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View from the Edge

Peter Riva of Gila has offered his many years of columns for this online newspaper. His writings have been published in East Coast newspapers, and he decided to share them with the Beat and you, our readers.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres Global, is hardly ever heard from. He’s a bureaucrat and quite a calm individual.  That’s why it was somewhat of a surprise, mid-summer, to have him issue a global threat warning. For months he has been gathering data and input from offices of the UN in almost every country. And, because the UN’s Environment Programme has scientist friends in the USA government (even if those same scientists are now gagged by this Administration’s efforts to roll back any climate regulations) he was able to get real USA data from NASA and NOAA and otherwise silenced EPA scientists to confirm his fears and other countries’ data and worries.

Most Americans may not know what the Skunk Works are. A division of Lockheed set up after WWII, headed by the genius Kelly Johnson, the Skunk Works was named after the comic strip, "Li'l Abner," in which there was a running joke about a mysterious and malodorous place deep in the forest called the "Skonk Works."

At a 1969 gathering at NASA Hq. in DC two weeks before the launch of Apollo 11, dignitaries met to celebrate the impending historic event that George Bush Sr. would later call the greatest advancement of science since DaVinci’s journals. At the gathering was Arthur C. Clarke (he of the geosynchronous orbit invention and Sci-Fi book fame) and Brian Duff, the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for NASA. Arthur told me this story that Brian Duff later confirmed when he was PAO at the Air & Space Museum for an opening of never-before seen space images I held there in 1985 called “Sightseeing.”

Some reading this will remember when Berlin was a divided city. The western sector, part of free Germany was surrounded by the GDR or communist Germany controlled as part of the USSR. The industry around West Berlin burned coal, oil and, generally, polluted the air and water. West Berliners were trapped. Their main park, the Tiergarten, had the Berlin Wall running partway through it and what was left had Hitler’s bunker and other WWII constructions ruining its pastoral splendor.

Imagine if that car you bought was over 3 years old and you went to the dealer and they told you, “We no longer will service that model, it is too old, you should upgrade to a newer model.” And what if they then frog marched you over to the newer models and told you that unless you bought one of them, you’d have no car to drive any moment now? Where would your loyalty be to that car manufacturer? Out the window.

Speaking of Windows... It’s even worse than that. And in case all you Apple people are chuckling, think again. All new Apple software is built on Unix (which was a derivative of the original government-paid for IBM DOS software that Microsoft and others freely re-branded as theirs). The loopholes, backdoors and patches to Unix make a hand-sewn quilt look like child’s play.

Gustave Gilbert, an intelligence officer at the end of WWII, interviewed on-trial (Nurnberg Trials) Hermann Goering. The Reichsmarschall and Gilbert had long, uninterrupted conversations, recorded in Gilbert’s journals, meticulously kept. The trial was not going in the Reichsmarschall’s favor. Here are Gilbert’s recorded observations. They warrant thinking about, deeply and clearly, especially with tensions rising around the world to which Congress seems no longer to have any oversight nor control of USA leaders’ response.

As de Tocqueville pointed out over 160 years ago, US lawyers have risen to take the place of the older form of societal control: that of the aristocracy. They share habits, tastes and—he pointed out—they share the aristocracies’ “contempt for popular opinion.” He felt, and this has been borne out since, that lawyers and their control and interpretation of the law, form a counter-argument for the intentions embedded in the Constitution.

As de Tocqueville pointed out over 160 years ago, US lawyers have risen to take the place of the older form of societal control: that of the aristocracy. They share habits, tastes and—he pointed out—they share the aristocracies’ “contempt for popular opinion.” He felt, and this has been borne out since, that lawyers and their control and interpretation of the law, form a counter-argument for the intentions embedded in the Constitution.

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