Conspiracy Theories

I caught part of a History Channel program on conspiracy theories this week. It may have been an old one, but it was new to me. The program mentioned three groups considered by conspiracy buffs to contain the evil core of the committee that really runs the world. They are the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, and of course the Skull and Bones of Harvard. They had a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in an interview, and in spite of the fact that he insisted that there is no underground conspiracy going on, and the fact that I’d bet real money that he was telling the truth, the conspiracy folks say that it’s actually the “secret core” of these three groups that is so secret that even the general membership doesn’t know what’s really going on. Sure. But even the hard-core conspiracy buffs will tell you that the entire Skull and Bones Society is the secret core. The Skull and Bones is so secret that, as G. H. W. Bush says in his one-line reference in his autobiography, “I can’t say anything more about it.” Yep, one heckuva secret society it is.

Except of course that in two-hundred years more than one member has spilled the beans about what goes on in the meetings. They do use skulls and bones in their rituals, of course. And they are like any other fraternity in that they have secret handshakes and rigmarole that they go through to prove to themselves that they’re special. Their clocks, for instance, are set five minutes fast. Standard time is referred to as “barbarian” time or some such epithet. They meet at 6:30 several days a week. One day is just sharing biographical information: you know, what you been up to, brother? Another day is devoted to sharing sexual exploits. Their rituals are borrowed or stolen from Freemasonry as practiced a couple of centuries ago. In the first quarter of the eighteenth century, Freemasonry got into all sorts of trouble with even murders and cover-ups attributed to it. What Freemasonry is today I have no idea, but most of the people who wrote our constitution were Masons, which in those days meant Rational Deists and Deep Thinkers. Good for them, and as the Skull and Bones predates the great fall of Freemasonry its members can presume to have an authentic link to the rituals and beliefs of the Founding Fathers. Somehow I can’t see Adams and Jefferson sitting around trading kiss-and-tell stories, but you never know.

There have been three Presidents who were members, one of whom still is. Thomas Jefferson is rumored to have been a member but there’s no collaboration. The third was Twentieth Century, although I don’t recall at this moment which one it was. It was not Carter, Reagan, or Clinton, or Nixon, I know that for sure. In fact I think it was early in the century, or maybe even in the nineteenth.

My point in writing all that is not to let everyone know how much we know about this secret society, but is rather to question very strongly the conspiracy theorists’ ideas about this secret fraternity. If these guys are a secret cabal running the world, then I’d expect them to exhibit some craft, skill and wits. Instead, the current incumbent, who is a member, seems better suited for a sitcom than public office. If it’s such a great conspiracy, why is it being run so poorly? If your aim is to get the public behind you by telling them some formerly secret information, wouldn’t it be simpler, and safer in the long run, just to do that instead of telling somebody to ‘leak’ the information, risking who knows what sort of contamination in a sort of political game of “telephone?” If you’re a deep thinker, wouldn’t you think about the various factions in the country you aim to convert to a more favorable form of government before you go in and depose the current ruler? If you’re so savvy, would you be fighting your own party over things like immigration reform and budgetary policy? Would you be quite so much the butt of jokes from everyone who presumes to be a comic if you were so slick as all that? I have the answer: no, you would not. There is no way in heck that any organization that grooms and promotes an obvious doofus is capable of any major conspiracy that has a snowball’s chance in Hell of succeeding.

What do we really have? First, a fraternity that closely guards it rituals, which are apparently mostly an insult to Freemasonry. Second, a group of individuals dedicated to trying to improve the world situation in the form of the Council on Foreign Relations. And of course, a smaller group dedicated to getting nations talking and trading rather than fighting, of course I mean the Trilateral Commission. But, it is so reasonable that there is a vast conspiracy loose in the world. What could that be?

Walt Kelly had it exactly right. His cartoon strip Pogo ran for decades, and one of the signature lines of the strip was “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That’s right, folks, the vast conspiracy is human nature. Consider that absolutely no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head forcing them to form a government at all. Yet, having overthrown England, the first thing the American Revolutionary movement did was set up a government. That one didn’t really work so well, so they formed another one, creating our Constitution as the framework. There’s not a bit of holy writ anywhere that says “thou shalt elect representatives, and verily they shalt govern in a lame and senseless manner.” But that’s what we’ve been doing since before the Revolutionary War, and that’s what we’ll keep right on doing in all likelihood. Other countries’ rulers claim divine right. The English Parliament rules by consent of the Queen (officially at least) and the Queen gets her power from God as it says in the Royal Motto (Dieu et mon droit.) Emperors have ruled by divine right for millennia. Caius Caesar, you remember him, of course, rigged an augury so that the people would know that the gods favored his reign. I doubt if he believed in a single power anywhere greater than himself, but he knew how to use the tools he found lying about. Caesar ruled because the gods willed it so. So did William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, Louis XIV, and every other despot prior to our revolution. Now only some of them do, and most that do have ceded most of their powers to elected bodies. Yet, even without any gods chartering them, governments continue to be formed and re-formed. That we have this innate instinct to form governments (which after all might be a good thing if you look at them properly) is the reason that people see a conspiracy. The driving force is the very nature of human beings. We act from instinct, much more often than we’d like to admit, and a vast worldwide conspiracy is the result.

That makes it difficult to figure out who to blame. I mean, if God isn’t setting up our governments, then who is at fault. Oh, wait, I’ve got it. Maybe God set up the world so that humans would have that instinct, so we can still plop the blame right at God’s holy feet. Yeah, that’s it. Good! Just so it isn’t our fault, huh?

Driving on the West Coast

I live, more or less, on the West coast. I know, Nevada isn’t quite beach property, but even Mark Twain, in his travelogue Roughing It, called it the West Coast, and in a lot of ways he’s right. In the Valley of Meadows it’s really a lot like Los Angeles except that it’s a whole lot dryer, and there are a lot fewer cars per square inch, or maybe square foot. Culturally, though you might not believe it if you didn’t live here, we’re a lot like Southern California. This extends to the style of driving, even, which is a step toward my point in writing this.

