Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex. - Frank Zappa.

Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday Morning Essay: The Donald Rises

It was fun writing about Vladimir & Estragon, absurdist literature and the general conundrum of the meaning of life. It seems appropriate to my age, increasingly so actually, and as I said a while back, I don't see much point anymore in the day-to-day analysis of political flotsam & jetsam. 

I confess, however, that I do have something of a soft spot for Donald Trump's opera bouffe approach to his Presidential campaign.  His campaign is really about his weird ego, and nothing else.  His insecurities are so overwhelming, his insincerity so palpable, and his disingenuousness so on-the-surface that a thoughtful person might wonder how he could be taken seriously for even a moment. Yet his poll numbers, as of now, are twice those of his nearest competitor, the erstwhile front-runner Jeb Bush.

My guess is that The Donald has tumbled to something that is a kind of open secret in American society: Americans are so fed up with their government, with the insular preoccupations of the Washington Village, that a candidate who does nothing but criticize the government and make outrageous fun of the political careerists running against him, taps into a deep and pervasive nihilism in the American electorate.  Americans don't really feel like voting for anybody anymore. So why not support a candidate who feels the same way?

That's Mr. Trump's secret.  I don't know if he thought it up, or just started in with gags like saying John McCain's war record was unimpressive because he mostly sat the Vietnam War out as a POW and found they worked. It's not so much that Americans really agree with the gist of the sentiment. What they're tired of is a politician who doesn't really have anything to contribute other than his identity as a former POW.  In the Chickenhawk Village such a war record is, of course, a subject of great reverence. The professional pols all know their lines.  Very few of them, from the President on down, ever served in the military, but they always thank everybody else "for their service," although many of them, at the same time and out of the other sides of their mouths, wonder aloud whether fighting all these wars does anything other than expose America to greater danger.  The military is "keeping America safe" by creating blowback in the Muslim world which makes America a more dangerous place.

The Village is not required to make sense.  The apparatchiks there just repeat the slogans.  Which is it? Are all these wars a colossal waste of time and money and a source of deep insecurity, or essential to "our freedom?"  We live in a timeless epoch where we seem to be thanking the veterans of World War II and the vets of the Iraq, Afghanistan, Syrian, Yemen, Libyan etc. wars (the "War on Terror") all in the same breath and for all the same reasons even though those two conflicts really have nothing to do with each other. I remember a veteran of World War II telling me a number of years back that the appropriate response to 9/11 was "to do nothing."  This only sounds strange until you reflect that it is much better to do nothing than to do something stupid.  The Chickenhawks running the U.S. government at the time felt a need to vindicate the bloodlust and vengeful ambitions of American football fans, which is to say, Bush & Five Deferments Cheney needed to project a macho image of virility and attack someone.  Chickenhawk columnists such as Tom Friedman piled on.  The Muslim world, in general, must pay, said Mr. Friedman.  Was Osama bin Laden actually behind the attacks? Who the hell knows, and who cares? He'll do, plus he lives in Afghanistan which seems like a good country to attack.

By the time Mr. Obama ordered bin Laden's assassination Americans were tired of the whole terrorist soap opera, and Obama got almost no bounce from Seal Team Six's intervention in bin Laden's house arrest by the Pakistani military.  Were we any safer now?  So far this year there have been 400 random mass murders in the United States.  The number of Americans actually killed by Muslim terrorists here in the "Homeland" are fewer than Americans killed by televisions and bookcases falling over on them at home.

I think we all kind of know these things.  We know, as The Donald says, that Rick Perry of Texas wears horn rim glasses because he looked so stupid in the Presidential debates of 2012.  American permissiveness toward illegal immigrants is ridiculous, as the Donald also says. We're just suckers for our own oft-repeated bullshit: We're A Nation of Immigrants.  Yeah, sure. Tell that to the Native Americans, who will surely believe you.

Trump called Jeb Bush "weak" (he looks the part) and Lindsey Graham an "idiot" and a "lightweight," the latter comment probably a code word for "light in the loafers."  The cable commentariat, such as Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, are apoplectic.  Joan Walsh, the uber-liberal, used the word "nihilistic" to describe Trump's style, and lamented this "descent" of American political discourse into such juvenalia. Where have you been, Joan?  One can appreciate the consternation of the TV shows who begin talking about the next presidential election about halfway into the incumbent's second term.  This is all Chris Matthews of MSNBC is going to talk about until November, 2016, and if there is a candidate who is making a joke out of the election, doesn't that mean that Chris & Co.'s coverage is also something of a joke?  Lindsey Graham calls Trump a "jackass" and Trump calls Graham an "idiot."  What august commentary can you bring to bear on that exchange?

