Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Affliction, flowering reality, Cuban missile crisis, decline of civilization

 "Affliction is able to drown out every earthly voice.....but the voice of eternity within a man it cannot drown." (Søren Kierkegaard, Christian Discourses). I was pondering this statement by Kierkegaard again for several days, being ill and unable to continue my usual work researching and writing in whatever area I happened to have become interested. I should note that Kierkegaard elaborated in  Christian Discourses that affliction does not bestow hope, but it recruits hope in a man, precisely because "affliction prevents him mercilessly from obtaining any other help or relief whatsoever; affliction compels him mercilessly to let go of everything else" (from the Walter Lowrie translation of Discourses, quoted in the my oft-read text of The Choice is Always Ours anthology, edited by Phillips, Howes, Nixon, Smith).

That research lately has been more or less the relation of charge and voltage seen at the input gate of metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors or MOSFETs. Specifically I have been simulating such circuits in SPICE and designing methods to measure that capacitance dynamically, i.e., when driven by similar process complementary MOS (CMOS) logic gates at the appropriate voltages, rise times and frequencies. It is not that this is a new subject, just one that is often unfamiliar to electrical engineering students, a question posted in an online forum having caught my eye.  

Affliction certainly drowned out my ability to work, it being impossible to think at a high level with exhaustion, headache and cough. No, don't think it was one of the current popular pestilences circulating in the overcrowded bipedal zoo that is Earth in the 21st century, because I have numerous vaccinations and avoid leaving my home unless forced to forage for provisions (and wear a bandana over bearded face, in best Lone Ranger style, gasping and panting through the cloth as I race through the store, hanging on my grocery cart with my walking cane inside). This sickness was (I use the past tense as I write now, being worn out but apparently recovering) likely one of my own damnations, of which I have accumulated many traveling the thousands of miles of bad road that has been much of my life, metaphorically speaking. 

Inadvertently inhaling (aspiration) an allergy pill a few weeks ago doesn't help. The pill is apparently consolidated, since it only bothers me when there is general system inflammatory activity. My late father-in-law used to do bronchoscopies. He told me he once removed part of a jalapeno pepper from a lady's bronchial tubes. That must have been more irritating to the patient than a smooth little pill 4 mm or so in long dimension is to me. In any case, no way would I go to a local hospital. There are a few good people at both local facilities, but the incompetent and/or malevolent scum dominate (this being a microcosm of the host decaying civilization). I lost my orthopedic surgeon in 2019 after he made the mistake of going to a local hospital for a minor complaint (heartburn), though it is unclear how many bad actors or idiots in and out of the facilities contributed to his rapid demise. I had been looking for a doctor competent in orthopedic injuries a few years prior and had immediately scheduled an appointment with him when I saw he shared my praenomen and initials (I don't ignore signs in this waking dream that is human existence).     

Though in his 80's my doc had been a robust former fighter pilot and semi-retired surgeon before going to the hospital. After a couple of stays, during which I observed his rapid decline, he was dead by February 2019. Odd how synchronicity operates. He was the unsung Air Force pilot that nursed back the one recon fighter seriously damaged by anti-aircraft fire during the October Cuban missile crisis Fall 1962. He and the intelligence officer  onboard ditched just off Florida after he man-handled the damaged F100 (hydraulics out) back to just off-shore before having to eject in the drink Saturday, October 27 (1962). He injured his back in the ejection, ending his Air Force pilot career, but prompting him to attend medical school.

In late October 1962, President Kennedy had come to believe that only an invasion would accomplish removal of the medium range ballistic missiles in Cuba, but he was persuaded (by EXCOMM, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, which included Vice President Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara,  and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor among others.) to wait and continue with military and diplomatic pressure. In the meantime (October 25), Robert McNamara recommended establishing a pattern of aerial surveillance that looked like an air attack so that the Cubans and resident Soviet forces would be surprised if an actual air attack was eventually ordered. On October 26 Kennedy increased the frequency of low-level flights over the island from two per day to one every two hours.

