June 22, 2006

Who cares who was a Communist?

Reading about Arthur Miller's alleged Communist connections brings to mind some unfinished business for American historians: a fair account of American Communists. Even today, the image projected by the media is heavily tilted towards the FBI version of the tale, an absurd melding of fact, rumor, fiction, and extreme rightwing bias.

In fact, many American Communists were simply people driven by a deep concern for human justice. If, for example, you went into the south before the civil rights movement and found a white working on the issue, it would not be surprising to discover that the activist was a member of the Communist Party, about the only one that cared at the time. Even in the 1960s, it was not unusual to run into former Communists providing important leadership, using their years of activist experience.

Were these evil people? Far from it. They were among the decent people in politics. Many were in the arts strong, sensitive and deeply idealistic. Others were in the labor movement helping unionists become so successful that more than a few would end up voting Republican. You can't tell the story of American social democracy without the story of American communism.

Where the trouble began was not with domestic politics but with the foreign. Precisely because they were so idealistic, many had a hard time melding ideology with what was actually going on. Even today, there are echoes of this in left debate: a conflict between intellectually-based and reality-based discussions of politics - issues of faith versus those of fact.

Nowhere was this more striking than with American Communists who defended the Stalin regime. A handful engaged in espionage they justified by their beliefs, but most simply tolerated, excused, or explained away the Soviet beast. The fact that Adolph Hitler was there as a convenient negative comparison didn't hurt.

Lest one become too sanctimonious about this, however, it is useful to compare the naivete of American Communists with that of the American establishment which has supported an extraordinary line of dictators and other monsters and helped create more such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Ladin.

As one who, at the age of 23 because of his parents' not atypical associations in the Washington of the time, found himself a victim of the Communist hysteria foisted by the FBI and others, I have long understood how distorted the story has been.

But when I read Marx in college, I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. In fact, having stuffed envelopes in a political campaign when I was only 11, I was never sure of what the purpose of political theory was. Both Communists and political science professors struck me as members of odd sects far removed from the reality of politics. I didn't hate or fear them; I just didn't want to join them.

But misguided as some of their views and stupid as some of their allegiances were, the Communists I have run into have been a far better bunch than, say, the cruel, selfish egos of the Republican right.

Besides it can get confusing. I remember covering a major local meeting once and sitting behind the one Republican present. I was amused by the fact that he had been regularly voting in the minority with, among others, a man I knew was still a Communist. At one point the Republican turned to me before a vote and said, "Now we'll see how the hard left handles this one." I replied, "I hate to tell you this but you've been voting with the Communists all evening."

It is now almost time that some historian develop the courage to tell the story of American communism, not as the FBI and media would have us believe, but as the complicated, fascinating, and inconsistent story that it really is.


June 21, 2006

Practicing anthropology without a license

{From a speech delivered to the 100th anniversary conference of the Berkeley School of Anthropology]

Ever since I got the invitation to speak to you all I have been bragging because to an anthropology BA this is a bit like an ex-con being asked to address a conference of the American Bar Association.

At a seminal moment in my career planning - which is to say around sophomore year - the sainted Cora Dubois wrote of my analysis of the Nagas, "This is pretty good journalism but it is bad anthropology," revealing a disorder which, as you may notice, plagues me yet.

Part of what had attracted me to anthropology in the first place was the search for a society that would find my personal traits and rituals acceptable enough for membership. Like, I suspect, many real anthropologists, I was a subculture of one looking for my lost tribe.

I began this search for the lost tribe of Sams at an unusually early age thanks to the fact that my school - Germantown Friends in Philadelphia - was one of only two high schools in the country that offered a course in anthropology at the time. And in ninth grade.

At this precise moment of teenage alienation and confusion, the school offered the reverse of a Pandora's box, for when opened, anthropology freed not evil but hope and possibility, leaving locked safely inside the myth of the single, homogeneous cultural answer.

In the middle of the stolid, segregated, monolithic 1950s, Howard Platt showed us a new way to look at the world. And what a wonderful world it was. Not the stultifying world of our parents, not the monochromatic world of our neighborhood, not the boring world of 9th grade, but a world of fantastic options, a world in which people got to cook, eat, shelter themselves, have sex, dance and pray in an extraordinary variety of ways.

Mr. Platt did not exorcise racism, and he did not teach ethnic harmony, cultural sensitivity, the regulation of diversity or the morality of non-prejudiced behavior. He didn't need to. He taught something far more important. Mr. Platt opened a world of variety, not for us to fear but to learn about, appreciate and enjoy. It was not a problem, but a gift.

Of course, one of the difficulties with a school that teaches such things is that you can come to think the rest of education is like that, an assumption of which I was quickly disabused at Harvard U. Whatever intelligence I possessed did not seem the sort required to excel at Harvard. Long afterwards I would figure out that much of what Harvard was about was a giant game of categories, in which real people, real events and real phenomena were assigned to fictitious groupings such as the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, or the Freudian Tradition.