For now Americans on the Republican side are eating it up.  What will The Donald say next?

Is Trump actually trying to vindicate the sentiments of Fed Up America?  As I said at the beginning, I don't think that's what the deranged campaign of Donald Trump is really all about.  He's not serious, he's just weirdly needy.  His shtick has a sell-by date stamped on it, and this approach won't work too much longer.  Not that his nihilism is off-base, but because at some point, maybe during the first debate, he's going to start sounding like another candidate who's actually running and then Americans are going to lose interest in Trump as well.  Until then, it will be fun while it lasts.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Happy Birthday Essay

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not."  Slogan on a black tee shirt.

I recently read "Waiting for Godot" on my Kindle.  It didn't quite feel right to read Samuel Beckett's 1953 Absurdist masterpiece on a Kindle.  A beer-stained, dog-eared old Vintage paperback would be much better.  Paper yellowed with age, the glue dried out, pages slipping loose. Authentic, in other words.

I've read the play before, have seen it performed two or three times.  The plot is easy to follow, since it doesn't have one.  Vladimir and Estragon are standing by a tree on a country road in some unspecified place.  It may be France.  They're often described as "tramps," and that seems possible. You gather they've known each other a long time; a reference is made to picking grapes together in Macon 50 years before the scene in the play.  They might be in their sixties or seventies now.

We never find out who or what Godot is.  Naturally, there is much speculation about the symbolic suggestion of the first three letters of this name.  Are they waiting for Death? While they're standing there, waiting for Godot, an obnoxious character named Pozzo comes along with his servant/slave Lucky.  All in all, Pozzo and Lucky are around for about half the play, and there's a lot of interaction, most of it irritating and uninformative.  You wish that Pozzo and Lucky would leave, so the dialogue could return simply to Vladimir and Estragon's desultory exchanges about nothing in particular. Pozzo keeps saying he's going to leave, then doesn't.  Estragon expresses his desire to leave often, but Vladimir asks him to tarry, so they can wait for Godot.  They contemplate suicide by hanging themselves in the tree.  They lament that they were not among the first to jump from the Eiffel Tower when they had the chance.

Vladimir holds forth early in the play about the Crucifixion.  He's curious why only one of the Gospels relates that Jesus saved one of two thieves being crucified along with him.  He first notes that one out of two thieves "is a reasonable percentage."  But he notes that the other three Gospels do not have this detail.  Either they don't mention thieves at all, or both thieves are damned.  Why, then, Vladimir wants to know, is this the version passed on as the authentic account, since it's a minority report? Estragon doesn't care, but feigns exaggerated interest. 

Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo) aren't even sure they're in the right place.  They're not sure it's the right day.  They can't remember if they were waiting in the same place the day before.  In a haunting exchange, Estragon points out they have no way of knowing any of these things:

Estragon:  You're sure it was this evening?
Vladimir:  What?
Estragon:  That we were to wait.
Vladimir:  He said Saturday. I think.
Estragon:  You think.
Vladimir:  I may have made a note of it.
Estragon:  But what Saturday? And is it Saturday? Is it not rather Sunday? Or Monday? Or Friday?
Vladimir:  It's not possible!
Estragon:  Or Thursday?
Vladimir:  What'll we do?
Estragon:  If he came yesterday and we weren't here you may be sure he won't come again today.
Vladimir:  But you say we were here yesterday.
Estragon:  I may be mistaken.

Interwoven in the dialogue are bits and pieces of physical comedy.  You might picture Laurel and Hardy as the tramps and get a sense of how they carry on.  A funny scene is made of Didi and Gogo trying on three different hats in a circular motion, so that a hat is always on their heads while the third is passed between their hands, as if they were juggling.  I've seen it done on stage and it's mesmerizing when done right.

Also, it's completely pointless and has nothing to do with the play.  But then nothing in "Waiting for Godot" seems to have anything to do with anything.  There is a flow, but no development, and at the end of the play they're standing on a country road by a tree waiting for Godot.

