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AN ELEGY FOR CHARLIE HEBDO

Charlie Hebdo on Paris Match

(This was written just after the killings at Charlie Hebdo January 7, 2015 )

The fractured and widely dispersed movers and shakers of the Jihad ( جهاد‎ ǧihād [dʒiˈhæːd]) must be feeling pleased with themselves. Across the Muslim world, the Western inspired revolts have all but been put down and all but Tunisia are back to business as usual. The latest news on that front is that Libya’s politicos have rolled back the ban on their colleagues who worked for Gadhafi. Two Islamic nascent states are forming, one in northern Iraq/eastern Syria, ISIS land, and the other in north Nigeria, Boko Haram land. The Jihad Illuminati have kept up a media blitz on the infidels starting in December in Sydney, then the beheading of journalists foolish enough to put themselves into the grasp of ISIS, and most recently the execution of the pudgy Cabu and his fellow blasphemers at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. This last attack was to them a triumph; those cartoons of the Prophet needled even the most progressive Westernized Muslims who understood, if not agreed with, the justification of the killers. Muslim condemnations distinguish between the act and the provocation, something lost on the rioters in Pakistan and Nigeria, and the newly minted Jihad Joes and Jihad Jills now on their way to Northern Iraq to fight for Islam. Undoubtedly there are more martyrdoms in the pipeline. They are wildly cost effective: for the price of a decent party to Atlanta you can get front page billing for days on end.

And such parties do happen. I was told of such a flight from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia which carried a party of young Saudi men to Atlanta for R&R. Once the airplane was airborne and the beers had been opened, my friend and the party organizer was shocked by the demands from the party goers for prostitutes and cocaine when they arrived in the USA. The behavior of these young Saudis was an interesting comment on the prevailing values in their country which according to its rulers is run under Sharia law. Indeed, there are several countries which are under Sharia law, such as Iran and the Gulf states, yet neither of the brothers Kouachi were killing for Saudi Arabia or any other Islamic state. They were killing for the once and future caliphate.

The Golden Age

By José Luis Filpo Cabana (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By José Luis Filpo Cabana

Islam as a religion and as a political organization exploded out of Arabia during the Rashidun Caliphate (Arabic: الخلافة الراشدة‎ al-Khilāfati r-Rāshidah) which lasted the thirty years foretold by the Prophet from 632 – 661 CE. The Jihad swept through Egypt, defeating the Byzantine emperor, and Iran, deposing Sassanid rule. The last three caliphs – Umar, Uthman and Ali – were all murdered, which closed that succession and led to the split between Sunni Moslems and Shi’a Moslems. For over a thousand years, Islam dominated the Middle East. There were a few upsets. The Franks established a brief (88 years) Kingdom of Jerusalem (which is wonderfully depicted in Kingdom of Heaven) followed by a toe hold at the port of Acre which lasted another 99 years. Far more serious were the Mongols who married ruthless military efficiency with a contempt for settled ways of life. The destruction they caused has only been exceeded by World War II and the 96-year long war of the Three Kingdoms in China. Inevitably, the vast Mongol empire succumbed to dynastic squabbles, and the western branches of Genghis Khan’s dynasty converted to Islam. A cadet of one of these branches, Babur, after many attempts, conquered northern India, establishing the Mughal Empire.

The Mughals were deposed by people from a smallish island on the other side of Europe: the British. The 19th and early 20th century were the glory days of European imperialism. European nations carved up the world into colonies and protectorates which included, after World War I, the Middle East. World War II closed that era and the former colonies in the Middle East became dictatorships or kingdoms with one exception. The survivors of the Holocaust migrated to reclaim their homeland in the newly formed Israel.

Palestine

Dome of the rock by By Rastaman3000

Dome of the rock, Jerusalem, by By Rastaman3000

There was an Arab population living in the then Palestine. Many Palestinians were evicted to make way for the refugees from Europe, who were followed by more from the Soviet Union. Twice, the neighboring Arab states attacked Israel, and twice they were roundly defeated. The simmering discontent of Palestinians and the impotence of the Arab ruling class morphed into the PLO as a terrorist organization led by Yasser Arafat. They targeted passenger jets, in particular the Israeli airline El Al. Of course, when in due time the PLO came to power, they proved themselves corrupt and incompetent, and where replaced by the more austere Hamas.

