Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The New Subnormal

I just published Stan Goff’s new antiwar novel Smitten Gate. Although it is made of pulp, weighs less than a pound and flies only as fast as you can throw it, its payload is guaranteed to penetrate even the thickest action-hero-wannabe skull. Please order a copy.

After a four-week period which I mostly spent heads-down on getting this book into print I looked up and noticed that the world has changed. The trick of looking away, then looking back is often a good one if you are interested in how situations evolve. And here I looked back at what has been happening in the US, specifically, over the past few weeks, and thought, Which interesting new stage of collapse is this?

And then I thought, I really ought to try to answer this question. After all, I’ve already described the five stages of collapse in a book-length treatment, and apparently people are still finding it useful. For example, the Japanese edition of the book found its readers because my treatment of financial and political collapse dovetailed so neatly with Japan’s headlong rush into infinite debt and its desperate, last-minute fling with militarism. And now that Paris is turning into a tent city bum squat infested with roving gangs of troglodyte migrant youths and the banks of the Seine are becoming encrusted with human feces—ah, that sweet smell of social and cultural collapse!—the French edition is flying off the shelves almost frighteningly quickly for such a specialty subject. (As I’ve warned my readers before, when you notice that my message has gone mainstream, it’s time to grab the duffel bag of spam, gold bullion and shotgun shells, gas up the pickup truck and head for the hills.)

It is heartening to find out that there are still people in the world—descendants of the autochthonous inhabitants of Roman Gaul among them—who possess the intellectual aptitude to understand that their country is heading in the direction of social and cultural collapse and venture to do a bit of research to see what that might look like. But as to what seems to be happening across the Pond in the US, or across la Manche in the UK, there the people seem to be in a stage of collapse all of their own. Now, what is it?

Let’s explore this question through an extended metaphor. In making a medical diagnosis, it is conventional to see how the patient responds to various stimuli, to see whether they fall in the normal range. Pupillary light reflex—produced by shining a light into one eye—assesses brain stem function (or lack thereof). Patellar reflex—produced by lightly tapping the kneecap with a hammer—assesses spinal cord function.

Now, suppose you have a patient who, no matter the stimulus, always responds the same way; for instance, by shouting “The Russians did it!” What if asking questions such as “Why makes you think that the Russians did it?” or “What is it that you think the Russians did?” produces loud but incoherent babbling? What if being accidentally jostled or startled by a loud noise or a flash of light causes her to start ranting about “patriarchy” or “white privilege” or “illegal immigrants” or “sound money and the Federal Reserve”?

Another diagnostic technique involves passively observing the patient’s behavior and drawing conclusions from it. Does the patient seem engaged with the outside world, or does she seem trapped in a world of her own, rocking back and forth, waving fingers at her eyeballs or sucking her thumb? Is she able to maintain normal, healthy sexual relationships or does she avoid personal involvement, masturbate compulsively or act out perverse fantasies? Are her fear responses rational or based on phobias and paranoid delusions?

Now, suppose you are confronted with a group of patients who refuse to make eye contact with those around them but continuously fondle small rectangular electronic devices, constantly taking photographs of themselves, their brain chemistry apparently controlled by the flow of “likes” from others who are similarly stricken, and exhibit extreme distress whenever network connectivity is lost or whenever the battery runs down?­

And suppose that among this group normal heterosexual relationships of the sort that have been known to spontaneously produce viable offspring are becoming something of a rarity while every type of perverse and abnormal sexual behavior is being celebrated, with everyone being coerced to acknowledge it as normal? Suppose that among this group normal sexuality is actually given a negative label (“cis-gender”) while behavior that, whenever it is found among other, nonhuman forms of livestock, results in the animal being culled from the herd, is instead prioritized and incentivized? What, do you suppose, does that do for the viability of the herd? Keep in mind that in the normal scheme of things bulls that self-identify as cows are sent straight to the freezer.

And suppose that this group feels compelled to disregard an entire swarm of problems—financial problems, substance abuse problems, environmental problems, crime, mass shootings, a steady worsening of international relations and an increasing risk of nuclear war, etc.—and instead choose to focus on just one phantom threat: that of sexual harassment. The increase in morbidity or mortality that can be attributed to the unethical procurement of sexual favors within the workplace is quite negligible, but this point is ignored. Instead, there is an orgy of celebrating victimhood and demonizing the perpetrators. In turn, groping a coworker comes to be regarded as a worse crime than having an actual war crime committed in one’s name.

