Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Month: September, 2016

Doing the usual, and the unusual

Next scheduled for 15-10-2016

1) British values                     2) Brain-fracking

3) How parties collapse          4) The French body

We are both delighted and neurotically tense.  Manos is back.  He arrived the same way that he turned up the first time, only this time the craft was a full eighty feet long, gleaming white, and attracted quite a crowd to watch it manoeuvre into a visitor’s mooring.  More on Manos next time. 

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British values  Use your 3D printer to make a figurine to represent the 20,000 Syrian refugees that the warm-hearted British government has announced it is going to help, in 2020. (‘2020’ is a common expression in the hard-to-understand governmental dialect of British English, and all the more difficult because many officials pronounce it as ‘2025’.  Its meaning is ‘probably never’.)  The aim is apparently to help refugees by moving them from a refugee camp in one of the countries bordering Syria, to a different refugee camp in a country bordering Syria.  This may cost a lot of money, even if it never actually gets done, but is eloquent testimony to the generous ideals of the United Kingdom.  Then find a jobbing sculptor and get him or her  to make a statue preferably in granite to represent the people of Great Britain, on the same scale.  If your figurine is one millimetre high, the statue to represent the British population will be ten feet high.

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Brain-fracking.  Leaders of many sectors of European business held a one-day meeting in Zürich to denounce the increasing number of students, indulging in the craze for brain-fracking.  The idea is basically simple.  Just as fracking for oil involves pumping unusual mixtures of strange substances under high pressure into geological layers under the ground, hoping that something profitable will come bubbling up, so with brain-fracking students aim to pump as many unfamiliar social, mental, and psychological experiences as possible into their subconscious as fast as possible, so as not to let the normal reactions of the conscious mind have time to obliterate the raw edges of each new stimulus and force it to conform to conventional thought patterns.  “Bit like mixin’ a cocktail with a dozen different sorts in it.  No good if you take each one separate, gotta shake them up like fury, then you get sumpfing really weird coming out.  Quite different from injectin’ or swallowing stuff.  Like three circuses all runnin’ in the same tent, an’ you can’t stop havin’ these brilliant ideas keep bustin’ out, keeps goin’ all next day too,” says Khadija Shigemitsu a nineteen-year-old blonde.   At first there was no set framework, but now there is a fairly standard format, 12 experiences in six hours, so there can be need for quite a lot of advance planning, making appointments and checking transport links.  For instance, Kev, Khadija’s brother, is aiming on Friday to start with a chicken vindaloo at 3.00pm, going on at 3.30 to the first lesson in a course for learning spoken Mongolian;  after that a friend will meet him with overalls and a bucket and he will spend half an hour voluntarily cleaning a public toilet, where he will then change into a yellow jump suit the friend has also brought and spend half an hour jogging round Piccadilly.  After that there should be paddling with an inflatable dolphin in the Serpentine, being filmed picking a fight with a dog in Green Park, a quick change into a burqa for the walk over to the University where a graduate tutor will spend half an hour trying to get him to understand some of Kant’s Prolegomena to any future metaphysics, then to the Queen Agnes Insect Petting Zoo (‘Get Cosy and Comfortable with a Cockroach’); after that, round the corner to one of London’s last Chinese laundries still working (for tourists)  which for a small fee has agreed to let him spend half an hour laundering.  At 8.00 pm he is to attend an English Defence League meeting trying not to cause a riot though allowed to join in if it seems necessary for self-defence, and (a sensible bit of planning here) the sequence is to end with him going (perhaps at a brisk sprint?) to the nearby police station where he has to try to make the desk sergeant accept a report about a man dropping litter (a cigarette butt).  But business leaders across Europe, especially in the ‘creative’ industries, advertising and financial investment and the like, are asking for brain-fracking to be banned forthwith.  ‘Turnover and profit margins are in a nosedive.  It is an outrage that we can spend years charging top dollar for our extremely valuable contributions to the imaginative industries and suddenly front rank potential customers can simply walk into some club or bar in London and get all the ideas they want free from some young person who slept last night on a friend’s sofa and never heard of Martin Sorrell or Goldman Sachs in their life.’