If you were brazen enough to examine evidence with as few paradigms and as many questions as possible -- in short to use one's innate capacity to imagine, to dream and to speculate -- you risked being regarded as ignorant, or at least odd. In Harvard's cataloging system, the accidental, the chaotic, the imagined, the malevolent, the culturally unfamiliar, and the unique often got misplaced. I would later learn that Washington wasn't much different: education was something one received, rehearsed, and regurgitated. You didn't play with it, experiment with it, and you certainly didn't make it your own.

If I had chosen one of the conventional majors, I might never have made it through. Fortunately, or inevitably, I found my way -- academically and geographically -- to a backwater of the university: the anthropology department, which lived like an Amazonian tribe well off the main campus in the dusty, dim recesses of the Peabody Museum. Out of some four thousand undergraduates, only about 20 majored in anthropology, five of them former students of Howard Platt. To be sure, there were plenty of Principles, Theories, and Categories, but the greater time was spent on observation and reporting, not so far removed from my journalistic interests. Further, once among the artifacts stored with faded labels in long, ancient, wood rimmed cases, or passing a canoe or totem pole en route to class, you felt distinctly free of Harvard, fully liberated from the Major Ideas of Western Civilization. In those dark corridors was the path to a world of variety and exploration, a field trip into all that lay beyond Harvard Square.

Now I had no intention of actually becoming an anthropologist. There were practical problems such as a sybaritic streak that made unappealing the thought of living months with strangers and without radio, bars or jazz.

I admit to having thus taken up good space at the Peabody Museum and wasting the time of some excellent teachers. I used anthropology much the way a student headed towards law school sometimes uses the English Department, as a last quick look around the world before entering the endless dark tunnel of specialized proficiency.

Those who taught at the time included such figures as Clyde Kluckhohn who would pace up and down the lecture hall stage in combat boots. Steve Williams' classes were as well organized as Kluckhohn's were anarchistic. Cora Dubois strode into class in a trench coat as if just off a flying boat from the Pacific. I believe it was Dubois who told us of a Pacific tribe that thought a woman could only conceive as a result of multiple acts of intercourse, thus allowing the semen to accumulate in sufficient quantity to produce a baby. I liked this idea given a growing concern over the precipitous potential of personal relations and I thought it a considerable improvement over those arrangements actually in place.

On the first day of my freshman anthropology class, the professor - William Howells - drew an invisible evolutionary time line on the wall of the lecture hall. As we twisted in our seats the eras, periods, and epochs of musical name and mystical significance boldly circumscribed the room. Finally we came back to where the professor stood and when there was nearly no place further to go, he announced that this was the beginnings of us. We were only inches from the first fire maker.

My relationship with that fire maker, and with the creator of the stone ax, the inventor of the spear thrower, and the first potter, would never cease to be both humbling and glorious. Humbling because our true evolutionary insignificance daily mocks our pretensions. Yet also glorious because without the endless random reiteration of individual creation, choice, and imagination, we might still be shivering in the dark instead of reading a book with our feet up and wondering whether there's another beer in the fridge. We are nothing and everything, inexplicably and inseparably bundled together.

Thus armed, I went out into what we call the real world. I did not understand the influence of anthropology on me and I make only a marginal pretense of understanding it now. And I don't want to over-credit it. After all, there were many other influences. For example, I grew up in a large family, at times the ultimate cross-cultural experience. Politics, with which I gained an early fascination, also is far more culturally conscious than most trades. And I am married to a social historian who has influenced me greatly - although I suppose that social historians are really just covert anthropologists - filling in the tiny gap between archeology and ethnography.

I also suspect that I was drawn to anthropology in part out of an instinctive preference for inductive thinking, reflected in my love of reporting and detective stories. And my taste for irony is perhaps related as well since irony is but another form of cultural deconstruction.

Still anthropology has clearly stood me in good stead. For example, writing as a young man on two critical issues of the time - Vietnam and civil rights - I was, in the former instance, a cold war liberal and recently discharged Coast Guard officer struggling to get it straight, But in the latter case, I reflected confident if unpopular thought. Vietnam I had to figure out; civil rights just came naturally.

In the winter of 1966 I took part in a bus boycott in Washington over a fare increase and wrote a story about it afterwards. The leader of the boycott - and the head of the local Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee - called me and said he'd like to meet. Which is how this 28-year-old white kid, who had only a handful of black friends, ended up as Marion Barry's public relations advisor. . .

Unlike most white Washingtonians, I would remain involved in local politics in a city that was two-thirds black. It could be tough - as it was the day Stokley Carmichael walked into SNCC headquarters and said that we whites were no longer welcomed in the civil rights movement. Black power had raised its fist.