NSA archives recorded that Cuban anti-aircraft gunners did not fire on the increasingly frequent low-level US reconnaissance planes until notice came in around 1541 hrs EDT that several Navy RF-8's had been fired on and that another plane had almost been brought down (that was my doc's F100). In the declassified US records I could access, there was no mention of the Air Force F100 fighters being used (we were apparently trying to maintain a non-provocative appearance with the United Nations, though it is hard to see what difference the opinion of the United Nations would make if the doomsday machine was set in motion), but a note (posted online) from a Soviet officer stationed in Cuba at the time records that "USAF tactical fighters F-100 and F-101 appeared in the sky above Cuba regularly...carrying out reconnaissance missions....We were ordered not to open fire..." After the U2 shoot-down earlier that day, the Soviet notes record that they were having difficulty persuading the Cubans to stop shooting at the American planes and that one aircraft was hit by a 37 mm anti-aircraft weapon but managed to limp back to its base (my doc's F100).

The President was apparently very angry about those events and Saturday evening sent his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to tell the Russian Ambassador Dobrynin that we had found our planes were being fired upon and that we were going to begin shooting back if we did not get some kind of commitment by Sunday to withdraw the missile bases. Kennedy added that there were going to be other drastic consequences as well, which according to notes from an EXCOMM meeting before he left, included a major air strike on Cuba Monday to take out the missile sites and MiG aircraft, among other targets.    

Though I found no mention of it in the declassified files, I personally knew that Strategic Air Command B-52 bombers armed with nuclear weapons were in a holding pattern over Alaska Saturday night just waiting for the final order. My dad, a member of the flight crew of one of those B-52s, had not told us anything directly before he left (nor in later years, he adhering rigidly to orders), but he had us purchase and fill large plastic water storage containers, stockpile canned food and obtain plenty of ammunition for the family rifles and shotguns. These preparations were absurd considering we were close enough to the SAC base that we could hear the other planes kept idling on the airstrip at all hours for rapid takeoff, i.e., the Soviet nukes that would target the base were extremely powerful and not all that accurate, so my home was going to be blown apart, incinerated, irradiated with gamma rays, etc (47 years later I and a fellow guitarist I had worked with in the mid-70's, who, unbeknownst to me in 1962, had lived a 5-minute walk away from my home then, wrote and recorded a rock song, "Last Martini," talking about how it was to grow up with the threat of nuclear annihilation, you can hear or download the song at iTunes or Amazon etc at Dalton Bentley music ).  Funny the memories of a child though. I recall it was cold outside when my dad returned Sunday. I enjoyed picking over the uneaten contents of his flight meal (in a plain white, light cardboard box similar to a shoe box) issued for the long hours in the air over Alaska. My dad's appetite was probably not good during that long flight, bobbing up and down in the tail-gunner position on the B-52. That position was an insult by the Air Force to him after he had resigned his commission in protest in the 1950s over superior's failure to support his demand that the B-47 he captained meet the pre-flight checklist. The Air Force subsequently lost many B-47 bombers in accidents without any having seen combat. The B-47 quietly disappeared, replaced by the magnificent B-52. My dad eventually found a home in the Army, flying close combat support in Huey gunships for the 101st Airborne in Viet Nam. He completed the tour with only a single ground fire hole in his HU-1B helicopter, though fire was heavy throughout and many choppers were lost (it was not unexpected that generals who wanted to inspect the combat area insisted he fly them, once his inexplicable knack for survival became known--the Force ran strong in my family).     

But returning to evil pills flying down my trachea, there is an ancient rabbinical tradition that thousands of unseen demons surround all humans, making the most of any opportunity to cause harm. That nicely "explains" how it was that I could suddenly have an involuntary sneezing paroxysm while the pill rested on my tongue as I reached for my water bottle with which to swallow it, the sudden inhalation making the pill disappear down my trachea without resistance, to my horror. I ran into a discussion of that tradition in one of the many audio books I have downloaded (from the great free site and listened to during periods of incapacity. I am not Hebrew as far as I know, though it has seemed to me at times that I might be a descendant of one of Yeshua's kin, a couple of millennia distant, based on the amount of hostility I've faced from the world (recall John Lennon singing, "the way things are going, they're going to crucify me"). 

At any rate, illness or misfortune generally can certainly snatch away one's complacency and leave you a naked singularity of raw Being. In a 2016 Lancet note, Richard Horton quotes André Gide's thoughts on the matter c. 1930 (I don't really know who Gide is), "... there are certain doors that only illness can open. There is a certain state of health that does not allow us to understand everything; and perhaps illness shuts us off from certain truths; but health shuts us off just as effectively from others, or turns us away from them so that we are not concerned with them. I have never met one of those who boast of never having been ill who was not, in some way or other, a bit stupid...Those who have never been ill are incapable of real sympathy for a great many misfortunes.” I was not overly enthusiastic about Horton's subsequent suggestion that perhaps the role of the doctor might be as much about bringing a patient to an acceptance of their condition, making a reinterpretation of their life in the new context, as it is to alleviate suffering. 