World War II left Europe greatly impoverished with large swathes of wasteland. The British simply resigned to their fate as America’s poodle and quickly let go its colonies. Indian Independence partitioned the subcontinent into Pakistan and India, and was greeted with an orgy of violence, ‘the first to display elements of “ethnic cleansing,” in modern parlance.’ France attempted to retain some of its colonies but was quickly kicked out by their independence movements.

The corner shop

Yasser Arafat, leader of the PLO

Yasser Arafat, leader of the PLO

The lackluster economic performance of the former colonies meant that many of their citizens looked for homes and work in their former European masters. Those from the Indian subcontinent chose Britain. I recall watching a passenger dressed in a sari and newly embarked from an Air India 747, looking out through an entrance door way to Birmingham airport at the rain and a chilly English November evening.  Those from the southern coast of the Mediterranean or Maghreb choose France. The family of my elegant French teacher in Oxford was originally from Morocco.  This, on the whole, was a good thing. Nowadays, British high streets always have an Indian restaurant. The late-night corner shops in Britain are run by Indian families and in France such shops are called an Arab as their owners are mainly from the Maghreb. Multicultural Europe is a more interesting place. The east end of London, the traditional part of London for immigrants to settle, now has a Little India, a road lined with Indian restaurants just like China Town. I recall standing on Shadwell Station, on the Docklands Light Railway and close by, smelling all the curries being cooked in the tenements below. Once upon a time that smell would have been boiled cabbage. A very good friend hails from the area and is now a very successful computer consultant with a lovely family, and now lives in Holland.

Prophets and profits

Yet would these events by themselves have led to the massacre in Reims? We need to look to the more austere brothers of those party goers to Atlanta. At the end of WWII, the world was being divided into American and Soviet spheres of influence. FDR and Harry Truman co-opted Saudi Arabia into the American one, with a mutual defense agreement which included a permanent U.S. Military Training Mission in the Saudi kingdom. This agreement was cemented with oil, extracted by ARAMCO (formerly the Arabian-American Oil Company) which is based in Dhahran. The Suez crisis in 1956 demonstrated the US hegemony to the other Gulf States. The Saudi Arabian US oil connection explains the bizarre fact that George H. W. Bush, former US President and father of the then incumbent, and Shafiq bin-Laden, the brother of Osama bin-Laden, were  the honored guests at a Carlyle Group meeting on September 10, 2001, in New York, New York. The Bushes had bin-Laden priority shipped out of New York to avoid any unpleasantness.

To Moslems, Saudi Arabia is sacred. The Prophet had his visions near Mecca. The holiest book, the Quran was first written down in Mecca. Moslems pray towards Mecca, and are enjoined to travel once in their life there and process around the Ka’aba (Arabic: الكعبة‎‎ al-Kaʿbah IPA: [ælˈkæʕbɐ], “The Cube”), a journey known as the Hajj. To some Saudi baby boomers, their country’s role as custodian of the sacred sites and its spiritual preeminence didn’t square well with the conspicuous corrupting opulence available to some and the integral presence of Americans who also supported the archenemy Israel. Luckily for King Faisal, then the Saudi law giver, there was a simple solution: encourage them to leave and make trouble for someone else. Many young Saudi men left to join the Mujahedeen fighting the godless communists in Afghanistan. They kept their trust funds and got presents, like Stinger surface-to-air missiles which were good at bringing down Soviet helicopters.

War in the Gulf, part 1

Tout est Pardonne

Tout est Pardonne

So, when in 1990 Saddam Hussein’s army marched into Kuwait and threatened to continue on down to Dhahran and then other Gulf States, King Fahad, who had succeeded Faisal, called on the US to honor their agreement to protect his kingdom and their joint assets, much to the disgust of the Saudi Mujahedeen. The Americans, with a sizeable following of other states and a new generation of weapons much more suited to the open desert than the Vietnamese jungle, quickly defeated the Iraqi army. It did not finish the job because the Iraqi regime were clients of the Soviets who black-balled that encroachment into their sphere of influence.