A great deal of ink has been spilled in academic and critical efforts to figure out what "Godot" means. I think that's Beckett's slyest joke.  An extraordinarily brilliant and erudite writer (like his mentor James Joyce before him), Beckett's play is about that very thing: Waiting for Meaning.  Vladimir and Estragon lived a long time, they've been friends for 50 years, and Meaning never showed up.  "Nothing to be done," says Vladimir as the first line of the play.  All that was left them was to pass the time, and they do so together, these aging tramps. They don't hang themselves on the tree because Estragon, who only plays at being the lesser thinker, cautions Vladimir that Didi's greater girth means the spindly bough will probably break under his weight. So that if Gogo goes first, Vladimir will be left without him but without a way to join his friend in death.

So they resume their vigil on a country road by a tree, with no memory of how they got there, nor how long they have been there, nor any idea how much longer they will wait.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Morning Essay: Why It's Hard to Get Worked Up About Politics Anymore

I think I've come up with an apt metaphor for the current state of the world. It came to me in a dream.

Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's debonair Belgian detective with the incisive mind and epicurean tastes, is aboard an ocean liner sailing between Southampton, England and New York City.  It's a luxurious ship, and the passengers, for the most part, are glittering examples of the upper class.  Among them are stock characters of any Christie mystery.  The vaguely dissolute aristocrat, maybe (maybe not) a peer of the realm; the ingenue of a wealthy background on her way to America for some vague reason, perhaps involving escape from a man; the loud, brassy and unattached floozy looking for gold to dig; a sinister man (who seems like the perfect suspect but of course isn't) with a pencil-thin mustache and a shadowy past; an American imbecile saying obvious, stupid things all the time, but loaded with money, probably from oil or timber businesses. Numerous others, including the ultimate victim.

During the voyage, someone gets murdered in a stateroom.  Many clues point to many people.  Hercule, who just wanted to get away and relax, is of course called upon to investigate.  There follows the usual procedure of figuring out (a) the time and place of the murder, (2) where everyone was at the time of the murder, (note the Oxford comma - un hommage) and (c) why the murder was committed.  At some point Hercule will, of course, gather everyone in the grand saloon of the ship and delineate his solution.  As he does so, a hard jolt shudders through the ship.  The collision feels as though the liner's starboard bow has struck something huge.

Yes, the liner is the Titanic, and it is 1912 aboard the White Star Line ship's maiden and only voyage. As the ship fills with icy North Atlantic water, as the bow begins its ominous pitch downward, Hercule Poirot decides to forget about the whole thing and goes looking for a lifeboat.

I think that's about where we are because of climate change and overpopulation.  None of this other stuff matters.  The political intrigues, whether America will remain the Exceptional country and keep fighting endless wars around the world to ensure its hegemony, whether we use Keynesian or Austrian economics to get us through this "slowdown," whether we'll elect a woman President, whether anything is ever going to work again - none of it matters very much.

I think we're on the cusp of what you could call, euphemistically, fundamental dislocation.  We are now seeing some of the very earliest signs of where we're going.  We've hit the iceberg, and no one wants to pay any attention to it.  Or at least no one has ever really wanted to do anything about it. The reasons are many, none of them very complimentary where Homo sapiens is concerned, but apparently implacable.  Dale Jamieson, a professor of environmental studies and philosophy (nice combo) at NYU, has written a whole book about it, entitled Reason In A Dark Time.  That's the question he asks: why didn't we ever do anything about it when there was still time?  Why didn't we listen to Paul Erlich or Charles David Keeling, who established the Mauna Loa CO2 observatory 60 years ago?  Jamieson surmises that in evolutionary terms, humans evolved to detect danger in the form of medium-sized objects moving in the middle distance.  That's about all we can react to.  We never had a chance with something as abstract as climate change.

Naomi Klein's book on global warming, This Changes Everything, has many of the same elegiac overtones, but Naomi's a reformer and a hopeless optimist (there's an oxymoron).  She sees this "Melancholia" type threat as a kumbaya moment for all of mankind. Sure, whatever.

The current levels of CO2 concentration (around 400 parts per million) correspond to much higher global mean average temperatures in the geologic record.  Because of the thermal inertia of Earth's great oceans, air temperature has only slightly increased.

But the physical world is one of complex trip-points, of phase changes.  We like to think we have all the time in the world when we don't. The Buddha: "Your mistake was in thinking you had time." Everything should happen on a human schedule, but it doesn't.  It happens according to the laws of physics.