Horton provided another quote from Gide, to the effect that a man achieves nothing worthwhile without constraint. I would say rather that a man can achieve nothing without self-knowledge and self-restraint. That might include working courageously through disability or disease. I was technically disabled from the year (1968) one of my hips was destroyed in a motorcycle accident, but nonetheless trained rigorously in martial arts for many years and made a go of life without much complaint until recent years, having to restrain my anger when encountering the occasional young male in the medical profession with no knowledge of what it means to be a man, yet with an opinion on my existential status, but that is common these days whatever the area, i.e., there is widespread insolence. 

I hastily add (having referred to self-restraint above) that I exhibited little discipline in my early life. This is not uncommon even in the case of saints, e.g., St. Augustin. Aurelius Augustinus, b. 354 AD, was quite profligate in his youth and was fairly wretched with physical infirmity in his late years, while positioned to witness the fall of Rome; I do identify with him in many respects. My spirituality was sidelined for some time in preference for the pleasures of life, “a vision of youth spent in a dream,” to quote Kahlil Gibran in The Dying Man and the Vulture...slipping in and out of time, songs on oldies station send me back to late night drives across the desert from Alamogordo, NM to El Paso, TX, returning from playing rock and roll at the officer's club at the AFB, my girl's head in my lap, she asleep, the cool late night air in my face from the open window in the car, "My Cheri Amor, lovely as a summer day" sings Stevie Wonder.

That relatively wild life (I recall decades ago an acquaintance's tat, "La Vida Loco," translating as "the crazy life") left me with physical and psychical disabilities as a relatively young man that made even harder my persistent struggle against a world (of man, loosely speaking) which in large part opposed me (which assures me I am on the right side as it were). The battle continues, but I am now descending the hill I spent years fighting to climb, paraphrasing George Washington's words in a December 8, 1784 in a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette. 

It occurs to most people, reflecting on the details of their lives later on, that everything that has happened seems to have been mapped out, the human beings appearing on the scene as mere performers in a play, their lives more like a systematically planned novel than a sequence of random or individually (human) intended events (paraphrasing from an 1851 essay on transcendent fatalism by Arthur Schopenhauer). In that essay, Schopenhauer returns to the dilemma of accident vs necessity, giving the usual philosophical definition of accidental as concurrence in time of that which is not causally connected, then being forced (by his belief in the mechanical physics of the time) to admit that even the most apparently accidental is merely a necessary result of a more distant causal chain. Noting that the causal chains of individual lives are interrelated, he says that:

. . . the subject of the great dream of life is in a certain sense only one thing, the will-to-live, and all plurality of phenomena is conditioned by time and space. It is the great dream that is dreamed by one entity, but in such a way that all its persons dream it together.

Some physicists (e.g., the late Stephen Hawking, writing in his Brief History of Time) hold the view that the “universe from beginning to end simply is,” a crystallized time-space causal entity (my phrasing). If you reduce our normal experience of space in three dimensions to only two, length and width say, then you could imagine space-time as a monstrous loaf of bread where one end is the beginning of time and the other the end of time and each slice is a snapshot of space in the Universe at a particular moment (Einstein's Relativity tells us that you can slice that loaf at different angles as it were and reverse causality, but we won't get into that here). 

Lee Smolin (a theoretical physicist who bucks the party line in observing that string theory is not very appealing, considering that it makes no predictions that can be tested and explains nothing) writes in his 2013 "Temporal naturalism" paper that "the physicists’ block universe (the monster loaf I mentioned) assumes that the universe’s history is the result of deterministic and immutable laws acting on initial conditions . . . nothing can ever be truly novel because any observable measuring a property of the universe at a future time can be expressed as a function of observables at any earlier time, by inverting the equations of motion.” He adds though, reversible equations notwithstanding, that we experience the world through moments and remember the past, but not the future. 