The 1990s were a golden age for America. The Soviets retreated from Afghanistan. The Iron Curtain cracked and then collapsed, followed in short order by the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union. The other great Communist power, China, spooked by how quickly and easily the Soviets lost power, reformed just enough to encourage much of world manufacturing to relocate to its shores. Apartheid ended in South Africa and the promised blood bath was avoided by the genial leadership of Nelson Mandela. Academics wrote of the “End of History”.

Fujiyama’s end of history was an anathema to the Saudi Mujahedeen, now living in Afghanistan and another failed state, Sudan. The Prophet had prophesized that ‘towards the end times, the Rightly Guided Caliphate will be restored once again.’ Muslims would win. To defeat the Soviets the Saudis had teamed up with a group called the Taliban, a creature of the Pakistani Secret Service. These victors concluded that it was they who had defeated the Soviets and they could do the same to the Infidel Americans. They called themselves Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda

After one failed attempt to destroy the Twin Towers, the result was 9/11. Although this pleased the Palestinians, it did not result in the Jihad that Osama bin-Laden and his cronies wanted. The Saudis were evicted from Afghanistan, to the pleasure of the locals. The US President took the opportunity to settle the Iraq issue: to evict the troublesome Saddam and install an Iraqi version of ARAMCO.

Both US military expeditions ran into problems. The brief stabilization of Iraq due to the Surge of US troops and the fostering of the Awakening of Iraq allowed just enough time for the US military to officially withdrawal leaving Nouri al-Maliki as Prime Minister. Al-Maliki is a Shi’a and beholden to the Shi’a community which dominates Southern Iraq. It didn’t take long for him to alienate the Sunnis in North Iraq which elements of al-Qaeda exploited to create ISIS. The mountainous terrain of Afghanistan gave US forces the same grief as it did to the Soviets. So too did Afghani politics. The US Military has grown quiet on their operation as the Taliban wait and rest up in the safety provided by the Pakistani Secret Service.  After all, Bin-Laden was caught and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan’s Sandhurst or West Point, and, apparently, no one in Pakistan knew he was there? For more about Pakistan’s Secret Service read ‘Ghost Wars’ by Stephen Coll and ‘The Wrong Enemy’ by Carlotta Gall.

The current actions of the Jihadists, of which al-Qaeda is but part, should be considered considering the very limited response to 9/11 by main stream Moslems. The Jihadist leadership concluded that the reason that there was no Jihad in 2001 was because they did not have a territorial platform. This they have now acquired. The ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has declared his country a Caliphate and himself Caliph. He is currently picking a fight with Jordan, the weakest of their neighbors. If ISIS can draw that kingdom into a civil war, it would give them access to an Israel border, and an opportunity to take the Jihad to a new level with an attack on Israel to reclaim Jerusalem and evict the Jews. The ultimate prize is to depose their fathers and grandfathers and to establish their version of Sharia law in Saudi Arabia and reclaim the holy sites of Mecca and Medina from those apostates who sold their birthright to infidels and who deserve a fiery death.

Back in the USA

President Bush gave a Texan response to the events of 9/11: “We will find those who did this, we will smoke them out of their holes, we will get them running, and we will bring them to justice.” The US military quickly defeated their enemies in open battle and offered a vision of a prosperous, peaceful, progressive country. Instead the newly liberated peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan refused to step up to the plate, knuckle down, and do the right thing. Many Americans think those military interventions were well meant but they were a waste of time and cost too much in American blood and in American cash. Their high purpose announced at the UN is dead.

“For too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability. Oppression became common, but stability never arrived. We must take a different approach. We must help the reformers of the Middle East as they work for freedom, and strive to build a community of peaceful, democratic nations.”

President G. W. Bush

The fearless American Press

Steve Emerson - Terrorism Expert for Fox

Steve Emerson – Terrorism Expert for Fox

I’ve spoken with American coworkers and fellow dog walkers about the Charlie Hebdo killings and was stunned to find that at least half of them had not heard of it. That’s not surprising. ABC’s World News program regularly has no stories from outside of the continental USA. Fox News’s expert on Islam is – incredibly – the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty, Phil Roberson.

Another Fox pundit, Steven Emerson, said that Birmingham, UK, is an autonomous Moslem enclave closed to infidels and Moslem religious police are active in London.  He was corrected by the British Prime Minster and made time to apologize for being totally and stupidly wrong. Emerson is still on Fox.