Californians, like everyone in a tourist area, like to complain about drivers from somewhere else and how they mess things up. It’s certainly true in the Rocky Mountains that people from places like Kansas have no earthly idea how to go up and down steep grades. It’s as if there are no gear shift levers in their cars, but by gar they’re not slow drivers so they stay in that left lane, going slower and slower and frustrating the heck out of those who know about down shifting. But, oddly enough, if you mention Nevada drivers, they’ll say, “Oh, they’re okay. They’re not like the other states.” Which I mention to illustrate my point: that we in Southern Nevada are honorary citizens of Southern California. Since I first drove in Southern California sometime in the nineties I’ve been struck by a couple of things about drivers here. One is that they tend to drive faster than drivers from most places, excepting Arizona of course. Nobody else drives as fast as the people in Phoenix and lives to tell the tale. But what I’m saying is that West Coast drivers are perceived by the rest of the country as being hell-bent for trouble, driving so fast as we do all the time. And, there may be some truth in that argument, but even allowing for that, I am going on record, having driven in at least forty states and one District plus even Mexico and France and Canada, that the drivers in Southern California are both more courteous and more skilled than any other drivers I’ve witnessed.

Consider, with the traffic in Los Angeles, and the speeds (0 to 80 to 0 in sixty seconds or less), if they weren’t skilled drivers they’d be dead. In fact, the Southern California traffic tends to weed out those who can’t handle driving in traffic pretty quickly, as it is ruthless in its blind pursuit of getting somewhere. Anywhere but here, or so it seems. And, also as a matter of survival, drivers here tend to be more courteous by nature, in spite of the fact that they’re going like bats out of hell, or maybe Autobahners on I-15 between Vegas and LA. (You know, the road where the movie stars get picked up going 120. I think I’ve been passed by a few, in fact.) I witnessed a good example of this on a trip last week to Boulder Colorado to hear my daughter’s Senior Recital. (She’s damn good, but that’s for another time.) In Colorado especially it is common for someone to be driving along in the fast lane and have someone from the slower lane to the right pull out suddenly, making one slam the brakes, who will then go right on being ten to twenty miles per hour slower than was the approaching vehicle. Feeling self-righteous because you obey the speed limit at all times and don’t like those “speeding idiots?” Well, don’t, because that’s the sort of aggressive driving that causes fatalities, and also the sort of aggressive driving that is relatively rare in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I’d forgotten to watch out for it, even, and had a couple of close calls before I remembered to remember all of the time. Regardless of the speed limit (and I don’t much speed when I’m out of state, as I was in Colorado) that behavior is discourteous and dangerous, not to mention probably terribly unskilled.

Las Vegas has a bad accident rate, but it isn’t the general driving style causing it. It is, to put it simply, that this is a 24/7/365 party town full of strangers who don’t know the roads, which is as good a recipe for disaster on the highways as I could think of. But for those who live here, it only makes us more alert, responsive, and oddly enough, responsible drivers. Rather than mere speed, which back East is the Big Bugaboo of Traffic, different speeds and irresponsible behavior are what cause accidents in most cases. In fact, in the West the accident rate on rural Interstates went down when the speed limit was raised, because now those who must drive the speed limit are going the same speed as those who would rather drive fast. I know this won’t get through to places like Ohio, Michigan, California and other places with those idiotic slower speed limits for trucks, but it’s true. Fortunately, in the case of California, I’ve never seen that lower speed enforced, which segues into a bit of a discussion of traffic flow, starting now.

Traffic flow is a flow just like water flows through a pipe. That was figured out in the 1930s, but apparently most people still don’t realize it. This is why those slow trucks are a problem: because they in effect become clogs in the pipeline. Just as in a flow of liquid, various particles (cars) will pop out to get past the clog (the truck) causing a dangerous situation with swerving in and out being the norm instead of the rare exception. In a similar vein, mistimed traffic lights are clogs in the drain as well, and any former small town now in a metro area that still insists on timing the lights to “make people slow down” should be fined heavily. I’ve made jokes about the inconsideration of stopping to let somebody out of a side street, but when the traffic is really heavy such an action can have an effect that slows traffic for hours. I’m not saying don’t let people out, just that you should consider what your actions are doing to the overall flow of things before you make up your mind whether to do it. I’m cursed with the ability to see traffic flow, so I find it frustrating when people work against it. Some of the problem is situational, for instance in a small town it’s courteous to let your neighbors meet and talk in the middle of the street, because what the heck, you may want to do it next. In a big city it’s courteous to use the street as quickly as you can, because a lot of other people need to use it also.

Which circles back around to why so many people may think that West Coast drivers are discourteous and driving too fast. Southern California has thirty million residents, and even more cars. That makes it one heckuva big city, and big city rules of etiquette apply here more than in any other place besides the Boston to Washington corridor. As our population increases (and it will you know) more and more of the country will be in the same situation. Like it or not, California is a harbinger once again. The good news is that it actually works quite well. The bad news is that people from smaller towns all think you’re a maniac.

The maniacs.

Let the Rants Resume

Okay, then. An apology, a bit of travelogue, but for Dog’s sake this blog is supposed to have summat to do wit politics an humor, innit? Well, then, lets get a rant on, whaddya say?

The other day I was sitting around the Denver area bored out of my skull waiting for the closing on a house we just quit owning in that area. I bought a Discover magazine to pass the time, and read about the woman who discovered the soft tissue from a dinosaur a few years back. She’s an evangelical Christian, and she gets hate mail from others of nominally the same religion chastising her for espousing such ‘Satanic’ ideas as that Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. Her response is that she feels so much more in awe of a creator that could engineer evolution than of some god that just waves a magic wand and there everything is. Boy, do I have to agree with her about that.

For those who believe that the world was created in six days six thousand years ago, the world and its creator are such petty and small things, if you think about it. Those folks worship some cheap magician doing card tricks and making planets appear out of a hat. “And for my next magical trick, EARTH!” Great googley moogley, how cheap can you get? In Vegas we’ve got better acts than that who can’t even break into the good rooms. Heck, we’ve got better street actors, even. How much more impressive is the incredible intricacies of DNA and evolution. And isn’t it amazing that you’re here to witness it all? Why would you be so crass as to think that the creator was done just because you’ve been born? The thing about evolution is that it allows the creator to keep right on creating, and right before our very eyes if we’d care to watch. Truth is, I feel sorry for those poor souls who worship a god with less talent than David Copperfield. To insist that god do or be one thing or another seems more than a bit presumptuous, but that’s how some folks see the world.

It’s a crying shame, is what it is, and an attitude that seems to me to be likely to send you to the same fate as those dinosaurs. Nice knowing you . . .

Review of a Cruise

As promised, a review of a cruise. This may turn into a first draft of a travel article, so if it seems to ramble a bit, that’s because I’m organizing my thoughts. It should be refreshing, having organized thoughts, don’t you think?

