Catch 22: Loyalty Oaths

catch22

This is an excerpt from Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel “Catch 22”.

Catch 22 is probably my favorite novel of all time, I have bought it at least 5 times and read it many times more than that. Catch 22 is one of those rare books that you can open at any page and just start reading, it really doesn’t matter where you start so long as you read it all.

This is a an excerpt in which Heller satirizes the American passion for exaggerated public displays of patriotism. Heller is often subtle, but not here. He  lampoons ideological purity and faux patriotism with sledge hammer blows of unmitigated derision. He laughs openly at those sad people who gather reassurance from being surrounded by identical little clones.

The book was written half a century ago but never was a line more relevant to today’s fact free political discourse than: “You never heard him denying it until we began accusing him, did you?”

Read on and enjoy this excerpt from one of the greatest satirical novels ever written.

QUOTE

When fellow administrative officers expressed astonishment at Colonel Cathcart’s choice of Major Major, Captain Black muttered that there was something funny going on; when they speculated on the political value of Major Major’s resemblance to Henry Fonda, Captain Black asserted that Major Major really was Henry Fonda; and when they remarked that Major Major was somewhat odd, Captain Black announced that he was a Communist.

“They’re taking over everything,” he declared rebelliously. “Well, you fellows can stand around and let them if you want to, but I’m not going to. I’m going to do something about it. From now on I’m going to make every son of a bitch who comes to my intelligence tent sign a loyalty oath. And I’m not going to let that bastard Major Major sign one even if he wants to.”

Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discover himself spearheading it. He had really hit on something. All the enlisted men and officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath for Lieutenant Balkington, the motor vehicle officer, to be allowed to ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Every time they turned around there was another loyalty oath to be signed. They signed a loyalty oath to get their pay from the finance officer, to obtain their PX supplies, to have their hair cut by the Italian barbers. To Captain Black, every officer who supported his Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was a competitor, and he planned and plotted twenty-four hours a day to keep one step ahead. He would stand second to none in his devotion to country. When other officers had followed his urging and introduced loyalty oaths of their own, he went them one better by making every son of a bitch who came to his intelligence tent sign two loyalty oaths, then three, then four; then he introduced the pledge of allegiance, and after that “The Star-Spangled Banner,” one chorus, two choruses, three choruses, four choruses. Each time Captain Black forged ahead of his competitors, he swung upon them scornfully for their failure to follow his example. Each time they followed his example, he retreated with concern and racked his brain for some new stratagem that would enable him to turn upon them scornfully again.

Without realizing how it had come about, the combat men in the squadron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long by one after the other. When they voiced objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that people who really did owe allegiance to their country would be proud to pledge it as often as he forced them to. And to anyone who questioned the morality, he replied that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was the greatest piece of music ever composed. The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.

“The important thing is to keep them pledging,” he explained to his cohorts. “It doesn’t matter whether they mean it or not. That’s why they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what ‘pledge’ and ‘allegiance’ means.”

To Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren, the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was a glorious pain in the ass, since it complicated their task of organizing the crews for each combat mission. Men were tied up all over the squadron signing, pledging and singing, and the missions took hours longer to get under way. Effective emergency action became impossible, but Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren were both too timid to raise any outcry against Captain Black, who scrupulously enforced each day the doctrine of “Continual Reaffirmation” that he had originated, a doctrine designed to trap all those men who had become disloyal since the last time they had signed a loyalty oath the day before. It was Captain Black who came with advice to Captain Piltchard and Captain Wren as they pitched about in their bewildering predicament. He came with a delegation and advised them bluntly to m ake each man sign a loyalty oath before allowing him to fly on a combat mission.

“Of course, it’s up to you,” Captain Black pointed out. “Nobody’s trying to pressure you. But everyone else is making them sign loyalty oaths, and it’s going to look mighty funny to the F.B.I. if you two are the only ones who don’t care enough about your country to make them sign loyalty oaths, too. If you want to get a bad reputation, that’s nobody’s business but your own. All we’re trying to do is help.”

Milo was not convinced and absolutely refused to deprive Major Major of food, even if Major Major was a Communist, which Milo secretly doubted. Milo was by nature opposed to any innovation that threatened to disrupt the normal course of affairs. Milo took a firm moral stand and absolutely refused to participate in the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade until Captain Black called upon him with his delegation and requested him to.