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Monty Skew writes: A Common Misconception. The word ‘party’ in its political uses is widely believed to refer to groups of people, usually large, and usually united by their dislike of some other groups, but allegedly also by genetic inheritance from parents and grandparents, and more weakly linked by agreement on a number of policies for which they are willing to speak or act.  Historically this was in fact the original meaning of the word as democratic or pseudo-democratic systems gradually evolved from the earlier monarchies, but current usage is almost diametrically opposed to this value as a result of natural social processes.  (It now usually designates a large political group fraught with internal dissent and unpopular within its own country, run by a cabal with policies at odds with its earlier principles; e.g. PS in France, Tories and Labour in UK, CDU in Germany, PP in Spain.)  The reasons are the following.  Within the large group the most active (or ambitious) tend to take on positions of authority – e.g. as members of a parliament or of a committee directing affairs for the group as a whole, and this inner cohort, necessarily tiny in proportion to the whole, almost always come to see themselves as being the party, and their formulations of party policy as being ‘the’ correct ones.  This can be de facto the actual situation in totalitarian states if parties continue to exist, since ordinary citizens keep as far away from politics as they can, but is considered bad form in countries that purport to be democracies.  If no way is found in the latter to check the backward lurch towards rule by the equivalent of unelected kings and barons, contrary to the views which ordinary members of the national party still hold, disaster will sooner or later follow.  Disaster will be accelerated thanks to the media for two reasons.  First because both the media headquarters and the inner élites of parties will naturally tend to be sited in the same city or region, and so by normal social interaction the former will tend to get their reports from the latter (and those in the latter will tend to get their political views from one another regardless of party membership).  Second, because media sales, and media workers’ temperatures both rise when disaster is on the menu.  (Notice how groupuscules all over Europe have been turning into large-scale political movements in the past fifteen years, but this only gets much attention when it results in structural damage to established big players.)  (If you want to see how this can turn out in the long run consult any reputable history of the Soviet Union 1917-1953.)

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From Dr.Philipp.  From long personal acquaintance with him I can assure all readers that his unexpected decision to leave Corsica and to spend the next two months in the Bahamas is in no way connected with any of the numerous sagas of impropriety which have been holding readers of French financial news reports enthralled for a good decade now.

            In the few very agreeable days I spent at Palombaggia I could not help being deeply impressed by the athletic bodies taking various forms of exercise on the beach.  Classic Greek for the men, but the girls even better than classic Greek (because the prosperous young ladies of good birth in ancient Greece who were thought to have the ideal female form did  not get enough exercise.  Flabby.)  But the paragons in Corsica have honed their shapes to ne plus ultra perfection.  It took me back to my teenage years when I could not walk along Universitätsring without passing at least three women I wanted to marry immediately.  But as I was drying off after a brisk two-hour swim I reflected on the physiological crisis looming before France. It has become the fashion in France to take up what they think is serious exercise.  Even as I was here a survey announced that one in four, no less, of the population regularly does running.  (You and I would say jogging.)  Film stars and models fill the media with their nonsense, as they confide their innermost secrets to the world, quatsching about the surge of strength and well-being that they experience after exercise.  This is dangerous for the nation.  France is like a great raft built of ill-fitting parts joined together with elastic bands and sticky tape and paper clips which are already coming loose as it whirls around the outer curves of a giant whirlpool.  Unemployment still heading upward after five years, repeated mass street protests against government measures imposed without parliamentary approval, the menace of terrorism  alongside flagrant police bavures, 80,000 homeless in Ile de France alone (and 10% of those with a higher education diploma), presidential candidates by the dozen, a government thumbing its nose at EU rules on national budgets, and the current president suffering from fantasies of re-election are all chasing one another round and round and down into the depths beneath the spiral.  The poor wretches at Calais are not struggling to get to Britain, they are struggling to leave France.  If the minority who have so far carried their own burdens and kept the country going now start to spend their remaining energies on the unfamiliar burden of regular exercise the country is doomed.  The bulk of the population (and although they are not as obese as you Irish, ‘bulk’ is the right word) did not have a rigorous upbringing as did you and I.  It is true that their bodies without a background of years of hard training will benefit from this ‘craze’ for the first few weeks.  But after, the demand on their bodily resources will have its effect.  Absence from work will steadily increase.  Patients will crowd the hospitals with their back problems and mental strains, and will not be able to go to work even if there is any to go to.  But nine months after that you will see the biggest result of their exhaustion, the proof that their exercises of the night have not stood the strain.  The birth rate will collapse.  Shortage of French babies.  Even as immigrants from all over the world continue to arrive.  How will Madame La Présidente handle that?