I would have to protest that many of us know that humans can in fact remember the future as it were. "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards," as the White Queen remarked to Alice in Through the Looking-Glass. In a 2010 paper, Feeling the Future, psychologist and experimenter Daryl Bem quoted the White Queen, making the paper more entertaining, though presenting the results of rigorously conducted experiments in retroactive cognition. Bem's paper so enraged the academic establishment, that part of it falling to the left on mathematician Kurt Gödel's 1961 ("modern development of the foundations of mathematics in the light of philosophy," Kurt Gödel, Collected Works, Volume III (1961) publ. Oxford University Press, 1981) scale of Weltanschauungen or world-views, i.e., skeptics, materialists, positivists (I fall to the right on that scale, in company with spiritualism, idealism and theology, though I have been employed in electronic and software engineering and self-published modest work in physics and mathematics), that it set off a movement to revise the notion of statistical significance and to demand the incorporation of Bayesian statistical methods. My opinion of Bayesian statistics is that it basically permit a hostile reviewer to arbitrarily reduce the published statistical significance of experiments based on his level of disbelief. This outcome is nicely consistent with the philosophy of the politically correct anti-Western civilization crowd that has quietly taken over our universities. Even before the literal acquisition of control over the educational system, the underlying movement (Zeitgeist or spirit of the time) was well-described by Gödel':

...skepticism (left on the scale I discussed above) is certainly a pessimism with regard to knowledge. Moreover, materialism is inclined to regard the world as an unordered and therefore meaningless heap of atoms...Now it is a familiar fact, even a platitude, that the development of philosophy since the Renaissance has by and large gone from right to left (on the world-view scale) Particularly in physics, this development has reached a peak in our own time, in that, to a large extent, the possibility of knowledge of the objectivisable states of affairs is denied, and it is asserted that we must be content to predict results of observations. This is really the end of all theoretical science in the usual sense (although this predicting can be completely sufficient for practical purposes such as making television sets or atom bombs)...[but] In fact, one has examples where, even without the application of a systematic and conscious procedure, but entirely by itself, a considerable further development takes place in the second direction (to the right on the world-view scale), one that transcends "common sense". Namely, it turns out that in the systematic establishment of the axioms of mathematics, new axioms, which do not follow by formal logic from those previously established, again and again become is just this becoming evident of more and more new axioms on the basis of the meaning of the primitive notions that a machine cannot imitate.

You can find (online) plenty of objections to what Gödel said (mathematicians, however, generally recognize Gödel as near the stature of Aristotle in the history of mathematics) as far as the limitations of machines, but you should notice that they are by either folks who have no actual working knowledge of computers, software, electronics, mathematics or physics, or those who are barkers  trying sell you some intellectual patent-medicine that helps maintain their academic department and job (think "Artificial Intelligence," existence as simulation, etc.).

Some the quantum physics folk (Everett 1957) suggest every moment results in the unfolding of an infinity of possible realities in multiple worlds, taking on all possible values for the hypothetical wave-function for the universe. You might envision this as a sequence of instantaneous blossoming of fractal flowers whose intricate structure models every possible path forward through space-time from the present moment--one of those paths includes the you that is reading this line, in another path perhaps you are annihilated by an unexpected meteor strike on Earth before you can continue. I don't see much utility in that view (many worlds), other than to satisfy those who are more interested in the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics (in saving the notion of the primacy of the wave function, but mathematician Roger Penrose, 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for work with the theory of black holes, for one, believes that present quantum mechanics must be improved to present a coherent ontology, and he is not speaking of philosophical issues) than simply using it to make things like transistors and lasers work. I do have some familiarity with quantum mechanics, having occupied myself 2016-2018 in determining for myself in detail why solar electron neutrinos are detected, or not detected more accurately, as other flavors at Earth; if you have some interest in the physics of neutrinos (or seeing quantum mechanics applied in a relatively accessible style rather than talked about), see my papers at my site Bentley Physics Papers.  

So, recovering, I will return to my intellectual pursuits and technical writing and attempt to ignore what is happening to the world. Heroes continue to sound the alarm. Frances Haugen (former Facebook software engineer) warns Congress and America that Facebook intentionally feeds the increasingly childlike American population material designed to stoke their rage and willingness to burn down the house as it were (to vote for an idiot and a fraud with dreams of autocracy and throw away the gift of freedom designed and given to them 200 years ago by intellectuals of high integrity like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who, I note, did not rely on a diverse population and the ideas of the crowd, but rather tapped the transcendental truths of Western civilization). The response of the media? They breathlessly report that Facebook must "become more transparent" and "stop making obese teenage girls feel bad about their body image." The fact that America is teetering literally on the edge of collapse in 2024 seems less important. I don't think America will survive long enough as a democracy for it to matter, but within a few years deepfake video and audio simulations will serve up on their Facebook feeds any hated person saying or doing anything desired (to assassinate by slander, cf St. Francis de Sales characterization of slander as a kind of murder.) for these same masses that now go red-faced and fall in the floor spitting, screaming and stamping their feet in reaction to a carefully constructed text or photograph.    