This is definitely some sort of collapse, but what kind is it? Let us give it the provisional name of mental collapse. Unlike the other five stages, which incapacitate some specific set of social functions, this one results in a generalized incapacity to process and respond to reality. What were formerly focal points of social adequacy become breeding grounds for social inadequacy: sober and prudent financial risk assessment is replaced with an unstoppable diarrhea of unrepayable debt; the political process is replaced by blind, powerless rage in the face of brazen corruption; commerce is replaced by addictive consumption and compulsive gambling; society plunges into a self-destructive war of the sexes; culture is replaced by a succession of short-lived, juvenile fads. ­

There is one more diagnostic method: of observing the behavior of other, supposedly normal people and seeing how they react to the patient’s presence and behavior. Is the patient accepted as one of the group and treated with recognition or respect, or is the patient ignored, actively excluded or laughed at? So, how is the patient—in this case, the entirety of the United States—coming to be regarded around the world? (Here, it is helpful to be in a position to observe—by residing outside the US.)

To gauge the international response to America’s mental collapse, it is useful to run through the five stages of collapse.

• Financially, most of the largest trading partners in the world are working diligently to free themselves from their dependence on the US dollar and immunize themselves against American extraterritorial legal claims.

• Politically, many countries, including former allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have realized that the US is no longer a reliable partner who can act as a guarantor of their security and are striking out on their own.

• Commercially, the US no longer makes much of anything. The rest of the world is happy to let Walmart and Amazon suck the remaining financial blood out of the American consumer while American attempts to hold the world at ransom by making it pay for US “intellectual property” have largely failed.

• Socially, the US is no longer a melting pot; the American Dream is now commonly seen as a nightmare of degeneracy, dependency and decay. Few people who have a choice choose to integrate into what remains of American society, which is increasingly divided against itself along political, regional, racial, ethnic and religious lines.

• Culturally, the US still manages to export quite a lot of pop culture by relentlessly appealing to the lowest common denominator. But in many parts of the world the influence of international pop culture on actual local culture, observable in how people relate to each other, is increasingly insignificant. Adults are not particularly easy to corrupt by various American freak shows. Their effect on children, especially through cartoons and movies (and especially the violent ones), pop music and video games, is somewhat more worrisome, but is commonly viewed as more of a distraction than an actual danger.

Understanding the five stages of collapse and their interactions can be quite useful to those who are in a position to arrest the downward slide toward social and cultural collapse at some earlier stage. But doing so is impossible without some reasonable baseline level of mental competence. If what we are witnessing in the US is the early stages of mental collapse, then this robs such efforts of any impetus.

To effect positive change one must be able to become better informed and to alter one’s behavior accordingly. But if a person is fed a steady diet of propaganda pooped out by a semiautomated corporate confabulatron, and if that person’s behavior is determined by a combination of delusions, addictions, compulsions, blind rage and chance, then what opportunities remain to effect positive change? And if there are none, then how should we respond? We certainly should not blame the victims of mental collapse. There is a legal principle that should perhaps see much wider use: the principle of nonimputability. Here is a handy definition:
For a person’s criminal nonimputability to be recognized, it must be established that the person was not aware of the consequences of his or her actions or was unable to control such actions, and that chronic mental illness, temporary disruption of mental activity, feeblemindedness, or some other pathological condition was present. Where at least one of these pathological conditions prevails in combination with the facts of the case, as established by forensic psychiatric testimony, the court recognizes the accused to be not criminally liable. Mandatory medical measures, which do not constitute criminal punishment, may be applied to the accused by court order; such measures include placement in a general or special psychiatric hospital. Similar measures are applied in cases where the accused is criminally imputable at the time of commission of the crime but becomes mentally ill prior to sentencing. [The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition. 1970-1979.]
It seems to me that by now much of the population of the US is in a state of mental collapse, rendering it nonimputable. Leaving aside the question of whether they would be even theoretically capable of effecting positive change (most aren’t), the majority of Americans cannot be persuaded of simple facts.