Obama administration joined European leaders marching in support of “Je Suis Charlie”. Luckily, late night talk shows have a better handle on events.

The Super Bowl

Jeep Ad at the Super Bowl 2015

Jeep Ad at the Super Bowl 2015

This Arab thing event impacted important things like the Super Bowl 2015, when Jeep had the bad taste to include a cute girl wearing a traditional headscarf. Folks put them right.

Response to the Jeep Ad

Response to the Jeep Ad

Multicultural Europe

Multicultural Europe and an enlarged EU are considered a triumph by the bureaucrats who run the EU and the governments which drive it. The native and immigrant populations are not so sure. The bureaucrats naturally prefer a command economy and continue making the same mistakes as the Soviets. High taxation – income tax alone is 50% in France – and a plethora of regulation snuffs out innovation in all but the biggest enterprises so the wealth of Europe is gradually draining away to the USA and China. When I was in France last year I struck up a conversation with a lovely young woman in the Metro so I could practice speaking French. She told me that she wishes to move to the USA to enjoy a better life. Her friends do too. The economy of continental Europe is stagnant and unemployment endemically high. It is no wonder that the current French President François Hollande is the most unpopular president ever.

Economic strife polarizes societies. In France immigrant communities dominate the banlieue, the suburbs of Paris and other cities. Unemployment runs to 40%, drug trafficking is popular, and it is a happy hunting ground for the radicalizing imams sent to harvest Jihad Joes and Jihad Jills.

Eighty virgins?

Nasr al-Ansi

Nasr al-Ansi

So how does the Jihad recruit? According to the neighbor of Said Ibrahim, one of the 21 July 2005 London bombers, Ibrahim was expecting his 80 virgins when he went to paradise. Quite how the recruiting sergeants keep a straight face when proselytizing with such transparently adolescent fantasies is quite beyond me. It is medieval just like the chant of those early Europeans on the 1st Crusade: “Dieu le veult” (God wills it), which is something no European has said recently. How did the poor boy get such spammy notions? And where?

ISIS recruiters seem to be numerous and relentless users of social media, although if Scotland Yard’s report of the three girls who chose to travel to Turkey and perhaps join ISIS is mostly correct then the recruiting sergeants seem to have the run of mosques and safe houses across Europe.

Where do the recruiters get the money? On the whole recruiting in Europe and the US is a sideshow, organized it seems from Yemen, an old stamping ground of Al Qaeda. The Charlie Hebdo attacks were claimed by Nasr al-Ansi, described as ‘a top commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’ but in reality, is a sheepish, paunchy bureaucrat. He is Yemeni but his patch includes Saudi Arabia.

Native European communities naturally feel threatened. The Pegida movement in Leipzig in former East Germany complains about the effects of immigration. A mother at one of their rallies did not want her blond daughter to feel an alien in her home town. The English Defence League has produced a film which includes a young English white woman talking with a bukkah clad protestor; the protestor accused the English woman of being dressed like a tart. Such misgivings are dismissed by media and government alike as racist, uneducated and dumb.

Cultural Differences

In 2010, Zafran Ramzan, Razwan Razaq, and three others were found guilty of having sex with minors, and where put on the sex offenders register. The judge had no doubts as to what kind of men they were:  “the message must go out loud and clear that our society will not tolerate sexual predators preying on children.”

In September 2012, articles in The Times, a prestigious London newspaper, reported on “a problem with networks of Asian offenders both locally and nationally” which was “particularly stressed in Sheffield and even more so in Rotherham, where there appears to be a significant problem with networks of Asian males exploiting young white females.” This quote was taken from a 2010 report by the police intelligence bureau.

The official reaction to The Times’ articles from the South Yorkshire Police was: “The Times was wrong and that to suggest the police was deliberately withholding information was “a gross distortion and unfair on the teams of dedicated specialists working to tackle the problem.”