 

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Less for more and more for less

Scheduled next 1-10-2016

Maud left five days ago, with our sincere thanks for livening up this place much longer than originally planned, and our equally sincere wishes for success in her world tour with the sumo girls.  We hope to welcome another intern soon but of course the supply of young talent willing to come over to work for nothing on our island for a month or two is not huge. 

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Saying of the week: Planning is the antidote to imagination (Old municipal proverb)

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Someone sent us this anonymously, photocopy of a loose single sheet of paper.  From what?

 team’s efforts (not least in Africa – congratulations!).The mystery to me is how it all still goes on like one of those light display projected onto some architectural monument or other.  Public opinion, that sleep-walking ape, whoops at the pretty colours and doesn’t even notice there’s anything behind them.  Never mind the rich pickings for firework manufacturers, condom distributors, and all those who produce chemicals with interesting effects on the human body, what better set-up could you imagine for arranging major financial deals out of sight of the tax snoopers of the world, than fixing them up behind the razmatazz of the most publicised two-week celebrethon in the calendar, all run in full view of all the world’s nations and news media?  Of course some of the big players know pretty well what goes on but they have their own reasons for not noticing, and anyway not a few of them are at it themselves one way or another but they don’t care so long as they can collect a bagful of medals and take them back as proof that Southern Ruritania leads the world (in ways left  conveniently unspecified) and the whole nation should rejoice and line up to support the glorious South Ruritanian government.  Sooner or later some of the snoopers are going to start asking questions about what else goes on so full marks to our leaders for helping to distract  attention this time round by their contribution to the great doping scandal, which with luck pushes back the evil day a few years.  Meanwhile as B says, the thing is to milk the golden goose for all it’s worth.  But the boys feel the Olympics are still a long way short of maximal profitability for all concerned.   Our leader reckons the single key factor is the golden medal business.  Nothing else gets headlines like that in all media back home wherever home is, and it doesn’t matter a dog turd if the medals are for competitive knitting.  He thinks an obvious move would be to increase the number of nations attending (already well in excess of those recognised by the UN), provided of course the new member nations prove they are able and willing to support the Olympic movement in all its many highly expensive activities!  For example, each Australian state could be recognised, athletically, as a separate country.  This would open up especially rich prospects when applied to the US.  But even before that there’s plenty of scope for souping things up a bit with the set-up we’ve got.  For instance, the number of gold medals could be hugely increased if other sports are made to follow the example of those, like boxing, which divide their competitions into many categories according to weight of the athlete, or subdivisions by type, as with swimming, breaststroke, free style or butterfly.  So there could be eg a ‘100 metres-running- backwards’ as well as the usual unimaginative 10 second version.  Other similar moves easily fixed, for instance, separate high jump competitions for those less than 1m 55 tall in the case of men, or 1m 45 for women.  Another one would be harpooning (i.e. underwater javelin).  And since we’re in the pool, how about three-legged swimming races?  Hours of fun!  And didn’t some lunatic a few years ago suggest distance races could be run on  figure-of-eight tracks as well as ordinary ones, would add a new element of skill for the runners and interest for spectators, and imagine the headlines if the leader gets knocked down at the crossover point by a runner half a lap behind him. And another lorryload of gold medals, if they’d get serious about inviting new sporting interests to send teams, which could include fishing, pole-dancing (after all beach volleyball is in there already), sheep-dog trials, bull-fighting, and all that stuff gladiators used to do in ancient Rome.

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Question of the week: Why are so many enthusiastic for the ‘hot-housing’ of athletic talent, to bring honour to their country, when they oppose ‘hot-housing’ of academic talent?  And what about the arts?  And music?

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Page 3 of a mailshot ‘The alpha male reader’s guide to the investment opportunity of the century’.

(The cover was burnt doing something illegal with it.)

