example, is what can influence and resonate with others and possibly coalesce into the psychological and physical forces that levitate what few utopias exist at any given moment.

“Character is fate,” and utopia is personal character maintained in defiance of the overwhelming forces of assimilation, decay and inertia. To fret about “the end of the world,” which is always increasingly likely to occur as our history advances, is to pin our hopes on the illusory externality of a general coming together of human vision onto a consensus for moral action for the common good. The self-realized quixotic challengers for utopia know this is impossible, and that the continuation of whatever decency of existential experience they have managed to juggle into being are only propelled by self-generated and self-directed efforts independent of societal externalities. For them the end of the world is the collapse of decency consequent to the collapse of self, and the collapse of personal integrity, regardless of the collective course of fractious society. Objectively, our physical and social world could easily end, and soon, catastrophically and painfully. But, subjectively, no one of us is compelled to implode their intellectual and moral selves in collaborationist surrender to the many forces of decay leading to that extinction. We always have the power to seek sharing a nobility of lived experience regardless of what external reality confronts us with. Survival is a matter of chance, nobility is a matter of choice. Be well in that realization.

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Guy de Maupassant, and America Today

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Guy de Maupassant, and America Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Voting U.S.A. 2020

Many Americans are confused, conflicted and concerned about how and for whom they should vote by 3 November 2020. I say “by” because we all have the option to vote by mail, even though that option is imperiled in much of the country by campaigns of voter suppression and mail tampering by the crooks, criminals, cranks, crack-pots, conspirators, conspiracists, con-men and con-molls of the Trump mind-pithed death-cult.

The United States is not a country of overwhelmingly democratic sentiment. It was, after all, founded by a propertied and slave-owning White Male grande bourgeoisie resistant to colonial taxes imposed by 18th century Imperialist England; and it has resisted every popular social movement since to expand the franchise to life, liberty, prosperity, equality under the law, freedom of self-expression, and participation in democratic governance.

It is a country with the most propagandized population on the face of the Earth, ruled by a corporate-owned political class of mediocrities whose worship of power reveal their deepest instincts to be authoritarian, materialistic, careerist, sexist, white supremacist, and xenophobic. As a result, the “right to vote” is a precious commodity however unevenly it may be available and however tenuously it may affect the course of governance in favor of the public good.

The way for a citizenry to safeguard and expand any right they have been granted by their government is to use it massively, often and vigorously, even when the expectation of its transformative power is low. Today, the single best possibility for approaching a socialist-inspired revolution in the United States would be the overwhelming participation in knowledgeable voting by young Americans; those between the ages of 18 and 44, and most particularly those between the ages of 18 and 30. They should “all” register to vote, learn the realities about the available candidates, and vote carefully — not lackadaisically — at every opportunity available to them, so as to advance their interests which are uniformly: anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-discriminatory, anti-sexist; and socialist, environmentalist, responsive to the global warming climate crisis, and thus most widely beneficial to the overall public good.

The 24% of Americans below the age of 18 are ineligible to vote. Of the older, eligible 76%:

– 16.78% are between 18 and 30 years old,

– 19.82% are between 30 and 44 years old,

– 26.4% are between 44 and 65 years old,

– 13% are 65 years or older (to ~100 years).

Thus, people 18 to 44 years old make up 36.6% of the population, while people 44 years and older make up 39.4% of the population. [1], [2]

U.S. Demographics 2010-2018

Older people are generally more conservative (reactionary) and consistent voters, while younger ones are generally more progressive — but unfortunately for themselves — less consistent, less informed and more lackadaisical voters.

What young Americans need to do in their own economic, political and social interests is to massively, knowledgeably and consistently vote despite having realistically low expectations of any rapid and significant socialist improvements resulting from any given U.S. election. Persistence is required for this “water on stone” process of national transformation.

Youthful outbursts of violent and destructive frustration in reaction to the intransigence of the status quo will be quickly quenched by far superior government firepower (applied with far lower moral restraint); and youthful surrender by escapism into sensory bubbles will simply mire them more deeply in the control and exploitation mechanisms of the ageist ‘corporatocracy’ managing national affairs.

What youth has on its side electorally is numbers, and a commonality of shared dreams and prospects which are being grossly abused by the status quo. The median age of the U.S. population is 38 years. There are as many eligible voters under the age of 46 (38% of the population) as over the age of 45 (38% of the population).