“In October 2012, the Home Affairs Select Committee [a key component of governmental oversight] criticised South Yorkshire’s chief constable, David Crompton, and one of its senior officers, Philip Etheridge, for their handling of child sex abuse. The committee heard evidence that three members of a family connected with the abuse of 61 girls were not convicted, and an unconvicted 22-year-old man was found in a car with a 12-year-old girl with indecent images of her on his phone. David Crompton said that “ethnic origin” was not a factor in deciding whether to charge suspects. The committee said that they were very concerned, as was the public

In January 2013, the head of Rotherham Council, Martin Kimber, was summoned to the select committee to explain the lack of arrests for sexual abuse, despite South Yorkshire Police saying it was conducting several investigations and the council having identified 58 young girls at risk. MP Keith Vaz questioned why, after five Asian men were jailed in 2010, more was not being done: “In Lancashire there were 100 prosecutions the year before last, in South Yorkshire there were no prosecutions”. The council apologised for the “systemic failure” that had “let down” the victims of child sexual abuse.

Although there had been three previous inquiries – in 2002, 2003 and 2006 , the one commissioned by Rotherham Council in November 2013 and headed by Professor Alexis Jay was comprehensive and damning.

It found that girls “were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated.”

Some “children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone.”

The report concludes: “No one knows the true scale of the child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.”

During the period of the cover up the official attitude might be summarized by the experience of one whistle blower: … she had been accused of being insensitive when she told one official that most of the perpetrators were from Rotherham’s Pakistani community. A female colleague talked to her about the incident. “She said you must never refer to that again – you must never refer to Asian men.” “And her other response was to book me on a two-day ethnicity and diversity course to raise my awareness of ethnic issues.”

Oh, the irony

Charlie and Houellebecq

Charlie and Houellebecq

When the gun men burst into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, that week’s cover of Charlie was of a French author, Michael Houellebecq. The cartoon mocked Houellebecq for being old and poked fun at his book published that very day called Soumission. This book thanks in part to Al Qaeda is now a best seller.

‘Narrated by a middle-aged academic, Soumission sees Houellebecq imagine France in 2022, where Front National Leader Marine Le Pen is beaten by the leader of France’s new Islamic party, Mohammed Ben Abbes. Once Abbes is president, women go veiled in the street, and schools adopt an Islamic curriculum.

The work’s themes have been described as controversial – “France is not Houellebecq. It’s not intolerance, hatred and fear,” French prime minister Manuel Valls, told reporters – and Houellebecq’s publisher in France was placed under police protection in the wake of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, with the novelist stopping promotion of the new book.

A caricature of Houellebecq featured on the cover of last week’s issue of Charlie Hebdo, published before Wednesday’s attack; it’s “not bad”, the novelist told an interviewer on Le Grand Journal that week, adding “Cabu [the late cartoonist] often did me – he was often funny”.’ Reaction in France to the Charlie Hebdo killings neatly divided native and immigrant communities. A million Parisians marched and waved pencils. Jean-Marie Rouart of L’Acedemie Française thundered in Paris Match, “C’est Voltaire qu’on assasine”. The reaction in the banlieue was mute.

French newspapers reported that some students in these neighborhoods—as well as other heavily Muslim areas near cities like Lille—refused to participate in Thursday’s national moment of silence for the victims of the terror attacks. One teacher said up to 80 percent of his students didn’t want to observe the silence, and some said they supported the attackers. “You reap what you sow,” a student who refused the moment of silence told his teacher about the terrorists’ victims, according to Le Figaro.

Ominously, there is talk of another Jewish conspiracy.

Mehdi Boular, 24, who said he was married with two children, and two of his friends, did not attend Sunday’s rally.

“We’re Muslims,” Boular said. “They might have killed us if we’d gone.”

But even though the flags of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia were flying at the rally in Place de la République and Muslims were well represented among the marchers Sunday, Boular said the attacks in Paris were part of a plot masterminded by Jewish conspirators.

“The Kalashnikovs, the identity cards the [killers] supposedly left behind, it was all staged,” said Boular, as his friends nodded in agreement. “It was a conspiracy designed by the Jews to make Muslims look bad. We’d rather just stay where we are.”

The reaction of Hollande and his fellow bureaucrats, is predictably unimaginative: they issued a strongly worded statement – this time in the form of an infographic, and hoped that it will all go away. Good luck with that.