There are several cruise lines out there, but we went with Carnival because their bargain rates and our schedule coincided so well. It was a three night special that leaves from Long Beach twice a week, has you in Ensenada, Baja California the next morning, and then takes thirty-six hours to do the six-hour cruise back to Long Beach, so that you can experience all the fun of shipboard activity. For those who may want to skip to the bottom line, here it is: it was pretty much a good time and I’d recommend it, although I’d want to be sure I had a number of places to stop along the way.

Getting aboard was a little like boarding a plane, as we were photographed and issued an ID card to use on board for items like drinks and gift shop purchases. Okay, the ID isn’t like a plane, but that’s what happened. They take your luggage and put it outside your cabin door. Nothing was lost, which was unlike a lot of airlines these days from what I’ve heard lately. Immediately we went on a walking tour of the ship, and were accosted with people foisting fruity drinks on us, which we didn’t take but for just this one time appeared to be actually free, unlike any other alcohol for most of the voyage. The cabins were larger than we expected, although another time I’d spring for the ocean view. Not for the view per se but because we overslept something awful the first day because there’s no change in light to let you know what time it is. Before that though we went to our first dinner, where we met some nice fellow travelers and a wonderful team of waiter and assistant, he from Bulgaria and she from Lithuania, but both with fine English and very good at what they did. The food was always quite good as well, and the waiters all put on a bit of a show each day after dinner.

Next morning we were docked, in fact my wife woke up because she felt the ship being pulled sideways against the pier. We went into town, if only because we both enjoy Mexico. We took a ship sponsored tour to the blowhole, that is bufadora, one of three on the planet or so we were told. It’s where seawater gets backed up into a cave by wave action and then comes rushing out like a geyser. It’s quite impressive. On the way we heard that the water truly is unfit to drink. In fact, our guide said that Mexicans do not get used to it, in fact they drink bottled water, and use the tap water only for showers and cleaning. Or, I suppose, for any food that gets boiled. The city of Ensenada has over 400,000 people, several manufacturing facilities, and a main drag (Mexico 1) that sports an Office Depot, a Home Depot, several other familiar stores, a couple of McDonalds, a Pizza Hut, Burger King, and frankly looks a lot like the same street would look in Toledo. The signage is mostly in English, the merchants gladly take dollars, and give change in dollars, and the entire place looks pretty prosperous. NAFTA at work, I suppose. (As an aside, I think the best solution to the immigration problem is to make Mexico as rich as we are, but that’s another topic for another day.) After the bufadora we went to a winery and sampled some good local vintages and even bought a couple of bottles. The winery was bought from a monastery by a couple of guys named something like Antonelli. Obviously native Spaniards. Not! If you want such a tour, they are available in town for about one-fifth the cost, as we found out afterwards.

The next day, after more good food, and me lounging around listening to a trio play classical and adapted pop on violin, cello and piano (The French fries were the best ever, by the way), we had our “fun day at sea.” Which begs the question, ‘what is there to do on a cruise ship?’ Well, there’s a truly lousy library which is seldom open. I only mention it because it’s there. I had a glass of gin and tonic, which is a rare thing for me but I wanted to feel like a member of the Raj on my way to India so it had to be done. There is a casino, where I blew twenty bucks in a blackjack tournament. There are shops selling all sorts of stuff at not bad prices, which was a surprise. There is a walking track, miniature golf course, health club and spa that includes tooth whitening and other exotic treatments in addition to the usual, and on our day, a medical emergency. We headed as fast as the ship would go to just over twelve miles outside of San Diego, where a Coast Guard helicopter came up to the ship, which never stopped moving, lifted the victim of whatever it was up into its doors, then took on another person accompanying the victim, then took off. The skill of the pilot was incredible, and the show was quite diverting. Then we turned and headed back out to do more lazy circles and roll gently with the swells. I loved the rolling motion, but some people were pretty ill looking, and complained quite a bit. Just a note of reality: you certainly do feel the motion of a cruise ship if the seas get rough enough, so be ready for that.

Next day we were back in Long Beach, but in spite of an early breakfast and getting ready by seven-thirty or so, due to some foul up at immigration it was ten-thirty when we hit the streets of Long Beach. That is to say, getting off was the most frustrating part of the entire experience, involving a line that ran the length of the ship at least once. Still and all, we’d do it again, but next time maybe to Alaska, or the Caribbean, or if we had the time the entire Mexican Riviera, which is the West Coast of Baja California all the way down.

California, by the way, in terms of scenery and geography, is the same in Baja as in Los Angeles. I really do wonder if it keeps going that way all the way to Cabo San Lucas. Maybe someday I’ll find out.

A Thousand Apologies

Wowzers, and apologies. I know it’s been a few weeks, and I’m really, really sorry for not posting anything. Here’s the scoop, and if you’re bored reading about somebody’s day-to-day trivia just skip this one, but I do want to let the world know that I haven’t been entirely idle lately.

Since March 14th, when I last posted, I’ve discovered that I’m apparently barely middle-aged, had a mess of interviews but no job offers yet, and found out that I’m not prone to sea sickness like I thought I was all these years. Last first goes like this:

Years ago I crossed the English Channel in the middle of the night on a ferry that tossed and turned in the famously rough waters. I never threw up, but I felt really sick, and I mean really sick. I’d never had a moment of motion sickness in my life, but there I was, and it was pitch black night and there was nothing to be done. My then wife was in the exact same condition, so we both figured that, oh crap, we were subject to getting seasick. For years this went on with me. Then, a few weekends ago, my now wife and I took a cruise. Just a short weekend jaunt to Ensenada and back, at bargain off-season rates. It’s just a few hours from Long Beach to Ensenada, so they have a “Fun Day at Sea” by basically slowly turning circles about fifty miles off shore.  I’d always heard that you don’t feel the motion of a cruise ship, but there were six to ten foot swells, and the ship rolled right along with them. And, surprise to me, I enjoyed the motion a lot. There were green looking people with seasickness patches all over the boat, but I walked like an old sailor friend of mine taught me and just thought that the rolling motion was really relaxing. So, maybe that night on the Channel we’d eaten something we shouldn’t have, because apparently I really don’t get seasick easily. I’ll review the cruise in another post directly. For now, on the the next item.

