No One Gets Out Alive


There’s a wonderful feeling that comes with stepping outside into the cool of the evening after a hot day. There are a lot of little things that go toward making life pleasant if a person has been lucky in their circumstances. Living past middle age into one’s sixties and seventies is a great blessing, and while there may be pain associated with such longevity, most people would accept the trade-off. Asking for more life is almost too much. There are others waiting.

Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit
β€œInto the Jaws of Death”. United States soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division wade ashore on Omaha Beach, France, on the morning of June 6, 1944. During the initial landings on D-Day, as many as two thirds of the soldiers in some infantry companies became casualties. Photo by Coast Guard Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent.

In the Native American cultures of North America, everything is living and everything eventually returns into the cycle of life when it dies, including people. In Old World cultures, and particularly those of Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, almost everything is regarded as dead or inert, and when people die their passing has finality. No one in either culture knows for certain what happens after death, but it seems evident to some people that in a living world where a person is one part joining a river flowing to the sea, there is less terror in death, and more an acceptance of it as a metamorphosis into another part of life.
β€” Izzy


It Hurts to Laugh


“Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
― Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army, addressing Senator Joseph McCarthy on June 9, 1954, at the Army-McCarthy hearings.


The new White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, has been in office only one week and has already demonstrated his incompetence, stupidity, and villainy. He could stand in at this point for the entire administration, and for that reason alone he will turn out to have been the perfect choice as front man. The assorted crooks, con men and women, and dastardly back-stabbers making up this administration would be comical if they weren’t capable of doing such great damage in this country and the rest of the world. The best thing that can come of this, short of seeing the lot of them in jail before too long, is a peaceful retreat from the world stage and empire. Let’s hope it’s the quiet retirement of an American people who have come to their senses.
― Ed.
Stamp US 1960 4c Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts 50th Jubilee stamp, with art by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978). The current president of the country addressed the Boy Scouts at their annual Jamboree on Monday, July 24, with a partisan political speech which sullied the standards of the Boy Scouts and brought them down to his level.

In this May 12, 1955 episode of the television quiz show You Bet Your Life, host Groucho Marx does his best to draw humor from an interview with an odd, unsettling contestant.


A 50 Percent Chance of Stupidity


Last week, upon returning from Europe and announcing that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, Supreme Leader was supposed to have remarked to his companions over lunch after yet another weekend round of golf, “They can’t even get the weather report right, so how come they think they can get that right?” He was conflating weather with climate, a common mistake for laymen, but an unfathomable lapse for someone who has the best science at his fingertips, if only he had an interest in tapping it.

Stupidity may not account entirely for Supreme Leader’s climate change denial, nor for that of his core supporters or other conservatives, for denial of climate change does appear to be a trait of conservatives. Cupidity plays a part, in that the fossil fuel industry, a primary contributer to global warming, does all it can to deny it and thereby preserve its profits, much like the tobacco industry fought against cancer research. Until a recent study showed otherwise, people may have thought ignorance of the facts determined the stance of deniers. The study showed instead that deniers had as much access to the facts as anyone else, but they make the facts fit their predispositions on the issue, a trick which they can accomplish more easily with a long term problem like climate change. The effects of climate change are unfolding over a period expected to last well over a lifetime, into the lives of children and grandchildren, unlike the effects of smoking, which could be felt within a single lifetime.

Biloxi Blues, a 1988 film adapted by Neil Simon from his play, and directed by Mike Nichols, is a semi-autobiographical reminiscence of Simon’s Army days during World War II. In this scene, Christopher Walken as the drill sergeant uses the recruit played by Matthew Broderick to make a point to the platoon that they are all in this together, and an action or failure to act by any one of them affects them all. Warning: foul language.

The problem comes with the understanding that a flexible view of the facts does not change the facts, it only delays grappling with the inevitable. We may tell ourselves that the Chinese have perpetrated global warming as a hoax in order to subvert America’s competitive advantage, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it’s getting hotter, and that Americans are contributing more than their fair share to the problem while contributing less than their fair share to the solution. If we like, we may puff away like chimneys in order to keep pace with the Chinese, and then we can all collapse together, wheezing and clutching our chests, our insides poisoned.