“National defense is everybody’s job,” Captain Black replied to Milo’s objection. “And this whole program is voluntary, Milo – don’t forget that. The men don’t have to sign Piltchard and Wren’s loyalty oath if they don’t want to. But we need you to starve them to death if they don’t. It’s just like Catch-22. Don’t you get it? You’re not against Catch-22, are you?”

Doc Daneeka was adamant.

“What makes you so sure Major Major is a Communist?”

You never heard him denying it until we began accusing him, did you? And you don’t see him signing any of our loyalty oaths.”

“You aren’t letting him sign any.”

“Of course not,” Captain Black explained. “That would defeat the whole purpose of our crusade. Look, you don’t have to play ball with us if you don’t want to. But what’s the point of the rest of us working so hard if you’re going to give Major Major medical attention the minute Milo begins starving him to death? I just wonder what they’re going to think up at Group about the man who’s undermining our whole security program. They’ll probably transfer you to the Pacific.”

Doc Daneeka surrendered swiftly. “I’ll go tell Gus and Wes to do whatever you want them to.”

Up at Group, Colonel Cathcart had already begun wondering what was going on.

“It’s that idiot Black off on a patriotism binge,” Colonel Korn reported with a smile. “I think you’d better play ball with him for a while, since you’re the one who promoted Major Major to squadron commander.”

“That was your idea,” Colonel Cathcart accused him petulantly. “I never should have let you talk me into it.”

“And a very good idea it was, too,” retorted Colonel Korn, “since it eliminated that superfluous major that’s been giving you such an awful black eye as an administrator. Don’t worry, this will probably run its course soon. The best thing to do now is send Captain Black a letter of total support and hope he drops dead before he does too much damage.” Colonel Korn was struck with a whimsical thought. “I wonder! You don’t suppose that imbecile will try to turn Major Major out of his trailer, do you?”

“The next thing we’ve got to do is turn that bastard Major Major out of his trailer,” Captain Black decided. “I’d like to turn his wife and kids out into the woods, too. But we can’t. He has no wife and kids. So we’ll just have to make do with what we have and turn him out. Who’s in charge of the tents?”

“He is.”

“You see?” cried Captain Black. “They’re taking over everything! Well, I’m not going to stand for it. I’ll take this matter right to Major —— de Coverley himself if I have to. I’ll have Milo speak to him about it the minute he gets back from Rome.”

Captain Black had boundless faith in the wisdom, power and justice of Major —— de Coverley, even though he had never spoken to him before and still found himself without the courage to do so. He deputized Milo to speak to Major —— de Coverley for him and stormed out impatiently as he waited for the tall executive officer to return. Along with everyone else in the squadron, he lived in profound awe and reverence of the majestic, white-haired major with the craggy face and Jehovan bearing, who came back from Rome finally with an inuured eye inside a new celluloid eye patch and smashed his whole Glorious Crusade to bits with a single stroke.

Milo carefully said nothing when Major —— de Coverley stepped into the mess hall with his fierce and austere dignity the day he returned and found his way blocked by a wall of officers waiting in line to sign loyalty oaths. At the far end of the food counter, a group of men who had arrived earlier were pledging allegiance to the flag, with trays of food balanced in one hand, in order to be allowed to take seats at the table. Already at the tables, a group that had arrived still earlier was singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in order that they might use the salt and pepper and ketchup there. The hubub began to subside slowly as Major —— de Coverley paused in the doorway with a frown of puzzled disapproval, as though viewing something bizarre. He started forward in a straight line, and the wall of officers before him parted like the Red Sea. Glancing neither left nor right, he strode indomitably up to the steam counter and, in a clear, full-bodied voice that was gruff with age and resonant with ancient eminence and authority, said:

“Gimme eat.”

Instead of eat, Corporal Snark gave Major —— de Coverley a loyalty oath to sign. Major —— de Coverley swept it away with mighty displeasure the moment he recognized what it was, his good eye flaring up blindingly with fiery disdain and his enormous old corrugated face darkening in mountainous wrath.

“Gimme eat, I said,” he ordered loudly in harsh tones that rumbled ominously through the silent tent like claps of distant thunder.