I’m a good guy. I’m mature, intelligent, good with computers, and I do a good job of getting interviews. I did buy a digital voice recorder, a slick number that holds files by folder and by date. Really easy to use and simple too. I used it to record one conversation, in which I talked to damned much but otherwise did pretty well. Well enough to get another interview, which has led to another, and I actually think I might get this job. If I do I’ll write something about it. It’s with a gaming and resort property on the California State line. A significant feature is that about ten feet over the line is a convenience store selling California Lottery tickets. It’s a very popular place, I also found out why you can’t buy lottery tickets from other states in Nevada. If you want to know, just ask. It’s fairly obvious, actually, but not to me until somebody filled me in. Anyway, looking for work is time consuming and spiritually depleting. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

First thing last, I was sick all Winter or so it seemed. I had a cold in December that ran to pneumonia, then about the time I got over the antibiotics I came down with the flu (see me get my shot next year, just you wait) and then about the time I was over that I came down with another little item that guys my age are sometimes prone to (not cancerous, just painful) and by that time it was March. Since then, hey, I’m okay I guess. I had an annual physical and found out a few things. Such as I’m apparently a Greek or Roman since I have a blood condition called Thessalalia, which is found only in people of Mediterranean descent. It isn’t a problem, just an unusual trait, and it means that in my case, and for everyone in my birth family I suppose, we had some ancestor who was a Roman soldier stationed in Germany or Britain,  or maybe we had some ancestor who went on a crusade and found a wife while out of town. Whatever, it may explain my love for spanokopita, moussaka, and baklava. Or maybe I just like rich food. Who can tell? I also learned that I’ll probably live to be a hundred. That’s an interesting thing to contemplate and not something I’ve really aimed at since I was ten, but I guess I’m glad I’ve been taking care of myself. Long story short in all of this, between the depression from unemployment, the illnesses, and the trip down the coast, I haven’t had time to post lately, and I also had nothing in reserve, you know, something generic, to post when I couldn’t write that week.

Mea culpa, as we Latin types say. Funny how a Roman can look just like a German, isn’t it?

😉

Three Classess of Students

Where I went to college, in Northwestern Ohio, there were three classes of students if you grouped them by how bright they seemed to be. This may still be true, but it doesn’t matter if it’s not because those I’m writing about were in school back when I was. This was true then and there, and I believe it was true generally in those days when the people currently running the two more volatile branches of government were getting educated. The three classes of students by, well, brightness, were: those in Arts and Sciences, who tended to be an intelligent crowd; those in Education, who were bright and eager but didn’t quite have the edge on their intelligence shown by the artists and scientists (okay, would-be artists and scientists); and finally at the bottom were the Business majors, who tended to be C-students on the way in the door and never saw any good reason to improve on that average. They were nice enough kids, but they didn’t get most of what the education majors could understand, and they understood virtually nothing of what the arts and science majors dealt with every day. Among business students you could find the young man who drove the brand new Ford Mustang his father bought him as a graduation present when he was eighteen. Nobody in arts and sciences had a new Ford Mustang.

These divisions are generalizations, but for the average, or even mode (the one you see the most) for each of the divisions, they held true. This stratification held some implications for campus life, of course. There were more business majors on fraternity row than education or science majors, for instance. On the other hand, the business majors were preparing to make a good living, while the education majors were preparing for a lifetime of service, and the arts and science majors all hoped they wouldn’t starve before the grants kicked in. Economically it made sense to be a business major, and I imagine it still does. But, who do you want running your country?

Actually, what happens with science majors who go on to success is that they find a good graduate school and get their practical education there. Some of them go on to win Nobel prizes (yes, they really do) and invent new and exciting ways of looking at the world. A surprisingly large number of them go on to the executive ranks, where they get to boss around the business majors, which I’m sure holds a certain satisfaction for them. Many of them went on to become the engineers of the digital age, where they get to work for a dropout who makes more money than Croesus would have dared try to pile up. But, they all make reasonably smart decisions that have predictable results. Quite a few of them, especially history or political science majors, go on to become lawyers. A certain number of lawyers decide to go into government, most popularly the judiciary (hey, lifetime employment is quite a perk) but some go into politics, and the more ambitious become Congressmen, Senators, and in a lot of cases, President of the United States.

Sometimes the C student business majors also get ahead. Sometimes they get to the executive suite, where all they know how to do is recite the mantras they were given in business school. There’s a lot of talk about “appearance of impropriety” and “maximization of value” and they like to use big words like “fungible” because they sound cool and besides, they don’t really know what they mean so they figure neither does anyone else. (Wondering what it means? Check http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q;=fungible for a definition, or several.) The trouble is, of course, that the world keeps changing. Change is, in fact, the one constant (you actually don’t have to pay taxes as the saying has it, but the consequences of not doing so are sort of unpleasant.) When things change, a C student has problems, because when there is a change, what is needed is to reassess a situation quickly and come up with some new response that will, you hope, be effective. There is nothing wrong with the mind of s C student, but it runs slower than the mind of an engineer or scientist or lawyer, none of which could be in that line of work if they were a C student, by the way. When a quick decision is needed, the C student, knowing that he has to be fast, will produce a catch phrase quicker than you can say catch phrase, but he won’t be able to do much else for a while as the wheels turn in his brain. Oddly, it’s sort of like being drunk.

Okay, now you’re thinking that my own brain is fungible with an artichoke, but let me explain. When drinking, a person (I wanted to say ‘you’ but maybe you never drink, so I went with the prissy grammar instead) can generally handle familiar situations without any problem, but if something unexpected comes up, the person is at a loss, and as is seen so often in the case of traffic accidents, is frequently lost, sometimes taking innocent third parties with him. Given enough time, even someone after six beers might be able to figure out a new situation, but new situations by their definition do not lend themselves to slow deliberate analysis. When the car swerves in front of you it begs fast, decisive and effective evasive techniques, not deliberation and analysis. The faster you can run the data through your brain, the quicker you can do the right thing. A drunk sobers up after a while, of course (although the effect I’ve just described lasts about eighteen hours even after that) but a C student has no way to think faster, not even if he lives on energy drinks and ginseng tea for a month. He’s a C student, which is a fine thing to be, but he can’t think as fast in a crisis as can a smarter person and that’s all there is to it.