That is not an entirely accurate analogy for the effects of climate change, however, which are longer term and more widespread than one individual’s smoking habit. And that is what makes it hard for some people to acknowledge, making it a failure of imagination. If they won’t accept on their own account that it’s getting hotter now, maybe they will accept that unless they pitch in to help solve the problem, or at least stop obstructing progress, then their children and grandchildren will feel the heat to a degree that there’s no denying. Until climate change deniers reach that acceptance, everyone else has to do what they can to stall global warming without any further delay. If the Ignoramus-in-Chief won’t lead on the issue, then it’s up to everyone else, starting with the states, to act on it and steer around the obstacles.
― Izzy

Titanic iceberg
The iceberg suspected of having sunk the RMS Titanic. This iceberg was photographed by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert on the morning of April 15, 1912, just a few miles south of where the Titanic went down. The steward hadn’t yet heard about the Titanic. What caught his attention was the smear of red paint along the base of the berg, an indication it had collided with a ship sometime in the previous twelve hours. This photo and information was taken from Unsinkable: The Full Story of RMS Titanic, written by Daniel Allen Butler, Stackpole Books 1998. Climate change deniers see an iceberg and say there is no global warming because there is still ice; others see an iceberg floating free in the shipping lanes and say “Watch out!” The crew of the Titanic, of course, didn’t see the iceberg at all.


Walk the Walk


In Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 movie Full Metal Jacket, two marines engage in an ironic “John Wayne” face-off. Wayne’s chickenhawkish stances were well-known and widely held in contempt by combat veterans from World War II to Vietnam. Warning: foul language.


America’s wars continue with no end in sight, from one presidential administration to the next. One proposal to curtail the corporate oligarchy’s military adventurism is to bring back the military draft or to institute Universal National Service, the idea being that if a greater percentage of the population has a personal stake in foreign policy then they will be more likely to make their preferences known to their leaders, and people with a personal stake are less likely to want more war. The oligarchy knows this, too, as it’s a lesson they learned from an aroused public during the Vietnam War and are unlikely to want repeated if the public reawakens.


Since the draft ended in 1973, the per capita percentage of the population serving in the military has steadily declined, while the number of American military interventions overseas has drastically increased. Linking the two trends could be coincidental, but it’s worth considering that in the 40 years from 1933 to 1973, in most of which there was a draft, the US sent the military abroad on 27 occasions, and in the 40 years from 1974 to 2014 the US sent the military on 175 different foreign interventions. Has the world really become 6.5 times more dangerous since 1973? Or is it that the US has taken on in earnest the burden and profits of empire and the role of world policeman, putting out small fires everywhere, many times at the behest of corporate interests?

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

― Marine Major General (Retired) Smedley Butler, writing in the
Socialist newspaper Common Sense in 1935.


The 1994 Robert Zemeckis movie Forrest Gump is an excellent portrayal of the diversity of experience awaiting Vietnam era draftees, though of course most of them did not want to be there. Warning: foul language.
The majority of Americans catch the news about these numerous foreign conflicts as they go about their daily business, and because they don’t know anyone in the military and didn’t serve themselves, the news pretty much goes in one ear and out the other. Who can get agitated or even interested about what’s happening in Kosovo or Libya or Yemen or the Horn of Africa, wherever that is? Afghanistan and Iraq, oh yeah, are those still dragging on? Are we going into Syria now, too? And so these busy Americans go on with their lives, paying their taxes and going shopping, surprised to learn that when the US deploys Predator drones to these foreign hot spots, the controllers of the deadly drones sit in air-conditioned trailers halfway around the world in Nevada or Germany. It’s the New Age, alright, a deadly video game.


Or so we might choose to believe. As technocratic and bloodless as the military brass and the politicians may try to make modern war seem in order to make it more palatable for the general public, it will always nevertheless be a nasty mess both physically and morally. They don’t want to show that part, though; they learned that lesson from Vietnam as well. Rah-rah Hollywood movies are not the answer to getting Americans to come to terms with their current situation in world politics. Far from it. There are far too many chickenhawks making movies in Hollywood and making policy in Washington to serve anything but the basest emotions of too many Americans, the “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” among them, who are stirred to cheer movies glorifying war and the macho posturing of Supreme Leader. As long as they reflexively say “Thank you for your service” to a service member or veteran when they encounter one, they’re covered. Aren’t they?
― Ed.

An early scene in Full Metal Jacket depicts Marine boot camp in a less lighthearted vein than the boot camp of Forrest Gump. Some of that can be attributed to the differences between the Marines and the Army, and some to the aims of the two films. Nonetheless, some of the drill sergeant’s insults will ring bells in the dark sense of humor shared by many veterans, an emotion Kubrick effectively turns inside out at the end of the scene. Warning: foul language, of course.