GENIUS: 3-D Creation

When I am listening to a Beethoven symphony or a Tchaikovsky ballet — or another of my favorite classics — my joy leaves me wondering if the universe is listening. The genius that grows such timeless works is surely a gift from the universe. If they are not heard beyond the earth, the universe is poorly served by its own creative power. Still, the audience may be as boundless as the universe. Isn’t genius itself boundless, a mirror of the universe?

The answer lies in knowing where genius comes from. Our earth-bound mortality grants us no certain answers. We have no facts, only the ability to appreciate genius when it brightens our lives. But again that recognition is framed by earthly limitations.

Members of the larger traditional religions see the universe coming from the mind and hand of one God, of male gender. How earthly that view! Is He the Christian God? The Muslim God? If God is God, I can’t see Him or Her bound up in gender, or caring in the least whether mortals are bowed in worship.

So much for belaboring organized religion. I’m far happier sifting my own convictions. They have led me to a very personal view of the universe, in which genius makes the universe whole.

Thanks to Einstein, among other geniuses, we know that the universe is two dimensions: matter and energy that are convertible to each other. Such genius also convinces me that God and the universe are manifestations of each other, of the same three components: matter, energy, genius. Genius makes it work and keeps it all growing. Genius supplies perpetual motion, recycling itself in its use. It wouldn’t be genius if it didn’t.

The universe is thus integrated and perpetuated by this third dimension. Earthly manifestation of genius is a natural extension of this power. Landmark moments in the evolution and progression of mankind too numerous to count are gifts of this power: the Theory of Relativity, Jefferson’s declaration of liberty, the wondrous works of music, literature and art all express this power, a stream too full for recorded history to more than sample. So is science, and its accelerating momentum. Science reveals the genius of the universe, just as it is driven by it. Science is the way of reality, grounded in facts — facts that hold the only hope of altering its course, as they are drawn to that purpose, guided by more science. To serve us, we must use them. How long will we duck global warming?

Mankind’s stream of discovery continues to feed dreams that it will produce the penultimate gift of energy unleashed by perpetual motion. If it comes it will come, I believe, by the same integration that forms and perpetuates the universe. Matter, energy, genius – the trinity both God and Godhead.

By the same integration, and perhaps only by it, will mankind bring eternal life to itself. Science tells us that the sun and the earth could well live on five billion years. Mankind’s ultimate victory would be  proving itself capable of living by the enlightenment of science and art for as long as sun and earth allow. Another 5,000 millennia? Perhaps even a few million millennia?  That would be humanity in perpetual motion, making the most of science and art drawn from and by the 3-D universe. Are there other prospects? Is there a more perfect illustration of genius than DNA? Every living creature has its own identity. How easily individuals might be replicated by the same power to populate planets endlessly. I find myself dreaming, as I listen to Mozart, of space travel in which I see my twin greeting me on the first planet we reach.

Frank Mensel — March 2013


The shambles that the Republican Party has been making of itself so far in this century is personified in the curmudgeon that Senator John McCain has become during the Obama presidency. The statesman and military hero that he was before he lost the 2008 run for president has been overcast by an increasingly mean-spirited hatchet-man ready to chop away at any nominee facing Senate confirmation to join the White House team or the Supreme Court.

His performance threatening any consideration the president might give UN Ambassador Susan Rice as the next secretary of state was abysmal. It boomeranged because it showcased Rice’s star quality and eminent qualifications to lead American diplomacy, which she will continue to do leading the American delegation to the United Nations. His opposition served her well because it heightened her presence on the world stage.

His growing appetite for sour grapes has been still more heavily focused by his strident opposition to President Obama’s nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon. Since  Hagel and McCain are both Republican members of the world’s most exclusive club — the United States Senate, past and present — the senior senator from Arizona is looking more and more like a very sore loser. Both are veterans of the Vietnam War, and if he is confirmed, Hagel would become the first secretary of defense to have served as a noncommissioned warrior.

McCain’s lack of civility in dealing with Rice became more glaring still in committee hearings on the Hagel confirmation. It’s a televised record that may be shown in history and political science classes for years to come, when teachers are giving lessons on the importance of civility and conciliation in the exercise of representative government and the paralysis of it when they are lacking.

The hostility with which McCain pounded his Republican and veteran brother could only leave McCain shrinking in stature, looking still larger as a sore loser. Worse still, it leaves this once-esteemed hero unable to grasp his self-inflicted fall from grace, a fall that leaves him on the wrong side of history.

His attack, which had the flavor of an old man kicking his neighbor’s dog, targeted a view that Hagel voiced during the Iraq War speaking against the mid-war troop surge and the folly of playing peacemaker among tribes whose ongoing war with each other was older than the Roman Empire. It was a war Americans saw little need for, and they liked even less when they learned Bush-Cheney had used false claims of weapons of mass destruction in Hussein’s hands as the excuse for staging it. They tarnished the high esteem Americans felt for General Powell when they sent him to the United Nations to trumpet those claims. Fortunately, the general, then the secretary of state, is being remembered as the one giant from the Bush-Cheney cabinet.