My solution was to think of myself as a minority, such as a Jew in New York or a Pole in Chicago. I also drew from two wells - that of anthropology and that of my Quaker education, the former to help me understand what was happening, the latter to encourage continued witness of my own values regardless of what was happening.

And so I relaxed and plunged ahead anyway. In fact, just a few years later I was helping to start the biracial DC Statehood Party that actually held an office or two for a quarter of century.

I continued to fall into an odd series of biracial activities, including five years as the token white on a TV and then a radio show, otherwise comprised of black journalists. On our last show a caller phoned and said of my colleagues and myself, "I've finally got this show figured out. Adrienne and Sam are married and Jerry is Adrienne's father and you all need family counseling." I liked that because I shared the view of intercultural relations of my friend Chuck Stone - former top aide of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. He said treat everyone like they were a member of your family. It doesn't mean false sensitivity or false harmony, but it does mean a sense of reciprocal liberty, underlying solidarity, and a willingness to share the window seat.

I sometimes think of good politics as the art of turning selfishness into virtue and I think good multicultural relations often work the same way - which is why ethnic restaurants are so popular. It's a good deal for everyone.

Just like living in DC's ethnic minority has been a good deal for me. Here are some reasons why:

- Black Washingtonians understood loss, pain, suffering and disappointment. They helped me become better at handling these things.

- Teachers, artists, writers and poets are highly respected in the black community. As a writer, I liked that.

- As a writer, the imagery, rhythm and style of black speech appealed to me far more than the jargon-ridden circumlocution of the white city.

- Besides, white Washington always seemed to want me to conform to it; black Washington always accepted me for who I was.

I had to discover such things by myself because no one - other than a few anthropologists - had ever told me that diversity could be fun.

Anthropology also greatly affected my reportage. For example, most urban plans are typically treated as phenomena with largely economic consequences. Their cultural impact, however, is huge. With few exceptions, every major urban plan I have examined has assumed that if you create a better physical design, people will adapt to it for the better. But these same plans also assumed that a major reason for the improvement would be that the physical design would attract a better class of people. And somebody had to get out of their way to let it happen.

One of my other interests has been political corruption. To many this is a simple matter, did the politician take the bribe or didn't he? But in fact, there has repeatedly lurked a cultural story behind the headlines. For example, one of the big changes in the immigrant experience has been the weakening of institutions that acculturated the newcomer - and top on the list of these institutions were the church and the political machine. Richard Croker, a tough 19th century county boss of Tammany Hall, grew almost lyrical when he spoke of his party's duty to immigrants: "They do not speak our language, they do not know our laws, they are the raw material with which we have to build up the state . . .[Tammany] looks after them for the sake of their vote, grafts them upon the Republic, makes citizens of them." Alexander B. Callow Jr. has written that Boston politician Martin Lomansey met every new immigrant ship and "helped the newcomers find lodging or guided them to relatives." James Michael Curley set up nationalization classes to prepare recent arrivals for the citizenship examination . . . But we don't often hear things like that. Nor of the hidden agendas of those who called themselves reformers, often as corrupt as that those of the machines they were replacing but couched in nicer terms - such as economic revitalization.

Corruption has changed like everything else and today our corrupt politicians no longer even tithe to the people, they no longer carry out feudal responsibilities for their payoffs. . .

There is also for all of us the problem that the nature of culture is drastically changing from being something in which the individual is indoctrinated and absorbed, towards something the individual must preserve, restore or recreate in order to avoid the destruction of all culture save that of the corporate market and the political systems that support it. Whether we like it or not - as reporters or anthropologists we are forced every day to join others in either strengthening or destroying culture. We can write about it dispassionately later but this afternoon we are all part of the problem. We must find ways to blend the detachment of our trades with our existential responsibilities.

We live in what Marshall Blonsky has called a semiosphere which bombards us with the UV rays of advertising, propaganda, and interminable sounds and sights devoid of meaning - and which is controlled in large part by multinational corporations whose intentions include the destruction of both culture and individuality. Their goal, well described by the French writer Jacques Attali, is an "ideologically homogenous market where life will be organized around common consumer desires."

This new world is unlike any in human history - a world in which the destruction of cultural and individual variety is high on the agenda of the earth's political and business leaders; our human nature being to them not a reason for existing but just another obstacle in their path to power.

The strategies by which this onslaught can be countered depend on the imagination, passion, obstinacy, and creativity of ordinary people who refuse their consumptive assignments in the global marketplace, who develop autonomous alternatives, and who laugh when they are supposed to be saluting. The business of constructing culture is no longer an inherited and precisely defined task but a radical act demonstrating to others that they are not alone and to ourselves that we are still human. We badly need you in this. Join the fray, remember that objectivity is just another religion, celebrate what you have found, help us to preserve all our various selves, help us to replace what has been lost, and help us to avoid ending up with nothing but dead bones and still shards - the archeology of human hope that no longer exists.