What I am getting to is that the current leadership in Washington is led by a famous C student who is, I’m sure, a fine guy and I’ll bet he was a hoot at parties in his day. His father got good grades, so he got into a good college, where he kept right on getting Cs. He even got into a secret fraternity, a really cool one that rumor has it included a few famous early Americans as members. There is nothing that I can see wrong with George W Bush as a person. Prior to the Trade Center catastrophe, the biggest complaint against him was his economic experimentation. Heck, there’s logic behind what he advocates, and it might well have worked as he thinks it actually is working if it weren’t for the huge increase in spending following our being attacked. So, two things now about what has ensued, then I’ll quit for today.

First, the situation in Iraq prior to our invasion was that it was ruled by an evil, despotic, sadistic bastard who really deserves whatever he gets. But, he was not a sponsor of our enemies. For all that he was, he had no way to get at us, no organization of guerilla fighters willing to die for him, and most importantly, no money to launch any meaningful effort outside his own borders. He began his regime talking about a Pan-Arab alliance, but a secular one. Our enemies don’t want anything to do with a secular state. They want a state based on strict traditional Islamic law. They are Shiite, a sect which has been fighting with the Sunni, of which Hussein is a member, since the eighth century. There is no way at all that our enemies would have allied with Hussein. They could not opera
te in or out of Iraq at all. In fact, near the end, Hussein was hauling Shiites off and otherwise harassing them in spite of his talk of a secular state. Ruthless, evil, bastard dictator yes; enemy of us no. The Sunni/Shiite schism goes back a long way and has a lot of complicated nuances that are tough enough for someone with a Doctorate in comparative religion to keep straight. A C student, that is most of us, will have trouble figuring out even who’s who in that circus.


Bill Clinton, who displayed extremely poor judgment personally, was nevertheless anything but a C student. He invaded Iraq with missiles, apparently quite effectively, as the WMDs were no longer in evidence when the troops arrived. This is true even though the situation there is a new one to most Americans. I’m not endorsing Slick Willie as a great man, but I need his intelligence to illustrate my point. The new situation was less of a problem for the smart lawyer, and a huge problem for the C student, who apparently still fails to grasp what he’s dealing with. As a tactic, using Hussein as a shield while we brought down those who have attacked us, that is, letting him be his evil and miserable self, had a lot to recommend it. Instead, we invaded with false assumptions (remember we were going to be greeted as liberators?) We assumed that the Iraqi infrastructure would be there, when in fact Hussein’s party apparently was the Iraqi infrastructure. By ignoring the historic divisions within the Arab world, and I haven’t even touched on the Kurdish situation, we invaded with no plan for how to deal with an insurgency. So now we’re there, up to our eyebrows in it. I heard recently from a panelist on Bill Maher’s show that it’s likely that the current team in Iraq is the finest you could ask for, and that if there is a way out of the mess, they’re the ones to come up with it. I’m really happy to hear that it only took the C student three years to do the right thing. It would have been nice if he’d assembled those folks prior to setting out, but there it is: he couldn’t analyze the situation fast enough.

Second, the tax theory. A lot of liberals like to deride the “trickle down” tax idea, but it actually has some real theoretical underpinnings and is not really at all opposed to the basic Keynesian model. When times are good you cut taxes and stimulate the economy; when times get tougher you run a deficit to stimulate the economy. The part that all parties are ignoring is that in time of war you can either raise taxes to pay for the war or you can watch inflation eat up your money supply. It’s your choice. You cannot lower taxes to pay for a war. So, as I said above, his tax cuts (for the rich or otherwise) may well have worked out well, as they seem to be doing if you don’t watch the value of a dollar, but they will not work to pay for a war. Put simply, money you blow up on a battlefield is lost because it can’t circulate any further. That’s okay as far as the war is concerned, but you pay for it. One way to pay is by raising the revenue through taxes. The other way is inflation. Bush’s father chose the first path and didn’t get re-elected, but the economy recovered nicely. Bush has chosen the second option, and already inflation is increasing. It will get really bad before it’s over, because this guy learned about tax cuts at Yale and, by gosh, that’s what we’re going to have. The situation changed with we were invaded, but I guess he’s had all he can do coming up with a competent team to handle the situation in Iraq. Bless his pea-pickin’ heart.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

My generation like all generations is known mainly through a series of public misconceptions. For instance, my generation had absolutely nothing to do with the birth of rock and roll. Nada. Zilch. Not a single little thing. The generation that invented rock and roll is still around, though, but they’re known as the “silent generation.” Talk about a bum deal, huh? You invent a screaming new musical form and you’re known as “silent.” Nice. But who called these guys “silent” in the first place? Why it was the “greatest generation”, those brave young men who fought and defeated the forces of Hitler and Tojo and saved the world for inanity, that’s who? And who are they to be mislabeling a generation? They are, like my generation, a “dominant” generation, according to the theories of a couple of (boomer) authors named Strauss and Howe. Dominant? You bet. “Greatest Generation?” Moot, to be sure. “Silent?” Hardly, but the name stuck, which allowed my generation to think it had invented rock and roll because after all, the “silent” generation never did anything, did it? Ouch.

As to winning World War II, those brave GIs were to be sure some of the finest and most reliable soldiers ever put on a battlefield. But, and this is a look at another generation that never gets any credit, the war was won by the generation called “Lost.” You know, guys like Patton, MacArthur, Eisenhower, were not GI generation people. They were members of a generation surprisingly similar to the ones we boomers named “X”. Why X? Because it’s a name that relegates the poor suckers to the dustbin of history, which is where any generation not dominant belongs, to judge from the record. I don’t think that they belong there, but that’s where history keeps putting them. D-Day was planned by “Lost” people. The brilliant island-hopping campaign in the pacific was planned by “Lost” people. The grunts who followed orders so well took, and continue to take, all the credit. It’s the way of the world. So let’s move on to my topic; on to my generation.

Ever since I was old enough to figure out what was happening my generation has driven me nuts. I remember in high school a friend and I were talking about how someday our music would be the stuff played in elevators and dentists offices, but a large group of our friends insisted that we were wrong, that that would never, ever happen, because we were so different from the old folks. Actually, the famous “generation gap” was a gap because we were so damned much like the old folks in our certainty of being right. On a personal level there really wasn’t much of a gap. The world didn’t change any more than it does in any given twenty-year period (which is plenty) but we bought our own hype about how it was changing just then. Why wouldn’t our favorite music dominate culture in the future? Wasn’t it already doing that? Somehow my friend and I knew that we’d be 56 years old someday, but our other friends hadn’t caught on. We did listen to some good music, that’s true. The Beatles (Silent generation) and the Stones (Silent generation) and The Doors (silent generation) and Elvis Presley (Silent generation) and . . . well, you see the pattern I’m sure. All the anti-war movement, all the folk, rock, heavy metal stuff were products of the “Silent” generation. It’s great stuff to a large extent, and the times were really interesting to live through, but when you hear Boomers taking credit for any of it, know that they are lying, or more likely deluded.