Sadly, as he turns increasingly hawkish in his vendetta against the incumbent who erased his dreams of the presidency — that he appears to think was owed him — McCain goes on shrinking as a hero and statesman. It appears too that his string of political setbacks now finds him thinking of them as “personal.” He  showed in the Hagel confirmation that his opposition was very personal. How can he be forgiven for his support of the grievous Iraq War and the needless troop surge when he goes on insisting that two wrongs make a right? Will history remember him not as hero but as the senator fond of believing two wrongs make it right?  That gallery of fame is already overflowing.

Frank Mensel — February 2013

GWB: Collapsing Conservatism

As we follow the news on the George W. Bush Library taking shape at Southern Methodist University, it keeps reminding me that his tenure was the most destructive presidency the nation has endured. In my sense of history, it has seemed so destined from the start.

Always the spoiled and wayward son, he struck me as cavalier in his attitude, possibly seeing himself as a bit bigger than the office. Was there any office big enough for a man whose name slicked him through Yale and a Harvard MBA, while it also detoured him into the Texas Air Guard and out of Vietnam, and wasted the public investment in the pilot’s training that he failed to repay by active service?

Unelected by popular vote, he was settled in the White House by Republican sway over the Supreme Court, which blocked the recount of the Florida vote that could have decided the election fairly. If his unearned victory awakened any humility, it never showed. As if owed the office, he ruled more by impulse than reason.

His most haunting mistake was choosing equally wayward, saber-rattling Dick Cheney for vice president.  They ruled more by ego than by the duty declared in the oath of office. This shows consistently in decisions that continue to spread harm.

WAR: They were bent upon going to war in Iraq even before they took office. To crush the despotic tyrant Saddam Hussein would showcase the “shock and awe” of U.S. military might – never mind cost or other consequences. There was no preparation for the soaring budget deficits it made inevitable. The real “shock and awe” fell upon the taxpayers, picking up the tab for the large and prolonged army of occupation and the restoration of infrastructure and basic services, and piling up a long string of bloated contracts for Halliburton, the company Cheney headed before the election.

TAXES: They insisted on across-the-board tax cuts that no one was asking for, ignoring the certainty that war would devour the budget surpluses left by the second Clinton term and turn the budget red. The Reagan deficits, which more than doubled national debt, were historic coming from a Republican president whose party had always been devoted to fiscal responsibility. The Iraq War put GWB on course to more than double the debt again: a towering legacy of two-for-two for the up-side-down GOP.

HOUSING: The push for more homeownership that President Clinton started was grown by Bush-Cheney into a huge and fragile bubble that made a shambles of the economy when it burst. Job growth under Bush had been strongest in home construction, and it faded fast as mortgage banking went into a tailspin along with sales. Falling prices left a sea of homes worth less than their mortgage, and foreclosures soared as owners in droves abandoned their property to the banks. It was the beginning of the Great Recession of 2007, from which recovery continues to sputter under the evolving job markets  for which most jobless are unprepared.

CLASS WARFARE: The arrested growth of the middle class that began with the invasion of Washington by the Reagan crowd of neocons and their economic game of “trickle down” struck a pause in the Clinton years of workforce expansion and budget surpluses. But it soon quickened under GWB and his doubling down on Reaganomics. The middle class found itself  sandwiched between soaring wealth above and growing poverty below. The spread of earnings top to bottom had grown from a gap to a yawning chasm, with the middle class shrinking relatively in both size and pay, yet

bearing the heaviest responsibility for the unprecedented mountains of public and private debt that goes on growing. Bush-Cheney left office with poverty and joblessness gripping a far larger population than the number bearing those hardships in the Great Depression. They promised “compassionate conservatism,” but delivered neither. It will be interesting to see what the Bush Library does with this hollow promise.

Our mountainous debt stands as a cruel monument to the excesses that have been imposed on WeThePeople by the power grab of the neocons led by two Republican presidents, both of whom defaulted badly, and seemingly blindly, on the GOP’s historic devotion to fiscal responsibility. They turned the federal budget into an ever-flowing milk cow of corporate welfare. It’s an ironic turn of GOP history that Presidents Reagan and Bush II would distinguish themselves as the biggest spenders in the history of the office.

Just how much of this record will be portrayed honestly and accurately in the Bush II Library remains to be seen. SMU’s integrity as an academic institution will be called to account, as will the good Methodist name, by the authenticity with which it brings the larger record into public view. But when it’s so displayed, from the falsified need for an unnecessary war and the hurried tax cuts, to the dicey upsurge in homeownership and the growth of corporate welfare and power, to the empowerment of neocons at the expense of an overburdened middle class, it’s a record that clearly marks the Bush-Cheney tenure as the most destructive presidency in history.

Does this proudly capitalistic nation have the resiliency still to live down this dismal chapter? Not unless capitalism reawakens to its essential purpose of spreading wealth faster than it concentrates it.   On that score, the current thrust does not look promising.

Frank Mensel – February 2013