The Decay of the Art of Lying

Portrait of Mark Twain ca. 1905 owned by the Mark Twain Library in Redding CT, by Terry Ballard

by Professor S. Clements, Chair of Ozology, Agloe, NY

Essay, for discussion, read at a meeting of the Skull and Bones Club of Haarvaard, Boston, Mass., and offered for the three hundred thousand dollar prize, now first published.  [1]

Obviously, lying isn’t dying out. Even the most cursory check by the most careless nincompoop will find that the universal custom of lying is alive and well. As the Sage of Calaveras County reminded us, “…the Lie, as a Virtue, a Principle, is eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man’s best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth ….” We are eternally indebted to the Sage’s profound insight and professional zeal.

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi

Since Twain’s times, mankind has been the soul of diligence and industry, developing ever more excellent ways to doublespeak, distort, hype, misinform, mislead, mis-speak, sex-up, spin, overstate, understate, puff, rationalize and economize/stretch/twist the truth, The Sage would marvel at the burgeoning of the humble telegraph: acquiring a voice with the telephone, taking flight as radio waves, fusing Greek with Latin in order to draw in pictures, all to provide more and better ways to inform the general public about winning jackpots, the best car deals, and elixirs still not subject to FDA approval. He would gawp at the industry – which would humble the builders of The Pyramids – which has gifted the common man with the tools for truth adjustment, with its crowning achievement: Facebook.

So, given this sublime pinnacle of endeavor, what have I to complain about? What is so special about our current times? Why is there “a decay in the art of lying?” It is simply this: No educated person, no one well-traveled and familiar with the finer things in life could “contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted.” Our age is now described as one of “post-truth.” Apparently, truth has been optimized and upgraded to lo-cal truthiness. The fiction that most of the time most people, politicians and car salesmen included, tell the truth is finally exposed as a callow fiction. Could this be true? Is this like the Space Race, some moment, some small step which has been set in history never to be repeated?

The Libration of Paris

The Libration of Paris

Now the children are abed, we can all agree: not in the least. The Lie is a Necessity, an Understanding, a Facilitation, a recreation and is Eternal; application does not wither her, nor custom stale. Many examples worthy of superlatives have slipped passed into dusty forgetfulness and as for truthiness, this too shall pass. After all, previous ages have gifted us such great legacies of lying. Who can forget the creativity evinced by Indulgences of the medieval church, the peace accords made with Native Americans, the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, the benefits of the British Empire, or De Gaulle’s liberation of Paris? And what of the good Doctor Goebbels, and his breathtaking achievements?

Has the use of the euphemism, the fig leaf of propriety, fallen from fashion? We have more than enough to cover the embarrassment of members of all parties, persuasions, and proclivities: you may “hike the Appalachian Trail”, “discuss Uganda”, adopt a “wide stance”, have the “utilizzatore finale”, “watch badgers”, “slip your moorings”, and although one may not have “inhaled” nor “had sex” the public feels she certainly swallowed.

Bernie Madoff, By U.S. Department of Justice

Bernie Madoff, By U.S. Department of Justice

The fecund field of finance has always been a profitable venue for lying. In recent years, it has benefited from scientific advances in confabulation, theprinciple being an arcane, redundant vocabulary which includes a lot of numbers and now mathematical inscriptions. This gives any fiduciary pronouncement an aura of science and certainty. Who can forget the masterpieces of Enron, Madoff’s marvels, or the creative opportunities offered by mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations? Nothing says a job well done than a $134.1 million golden parachute.

Science, the objective search to understand the universe and everything within it, has had its fair share of shady hypotheses: the four humors, the Martian canals, the racial inferiority of anyone not male, white, and educated at a fine university like this. Now science is big governance and big business, there is all the more reason to bend the rules, trim the results, overestimate a success. The title of a paper by John Ioannidis is suggestive: “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”. The central tenant of the scientific method is that “the facts, ma’am,” can be shown to be true by someone other than the proposer. That is reproducibility. Two papers studying reproducibility in psychology show that between a third and two-thirds are – how does one say – unproven, ranging from not wholly true to pure invention. It is worse in pharmaceuticals. Of the 74 antidepressants licensed by the FDA only 37 have positive clinical trials. Most (60%) new drugs licensed by the FDA do not have published clinical trials, at all. This opens the door to a wonderful new variant on the “silent lie” so prized by the Sage. Isn’t a relief to know that a member of the legal profession will be on hand should you be maimed or die as a result?