 Our consultancy’s white-hot determination to do what only a few highly skilled experts realise is now necessary is a mood last seen when the Roman Empire was collapsing under the onslaught of refugees and asylum-seekers from the wrong side of the Rhine.  Now it  is on the threshold of a dramatic comeback for the sharp-eyed few who see that extremist times call for extreme solutions.  Don’t think small!  We’re not talking about asset-stripping the odd company here or there, running it into the ground and taking the boodle.  That’s just the timid sort of stuff they played at in the 1980s.  Think on the national scale.  Straws in the wind?  One of the British rail companies (which thanks to a Conservative initiative now all offer options for profitable investment in the transport needs of the British working classes) has shown how decisive action can deal effectively with major problems which have been allowed to linger on hamstringing a huge area for years, reducing returns to shareholders and annoying employers by delivering their workforces late.  This company abolished at a stroke hundreds of train services on its network; somewhat over 220 to be precise.  Once abolished, they no longer cause trouble.  No train, no punctuality failure (or horological discrepancy as they like to call it).  No train, no overcrowding to be grumbled about to MPs.  No train, no staff or running costs.  The workforces will adjust to it, they have to.  And now the NHS is experimenting with the same promising approach.  Despite constant efforts to make staff improve productivity and accept efficiency reforms, and despite the contributions made by thousands of highly skilled management personnel, many branches of the National Health Service have proved themselves unable to do their job properly, and they run their finances so badly they are crippled with debt.  Solution?  Close the  hospital or the troublesome parts of it.  Don’t be intimidated just because the sign at the entrance says ‘Accident and Emergency’.    But what is wrong with these first tentative steps is they don’t even go halfway.  You have an empty hospital?  Sell it, prices for office accommodation are still buoyant, and conversion to hotel use, in the right areas, is worth a look for the clever investor.  Similarly for second-hand rolling stock, unused station buildings, and, especially, massive landholdings.  But even this is chickenfeed.  What we want is a determined no-holds-barred campaign to close down and sell off not merely the NHS but all non-profitable sectors of national activity where still supported directly or indirectly by government funds, e.g. the road system, all National Parks, all parts of the coastline not yet privatised, museums and care homes for the elderly in general, the Civil Service likewise, prisons, the judicial system, the army, navy and air force, the House of Lords, the Royal family, and of course government itself.  If there is one economic fact more extraordinary than the abysmally low productivity of most households in OECD countries, it is that so few realise the inhabitants of the UK are sitting on one of the richest collection of assets in the world, and that so little has been done to realise its worth and put it to practical use.  The opportunities are mouth-watering.  Join us today!  Apply as specified on front of brochure.

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I was alerted to the above by Karela’s hoots of derisive laughter.  At first I laughed too.  Then it struck me – the rail company and the hospital events really are happening; it did all really start from the asset-strippers in the 1980s, and look at what enlightened capitalism has brought us to now. Humans evidently have a talent for producing disaster, whether they start from naked greed with added stupidity as above, or from grand programmes of social reform.  Karela and I have written a joint note taking one particular case where we can see what went wrong, and how it could be (but won’t be) stopped short of disaster.

Editorial note:  Let’s just comment on the British National Health Service as an example.  It  was set up after World War II, for two big reasons.  First, if you have any sort of nation, with large populations banding together for the common good, in the very front rank of the common good stands health of the inhabitants.  Some might call that a moral reason..  But there’s also a simple practical reason which even capitalist extremists should approve.  How can you screw the best profit out of your population if they’re suffering from rickets, or tuberculosis, or massive malnutrition?  Now, at the start the National Health Service in your country was well-funded by the government and the service was free to users.  Since those years costs have gone up for a plethora of reasons, which you can easily call to mind.  For any normal business, you’d say costs have gone up so our prices must go up (for that reason and to make sure we can pay the CEO a ‘competitive package’ to stop him emigrating to work in Switzerland or Monaco).  But the National Health Service is not a normal business.  It was set up to provide a free service to the population for very compelling moral and practical reasons.  Those reasons have not altered.  If therefore change is needed, in this case the change must be to increase financial support from the government as is needed to keep the service as it should be. And what better target for the massive investment economists say we need?