If young Americans can coalesce on a generalized socialist vision and stick with it even as they age, and they persist in applying that vision through their social practices and through the legal yet highly flawed mechanisms of voting in the United States, they would be able to shift the direction of all national policies.

It is important to remember that not all older voters are reactionaries, many of us still retain the dreams and visions of our glory days even if we appear to be feeble wrecks incapable of implementing anything. So the central cohesive element needed for a socialist transformation of the U.S. political economy is a strong popular and continuing socialist mindset — and thus allied progressive civic movements — among America’s young people.

The difficulty in sustaining such a socialist youth movement today is the obvious disincentive given by the nearly-guaranteed piss-poor results of U.S. electoral politics. We all know this is civic failure by design to maintain corporate-funded political corruption administered by careerist mediocrities. Rooting out that cancer will take a long time, perhaps an eternity (that is to say till human extinction). But offering it no resistance would be the ignominious suicide of human decency and our public moral character; and such resistance must necessarily be a multi-generational effort.

So I say vote we must even though it stinks. Offering American youth incentives of utopian hopes as likely outcomes from electoral “victories” in November of 2020, is dishonest. What is honest is telling them to be steeled by Raymond Aron’s observation that: the choice in politics is never between good and evil, but between the preferable and the detestable. Most of the time in U.S. elections we are not offered the opportunity to choose what and who we really want, we are only offered a very constrained set of options that range from the truly detestable to the relatively preferable.

What I see as the greatest failure of civic insight among American voters is them being overwhelmingly identity voters. Most people vote for reflections of themselves — really for reflections of their self-illusions — instead of for “imperfect” candidates of integrity committed to policies aimed at the overall public good. Identity politics is the greatest propaganda coup ever perpetrated on the American public by the American capitalist ‘corporatocracy.’

The drumbeat to vote for who looks like you and sounds like you and feels like you, or like your avuncular uncle, or like your wise and feisty aunt — without a thought as to who actually owns these candidates or what they are financially obligated to actually do and not do once elected — is unrelenting and earsplitting. Just turn on your TVs and computer mass-media streams and you get inundated by that propaganda.

The second greatest failure I see among progressive American voters is the inability of many of them — by their unwillingness — to be pragmatic when it comes to voting. Voting is a gross, slow, cumbersome and inaccurate tool for social change and improvement. It entirely lacks the sharp rapid elegance of a skillfully deployed scalpel (and the political equivalents of scalpels are bloody revolutions, which are more often tragic catastrophes), and it lacks the sustained political pressure of continuing mass movements.

Yes, it is easily possible to have a very far advanced socialist ideal in mind when voting, but no your co-visionary utopian political aspirants and microscopic political parties have no statistically significant probability of gaining any political power. So voting “for them” is purely an act of politically ineffectual egoism: you voted for your self-image. You will feel good about it, and that’s all. Voting for the country means getting over yourself. This is a major hurdle among people indoctrinated since infancy to mindless selfishness — and individualistic “exceptionalism” — by mass media in the service of your exploitative capitalist overlords.

In 2020, Americans have a civic duty and moral obligation to dethrone the Trump and Republican malignancy. Doing so will not immediately usher in a New Socialist Millennium, nor a United Federation of Planets, not any scintillating utopian fantasy of fully enlightened government. It will just be a necessary first step to a long, long projected recovery of political decency in this country. To accomplish that step — and the many needed after it — we have to accept reality, defy the propaganda, get over ourselves, persist in our socialist mass movements acting for political reform and the good of all, and persist in our voting despite its many deficiencies.

So far as I can tell, for the first time in its 208 year history The New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals as well as the oldest continuously published one, has editorialized to endorse an electoral choice in a U.S. election: vote Trump and his partisans out. [3]

They begin that editorial with:

“Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”

The list of particulars that follows from this point in the NEJM indictment of the Trump Administration and its allied state government partisans is clear and damning (more than 200,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, a number equivalent to half the American fatalities in World War II); after which they conclude with the following:

“Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

To my mind, this should be the central focus of our pragmatic voting in 2020. It’s not about “you,” it’s about “us.”