Consider the old physics/chemistry experiment where a kilogram of ice cubes is placed in a pan of cold water and set on a burner.  Turn on the gas and stir the cubes with a lab thermometer. When will the water begin to heat up, to climb above 0 degrees C?  The somewhat surprising answer is that the water will remain at freezing temperature until all the ice is melted.  It takes about 80 calories of heat energy to melt one gram of ice, so that 80,000 calories of heat from the burner will be expended first to melt all of the ice.  Then the temperature of the water will rise rapidly until it all boils away.  This is an example of the phenomenon of "latent heat," and it has given us a false sense of security for a long time.  We are not far now from a completely ice-free Arctic at the end of the melt season.  At that point all of the solar energy entering the Arctic Ocean will go into heating water instead of melting ice, and the water temperature, and the air above it, will rise precipitously.  And all Hell will break loose.

Humans have never lived on an Earth without an Arctic ice cap.  It's as simple as that. We evolved under conditions where the North Pole provided a massive cooling effect, where the temperature gradient between the Equator and the Arctic kept the jet stream in reliable formation, and weather was tamed and moderated for the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the land mass is, and most of the people live.   That great epoch is ending.

There is no need to dwell in disaster porn, or to exaggerate the problem.  The problem is plenty dire all by itself. It needs no promotion from me or anyone else.  The Problem is there, whether we care to talk about it or not.  I think that's the essence of the best definition of Reality I've ever heard: that thing that is still there after you get through arguing about it.

Unlike Hercule Poirot, there's no lifeboat for any of us.  We're on Spaceship Earth, and we're going to have to ride this one out. The rest of our arguing and bickering about this and that will go on, but the function of all of it will change, will "phase shift."  It will all simply be a means of distraction.  There will come a time when we are nostalgic for the days when we argued about so much that didn't matter.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Saturday Morning Essay: Absurdity & the California Drought

Let us return once again to those halcyon years of Berkeley undergraduate education, so to speak, late-mid-1960's, and the storied class taught in something or other by the great Oscar Pemantle in a class entered from one of the hallways girdling the cavernous Wheeler Auditorium.

That sets the stage.  Sprawled in one of those oak chairs with the funny writing surface built into the right arm rest (were there left-handed versions? I never noticed), we studied the classics of postmodern philosophy.  Such as: The Myth of Sisyphus, by Albert Camus. Al starts with the conclusion that life is meaningless, which saves a lot of time.  No logical trickery in the style of Pascal or the other Frenchies trying to back their way into a belief in theism.  Such "proofs" are tiresome and hopeless.

The answer to the fundamental cosmological question posed by Wilhelm Gottfried von Leibniz, Why is there something instead of nothing?, is: I have no freaking idea.  That takes care of all philosophical and religious ideas and frees us up for what's left, which is phenomenology: the study of what is.

With meaninglessness as his start, Camus explores a different question. How does the feeling of Absurdity arise? Here he constructs a kind of triangle.  We have Man, who can think about ultimate questions.  We have the quest to understand. And we have a silent, implacable Universe which yields no answers.  The feeling that this arrangement engenders is the Absurd.

I was thinking along similar lines with respect to the Great California Drought.  Over the decades, one is lulled into a complacency about the availability of water.  From November to March, it rains. Never enough in Southern California to meet local needs, but with exogenous sources from the Colorado River and the reservoir system up north, it's enough.  Northern California is semi-arid, a "Mediterranean" climate, but the snowpack collected by the Sierra Nevada massif solves the problem.

That is, until the drought started in 2011, which coincided with the cessation of the La NiƱa pattern which had extended wet and cold conditions into May, for a couple of years. That's all a distant memory now.  Cal Tech says that California has a year of water left.

At first a catastrophe such as the California drought titillates human beings, who are always looking, unconsciously or not, for things to get dramatic about.  If you've been paying attention all along, you can feed your narcissistic supply by acting the role of soothsayer or prophet. That always gives the ego a boost.  Hey: tough guys face facts, and the tougher the facts, the tougher you are.  However, in the slightly longer run, such egotism gives way to basic animalistic fear and to a feeling of what you could call "secular" Absurdity.  This can't be happening.  This isn't real.  No advanced technological society with 38 million people suddenly finds itself with an inadequate supply of the quintessential molecule necessary to sustain human life:  H2O.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the building of a riprap barrier in the San Joaquin Delta to block the intrustion of salt water into the flow from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, which lack the flow to keep the brine out themselves.  The Chron notes during the article:  
"State officials expect to remove the wall in November as the rainy season begins." 