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Politically correct news: The League for Opposition to Offensive Notions and Speech is asking future editors and directors dealing with As You Like It to ensure that the ‘lover and his lass’ song is amended to make it clear that the lying in the grass alluded to should only have followed the explicit expression of ‘a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonny yes’.

 

 

Who needs political realism?

[Next in schedule: 15-9-2016]

1) Printing governments       2) Corbyn and Owen

3) Faits divers                       4) How to win a war without having one

. We are often entertained by readers’ letters.  Actually they’re readers’ e-mails, but language should preserve its relics of the past, with e.g. ocean liners ‘sailing’ instead of ‘driving off’.  (Did you know that 150 years ago ‘car’ was a poetic word, describing the sort of flying chariot that fairy queens could zoom around in, on their way to turn unpleasant princes into charming and amusing frogs?  Then capitalism (transport division, subsection advertising) got hold of it and see what has happened to the public landscape since.)   But in this office we were dismayed to get two letters showing that the news about the talented Printapoly group and their 3D-printed governments (10-7-2016) had been misunderstood as referring to some kind of dummies (in the tailor’s sense, not speaking of individuals who put their money into hedge funds).  Far from it.  These are fully functioning ministerial sets, conceived by the printers primarily as potential emergency replacements in case of national disasters or insensate nuclear war, but possibly, until then, sponsored by the UN as demonstration models taking part in high tech public performances to show how government can be done .  As previously mentioned each minister comes with a guaranteed IQ of at least 100. Their language capacity is international English achieved by modelling their brain structures on a meticulous nanoscale averaging of the brains of a thousand volunteers living in the Cambridge area and a thousand randomly selected passers-by in Camden Market, while the inbuilt knowledge of geography and history results from a scan of the past 300 monthly copies of the Reader’s Digest. Each minister comes with a no-corruption warranty, valid for three weeks from date of sale.  The group insist that these sets will all have governance competence at least equal to that of any elected government in office throughout the world.  It appears though that many potential customers have not realised what a bargain is on offer; only three sets have so far been sold, all privately, one to a businessman in the northwestern US, and both the other two to an African president who has apparently insisted on the strictest anonymity. 

            Having carried this project through to success, the team’s next target is to print synthetic beer.  “After the governments, that should be a doddle.  Ready next Friday, I’d guess,” said one elderly material scientist.  “All we have to do basically is a laser microanalysis of the necessary ingredients present in the final product, quite a complex business of course if you were trying to do it the traditional way, then print the stuff up in powder form, and distribute in plastic bags, and for smartphone generation customers we’ll stick on labels telling them how to add water.  Thanks to the government’s strange beliefs about psychoactive substances it’s going to be the only seriously profitable white powder that can be distributed without being illegal.”

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Beating the Conundrum  There have been calls from some members of the British parliamentary Labour Party for a shift to more centrist policies, with a view to gaining power.  This prompts two types of outrage, one concerning ideals, the other practicality.  Ideals): This amounts to shoving a custard pie into the face of democracy and then stuffing the fragments down inside democracy’s teeshirt.   The idea of democracy was supposed to be that you came up with neat ideas for how to organise things better and other people came up with different neat ideas, and then you would run them all before the whole population (excluding women and slaves, if you happened to be working on the much admired original ancient Greek system) to see which the wisdom of the people selected as less likely to lead to discontent, bankruptcy, or civil insanity.  That still is the idea of democracy , even if some people want to use the same name for ‘adjusting your principles and policies to whatever gives the best chance of getting your hands on the levers of power’.  Of course they will say “It’s only with a view to getting into power so we can then do what we really want”  (which is exactly the spiel of the more skilful dictators mounting a coup d’état as they address their fellow plotters).  No further comment at this time.  B): Practicalities:  Love a goose!  Do you think the Tories were voted in because the electorate thought they were fascist beasts?  (This is not to get into the question of whether some of them actually are fascist beasts.)  The electorate thinks the Tories are  the political centre.  There are so many of them (in Parliament where the news reports are based) that even without adding in the cryptoTories on the Labour benches they spill over and cover the centre line.  Everybody else counts as ‘minority’.  (Sorry Scotnats; I know it’s not fair, but anyway you haven’t got long to wait.)  If Labour trumpets that it’s shifting to the centre ground, the great British electorate will just shrug and ask why they should vote for a bunch of second-rate Tories when they could vote for the real thing (or stay home and watch the election on telly).  The only way out for Labour is to stick to your real principles, lose the next election, but get all those hundreds of thousands of members to actually turn up at meetings, speak up for real humane treatment of human beings (especially of people who do the actual work), get them writing to people with political influence, and point out again and again the failures and shameful inequalities and injustices that are imposed on the mass of people who are always too short of money, time and energy to fight back (a national disgrace and dishonour to the phrase ‘British values’).