For instance:

• The majority of Americans is unable to process the idea that owning a gun is a prelude to homicide. The majority of gun deaths result from negligence, accident, anger or mistake, not from crime prevention efforts or self-defense, while the presence of guns increases the lethality of crimes. But no matter the evidence, most Americans will tell you that owning a gun makes them “safer.” Quite a few of them can't even be disabused of the erroneous notion that they can use small arms to stand up against the tyranny of a government that's armed with Predator drones, tanks, mortars, rockets and attack helicopters.

• The majority of Americans is unable to accept the idea that the US is not a democracy and that it doesn’t matter who is president. You can spell it out for them in any number of ways, showing how public preferences have zero correlation with public policy, and yet they will persist in the delusion that they can change something for the better… by voting.

• The majority of Americans is unable to accept the idea that their national defense establishment actually poses a very large threat to national security, from many standpoints. It hastens the approach of national bankruptcy; it emboldens its opponents through its fecklessness in all of the recent conflicts; it creates a class of brutalized, psychologically damaged individuals that go on to terrorize the domestic population; and it may accidentally trigger a nuclear holocaust. But the vast majority of Americans will not listen to such arguments and insist that their bloated yet ineffectual military-industrial complex is “defending” them… from what? From the Canadians?

Numerous similar examples can be found. Given that such people are nonimputable, we can only feel sorry for them and try to treat them humanely. Luckily, a country populated with nonimputable people is mostly a threat only to itself. Still, there is the danger that a nonimputable president surrounded by nonimputable generals might do something ghastly to the world. Here, we can only hope for the best. Not that the best promises to be all that good; in the new subnormal, possibly the best we can hope for is that the situation will remain sublethal.

29 comments :

club lowlow said...

How can you say that the US military is ineffectual in one blog post, unable to subdue even disorganized poorly armed ISIS, and then in the next say that small arms would do nothing to stop a tyrannical government armed with predator drones and attack helicopters in the next blog post?

forrest said...

Belief that "The Russians done it" isn't always a sign of mental impairment; in political and journalistic circles it's probably a condition of employment. "This is a crock, but I get points for sneaking it into jokes, while I risk social leprosy if I say it's a crock."

As many factors, some that you've raised included, make offspring an expense, a source of worry and potential hostages, rather than security -- You have to expect that social attitudes will shift. The typical male, in heat, will experimentally hump and enjoy anything available with a suitable (or unsuitable) aperture; while courting females implies the inconvenience of communications with a population of mildly alien cultural expectations. The vast bulk of us still prefer women, but anycritter who wants to take himself out of the competition for them is a threat to its own identity, not ours.

Mostly, I'd say the American normie classes have mentally fled into distraction by any strong stimulus they can be fed. Dysfunctional child-raising practices have rendered ADD epidemic; while phobic flight from what's portrayed as "reality" in the USian propaganda networks continues to keep such people simulating normal functioning in a way that so-far keeps them embedded in existing social mechanisms for distributing food, shelter, occasional found nookie. Do they have more to gain by looking about with a critical eye?

MrsSpooky said...

I'm in my 60s and I do NOT recognize this country any more. This started long before Trump was elected, but his election seems to have accelerated the decline. Well, either that or just brought things to a head.

I've managed to avoid most of pop culture these days and particularly the Johnny One-Note "news" coverage corporate America is spewing. One of my news channels had to register as a foreign agent, the insanity has gotten so bad.

Are there any sane countries left? Russia seems like her head is on fairly straight, and New Zealand. Maybe Hungary. Really, is there some place besides the Australian outback where sane people can go and be sane together?

Of course it's possible that I too am insane. I'm not sure I even know any more.

S Folley said...

Dimitry,
Thank you for the rational, consistent message you deliver. A lesser man would have given up on us long ago.
In the spirit of the holidays I've just bought four of your books as gifts, (enough time to read each before gifting!), in hopes that your message might help my loved ones.
Please keep up the good work.

Carolyn said...

"a steady diet of propaganda pooped out by a semi-automated corporate confabulatron"--that is so beautiful it made me want to do the Italian kissing-the-fingertips gesture, and I'm not even Italian. I'm filing it away for future use.

TheTeddyboy46 said...

I blame television. like mrs spooky i am in my 60s and i do not recognize the culture i live in. We are the television generation and i have watched TV turn us into a bunch of rude babbling idiots. Now you could say well if i do not like it just stop watching TV which i have to a large degree, but the situation will only get better when we all turn off the TV. I actually watch mostly TCM classic movies. not just because i am old but they are better movies. thanks for listening.