Given human nature, there will always be new generations of fascists, bigots, religious fanatics, capitalists, careerists, exploiters, would-be slavers and criminals in American political life. So there can never be an enduring final victory of political good over political evil. To socialize a capitalist society, especially one as militarized, regressive and imperialistic as that of the United States, would take much more than just voting. The effort to advance American societal decency must necessarily be a continuing process of indeterminate duration.

Our utopian socialist visions should be used as compass needles to point our efforts past ourselves and in the direction our grudgingly pragmatic and personally imperfect steps should take on the way to that far horizon of our aspirations.

I have already mailed in my ballot. I wish more of my choices could have been reflections of how I like to think of myself, but “you can’t always get what you want.” [4]

NOTES

[1] Demographics of the United States
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States

[2] Population of the United States (2020 and historical)
https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/

[3] Dying in a Leadership Vacuum
The New England Journal of Medicine
8 October2020
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2029812

[4] You Can’t Always Get What You Want
https://youtu.be/krxU5Y9lCS8

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Facing Extinction, My View

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Facing Extinction, My View

I read Ms. Catherine Ingram’s essay:

Facing Extinction
https://www.catherineingram.com/facingextinction/

The data she cites seems realistic and reasonable;

the inferences she draws about potential, likely and current forms of consequential social and societal breakdown seem logical;

the observations she makes about the feelings, reactions, sadnesses and denial many people will respond with to the facts about global warming and biodiversity loss — and the dire implications for the long-term health and even survival of the human species — also seem rational and accurate;

and the recommendations she makes for managing one’s own state-of-mind — consciousness, psychology, expectations, mood, calmness — are helpful.

My comments on Ms. Ingram’s essay

You have to remember that (1 to 4):

1. Despite science being able to make credible estimates (from climate and socio-economic models with super-computers) about the pace at which the climate and environment will degrade, nobody really knows how quickly and to what extent society will degenerate. In 10 years time, life might be worse than we would imagine that future now, or it could be better than our fearful projections today. Who knows?

2. Looking back over the history of homo sapiens (200,000+ years), and over the history of homo (2M+ years), one sees a talent for adaptability to difficult circumstances. So, I find it unlikely that homo sapiens will “go extinct” even if social and environmental conditions deteriorate very quickly and very badly. But, those degradations would certainly cause much suffering, much death, and at some point begin reducing the human population. How far a reduction? I don’t know, but certainly not to zero, for a long long time.

3. If I had to throw out a number, I’d say we are good for at least 200 years. Why that number? Because anything less seem improbable to me, based a bit on the physics and a lot on gut feeling; and I can’t really project from any factual basis beyond 200 years, so I don’t know. Even so, I suspect people will continue to exist well beyond 200 years, but a guess without any educated justification.

4. Ingram phrases her recommendations for mentally coping with the facts about global warming climate change in a manner I would characterize as “psychotherapy.” I tend to phrase the same ideas from a perspective I think of as Zen Buddhism, in its most general sense. That is to say (a through g):

a. For each individual: life is always uncertain, life is precarious, death is certain to occur, but when and how are unknown.

b. Life is a gift, don’t waste it by living unaware of it: distracted by the “maya” of all our social fads, obsessions and daily ego dramas, and by all our technological gee-gaws facilitating our entertainment and “games.” You don’t necessarily have to be a Zen monk sitting in Za-Zen all night (kept up by green tea) and with consciousness totally focussed on the breath of the moment, but you definitely should keep very clear awareness of yourself, your body, the environment that surrounds you and beyond that the human network you allow yourself to be “attached” to.

c. The point is to actually experience the awareness — and joy — of being alive, as often as possible. Obviously, sometimes we immerse ourselves in tasks — pleasurable or unpleasurable — that “we lose ourselves in” for a while. For my mother such immersion is gardening, for me it can be working out a differential equation or a new poem. But I “resurface” to enjoy a meal, enjoy listening to the birds on my hillside, to see the changing of the light, to feel the changing of the temperature and the breeze, to inhale the stars at night, to remember many good times of the past, to eat ice cream, and even to watch the Twilight Zone on TV.