Sure.  Right on schedule.  It could happen that way.  Climate scientists can't tell us, at this point, one way or the other.  I think their prognostications are based on emotional biases.  If you're into abrupt climate change, you tend to read a lot into the concepts of "polar amplification," "disruption of the jet stream," "perturbed Rossby waves," "diminution of the Polar-Equator temperature gradient," and other phenomena which appear to have a scientific basis, but the problem is too complex, with too many variables, to allow confident assertions about the future in a specific region. Although a word to the wise: it's a big hint.

Somewhat ironically, the uncertainty gives rise, in this liberal state, to a species of Denialism. The drought is an "aberration."  I do not hear anyone say, for example, that even if the rains were to return for a while that this relatively wet period might itself be the "aberration."  You can point to disturbing analogous situations.  The Colorado River, fed by snow melt in the Rockies, has been declining in its flow for close to fifteen years.  Lake Mead, on which Las Vegas and Southern California are heavily dependent (Vegas almost exclusively), is nearing the point where the only way Las Vegas will be able to draw water is through tunnels under the bed of the lake.

This situation does indeed give rise to feelings of existential absurdity.  This cannot be happening, yet it is.  Life cannot be meaningless, yet it is.  Jews living in Germany, that great nation, that pinnacle of Western Civilization, had tremendous difficulty believing, in 1936, that things were as bad as they seemed, that the country had been seized by a gang of anti-Semitic thugs determined to bring about their destruction, that German Jews could be driven from their Heimat.  Yet that was exactly the case, and the far-seeing got out while there was time.

I wonder what I will do.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Return of the Saturday Morning Essay

Whereas, in days of yore, I used to write about politics, civil liberties, America's increasingly Orwellian intrusiveness, et cetera - I find, as I enter the Golden Years, that all of these pressing "issues" have been simplified by two unavoidable and undeniable developments.

The first of these is the entrenchment of the Oligarchy as our acknowledged form of republican government.  This fits within the paradigm, occasionally observed, that yesterday's conspiracy theory is today's conventional wisdom.  This has been happening my entire adult life.  The political speeches from the Steps of Sproul Hall, which were the soundtrack of my late adolescence, were filled with references to the "power structure," "corporate control," the "military-industrial complex," "imperial wars of aggression," "environmental degradation," all of which are now commonplace admissions about the way things are.  Noam Chomsky's analysis of tight corporate control over the media and its messages, creating what he called "manufactured consent" - well, everybody knows that now. There's nothing to argue about, and not much anybody can think of to do about it.  We tried electing Barack Obama, but he was swallowed whole by the system.  He was the perfect "angry black man" to elect - he wasn't at all angry, and he wasn't really even black, in the sense of emerging from prototypical American poverty, from the projects of Bedford-Stuyvesant or Newark.   He's just cool, and the system likes cool. Barack is not Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X.  People like that can't get elected because they're serious about change, or Change, and the Oligarchy derives its power and permanence from stasis, so that the periodic spasms of electoral enthusiasm and activity  don't knock things out of kilter.  When a system is set up to enrich its owners, and only to do that, you don't want revolutions, even electoral revolutions.  You want inconsequential incrementalism, and the quadrennial dog & pony show sponsored by the Duopoly, in which the Republicans play the mouth-breathing heavies (moronic, anti-scientific, the kind of pro wrestler who would wear a black hood with eye and mouth holes), and the Democrats play the Enlightenment darlings, and nothing ever changes.

So in November, 2016 we will elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States.  She has the right Brand, she has the name recognition, she's got the patter, but mainly she has the "D" associated with her famous name and she's a woman, and electing a woman is what's playing on TV.  Electing a President in America is like guessing the right answer on Final Jeopardy: it's always going to be the most obvious answer, and Hillary is the right answer, even though we may be unclear on the question. We have to remember that we live in a country where one-fourth of the adult population believes the Sun revolves around Earth.  I admit it sort of looks that way, but if you read anything published after the death of Copernicus in 1543, you'll discover that's not the case.  No one in this country reads anything, except you.

Thus, why think about politics? Allowing Hillary to be elected (by doing nothing, including not voting) will permit the continuity the Oligarchy needs, and if you find solace in that - well then, there you go.  Plus, I admit that the vitriol and hatred the conservative side displays where Hillary is concerned is fun to observe.  The power players in D.C. on the conservative side, I'm sure, don't really share this animosity, seeing Hillary as just another opportunistic careerist who's a little better at it than they are, but it's fun to stir up a din of cacaphonous denunciation among their dumb-cluck followers.