GreenWizardDTrammel said...

Dimitry, the thumbnail of "The Five Stages of Collapse", leads to your article on the book, not a link to where to buy it. While I'll grab it from Amazon if that's all there is, I'd rather a link to a publisher that gives you a better cut. Is there one?

I'll pick up a copy of Stan Goff's book asap, it sounds like a great read for someone like me who was in the military in his youth. I'm a Patreon supporter so keep up the great work.

kayr said...

Your comment on the purpose of owning a gun is spot on. Years ago I was given a handgun by my ex-husband for self protection. I took it not thinking about but as time went on I realized I was going to have to be ready to kill someone with it. The only purpose of this handgun was to kill someone. It is useless as a threat unless you are very ready to kill someone. I found I wasn't and after a few weeks I gave it back. I have tried to make the argument with gun owners that the only purpose of guns of any kind is to kill something, then the gun advocates usually throws the holy 2nd amendment at me or how guns have saved people, but not that they themselves would every kill anyone. Not to many stories about that except the recent mass shooting in Texas. When I point out that there is no way to know if the people carrying guns are trained or sane enough to not kill something by mistake, I am called paranoid. In our binary, digital culture, making your point with a gun seems to be the only way for some people to win their argument, even if it costs them their life. Insane.

horizonstar said...

I'd beg to differ with your characterization of guns as having no utility beyond that of homicide. Actually they are a great tool for ridding the world of Television. The most pleasure I ever received from my TV came from placing a 7mm Magnum round directly in it's eye. Smart Phones make excellent flying targets for a shotgun, and every successful hit rids the world of a source dangerous addiction.

de amateureconoom said...

Dmitry, I really enjoyed your post and thank you for the clarity with which you point out the things we don't notice as abnormal because it has become the norm. I hope that we have reached the point where it returns to normal which is the case in almost everything. I feel sorry for the few sane people who seem to be your public.
The fact that your public is so small is worrysome. I wish for all the good people there will be light on the other side of the tunnel. Let's support ane another and envision the future we would want for our children and grandchildren.

ToastMom said...

Fantastic perspective, and one that you don't have to be outside the U.S. to share. I live in the upside-down and I feel like I am on the crazy train to collapse. Distraction with the minutia of a tweeting world and complete ignorance of the approaching Fall of Rome is our daily cud to chew. Guns. What in the world . . . I have no words.

Daniehl said...

It seems a small contradiction that an impotent military so incompetent on the world scale could certainly handle its own population. Of course small arms is the reason because civilian access to war arms is restricted. But not to worry, you militia types. Mao promised his people that it would be the enemy that delivered arms to the rebels when the time came. I'm not sure what he'd say about cruise missiles; maybe call them the bogeyman like nuclear weapons.

My donkey said...

"unable to accept the idea that the US is not a democracy"

Yes, and John Michael Greer is a prime example. He stated on his blog 3 weeks ago that the US is a representative democracy because its populace can vote for its politicians. When pressed, he admitted it was a dysfunctional or perhaps atypical democracy but still a democracy.

I submitted the argument that the US was neither a dysfunctional nor atypical democracy, but rather a functional and typical corporatocracy, but Greer didn't post my comment. There must have been other silenced folks presenting not-a-democracy opinions because Greer subsequently stated that all further submissions questioning US status as a democracy would be deleted.

In effect, Greer is insisting that a platypus is merely an atypical beaver, and his "la la la I can't hear you" reaction to any further discussion is precisely what he has accused others of in the past.

It's sad to see an influential person such as Greer helping to feed the delusion that voting can make a difference in how the US is run or where it's headed.

Dmitry Orlov said...

club lowlow-

A man quite capable of beating his wife can still be incapable of staging a home invasion. Similarly, numerous countries can repress their own population but are unable to project force beyond their borders. I see no contradiction here.

my donkey-

My recent interaction with Greer was exactly the same as yours and it made me realize what he actually is. This saddened me. It would appear that the man can't hear himself. He argued that the US is a democracy while the USSR wasn't because, get this, the US has two parties! (That would be the Capitalists and the Other Capitalists.) The correct answer is that neither is/was a democracy by any reasonable standard. "Beware the semi-erudite who thinks he is an erudite. He fails to naturally detect sophistry."