Corporal Snark turned pale and began to tremble. He glanced toward Milo pleadingly for guidance. For several terrible seconds there was not a sound. Then Milo nodded.

“Give him eat,” he said.

Corporal Snark began giving Major —— de Coverley eat. Major —— de Coverley turned from the counter with his tray full and came to a stop. His eyes fell on the groups of other officers gazing at him in mute appeal, and, with righteous belligerence, he roared:

“Give everybody eat!”

“Give everybody eat!” Milo echoed with joyful relief, and the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade came to an end.

UNQUOTE

Foot notes:

The novel was published in hardback in 1961 to mixed reviews, with the Chicago Sun-Times calling it “the best American novel in years”, while other critics derided it as “disorganized, unreadable, and crass”. It sold only 30,000 hardback copies in the United States in its first year of publication.

Reaction was very different in the UK, where, within one week of its publication, the novel was number one on the bestseller lists. After its release in paperback in October 1962, however, Catch-22caught the imaginations of many baby boomers, who identified with the novel’s anti-war sentiments.The book went on to sell 10 million copies in the United States.

The novel’s title became a standard term in English and other languages for a dilemma with no easy way out. Now considered a classic, the book was listed at number 7 on Modern Library’s list of the top 100 novels of the century. The United States Air Force Academy uses the novel to “help prospective officers recognize the dehumanizing aspects of bureaucracy.”

The movie rights to the novel were purchased in 1962, and, combined with his royalties, made Heller a millionaire. The film, which was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Alan Arkin, Jon Voight and Orson Welles, was not released until 1970.

R. Reich 100 day Plan

Here’s the First 100 Day resistance plan [with thanks to Alan Webber]:

1. Get Democrats in the Congress and across the country to pledge to oppose Trump’s agenda. Prolong the process of approving choices, draw out hearings, stand up as sanctuary cities and states. Take a stand. Call your senator and your representative (phone calls are always better than writing).

2. March and demonstrate—in a coordinated, well-managed way. The “1 Million Women March” is already scheduled for the Inauguration —and will be executed with real skill. There will be “sister” marches around the country—in LA and elsewhere. They need to be coordinated and orchestrated. And then? 1 Million Muslims? 1 Million Latinos? What would keep the momentum alive and keep the message going?

3. Boycott all Trump products, real estate, hotels, resorts, everything. And then boycott all stores (like Nordstrom) that carry merchandise from Trump family brands. See: http://www.racked.com/…/136239…/grabyourwallet-trump-boycott

4. Letters to Editors: A national letter-writing campaign, from people all over the country, every walk of life and every level of society, from celebrities to sports heroes to grassroots Americans. In most papers, the Letters to the Editor section is the most-read part of the paper.

5. Op-Eds: A steady flow of arguments about the fallacies and dangers of Trump’s First 100 Day policies and initiatives, from name-brand thinkers and doers to ordinary folk writing for their city’s or community’s newspaper.

6. Social media: What about a new YouTube channel devoted to video testimonials about resisting Trump’s First 100 Day Agenda? Crowd-sourced ideas, themes and memes. Who wants to start it?

7. Website containing up-to-date daily bulletins on what actions people are planning around the country, and where, so others can join in. Techies, get organized.

8. Investigative journalism: We need investigative journalists to dig into the backgrounds of all of Trump’s appointees, in the White House, the Cabinet, Ambassadors and judges.

9. Lawsuits: Our version of “Drill, baby, drill” is “Sue, baby, sue.” Throw sand in the gears. Lawyers, get organized.

10. Coordinated fund-raising: Rather than having every public-interest group appeal on their own, have a coordinated fundraising program to fill the coffers of the most endangered and effective opposition groups. Is there a way to do a televised fundraiser with celebrities raising money for the Resistance?

11. Symbolic opposition: Safety pins are already appearing. What else? What more? Make the resistance visible with bumper stickers, a label pin, a branding campaign that has great language, great logo, great wrist band (remember the Lance Armstrong “Livestrong” yellow wrist band—it sold millions!).

12. Intellectual opposition: Take Trump on where he’s weakest—with serious ideas. I’ll try to do my part. You do yours, too.