The other issue which greatly simplifies everything is Climate Change, which, where I live out near the California coast, has become an unavoidable day-to-day disturbance in the force field.  California was a kind of unique environmental experiment, when you take a long look at it.  Fundamentally (geographically and climatically), it's mostly a desert. There's no doubt about this where Southern California is concerned.  In the L.A. Basin, a heavy rain year used to be 15 inches, but we forget that San Francisco's long-term average was only 20 inches.  Those numbers denote an arid climate.  By themselves they do not support dry-farming.  California was turned, paradoxically enough, into a great agricultural region, by a kind of trick.  The massif of the Sierra Nevada along the eastern spine of the state forces the storm clouds riding the jet stream down from the Gulf of Alaska (or along the tropical route of the Pineapple Express) to flow upward, cool, and drop snow in the mountains.  This is the whole game; everything depends on that precipitation system working. When the snowpack is in place, the spring melt fills the rivers, the rivers fill the reservoirs, and the twin acqueducts, state and federal, ship the water around to the farmers and downstate to SoCal, where it can be used to - well, survive.  The Colorado River system is a Rocky Mountain variation on the same idea. Without snow the way you keep the farms of the Central and Imperial Valleys working is by relentless depletion of the acquifers - pumping out groundwater which will take forever to replenish.  So that the inland valleys, by satellite measurement, have now sunk a full foot below the elevations pre-Drought.  To get to the water in Lake Tahoe, filled with melted snow, now requires a hike from what used to be the shore line.  The lake is so low it has fallen "below its natural rim" and the Truckee River (which takes the overspill from the lake) is bone dry.

In reliance on the Snow System, 38 million people settled in California.  More than in all of Canada, many more (on the order of 150% larger) than in all of Australia.  The snow pack is at 8% of its long-term average, the lowest figure ever recorded.  California's water miseries place into high relief the dire implications of climate change.  It leaves us with a question which ought to (but does not) disturb the thinking of our incurious citizenry, the Booboisie of Mencken's derision.  This thought is: is the California Drought a short-term cyclical aberration in precipitation patterns which has gone on a little longer than other cyclical droughts of recent decades and which is exacerbated by population growth to the aforementioned 38 million from the 22 million (about the population of Australia!) the last time this happened, this badly, in the mid 1970's?  Or is it related to such meteorological trends as Arctic Amplification, jet stream and Rossby Wave perturbations, sea-surface temperature ( SST) aberrations in the Pacific (the "Blob" of recent reporting), which are not going away because this is the planet we now live on?

One would think, and one would be dead wrong, that such a question, affecting as it does the very viability of the State of California, would receive some measure of attention. It does not. The focus is instead, to the extent there is one, on global warming in general and "conservation."  Which increasingly will raise a different question: conservation of what, exactly?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday Evening Blog Post: Once More Unto the Breach

(Photo above of empty used American Airline 767 being flown by wire just before collision with the World Trade Center.)

On the other site, Waldenswimmer, I link to Dmitry Orlov's cluborlov.com.  For reasons I've explained, I am unable to de-link there because I use an outdated Google format. That's how long I've been wasting my time doing this.  I've seen a paradigm come and go.

Anyway, in his most recent Tuesday post I was surprised to see Dmitry go all-in on a series of conspiracy theories, including the 9-11 "Truther" stuff and, what is more particular to him, the Boston marathon "conspiracy," in which Dmitry basically contends that the massacre was staged by the government, or the Illuminati or some shadowy force, complete with Hollywood special effects (exploding "blood" bags), Photoshopped pictures of missing legs for those who were "supposedly" traumatically amputated, and many other fiendishly clever tricks and wiles designed to frame the Chechen brothers as terrorist bombers.

The 9-11 story was a little more familiar to me.  The twin towers and Building 7 of the World Trade Center were a false flag operation using decommissioned commercial airliners crashing (flown by wire) into buildings already rigged with demolition explosives.  Among Dmitry's arguments in support of this thesis is the following:

"But most of the time a parallel universe pops into existence when things get twisted in impressively brazen and shameless ways. A lot of people start with 9/11. The twin towers collapsed because they were hit by jet airliners because, you see, kerosene melts steel. Was it special, magic kerosene, and were the buildings were [sic] made of special, magic steel? Maybe that's why since then skyscrapers can't be insured against fire any more. Previously it was thought that skyscrapers can't collapse due to fire because they are made of steel, and a hydrocarbon-based fire isn't hot enough to melt steel."

