I GOT NOTHING
The funny thing about this blog, if there *is* anything funny about this blog, is that most of the source material is actually found in the course of work. Because of the global nature of my clients' operations, every morning I look in on papers from Japan, Singapore, Russia, Germany, South Africa, Belgium, France, the United States, Canada, and other places important to my clients. In doing that, I stumble upon the articles I blog about. It is sort of a symbiotic relationship. However, what this practically means is that I collect stories over the morning, or over a few days and decide later whether I think they are interesting.
So, this morning, I saw a story about a "Masonic" ritual in New York that went astray when the new admitee was shot and killed. When I first read this, I planned to blog about and it spin it off into all of the mythology about the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, and all of the other conspiracy silliness. I thought this would be mildly original and funny. Then L made a couple of cracks about the article along the same lines. OK, I thought. L is smart and funny, and we *do* live together, this may still be funny, original, etc. No problem. Then M in my office made a crack along the same lines. Suddenly I started thinking I was just mainstream, not original at all. Still, I thought, I can go a different route.
The new plan was to riff on the Simpson's Stonecutter
episode. You know, the one, with the song lyrics
Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do! We do!
Who leaves Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the martians under wraps?
We do! We do!
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?
We do! We do!
Who robs the cave fish of their sight?
Who rigs every Oscars night?
We do! We do!
This was going to be especially clever, since it would be riffing on a riff of the first thing I planned to blog about. Then my buddy K in D-V sent me an e-mail, riffing on the very same thing.
Thus, for possibly the most blogable story of the new millennium, I have nothing useful to say. And it took me a page to say it.
WHY WE FIGHT, OR ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL, AND WAR IS A CONTINUATION OF POLITICAL ACTIVITY BY OTHER MEANS
The Washington Post carried a story
yesterday indicating that studies of U.S. soldiers going off to fight in World War I and World War II were found to have the same woefully inadequate knowledge of U.S. history that we bemoan in kids today. At the time, there was concern that they would not fight very hard because they did not understand what they were fighting for.
This made me think of two quotes that I never realized were related. The first, by Tip O'Neill (I believe) is that all politics is local. This means that very few people truly vote on the basis of ephemeral national or international issues. They vote on what they see. Are the mayor and alderman doing a good job? Well, I feel safe in my neighborhood, the garbage gets picked up, the snow got plowed, and I have not cracked a wheel on a pot hole. Therefore, they are. This kind of reasoning informs voters all the way to the Presidential election. The issues are different, but what do *I* see. I believe that O'Neill is absolutely correct about this.
The second quote, edited for readability, is from von Clausewitz, who said that war is a continuation of political activity by other means. Von Clausewitz meant this in the context of international relations and the relationships between States, but when taken with the O'Neill quote, it explains why you can fight and win two World Wars and still not be able to correctly identify the United States on the map. Instead, in war—aka political activity by other means—you are asking people to risk everything. They won't do it for the theoretical niceties of Jeffersonian thinking, but they apparently *will* do it for local reasons, whether it is the soldier next to them, or to protect people they know and love.
I bet Tip O'Neill would never have expected to be coupled with von Clausewitz for a theory like this…
GUINEA HERE, GUINEA THERE
Multiple news sources are reporting
that Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea have arrested a band of mercenaries on their way to Equatorial Guinea to stage a coup. They include South Africans, Angolans, a German, and assorted other nationalities. No word on whether Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
was among those captured, although he had been seen in Biafra (Nigeria), Congo, Kenya (specifically Mombassa), Ireland, Lebanon, Palestine, and Berkeley.
In any case, this all got me thinking about the fact that there is an Equatorial Guinea, a Guinea-Bissau, a Guinea, a Guyana, and a French Guiana, all with confusable names. So, to clear things up for all of us so we can intelligently discuss all of the issues relating to these countries, I offer the following:
(AFRICA): slightly smaller than Maryland. Bordered by Cameroon, Gabon, and the Atlantic. Life expectancy at birth is 54.75 years. Oil is a major export, and the people may properly be called Equatoguinean. The country is predominantly Roman Catholic, and Spanish and French are both official languages.
(AFRICA): about three times the size of Connecticut (!?). Bordered by Guinea, Senegal, and the Atlantic. Life expectancy is 46.97 years. The country is intensely poor and does not export much other than agriculture. No word on what to call the Guinea-Bisstards. The country is mostly split between animists and Muslims, and Portuguese is the official language.
(AFRICA): slightly smaller than Oregon. Bordered by Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, the Atlantic, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Life expectancy is 49.54. Bauxite is the major product, and the people are Guinean (BORING). The country is predominantly Muslim, and French is the official language.
(S. AMERICA): slightly smaller than Idaho. Bordered by Venezuela, Suriname, the Atlantic and Brazil. Life expectancy is 63.09 years. Major exports are from mining and agriculture, and the people are known as Guyanese (yawn!). The country is half Christian, with a very large Hindu population, and English is the predominant language.
(S. AMERICA): slightly smaller than Indiana. Bordered by Brazil, Suriname, and the Atlantic. Life expectancy is 76.69 years. Major exports are satellites (the Europeans launch their satellites from here), the people are known as French Guianese. The country is Roman Catholic, and the language is French. French Guiana is a department of France, which is like a county in England, or a state in the U.S.
Now let's never confuse these again.
HEY LITTLE BUDDY
, of Dobie Gillis and Gilligan's Island fame has a web page and a fan club. He is also starting a radio station in his basement in West Virginia. I couldn't make this up.