The brilliant National Security analyst Fiona Hill (an expert on how Vladimir Putin exploited the discontent of the Russian public to take power in the 90's and how Putin manipulated the public in the US via social media in 2016 to give Trump the election) continues to warn (beginning with her testimony at the 2019 impeachment of Trump) that Trump still wants to establish a dictatorship and that the American public is primed and already exhibiting violence to those perceived as the enemies of this new order (a confederacy of fools I would suggest, democracy only works when there is a homogeneous population of high intelligence and character, otherwise it is quite literally rule by the lowest common denominator). Judy Woodruff, hearing this from Hill in a live interview on PBS, clucks benignly, "well you sure have given us something to think about." I like Judy, but sometimes you really need to exhibit some fear and moral outrage, even if the issue is not directly related or confined to non-white, non-heterosexual, non-male, non-atheist, non-Christian groups and you can't find a way to offer a false equivalence to something the progressives are doing. It is painful to witness the increasingly strident pleas for donations by PBS and increasing replacement of their former high-quality programming with Hispanic junk (yes, it is clear that I am an elitist; it is madness to tell the masses that they should celebrate diversity rather than excellence wherever it may occur, if it contributes to the elevation of a civilization, not the apartness of a subgroup, America having originally been conceived as a noble experiment in how many might come together as one, of course, it is ok to notice who can actually play basketball better than most men, who can sing better, though the latter is conditioned somewhat on the context, you get the drift, i.e., you are allowed to compete normally in areas other than those most important to civilization) in a desperate effort to buy their support---the pc mindset quickly hits a brick wall when they encounter the actual behavior of another racial or ethnic group (other than the villified whites who have given them shelter and civilization) with increasing numbers, i.e., what anyone knows who has actually lived in other race environments is that every group prefers their own people, their own customs, their own language, particularly when the perverted immigration system and educational system tells them there is no reason to actually learn how to be an American, to speak English, to learn American history and the underpinnings in Western civilization.

Adam Schiff (Chairman of House Select Committee on Intelligence, prosecuted the 2019 impeachment) joins Judy on PBS for an interview and answers Judy point-blank that "yes, there is an increasing risk that the US is going to collapse into autocracy." In Judy's favor, I must admit that she did not smile and utter a benign response here, rather a weak, "what can we do?" Schiff offers basically, "I don't really know, other than try to advocate for ntegrity and honor in elected officials and those you support for election at all levels, state and federal." Schiff noted what I warned of nine months ago (in personal communication with someone I thought might be in a position to help), i.e., that the Republican radical groups are busily replacing every state official that refused to act dishonorably and against their constitutional duty in the 2020 election for president with their own ringers who will act differently on the next occasion (the convenient quality of true trash is that they indeed have no shame, recalling how McCarthy was stopped in the 50's--that question would fall on deaf ears today).

I will leave you with some words written by Aldous Huxley in 1946 (in The Perennial Philosophy):

...human beings do not, on any level of their being, live in harmony with ...the divine Nature of Things...They love to intensify their selfhood through gluttony, therefore eat the wrong food and too much of it; they inflict upon themselves chronic anxiety over money and, because they crave excitement, chronic over-stimulation; they suffer, during their working hours, from the chronic boredom and frustration imposed by the sort of jobs that have to be done in order to satisfy the artificially stimulated demand for the fruits of fully mechanized mass-production....a disordered society, professional group or family, living by a false philosophy, influences its members to assert their individual selfhood and separateness...

[M]ost human beings are chronically in an improper relation to God, Nature and some at least of their fellows. The results of these wrong relationships are manifest on the social level as wars, revolutions, exploitation and disorder; on the natural level, as waste and exhaustion of irreplaceable resources; on the biological level, as degenerative diseases and the deterioration of racial stocks ; on the moral an overweening bumptiousness; and on the spiritual level, as blindness to divine Reality and complete ignorance of the reason and purpose of human existence.

In such circumstances it would be extraordinary if the innocent and righteous did not suffer . . . [belonging] to a society which other individuals, his contemporaries and predecessors, have built up into a vast and enduring incarnation of disorder, inflicting suffering upon its members and infecting them with its own ignorance and wickedness. The righteous man can escape suffering only by accepting it and passing beyond it . . . 

Good night, and good luck.