That's true: a jet fuel (kerosene) fire, combusted with ordinary air, is not hot enough to melt the steel superstructure of a skyscraper. So if the twin towers collapsed because of collisions followed by fires, they did not do so because steel girders and spanning joists within the buildings melted.  Following this logic out: the twin towers (which did collapse because jet airliners flew into them, disintegrated and spilled kersone into the interior which caught fire and burned),  did not collapse because of "melted" steel superstructure.

Yeah, and so what?  Who said they did?  The MIT Civil Engineering Department (co-conspirators in the most successful coverup in world history) published an analysis of the catastrophic failure of the twin towers and Building 7 about a month after 9-11.  They dealt with this issue concisely and logically in their report.  They pointed out a couple of things.  The twin towers were the first skyscrapers in history to be hit by large commercial airliners fully loaded with fuel traveling at 500 miles per hour on impact.  The steel did not "melt," but the heat is sufficient to soften the steel members of the superstructure and contribute to buckling.  The design of the twin towers was such that damage to the outer columns (on impact of the jets), coupled with the lightweight construction of the interior spanning joists (which weakened with intense heat, on the order of 1000 degrees F) set them up for just the kind of "pancaking" catastrophic failure observed. That's a Cliff Notes version of a much longer analysis, but 9-11 Truther is not worth a point-by-point argument.

Mr. Orlov also brings up the "Magic Passport" argument.  It was found outside World Trade Center 2 by a pedestrian and turned over to the police.  It belonged to one of the hijackers.  Dmitry snarks:

"The perpetrators' identity was found out thanks to a passport found at the World Trade Center site. It was a magic passport; unlike the steel girders of the twin towers, a kerosene fireball could not even singe it."

Isn't this best explained by Newton's  law of inertia:  "An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force."  So wouldn't a hijacker near the front of a jet liner have a tendency to continue flying forward at 500 miles per hour as he exited the airplane in its direction of travel, and wouldn't he decelerate and disintegrate as he collided with the wreckage of the plane, the interior of the building and the windows of the tower? And couldn't a passport carried in a pocket be ejected from his disintegrating person and flutter to the streets of Manhattan far below before the explosion had a chance to "singe" it?  Do drivers of cars with seat belts unbuckled ever get ejected through windshields when they smash into a solid object, like a stopped car, at high rates of speed, even at speeds under 500 miles per hour?

I think so.  Lots of stuff from the airplanes was found on the streets below: body parts, seat cushions, etc.  They were obeying Newton's law of inertia.  They weren't burned, either.  So add "magic seat cushion" and "magic body parts" (some of which were probably recycled for use in the Boston Marathon bombing hoax) to the list of conspiracy paraphernalia.

But the main reason the 9-11 Truther Conspiracy is wrong is that it's just batshit crazy.  It's irritating to go through any kind of itemized refutation.  I wrote one comment on Cluborlov, which did not get published: "Ted Olson must be thrilled to know his wife Barbara Olson is still alive." The Official Story is that she died in the airplane that crashed outside the Pentagon, after spending her last minutes in a telephone conversation with her husband (the former Solicitor General), who told her what had happened in New York and what probably awaited her.  Ted's willingness to go along with the Conspiracy, and to keep his wife in hiding (although she had been a prominent television news commentator) for over 13 years is maybe the most surprising part of the cover story. Word has it she's in a support group with Elvis and a very elderly JFK.

I think I'll write about this again, because I want to say something about the true downside of this dumb Truther nonsense; that is, the extent to which it tends to hide serious questions about the 9-11 aftermath which were subject to official manipulation, and how that manipulation tends to be enabled and potentiated by prominent conspiracy theorists parading around in T-shirts emblazoned:  I'm Not Serious And I'll Believe Anthing.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Saturday Morning Travesty: The Devil & His Agents-in-Place

It's important to make clear that while I believe the argument that Antonio Scalia is the proximate cause of the impending extinction of the human race is compelling and nigh unto airtight, this does not mean that I think Antonio (I use the pet name W bestowed upon this Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court) has acted as a witting co-conspirator with Old Scratch.  Rather, I think that the "wily" (see below) Satan, who used to do obvious things like possess people and make crazy pigs run over cliffs, now works his evil through Faustian bargains with American conservative politicians and other public figures who are not smart enough to realize where Satan is going with this.