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Transport news In a world first, Singapore has launched a scheme of driverless taxis which can be summoned online.  At first it will only operate in a fairly small central area.  This being Singapore the taxis will not only take you to your destination but will also tell you where you want to go.

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Answers to readers’ queries (no.1764)  ‘How will the EU’s new scheme for reducing the number of immigrants to the EU from Asia and Africa work?’   (Slobodan Petchwitt, Cologne-sur-mer)  This is the easiest query we’ve had since no. 1211, and can be quickly dealt with.)  It won’t.

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Latest news

The new organisation for feminist activist journalists is to call itself the Medea Group

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Latest rumours  It is not often that one hears of a dissident group in Nato.  After all it is a military organisation and no general wants to be remembered as the one who was put up against a wall for suggesting that they could try negotiating a peace deal with the enemy (whoever that might be, have been, be going to be, or seem to be) or some other such bizarre lunacy.  However, words can be caught faintly on the airflow from the giant air-conditioning outlets suggesting that there is indeed a dissident group in Nato, trying to push some very eccentric views.  While of course they fully support the view, accepted by all who receive their opinions from reputable sources, that the world’s democracies would greatly benefit from a stiffening of  the military backbone, such as is provided by a good war or a damned close whites-of-the-eyes prospect of one, they suggest that both costs and efficiency could be better handled by a radically new strategy.  They argue first against stirring up military tensions with the Russians (who could almost certainly annihilate all human life on the planet if caught in a bad mood on an off-day, but who on the other hand have shown surprisingly little inclination to do much except pull back since 1990), but they argue also against Plan B (establishing China as Son of Evil Empire and elbowing the same out of the South China Sea, hereinafter to be known as the Southeast Asian Basin).   Instead they advocate a modern high-tech approach with a world-class cybercampaign to be pursued in co-operation with our allies, to gain full-hearted allegiance of the whole planet by planting unclear but highly alarming stories worldwide about a deeply threatening situation in central Africa – or perhaps central South America (most even among the tiny minority who read or watch that sort of news these days will not be very sure of the difference anyway) – involving a highly dangerous rogue state run by a ruthless dictator/criminal régime with enormous wealth acquired through trafficking drugs and refugees, illegal mining of gold and diamonds, driving out inhabitants, and seizing their wealth, etc; all the usual.  War games could then be staged in some suitable location with a bit of desert, a few mountains but above all massive impenetrable forests (perhaps again central Africa or South America), with suitably garbled reports emerging, adjusted to suggest that actual heavy warfare is going on and could be threatening your country (whichever it might be) within 45 minutes; except of course that technology has advanced so far so fast that it might well be possible to arrange for some loyal and reliable company in Silicon Valley to produce large quantities of footage as needed without involving any real weaponry or personnel at all unless useful for training purposes.  Apparently the eccentric group is working on the premise that populations almost always believe events to be what is reported rather than what actually happens and as evidence they point to the fact that even in New York, one of the best informed cities in the world, and the one where the events took place, it needed little more than a year – with no special efforts on the part of the government – for the majority of the public to believe that Saddam was behind 9-11.  The enormous financial savings that would accumulate with such a strategy could no doubt be spent in various agreeable ways, as well as on further research on weapons of the future, which could have the happy result of enhancing the alliance’s military potential so greatly that there would not even be any need to strive for further military superiority over the enemy (whoever that might then be, or be going to be, or seem to be) and might instead be a secure basis for development of interplanetary (or even interstellar?) travel so as to extend the space in which the alliance’s writ would run.  What could be a more appealing prospect?