As to the Silent generation, if you haven’t seen it, rent “Rebel Without A Cause.” It says all you need to know about the attitudes of that generation. I especially like the significance at the end, when young James Dean literally walks out wearing his father’s coat. We all do that, of course, but most of my generation has so far refused to admit it, because we’re “not like them.” Funny, I seem to recall my parents worrying about the exact same stuff I worry about, but then again I guess I’m not normal. Or am I?

We got most of the cultural iconography we brag about from the Silent generation. After us is a generation who failed to resonate so well with those silent types, to such an extent that we had to give them a name reflective of our lack of understanding of what they were about. X works so well, don’t you think? Yes, Generation X: mystery of the ages. Generation X has been denigrated as a bunch of slackers almost since they started getting born. They aren’t slackers at all, of course. Remember those “Lost” generals of WWII? They got that name from the generation that preceded them, a generation out to save the world and remake it in the image of high moral standards and democratic institutions. They were known as the “Missionary” generation because of their zeal to correct the errors of the world. When they found themselves without any enemies courteous enough to attack them, they used a boiler-room accident on the battleship Maine as an excuse to take of the last remnants of the once great Spanish empire. Glad we don’t do any such things, aren’t you? Heck, we had someone nice enough to actually attack us and give us the excuse we needed. You’ve gotta love service like that. Of course, the Missionaries’ real triumph was World War One, where they vowed to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” Damn, but that has a familiar ring to it somehow. It didn’t do that, of course, which is why the Lost generation, slackers that they were, got to clean up the mess by promulgating World War Two. I for one am glad they did, and I wish they were around to do something similar. Except that they are, in spirit. Generation X, after we’ve screwed around long enough with this terrorism, Iraq, and whatever other idiotic stuff we manage to come up with, long enough, will be stepping up to the plate to clean up the environmental, economic, and social mess we are even now generating as fast as we can. They will use as their workforce the generation following them, the generation without a clear name yet, but I can tell you that the oldest are in their early twenties and the world better get ready. Strauss and Howe call these guys “Millennial” because they are coming of age as a new millennium starts. The Millennials will, of course, take credit for the solving of our problems, leaving Generation X, like the Lost Generation, tremendously accomplished but little acknowledged.

And my generation will be right in there, one way or another. In fact, generations like mine actually come into their own as they get old enough to be “elder statesmen.” FDR was a Missionary. He didn’t do a heck of a lot, but he sure was inspirational to others, so he managed to get a lot of stuff done by dint of intelligence, sensitivity and top-notch communication skills. The Boomer equivalent of FDR isn’t around yet, probably because he isn’t needed yet. Or maybe she isn’t needed yet. There’s no way to tell, but I am looking forward to watching the next twenty years unfold. I have no idea how those slackers are going to dig us out of the hole we keep digging, but I’m confident that they’ll pull it off. To you who are stuck with the clean-up, for my part, whatever it’s been, I’m sorry. And thank you very much. If you’re a Gen-X er, you might want to read that line again, as you’re unlikely ever to hear that a second time otherwise.

I’d like to go on about how awful we Boomers truly are, but the fact is that we’re just being what we were destined to be by the workings of a free society. So are Gen X, and the ones after them and the ones after them. Wait! Three generations after Boomers? Of course. Even now, the next “silent” generation is being born. They’ll wonder what’s wrong with the world, just like James Dean. In fact, although I may never know, I predict a surge in popularity for James Dean films in about thirty years. Stick around and find out.

If you’d like to know the basis for this, um, essay, check out Generations : The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, by Neil Howe and William Strauss, from Harper Perennial. The book was written in 1988, but it accurately predicts the general political tone of the country right up until this week. Fascinating stuff, and proof that my thesis that all Boomers are worthless is probably about as untrue as any other such generalization. Besides, there’s me.

Movies

I write movies, so I thought it would be appropriate to talk about them a little bit. This isn’t a rant, so if you come for my idiotic ranting, you’re going to be disappointed. This is probably going to be a boring essay. Sorry about that. What I’d like to talk about is the apparent dearth of good movies, and the commercial aspects of the industry, an industry with which I’ve become increasingly familiar in recent years.

It isn’t necessary to be in Hollywood to make a movie. In fact, the most productive studios in the world are in Bollywood, which is in India. They crank out films like Hollywood did in the thirties, with a similar system of studios and stars. It is more than rumored that organized crime has a hand in many of the production houses there. That’s because organized crime likes to hide it’s income in difficult to track places, and there’s not much more difficult to track than the actual finances of a large movie studio. You can see the bottom line without any trouble, especially if the company is common-stock owned, but you can’t see exactly where the money comes from, or where the expenses go. The Mafia used to love Vegas for the same reason, but these days every nickel that goes through the gaming industry in Nevada is accounted for in triplicate at least. Give them your age, occupation, and marital status and they’ll tell you how much you’re probably going to spend when you visit. Good for the industry, bad for the Mafia. Anyway, my point is that movies have a lot of hidden costs and benefits that even insiders most likely don’t have any way to determine. That has led many to suspect a vast corrupt conspiracy against artistic expression, or some such hoo-rah. That’s probably mostly BS, but it does sound good to say. What the problem really is boils down to though is the extremely risky nature of film making, financially speaking.

The average price tag on a movie is just short of $100,000.00 US. That’s a lot of cash, which is why you see very few people simply making their own movies and getting them distributed. Of course, that’s always a possibility. Something like The Blair Witch Project cost very little and makes the producers a nice wad of cash. And of course there are lucky stiffs like Lucas and Spielberg who actually have enough money to put a big pile of cash into a production and know that they’ll get it distributed and make all their money back and then some. But mostly the industry depends upon investors, sort of like stockholders only with less legal protection. A hundred people putting in a million each can finance the average movie, or a million people putting in a hundred bucks each would work as well. Either way, you’ve got a bunch of folks who would like some assurance that their money didn’t just go down some rat hole into another dimension. Of sight, of sound, of money pit-dom, that is. So, what you want to do is make a block buster. A block buster movie is a sure thing to make your investors happy, your entire crew (which is hundreds of people) happy, your stars happy and yourself rich(er). So, how do you pick a blockbuster before it’s produced?