You will note in the exchange below (from the New York Magazine interview with Antonio) that Scalia comes off like a senile idiot; note the complete non sequitur in Scalia's explanation "for why there's not demonic possession all over the place."  It doesn't follow at all from the premise (this is also characteristic of Scalia's legal arguments).  Scalia notes that the Devil used to be "all over the New Testament" but he's hard to find now.  Of course, the events described in the Bible occurred during the Iron Age, and the world (with the notable exception of Antonio himself) has moved on from that.


Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.
What happened to him?
He just got wilier.
He got wilier.
Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.


It was certainly a lucky break (although I doubt that Satan believes in luck - you make your own luck, in his book) that a Catholic, Opus Dei blockhead was the leading "intellectual" on the Supreme Court when the time came for the Devil to put his master plan in motion.  Come to think of it, I take it all back.  To put Scalia in place, Satan had to put Ronald Reagan in place, because Antonio's been on the high bench since 1986.  Lucifer plays a long game - chess, while American politics plays checkers.

Brilliant.  I've lost my train of thought.  The Devil can do that to you.

America's the perfect theater of operations for Luciferian machinations.  You can get leverage here, because whatever evil takes hold in America (Wal-Mart, Starbucks, American Motors Pacer) tends to go international.  Our junk culture metastasizes rapidly through the world.

But what's the Devil's end game, so to speak?  Well, in the first place, he just likes doing evil shit.  It's not a lot more complicated than that.  However, like all sentient fallen angels, the Devil is interested, first and foremost, in self-preservation, and you can understand, with the talk of the Rapture reaching a fever pitch in recent decades, that Satan might be a little concerned that the hour of his comeuppance, when he gets his unholy ass kicked during Armageddon, is at hand.  The Left Behind books probably got a little ahead of things, but the Devil can read, and he knows what's in Matthew 24: 32-34:

"[32] Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: [33] So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. [34] Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

Obviously, Jesus is talking here about 1988.  The "fig tree" is Israel, and it was dormant before...1948, when it came back to life.  A generation back in Biblical times was about 40 years.  I trust I don't have to spell this out any further.  We're obviously in Overtime now, and Old Scratch is not going to take any chances about going into Double Overtime starting in 2028.

While the Holy Trinity are all in on the Revelation-style Apocalypse, the Devil is working two angles, nuclear war and global warming.  His thinking is that he can throw a monkey wrench into the End Times if everyone is already dead when Jesus shows up for the Millenium.  It's not supposed to happen that way.  No doubt this is one of the chief sources of anti-science bias among the Evangelicals.  Man can't finish himself off; that's God's job.

Satan, of course, has absolutely no doubt about the reality of global warming.  His clever, counter-intuitive trick (because he's so "wily") is to work through anti-science morons in the United States, and fortunately for him, these are in plentiful supply, particularly among Republicans in Washington, D.C.  I think the Devil has to pinch himself to make sure he's not dreaming when he reflects that Senator James Inhofe (Imbecile, OK), heads up the chief Science Committee, that Marco Rubio of Florida ("I'm not a scientist, man," Rubio said when asked his views on climate change) is a rising star, that the entire party, top to bottom, is an unbroken line of lunkheads.  What a target-rich environment for the Prince of Darkness.  You could say it's almost too easy, but then look Who the Devil's up against.

God invented global warming.  He set the angles on the molecular bonds of the greenhouse gases that capture infra-red radiation (which He also invented).  There are no Denialists in Heaven or Hell.  Only God's most prized creation, Man, can pull that one off, and that's because of the gift of Free Will, which includes the freedom to be a moron.

The auguries are not totally bad for the Devil, but he's running out of time.  Giant methane bubbles are at last blooping up from the submerged tundra in the Arctic Sea, the polar ice caps are on their way out, and the majority party in Washington is doing everything it can to help that process, and the Devil, along.  But will it happen in time, that is, pre-Trumpet?

Satan's hole card is The Bomb, and here the inexplicable belligerence of the U.S.A. toward nuclear-bristling Russia could still save the Devil's bacon.  Satan's wily approach is to advance on all fronts at once, aided and abetted by his many dumb-as-a-box-of-hammers allies.  Stay alert.  These End Times, no matter Who wins, are really going to be something.