d. This clear awareness (c) equates to being grateful for experiencing life, at the very least when the momentary experience is not one of pain. But even so, the best way to live through pain is to not deny it and try to avoid it, thus setting up a conflict with the external reality of pain pushing on you, and which conflict only adds anxiety and more frustration to the pain you already are experiencing — and that means added pain. Every painful experience comes with a minimum level of pain we must experience, like it or not. So facing this fact is the best we can do: suffering through that minimum (which is not to say it is negligible) realistically rather than trying to deny it and thus causing ourselves to suffer more than the minimum. It’s not fair, it just is.

e. This all means that one should engage in their lives with a positive attitude: do what is in you to do, for the good and for a sense of fulfillment. The details of this depend on the individual and their circumstances. I don’t think of this as a mad rush to check off a bucket list of fantasy treats and entertainments, but instead to apply your mind, body and talents to those activities (creative, kind, socially and psychologically positive, at least harmless) that bring a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment to you. Your life is a gift, a very improbable gift, so use it in a way that does credit to you and justifies the receipt of that gift. For Christians, I refer them to the Parable of the Talents. For folklorists, I remind them of Joseph Campbell’s advice: “Don’t waste time” and “get it done.”

f. My contention is that the more people that live as outlined in “e,” the better the state of the social (and physical) world we all live in at the moment, and therefore that regardless of what happens geophysically and environmentally to that world, we will have a better life than might otherwise be the case under the circumstances. The utopian extreme of this view is that if “everybody” lived the ‘e-life,’ then we would have the best social network for dealing with the physical consequences of global warming climate and environmental degradation, and consequently the best deployment of both warming attenuation responses (e.g., changing our energy systems, that sort of thing) and mitigation strategies (e.g., helping those impacted by droughts, crop losses, inundation, extreme unlivable heat, intelligent applications of technology for social benefit, etc.).

g. Regardless of what everybody else does, or doesn’t do, your life is your responsibility to set right and enjoy as best you can (again, being kind regarding your societal impact). Also, you are just one individual and can hardly take on the whole problem of “fixing the world.” It’s too much, you can’t do it, and trying to will just destroy you. Being the best and happiest “you” (in a clear-eyed knowing way) that you can be is the best contribution you can make to the whole of society, besides being the most personally rewarding way to use the gift of time and consciousness that you have been given by the intriguing randomness of evolution.

So, yes, it is sad that we can see into a future that looks rather grim, and it is difficult to avoid upsetting deniers when we try to speak frankly about the facts we are aware of, and it can be sad to have to “let go” of many youthful illusions about both the continuity of the natural world that hosts us, and about the human networks we are entangled with or which cast us off, but maybe this awareness of and adaptation to reality is not really new. Maybe it has always been true that clear-sighted individuals have always had to navigate their lives through an unstable present and into an uncertain and apparently increasingly hostile future, and that their most honorable and most satisfying course of action was to live up to their potential, as best as they could, for the duration allotted to them.

It should be obvious that all the above is a projection on my part, my “best guess” of how I would like to try to behave if and when I am faced with an existential crisis, a life and death situation. In my own case, the above attitude came to me as a result of dealing with personal crises — which for me were the equivalent to life-and-death — and my application of Zen ideas garnered from much reading. Basically, I extracted ideas from my intellectual storehouse, in times of stress, to find something practical to make passage through hard times bearable.

A person I have corresponded with very recently is an ex-psychotherapist who is dying of cancer, and who wrote: “The only thing that I know is that PEOPLE DONT CHANGE UNTIL THEY FEEL PAIN.”

I agree that people only really question their self-image, and attitudes toward the conduct of their lives, until after having first been gob-smacked by the random and cruel realities of life. One way of rephrasing the above would be:

“Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.”
—Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727),

Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, a.k.a. inertia.

So my conclusion is: live confidently, make the best of it and enjoy it; in that way you add goodness to the world. And, yes, we have to accept that there will be pain and suffering for many many others no matter what, and even despite whatever best efforts we put in to relieve and prevent as much of that pain that the rest of the world will be burdened with. And, this has always been true. This is what I want my children to know and apply in their own lives, because I know that then their lives will be as happy as is possible.

Be aware, be intelligent, be confident, be kind. Life is a gift. And, have fun!

I guess this last is my definition of love.