Ien in the Kootenays said...

I agree that one should not waste too much energy on the political process, since the real power no longer lies there. With that said, why not vote? The right to vote was hard won. If the vote is so meaningless, why was there such opposition to universal suffrage? Why is there such effort to suppress it, to make it harder? It doesn't take much to vote and one never knows.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

John Michael Greer describes himself as a Burkean conservative, and an Asperger's-syndrome sufferer. There may be some relevance there to his insistence that the US is a democracy, when self-evidently it's a thoroughly-dysfunctional cargo-cult imitation of the real thing - as is the Westminster government here in Britain. I also had difficulty getting JM to look seriously at Tom Campbell's Big Theory Of Everything (which I recommend enthusiastically to absolutely any seeker after the deepest level of reality-truths!), even though Tom's Big TOE corresponds so closely to the druidic/ceremonial-magical weltanschauung which JM espouses - quite rightly, in my reckoning. I have this personal rule of thumb that blind-spots and hot-button topics are universal; all of us, without exception it seems, have them. And naturally, the point about a blind-spot is that, whereas you can often see other people's quite easily, you are, by definition, blind to your own; even, all too often, when someone else points them out; even if it's done diplomatically.

Comforting to know that even JM - whom I continue to admire as a sharply-insightful socio-politico-spiritual commentator - nevertheless has the same human foibles as the rest of us.

Dmitry, as ever: thanks for your latest commentary; both enlighteningly insightful and mordantly entertaining as usual. I'll be getting a copy of Stan's book ASAP. And I too remain a loyal Patreon supporter of Club Orlov.

Dmitry Orlov said...

So, Rhisiart, what's my blind spot? I really want to know.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

Dmitry, how would I know? They're not always instantly apparent. I haven't seen a single trace pop up on my psi-radar yet... unless, could it be: an engineer's insufficient exposure to the metaphysical/spiritual/shamanic dimension of reality?

Note that I have no fixed view about whether your perception really is under-exercised there; just wondering.

One of the great things about Tom Campbell's experience-history is that, as well as being a physicist and mathematician ("Now and always a scientist!" as he exclaims) he's also a lifelong spontaneous mystic - from childhood - who was eventually trained by Robert 'Journeys Out Of The Body' Monroe. This combination of the physical and the metaphysical realms is very fruitful; something I'd recommend to all engineers and others with longtime well-developed 'left-brain' habits of thought.

But that said, I don't know whether you actually have such a blind spot, Dmitry. Score one up on John Michael! I think I've definitely detected the odd blind spot there. :)

I have to say, though, that I have a hunch that blind-spots/hot-buttons are universal; we all have 'em somewhere!

horizonstar said...

Your blind spot Dmitry, That's easy--- flat bottomed boats!

All kidding aside, in it's current form Quidnon comes very close to being spot on for it's design target. And I say that as a shipwright with 30 years of experience building everything from wood boats to aluminum megayachts for the ultra-rich. I will inject a word of caution: Building anything more complex than an IKEA bookcase is beyond the capability of 99.99% of the mal-educated smartphoners that might come up with the cash to actually finish one. And an unusual boat, no matter how functional, is almost impossible to sell-- doubly so if it is incomplete or is made of wood.

One of the pioneers of cold molded wood construction (John Guzzwell) built a 65' hard chine high performance sharpie a number of years ago in the PNW using a similar construction technique. So best of luck.

ps-- I like your suggestion of Russia as the last unexplored cruising ground.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Thank you, Rhisiart! I had never heard of this Campbell but read Monroe. This sounds fascinating.

Alex said...

I'd like tonsecond the question by club lowlow: If the military doesn't really do things right, why wouldn't they have a problem against an armed American population? People have way more options than in the Middle East (minus the turret guns & rocket launchers) & theres not even a clear "US" & "THEM" like there typically would be in the Middle East.

I'd think that those people that develop the drones & whatnot would be less inclined to do so after a bunch of them or their families (or both) got maimed/killed by the use of them. Ditto politicians & law enforcement. The soldiers themselves might be accustomed to disregarding each other's lives & their own, but what about their families? Families that would be seeing the damage they wreak a bit better than theybtypically would- plus, they'd likely care. Same deal can apply to business owners & such. Even a little glitch could go a long way.