13. Serious accountability: Establish performance metrics to evaluate his delivery on his campaign promises. An updated web site of promises made and not kept. This is one especially suited to public policy students.

14. Your idea goes here. Call a meeting of family and friends this weekend. Come up with to-dos.

The First 100 Days Resistance Agenda. We’re not going away.

What do you think?

The McD

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These are my photos from the 1970’s of various trips on the M/V Eugene McDermott II from 1974 to around 1978. Anyone portrayed in this gallery who would prefer their image not to be included need only contact me. Any request by the person or family member  will be honoured.

Post-truth

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

New Zealand’s recent earthquakes being caused by seismic boats reminded me of similar nonsense from forty years ago.

“Six 1000 m high towers monitor dynamite explosions as Giant seismic ship drills on the Great Barrier Reef”.

So ran the headline in a Queensland newspaper back in the late seventies. I was the Party Manager of the cited giant seismic ship apparently wreaking such cavalier havoc on the barrier reef. The giant seismic boat in question was the GSI operated M/V Eugene McDermott, I’m not sure that McD’s 150 foot length qualified it as a giant of the seas but I do know for an absolute certainty that it conducted no surveys on the Barrier reef. All of us know that seismic boats do not do anything so crass as to drill for oil, and marine seismic exploration had long spurbed the use of dynamite.

What about 1000 m towers monitoring none existant dynamite explosions? the 1975 CN Tower in Toronto at 553 m held the record back then and wasn’t surpassed in height for 30 years when the 829.8 m Burj Khalifa was built in Dubai. Our Argo navigation system did use 100 foot towers however.

We docked in Cairns a few days after the story was published and a reporter came aboard with a request to interview me. Now talking to the press was frowned upon by GSI but I just couldn’t resist it. I asked the gentleman from the press if he would like to see our drilling equipmnt he appeared to be delighted at the prospect. I took him to the gunshack and showed him our drill press sitting on the work bench. I advised him that this was the biggest drill on board, I further advised him that if he didn’t fuck off immediately he would be thrown overboard and so off he fucked.

The Oxford English Dictionary has recently named “post-truth” the 2016 international word of the year after its usage spiked around the Brexit vote and the US election. Lies, bullshit and lazy reporting have sadly been a staple of the press for a long long time.

Super Moon

dsc09034_1280Last night’s super-moon was the biggest and brightest super-moon to rise in almost 69 years and we won’t see its like again until Nov. 25, 2034. Here it is in all its super glory conveniently located at the top of my street.

Just how Super was this moon? Not very super at all really, not even marginally awesome, in fact it really wasn’t much different from any full moon you have ever seen and if it weren’t for all the hype, it is doubtful that anyone would have even noticed it.

Super-moon is the term used by the media to describe a full moon when it is at its closest point to the Earth. This is called the perigee.
The moon’s closest perigee occurred on November 14, 2016 when the moon was a mere 356,509 km from earth. The moon’s farthest apogee occurred two weeks earlier on October 31, 2016 when it was 406,662 km away.

That’s a difference of about 50,000 km between the distance to the moon at perigee compared with its distance at apogee.
The moon’s mean distance or semi-major axis from Earth is about 384,400 km or about 28,000 km less that at perigee which is a difference of less than 8%.

dsc09039_1280dsc09038_1280Look at the pair of photos above. One image was taken at a distance of 20 m from the stop sign while the other image was taken from 8% further away at 21.8 m. The difference in perceived diameter of the stop sign from one image to the other is the same as the difference in perceived size of a super-moon compared with an average full moon.

dsc09040_1280

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The second pair of images were taken with a longer focal length lens but otherwise met the same distance conditions.

Put in in pizza terms, its like a comparing a 16.0 inch pizza  to a 17 inch pizza.

The wonder of the moon is not in how its size appears to vary slightly from time to time. The wonder of the moon is that there are footprints on its surface. Footprints made by a few brave Americans who were propelled there by rockets designed by Germans and guided by mathematics developed by Frenchmen, the Dutch and Danes and a bad tempered Englishman who stood on the shoulders of Greek and Arabic speaking giants. That is the wonder of the moon, the glorious culmination of a collaboration spanning space and time. Celebrate that while tucking into a 16 or 17 inch pizza.