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Long Term Worries Are A Luxury

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Long Term Worries Are A Luxury

It is impossible to think about long term problems when you are in the midst of an emergency. Who can worry about the balance of their bank account, or who should get elected, or global warming, when they are in the middle of a medical emergency, or a police nightmare, or a flood, or just the “normal” worries of a homeless person looking for food for themselves or their children, and a safe place to get some badly needed sleep? And this situation is repeated by the billions around the world.

Because so many people are struggling to deal with their basic survival and personal security needs, which are under assault from so many directions by the forces of human malevolence: political, economic and racial, they have no mental capacity nor psychological reserves left to expend on long term worries like global warming. That long term worry is a luxury enjoyed by people who are fortunate in life, secure and safe, and even prosperous. They are also likely to be the kind of people who are in the most anthropogenic greenhouse gas emitting classes on Earth.

I consider global warming to be an emergency, exactly as Greta Thunberg has so brilliantly broadcast to the world. Many professional “Green” activists, bloggers, book writers and internet “influencers” have advanced a variety of social behavioral adaptation schemes, and technical schemes, that governments are urged to mandate and manage in order to “transition” our current profits-above-life-itself economies to a “post carbon” alternative energy mode. In general I agree with such ideas, but I realize they are just fantasies of luxurious long term worries (LLTWs). I suppose my Marxist friends would call LLTWs a class interest.

It has finally dawned on me that the route to real action on global warming climate change is through a complete social revolution that meets the immediate survival and security needs of the great mass of humanity, and which spectrum of aspirations is being vibrantly voiced through the worldwide George Floyd protests. A psychologist might phrase this as the need for a climb up the ladder of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The smaller the fraction of the world’s population that is overwhelmingly taxed by scrambling for their survival and safety needs, the larger the fraction of the world’s population that can begin to enjoy the LLTW of global warming climate change.

Because meeting those many aspirations for societal renewal and social transformation are technically the easiest and quickest remedies to begin addressing the root causes of the LLTW of global warming, they should be pushed for hard by everybody who gives a damn. Thus, the George Floyd protests are really for much more than just their essential and vitally important calls for anti-racist anti-capitalist and public health actions by governments, they are also the trumpet fanfares and bugle calls for a worldwide charge up the hierarchy of popular needs, from physical survival and personal security through societal reconstruction based on indiscriminate human dignity and the wide availability of opportunity that affords achievement of personal fulfillment, and ultimately up to us “all” having the luxury to worry about global warming, and then actually act on it.

I do not think there will ever be useful action on global warming until the social needs of the masses of humanity are vigorously and effectively attended to. This is not a utopian fantasy, this is realistic hard nuts logical thinking. The first and foundation step for everything that should follow is for all of us to actually become “we.”

So, yes, I realize that implies many wished-for political, economic and social revolutions and changes, but there it is. That is what “we” need to do if we want to make “anthropogenic” a positive adjective describing our stewardship of Planet Earth, instead of leaving it with its currently negative connotation regarding our massive fouling of the most beautiful jewel known to exist in the entire Universe.

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The Poetry of Disillusionment in “Gatsby” is Beyond the Movies

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The Poetry of Disillusionment in “Gatsby” is Beyond the Movies

The Great Gatsby is a marvelous novel. F. Scott Fitzgerald was at heart a poet of the 19th Century English Romantic type, for that was the literature that clearly inspired him, as he himself said about his only academic focus during his college education (he being Princeton University’s most accomplished and famous non-graduate).

I was not too impressed with the latest (2013) glitzy movie of the novel, by Baz Luhrmann. Gatsby is so much about the poetic and lyrical use of language to convey emotionally, rather than logically (like my good science reports), the psychological states of the characters of the Gatsby tale.

A plot is always necessary of course, but in literary art it can be a mere skeleton on which to hang the real pulsing flesh of the story. Movies present plot first and foremost. The most artistically refined ones can give a sense of the poetry of experience, but this is not typical. The Baz Luhrmann movie was total Hollywood: big, flashy, loud, bombastic, hyper-realistically unreal, and impatient to blast you with a sensation.

Fitzgerald is just the opposite. Sure, there are big flashy loud extravagant background scenes in the Gatsby story, but they are really like painted backdrop curtains to the stage of the imagination on which the compelling psychologically vibrant interplays and soliloquies that fill the foreground of the tale are spun out by Fitzgerald’s prose. So I think a Hollywood movie, especially one intentionally a “blockbuster,” of the Gatsby story is just far from any art of Fitzgerald’s league, even if it has mass appeal as safe-decadent entertainment.