Tonkin Gulf incident

Tonkin Gulf incident

On the other hand, maybe some small step for mankind in the progress of lying has been achieved. Once, the explosive sinking of a warship and well timed news reportage could justify a war. Then it required two ships. Lately, inflation has set in, so a warship plus an embassy just didn’t do. It required a spectacular demolition to move the people onto a warlike footing, and, even then, it required a little bunk and hokum about yellow cake uranium to get the show on the road. Once this was achieved though, the people were touchingly believing in the President’s insistence that Saddam Hussein was an architect of 9/11. Neither did it seem strange that the incumbent President’s dad and Shafig bin Laden, brother of Osman, were together in New York on 9/10/2001. Do you believe Americans will support President Trump in his war? Would the generals be happy should he walk away from a NATO commitment to defend say Lithuania? I feel that we can no longer feel confident that a crisis containing the nuclear option would put the country on a war footing again, although no doubt our friends in the Kremlin would help if it were to their advantage. There is always the possibly of things going awry or valuable human beings like us being hurt.

Then there is the thrice-accursed Internet. Once, the wide spread dissemination of corrected news was limited to those with means and education. Everybody was entitled to their opinions, and we told them so, knowing that those opinions mattered little without ownership of at least a television station. Then the hippies struck. These wretches with their libertarian ideology created the Internet. The old expedient of looking at the letters to the editor is long gone. Ignoramuses, trolls, luddites and people of sense play as equals on the fracking field of the World Wide Web. It is also full of sink holes and silos from whence who-knows-what may erupt. Anybody can publish confabulated news and swing elections (so they say), and we can only shudder that possibilities which a world stage might be used by iron souled truth mongers.

Lying also seems to be in trouble when it comes to the fiction of politeness. Cowboys, samurai and Scottish highlanders were extremely polite. This is unsurprising when multiple means of ready death were easily available and those who might take insult well practiced in the use of those aforesaid means. Ladies who take tea were also carefully polite because of an iron etiquette and long memories. As Twain himself writes, “Is it justifiable? Most certainly. It is beautiful, it is noble. …they had a thousand pleasant ways of lying, that grew out of gentle impulses, and were a credit to their intelligence and an honor to their hearts. Let the particulars go.” Men, too, were courteous to a point although “Their mere howdy-do was a lie” and more likely meant “I wish you were with the cannibals and it was dinner time.” We are now thrust into a time when no political speech is complete without bleepable cuss words. Stupidity and cupidity are considered badges of virtue, much as, once upon a time, a holy man needs be filthy and wracked with fleas. The possibility looms that a viral video will become more influential than a White House briefing. Or worse, profitable agreements made by our kind of people may have to be shared. I’m aware of the efforts being made to tame this unruly sprawl, but we should ask how an elite can maintain its coherence and authenticity?

We now see the costs of allowing the art of lying to descend to such a level. A cost not measured by the trifles which inspire the common people – loyalty, country, community, and so on – but the only thing that counts, hard cash. Unshackled from truth, lies belong to anyone, and authenticity becomes as illusory as a quiet night out at a musical. But not all is lost and no doubt you are all aware of the challenges of the next four years. Indeed, I feel as the Sage did all those years ago, “like an old maid trying to teach nursery matters to the mothers in Israel.”  I think it only fit to finish as Twain did is his masterpiece “On the Decay of the Art of Lying”, “Joking aside, I think there is much need of wise examination into what sorts of lies are best and wholesomest to be indulged, seeing we must all lie and do all lie, and what sorts it may be best to avoid, and this is a thing which I feel I can confidently put into the hands of this experienced Club,–a ripe body, who may be termed, in this regard, and without undue flattery, Old Masters.”

[1] Took this pin money.

Images

The Featured Image: Portrait of Mark Twain ca. 1905 owned by the Mark Twain Library in Redding CT, by Terry Ballard.

Silvio_Berlusconi_(2010), By Silvio_Berlusconi_(2010).jpg: www.la-moncloa.es derivative work: Off2riorob (Silvio_Berlusconi_(2010).jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The_Liberation_of_Paris%2C_25_-_26_August_1944_HU66477.jpg, See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

BernardMadoff.jpg, By U.S. Department of Justice [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tonkin_Gulf_incident_track_chart_of_alleged_attacks_on_4_August_1964, By U.S. Navy. Post-work Cobatfor [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons