Back in the late 80s I worked on a curious project in Oracle, Arizona, that some of you may have heard of. Biosphere 2 was funded by Ed Bass, an eccentric then millionaire now billionaire, who envisioned an entirely self-contained ecosystem wholly separate from the earth (wherein the earth is, in the parlance of the project, to be regarded as Biosphere 1) where eight people were to live for two years. The idea was to study if and how humans could live entirely cut off from the earth’s resources. It was an experiment to be achieved by their living “inside the seal” of that structure, planting and eating their own food, sustaining breathable air and potable water from plants and energy entirely from the sun but separate from Terran resources.
I learned two interesting sociological lessons from that experience. Both lessons came from the reactions of most people when it happened to come up that I worked at the Biosphere 2. Even though hundreds of people worked there and only eight worked “inside the seal,” they typically asked me if I was one of the eight. The second question was always along the lines of what it was good for. Since Biosphere 2 didn’t appear to have a money-making component, the reasoning went, then it must not have been worthwhile.
To the latter I can only say I don’t worry about such things. I was a child of the Apollo Program and something of a romantic when it came to explorations of all kinds. I didn’t see then, and I still don’t, why profit needed to play a part. As to the first question, no I was not one of the eight. But given how big the project was it was curious that the question kept getting asked.
And it was that question that intrigued me the most. It made me realize that people carry around rather crude maps of reality in their heads. They never stop to guess that since lots of people were probably involved in the Biosphere project, the chances that I would be “one of the 8” were pretty small.
If you think I learned some eternal verity from that esoteric but surprising bit of sociological phenomena, think again. Just last year in the very pages of Palmer Report I speculated that the anonymous West Wing insider and Washington Post leaker might be John Kelly. Clearly I was wrong, because the insider has now written a book and he or she presumably still works in the West Wing, and John Kelly does not.
The point is that somewhere on the close order of five hundred people work for the West Wing, and the odds that you or I or anyone knows his or her name is small, perhaps not vanishingly so, but close. For example, quickly now, who was the deputy Chief of Staff under Reince Priebus? (Hint: it wasn’t Josh Lyman.) Such a person is pretty high up, and still we don’t commonly know who it is.
We will probably find out one day who the leaker is. In their book, “Lodestar” (the name I gave him or her in a subsequent article, because of their peculiar use of that word in the leaked WaPo piece) suggests that one day he or she will step forth and reveal his or her identity. Until then, they continue to work for the White House.
How valuable is Lodestar and of what use is this book? Well, that’s a very personal question that each individual must decide for themselves. For my part I think Lodestar is quite valuable. We have no shortage of people on the outside who were fired or quit or claim they quit but were actually fired, or whatever, telling us, with varying degrees of candor, how thoroughly screwed up and chaotic life inside Trump’s West Wing actually is. We only have one Lodestar. We only have one man or woman actually on the scene, inside.
Lodestar’s book is called, “A Warning,” by Anonymous, and it’s due out 19 November, and it assures us (compliments of advance copies) of much we already know: that Trump is an out of control maniac, that he’s like a senile uncle running naked away from his keepers at the retirement home screaming about space aliens, or something, that he’s a nitwit who barely knows what he’s doing, and so on. It’s a lot of fairly unspecific stuff, I’m told, and there’s a lot of editorial complaining going around on that account. But I think that’s probably why Lodestar is still there. If he or she gets too specific, then it’s probably game over. Adios Lodestar.
The book is a candid complaint that Lodestar and his or her fellow resistance fighters inside the White House have failed. They failed thinking they could remain behind in the hope they could shield the nation from Trump’s baser destructive instincts. In short they made the same mistake the Weimar Republic made when it insouciantly passed control of Germany over to the Third Reich. Let’s be clear: the single most common failure to learn the lessons of history is the lesson that history has a lesson to teach in the first place.
Apparently Lodestar and friends even planned a mass walkout, a Saturday night suicide pact, as it were. But they decided to remain behind and continue, however feebly, with what work they could do and remain diligent if coyly vague.
Recall that the last person to famously use that particular nom de plume for a political book, the author of “Primary Colors,” was outed in rapid succession. Being coyly vague is a necessary qualification for the job. We can no more blame Lodestar for that than we can blame insurance salesmen for being tedious. It’s the nature of the beast.
It is not in the nature of Homo sapiens, however, to be comfortable not knowing, which is why we sometimes prefer a bad theory to no theory at all. But the lesson to be had from all this, and one I occasionally forget, is simply don’t be too shocked or surprised if the next random person you meet who happens to work for NASA doesn’t turn out to be an astronaut. We will find out who Lodestar is one day, in all probability, just as we found out that Deep Throat was Mark Felt. Until then, their anonymity remains a good thing.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.