I suppose it could be possible for someone of the caliber of Jean Renoir to make a Gatsby movie that is much closer to the spirit of what Fitzgerald was striving for with prose, but I don’t think such a film masterpiece would have much appeal to general audiences. So, it would never be made because who in the movie business would put up the money to make a supremely artistic, psychologically subtle, and lyrical sure-fire flop?

Every movie of a novel is always a set of excerpts strung together as the filmmaker’s interpretation, or rip-off, of the novel. Can’t be helped. Douglas Sirk (the German director who made iconic 1950s American melodrama pictures with Rock Hudson) said that it was easier to make a good movie from a defective or second-rate novel, because the moviemakers (director and screen writers) could patch and fill the given story as they thought best to arrive at an integrated product that worked well as a mass-market movie. Really good novels had everything about the characters’s make-up and plot factors all tightly wrapped up “perfectly,” so there was no room to adjust the story to make for a popular movie without also degrading the quality of that story. It’s the old “the movie is not like the book.”

Some novels are too good to make equally good movies of. Catcher In The Rye is one, and its author, J. D. Salinger, refused to sell the film rights to any of his novels because he could only see movie versions degrading what he had produced for readers. The ideal prose-to-movie process (for both good prose and a good movie) would be having a superb writer craft tales specifically intended for being made into movies, where that writer was also a superb moviemaker, and who would make the film.

Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame was such a writer-moviemaker. Serling had many beautiful turns of phrase flowing out of his commentary on his Twilight Zone episodes on TV, and mixed into the dialog of the characters in his stories. But Serling’s stories only spun on for 25 minutes (half hour shows) or 50 minutes (hour shows).

Fitzgerald’s novels have much longer and interwoven thematic arcs, and were meant to be absorbed by a reader over many, many hours, probably over the course of days, weeks. Fitzgerald really wrote for pre-TV even pre-movie 19th century hopeful young American minds (like his), but who had lived through the consciousness-shattering experiences and devastating losses of WWI, and were now making their way through the chaotically fragmenting 1920s, maybe sometimes crazy happy times but with many disappointments for most, since most were not rich and would never get to be.

So, I just don’t see how any movie can capture The Great Gatsby or Fitzgerald’s incredible, incredible second masterpiece Tender Is The Night. In my daydream of being a great screenwriter and movie director, I would do the impossible and make a lush compelling epic of Tender Is The Night, something with the cinematic scope of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, and the psychological clarity and depth of Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion.

Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm for Baz Luhrmann’s movie (which I did watch attentively) is the reaction of a reader (instead of a non-reading movie fan) who was enchanted by the spell of Fitzgerald’s poetic and yet amazingly economical outpouring of prose that transmits the deep feeling of the Gatsby tale. I see little subtlety and glaring falsities in, and feel much bombast from the movie. You just fall so deeply into the story as told by Fitzgerald, especially with Nick Carraway as your guide into the lower psychological depths, but you are pushed back so hard and pocked with shrapnel by Luhrmann’s movie. It’s obvious that the brassy blare is what makes the movie “successful,” but that success is the exact opposite of what Fitzgerald gave us. (Yes, the movie would have to have been made by the Jean Renoir of La Grande Illusion and La Règle de Jeu.)

The Gatsby story is about the losses of optimistic illusions about American life and about romantic ideals, and then about attempted nobility failing at life while rich crass ignorance and bigotry triumph in the way parasites triumph by degrading the totality of the lives hosting them. Tom Buchanan is Trump, and Daisy Buchanan then as now is an airhead (not a shrewd careerist Melania), a simple pretty nonentity that has no intellectual depth but is pleasant to look and talk with, and on whom the love, longings and life ambitions of a driven man can be projected as movie myth is projected onto a silver screen and appear to shimmer with magical promise. That may be the most cinematic aspect of the novel, Daisy as a metaphor of the movies, magic by optical illusion and without any substance at all, which if believed in without reservation draws naïve optimistic romanticism to its actual doom.

Well, so much for my babble about Gatsby and movie attempts at Gatsby. As Peter Byrne has told me: “Never judge a book by its movie.”

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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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