A couple of years ago, for a class in Project Management, I did a statistical study of all the movies produced in 2003 to see if I could find a relationship between things you know before you start and the ultimate success of the film. Does budget matter? Does the genre matter? It was a pretty comprehensive look at predictive factors in movie success. Guess which factor works best. Go ahead, give it a go, it’ll be worth it. You taking a guess? You about ready? Okay, here it is: the most fruitful way to predict a successful film before production begins is to flip a coin. Just call it “heads it makes money, tails it’s a bomb” and you’ll be fine. I am not making that up at all. There is no actual relationship between almost anything and the final success of the film other than intangibles that can’t be quantified, such as A-list stars, A-list directors, timeliness (impossible to predict, usually) and the mood of the movie-going public. Since it’s usually two to three years from green light to release, any of those factors can change and ruin your predictions. That is why you see the same old formulas, the same old plots, and the same old genres with the same old actors over and over. Do you have a hundred million you don’t mind risking on an unknown quantity? Well, neither does almost anyone else. This is the simple economic reason that it’s hard to break into Hollywood, it’s hard to get your script sold, it’s hard to become a successful actor, and it’s hard to get your movie distributed even if you do manage to make it yourself.

Is that bad? You bet it is. I have no idea what to do about it, of course. I imagine that the Impressionists in France in the nineteenth century had the same complaint about the art gallery scene, and I know the studios in the thirties talked about the same sort of issues. There’s a great potential for abuse in the situation: did the film make a profit or not? If not why not? Make something up, who will ever know better? So far as I know, there’s only been one case where an investor actually won the right to examine the real books of a big studio. He won his case and got his money, but in most cases, there’s no way to know if you’re being cheated or not if you’re an investor, which is why it’s so hard to get people to put money into films in the first place. Even if you’re not cheating them, you look like you are. For all of that, most people agree that the majority of the product coming out of Hollywood is pretty low quality. But hey, just think if you’re the new actor and you see your name in the credits for the first time? Or it’s your first job as a director and you get to put yourself right next to the film in the opening credits? Or you finally sold that script and you’re up there, right before the director and after all those producers? Is that worth shooting for or not? Yeah, it is, which explains why so many people keep trying to break into what is an amazingly frustrating way to make a living.

Oh, those credits? There is a set order for them. In the opening it goes: Title, Stars, Optionals, Producers, Writers, and Director, then the film starts. It’s popular to put them at the end lately, which means that they run in reverse order. Check it out, it’s a interesting bit of trivia. If the opening credits are at the end the Title follows the Stars, then the closing credits start. Wild, huh?

Advice Nobody Seems to Want

You want my advice? I don’t care, I’m giving it anyway.

What we all need to do in this country is let go of all the supposed idiocies that the “other side” has committed and get on with living in the present. I was moved to offer this sagacity when I read a short article about how awful it would be if Kerry and/or Gore were in charge since 9/11. Would it be? Well, who the Hell cares, anyway? They aren’t, and they never will be. I have no idea how honorable these two are, probably more than the person who wrote the article would admit to, but it doesn’t matter, because they didn’t win. How a pedantic intellectual and horse-faced depressive could fail to win the hearts of middle America is, of course, a mystery, but there it is. There is no reason at all to mention them ever again, unless they stick a foot in it (which everyone does once in a while) but even then, why drone on about their theoretical performance in Bush’s job? It really truly honestly doesn’t matter even the least little bit. Forget it. But wait, there’s more.

My brother sent me an email that was actually pretty funny detailing a fictional response to a fictional hearing in which Ted Kennedy gets lambasted yet again. Well, sure, it’s easy, but consider this: Ted Kennedy is probably a big fat jerk. The people of Massachusetts see fit, for reasons of their own, to keep re-electing him. (I suspect he does a good job for them, bringing home the pork like a good Senator is supposed to.) Therefore, except when he puts a foot in it as I said above, it really doesn’t matter what he does or doesn’t do to anyone outside of Massachusetts. They like him, I never voted for him, neither did you, so ignore him like you do the people on the street corner fishing for quarters and move on. The fact is, outside of his home state, he really doesn’t matter. He isn’t Joe Kennedy, he isn’t JFK, he’s not even on the level of his brother Robert. He truly does not matter, any more than do Kerry and Gore. (Sorry, bro, but it was a funny email.)

But lest it seem I’m hitting the right side of the aisle a little hard, consider George W. Bush as President. There are those still very bitter over the fact that the Supreme Court intervened in Florida. They say that the Supreme Court elected him. Actually, the Electoral College elected him, because that’s their job. They elect all of our Presidents. Aside from the debate about whether the Electoral College is a good or a bad thing, he was duly elected in 2000, and again in 2004. I didn’t vote for him because I figured him for just the dufus he seems to be, but I didn’t like my choices much either. Heck, I’d vote for Nixon again over any of the current crop, even though unfortunately he really was a crook. However, dwelling on Nixon, or on the election of 2000, isn’t accomplishing a damned thing other than keeping people unduly upset. Just as it doesn’t matter what Kerry would have done, it doesn’t matter about that election. Who you gonna appeal to after the Supreme Court rules? Exactly. They are the final court of appeal, per the constitution. Like it or lump it. The court is the court, W. is the President. Better we should get over it and move on.

I don’t mean all this to be taken as we should just blindly support the administration because they’re the administration. What I would like to see is some constructive criticism, maybe some effective use of PR by someone who isn’t friends with Jerry Falwell. Something with meat in place of stridency would be nice from either side of the aisle.

I don’t like petty obfuscation in place of explanations, but I don’t like “we can do better” in place of an actual plan any better. We have a nation that we invaded, rightfully or not, that we owe a rebuilding to. How are we going to do that? We have a master of spin for an enemy who uses our own good-natured American goofiness and lack of strong central control against us. What shall we do about that? For that matter, should we send an army into the Hindu Kush and rout the sucker out? What about the Patriot Act and its more controversial provisions? In Denver the library no longer keeps records of what patrons check out. Is that a clever preservation of freedom or an unfair thwarting of a legitimate investigation? Those are all things that really do matter, but I never see anything about any of them, or at least not much beyond sound bites. Here’s another thing that matters: many Americans have quit reading newspapers, if they ever did, and get their news from Fox or CNN. Many more don’t even go that far, and get their news from talk radio. Is this an informed electorate? You decide.