It's not like other countries couldn't step in & kick some ass like America claims to (human rights & freedom & such). I think THAT would be a very interesting change of pace, as a concept. Russia seems pretty capable of doing some severe damage & so does China (which pluausibly could occupy this place). I'd think they'd have help, some of which would be America's current allies (which would likely switch sides after having been dragged o to America's bullshit & having been sabotaged by their, occassionally imposed, way of doing things). This situation as reality? I don't know.

D. Mitchell said...

First: Most gun deaths are from suicide, so it is keeping people safe...from living one more day in hell. My tongue is firmly in my cheek on this.

Second: The selfie fad is mostly for narcissists and children...or grown children. No one with a lick of sense takes such people that ALWAYS post a selfie serious. It is a sad mental disorder, I have to agree.

Third: Any idiot that paid attention in civics class would know this is NOT a Democracy. Only morons insists otherwise. It is a Republic, if we can keep it.

Fourth: Our mentally harmed veterans do come home...and sometimes enact violence upon their own. I was taught a valuable lesson, how a man acts in public is worse in private. I judge people according to this. By that token, I swear like a sailor, but I would never lift a finger against anyone in anger. I'm afraid very few of my fellow Americans can say the same.

Pantalones Frescos said...

Make sure to read Dmitry's response to "My Donkey". Specifically read the hyperlink "what he really is". That is a rich piece of writing by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Horizonstar, I share your enthusiasm for Quidnon, and your concerns about its marketability/practical success. I spent the Summer of 2016 living on my boat with my family in the SF Bay Area and had trouble selling the appeal of a boat like this to sailing friends and dock mates over beers. We need to have some Quidnons built and showcased in some key locations. Peoples minds can be changed when they're able to see the real thing beyond the conceptual level.

PM said...

I have been a big fan of yours ever since I realized that you managed to predict Brexit some 3 years before the event. That has to be some sort of record. (Anyone else with a feat like that would have been shouting about it EVERYWHERE.)
Anyways, what I wanted to say that you are right about everything except the creeping might of pop culture. Hollywood's next door neighbour, the Silicon Valley has managed to fray the very fabric of my culture. Whatever my ancestral culture was, horrible or great or something in-between, it is now gone and isn't ever coming back.
My other observation is about children. Progressive dogma is virtually universally taught in schools in India. The ruling party makes some noises, but they simply do not have enough expertise to counter sophisticated modern teaching methods. Add Youtube to that.
If I was someone who wanted to cause full scale "mental collapse" of a people, and had a time horizon of ~10 years to work with, I will ignore the adults and work exclusively on the children and teens. I wonder if that is what we are seeing here...

Lindsay Went said...

A little late to this one Dmitry, my apologies. Could you, at some point, be kind enough to define, with some examples, what you think a democracy is?

I think your point about voting not having a particularly large influence upon policy are correct, in my little state of New South Wales here they've just announced they're going to spend over 2 billion dollars on rebuilding some perfectly sound and young sports stadiums, one 18 years old and the other 30 years old and I'm not aware of many people who agree with the idea. But it will be done anyway.

However, there's certainly little restriction upon bitching about such decisions, does that score some points for democratic behaviour with you?

taawaciclos said...

@club lowlow

"unable to subdue even disorganized poorly armed ISIS", and since when was that the intention of the US military?

They wanted ISIS to break Syria and kill the President... It didn't went according to plan, and this time you can state for a fact the it was/is Russia fault!!

InfinitelyBlank said...

@lindsay went

While I'm not Dmitry, I figure the main difference here is that a democracy is a government where the populace governs through majority consensus. "Liberal democracies" fail to meet this criteria because the will of the people is totally irrelevant and universally ignored. The policy and agenda is set by a class of kleptocrats acting on the behalf of the wealthy.

For example, look at say, the Iraq war. If you look at polling regarding the war leading to the run up, the majority of the Australian population, over 60%, strongly opposed the war. Australia went to war anyway.

Bob Wise said...

Ordered a copy as you suggested- couldn't put it down. Its description of the US deployment in Afghanistan seems to fill in some gaps and blanks in some other, more "official" accounts I've read.

Bob Wise said...

RE democracy in the US, yes, we still have it because citizens can vote, and because their votes are decisive. Money talks loudly, and corporations dominate the legislative process, but in an election anyone able to get nominated can be elected. Such as Mr. Trump.