We don’t have to like each other all the time, but we do need to remember to respect each other all the time. It is possible to work through these differences, you know if we quit dwelling on each others’ supposed shortcomings and concentrate on figuring out how to handle the real problems we face now.

Or, we can just keep screwing around while Bin Ladin laughs at us in his cave. Our choice.

Bin Ladin Owes Us Big Time

Osama Bin Ladin owes us big time, and here’s why.

We are fighting a war of public relations for the hearts and minds of the people of the Middle East. Our opponent is doing exactly the same. If you think he gave a camel’s behind about the World Trade Center per se, you need a refresher course in thinking about PR. What he wanted was a really good symbol, which he got in those (actually pretty ugly while they stood) towers in lower Manhattan. Aside from what we hear domestically (like “they hate us for our freedom) what he got was one heck of a visual showing him bringing down a huge symbol of “the great Satan” (I’m still flattered by that) that made great evening news material all over the world, and better news fodder in Moslem countries. What a coup for him, huh? Of course, the fact that within months we had him on the run and living in a cave somewhere while we drove his troops out of Afghanistan was a bit of a blow. Truth to tell, we pretty much put the lie to his claim of great power against us. Until, that is, we hit Iraq.

Now, the truth is, Saddam Hussein is a lousy human being. He deserves worse than he’s gotten. But I could say the same about a number of people in the world, like that joker in North Korea for example. An important point about Saddam Hussein, lost completely on those not up on Middle Eastern history, is that he is a Sunni. Osama Bin Ladin is a Shiite. So what, you say? That schism was created when Mohammed died, in the eighth century. For a non-believer in Islam it seems silly: it’s a dispute over who is the rightful heir to Mohammed’s empire. That is, the Sunni say it’s one branch of the family (literally a branch of Mohammed’s descendants) and the Shiites say it’s a different branch. It may seem silly to me (and it does) but it was enough to ignite a civil war well over a millennium ago that is still going on today in parts of Moslem society. Not, interestingly enough, amongst American Moslems. They may give each other the hairy eyeball on the way to the Mosque, but they don’t actually attack each other in any other way. Not here, I mean. But, in the Middle East, the war is hot and active.

What I’m saying is that Hussein and Bin Ladin have an innate hatred for each other. This means that, bad as Hussein is, there was not any compelling reason to stir up a war against him until we had dealt with Bin Ladin. In fact, you could say that there was a compelling argument for leaving him alone until that time, since he was, in addition to doing all the evil stuff he was doing domestically, keeping Bin Ladin’s followers out of his country. Hussein started out pushing for a civil pan-Arab union, and even for a while was pretty much fair (so far as a guy like that is ever fair) to his Shiite citizens. I guess he figured they had the Kurds to pick on, so they could take it easy on each other in Iraq. (That the Kurds are suppressed is an interesting thing in itself. Saladin, the famous opponent of Richard the Lionhearted, was a Kurd. I guess the Kurdish stock has fallen a bit, so to speak.) But for whatever reason, the fact is that there were no Al Qaeda in Iraq prior to our invasion. For a while there we had taken away most of Bin Ladin’s operating theatre, and then we invaded Iraq and gave him Mesopotamia to use as a recruiting and training base. We were not so smart at just that time, and that’s the truth.

But beyond providing Bin Ladin with a new playground, we also played right into his PR campaign about how evil we were. We find some idiots torturing prisoners and, sure, it wasn’t sanctioned, and we’ve punished those responsible, but not by the lights of fundamentalist Islam. According to the laws as set forth in the Koran, those people deserved a lot worse than dishonorable discharge and maybe some jail time. No public humiliation, no lopping off limbs, no beheadings, I mean, from the point of view of the average oppressed Muslim, we slapped those people on the wrist and let them go. And, we were evil in doing what we did (through those people) in the first place. Now there’s the flap over Gitmo which, surprise, plays right into the same PR game. You can say all you want that we don’t torture, but when those Abu Gahrib photos are shown again on TV in Damascus, you look like a liar. Since that scandal happened in Iraq, there’s a big PR opportunity for the bad guys that would never have happened if we’d waited to take Hussein out until we had Bin Ladin in a cage in Times Square.

Sometimes you can’t help the PR disadvantage. Those controversial cartoons are not nearly as bad as some of the stuff you see aimed at Jesus or Christians, so as an American of course we say “what’s the big deal?” And that’s true. Screw ‘em, but it’s a PR blow all the same. Which makes all the more important to watch our other moves to make sure we aren’t simply multiplying the effect things like stupid editorial cartoons have on the situation. We say we like democracy, but when Hamas gets duly elected we state flatly that we’ll never deal with them. I guess Israel would be upset with us if we did, but there’s one heck of a PR piece for the other guys. The PR line is that we say we like democracy until the election goes against us. Boy howdy, it has all the look of truth doesn’t it? I’m not sure that fighting rigid ideology with an opposing rigid ideology is the way to go in a guerilla war, but apparently our government thinks so, because they are the ones refusing to deal with the duly elected government of Palestine.

Why is this stuff about PR wars important? Consider the American Revolution, a war we were destined to lose by any conventional analysis. The British army was the best fighting force in the world, and Britain was the richest country in the world. There was no way a bunch of ragtag American irregulars could possibly defeat the greatest fighting force ever assembled. Until they did, that is. And they did it not by winning most of the battles, because in truth they lost most of the battles. They won some big ones that tended to demoralize the British public, though, until the Brits finally simply lost interest and King George had to let us go. In fact, after Yorktown there was virtually no more fighting, although the Treaty of Paris that ended the war officially came several years later. The British lost the will to keep going in what they saw as an expensive and difficult effort in a distant land.

If that sounds familiar, it may be because of the similarities to the situation in Vietnam forty years ago. Once again the greatest fighting force ever assembled was sent packing by a ragtag army of irregulars. Once again it was the PR that did the trick. Many people still like to argue about loyalty, patriotism and sympathizing with the enemy to explain that defeat. Okay, that’s true enough, but the fact is that it’s true because the PR aspect of the war, that was the increasing appearance of futility and expense, wore down the foreigners’ resolve (we were the foreigners, remember) until they finally left the place to the guerillas. It didn’t help that the war started due to what has since been shown to be a plain lie, either, but we didn’t know that at the time so I don’t think it counts.
Now here we are, a foreign force facing an insurgency, which is just another way of saying a guerilla army trying to undo what we