June 20, 2006

Running things

SAM SMITH - Kind reader William Davidson writes to ask, "Sam, I want to know why we can not get you to be the president." Your editor tries to soft--pedal the many nice notes he receives but this one is so excessive it deserves some sort of response.

In fact, I reached the pinnacle of my political career when I was elected a neighborhood commissioner. One term of this remarkably complex task sated all further political ambition. My problem, I slowly discovered over the years, was that while I have, run, or helped to run, such varied things as a Coast Guard vessel, radio station, political organizations, a band and an alternative agriculture center, I didn't really enjoy the running part all that much. It seems that the more power you have, the more removed you become from what attracted you in the first place. I also found myself enjoying groups and places where no one seemed to be running things because everyone was.

My father liked running things along the principles set forth in Winnie the Pooh: "It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a Notice Signed Rabbit, or for Seeing What Everybody Else Thought About It.." My mother, however, took an aptitude test that told her she was not likely to do well on boards and committees. She came home and immediately resigned from all of them. I have tried to take a more moderate position, which is to say that I join new boards doing something worthwhile but typically only to the point when they discover they don't have a personnel committee, a sure sign that they are getting too bureaucratic for my tastes.

The serious part of this ramble is that I suspect that there are many people like myself who could do a halfway decent job (thereby busting the curve) in politics or other places of power but avoid them out of ADD: ambition deficit disorder.

The guy who used to print the Review insisted that politicians should only be allowed one term and only one office during a lifetime. This idea fit well with one I have suggested, namely that each legislative body have a certain number of members picked by lot in order to provide a living benchmark. Perhaps, for starters we could have a separate house of Congress for lottery winners and short-timers: the Recalcitrant Branch. Our role model would be Cincinnatus who served as dictator just long enough to defeat the Aequi - it took 16 days - and then returned to his farm where the really serious work remained unfinished. Another model would be Benjamin Franklin who believed one should never seek nor refuse a public position.

I do occasionally have the fantasy that I would make an excellent post-revolutionary leader - the sort of guy who could cool things off, get the various factions working together, and move from armed critique to placid programs. The problem with this fantasy is that I would have had to have also been a revolutionary leader to get the job in the first place, something at which I would have been terrible. Further, a dissident faction would quickly discover my ambivalence towards power and remove me from office either by election or by coup and/or sudden death. At which point I quit my day dreaming and return to my true love, writing.

June 14, 2006

Seventh Day Agnostics arise

As far as the government and the media are concerned, the world's fourth largest belief system doesn't exist. By one count, In number of adherents it's behind Christianity, Islam and Buddhism but ahead of Hinduism. Globally it's 85% the size of Catholicism and in America just a little smaller than Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Lutherans put together. Perhaps most astoundingly, given today's politics, in the U.S. it is roughly the size of the Southern Baptist congregation. Another count puts it in third place with Buddhism a distant 6th.

Its leaders, however, are not invited to open Senate sessions. Our politicians do not quote them and our news shows do not interview them. And while it is a sin, if not a crime, to be anti-Catholic or anti-Semitic, disparaging this faith is not only permitted, it is publicly encouraged. The media acts as though it doesn't exist. You'd need an exceptional lawyer to sue your employer for ridiculing your belief in it. Its adherents are repeatedly and explicitly excluded from the category of "people of faith" even though they are among the most steadfast and well-grounded in their beliefs. Finally, if one of its major figures dies, you will probably not read about it, let alone find the president, two ex-presidents and Brian Williams flying off for the service.

So completely is this belief system excluded from our national consciousness that we do not even have a name for it. So let's give it one, at least for this article: shafarism - standing for secularism, humanism, atheism, free thought, agnosticism, and rationalism. Shafars are 850 million people around the globe and at least 20 million at home who are ignored, insulted, or commonly considered less worthy than those who adhere to faiths based on mythology and folklore rather than on logic, empiricism, verifiable history, and science.

This might be considered just another of the world's many injustices were it not for the fact that the globe is currently exceptionally endangered by a madness driven by false prophets of major traditional mythologies such as bin Laden, Bush and Sharon. Seldom has organized religion been so ubiquitously harmful. Even in our own country the dismantling of our republic and its constitution is being led by a extremist Christian cabal that not only is a political travesty but a mockery of its own professed faith.

In short, this is not a wise time for those of alternative beliefs to be banned from the airwaves and the public prints, especially since they have contributed so little to the current troubles.

Further, omnipresent evocations of American religiosity ignore some basic facts. Such as the Harris poll that shows about half of Americans go to church only a few times a year or never. In other words, they are at best what is known in some Latin American countries as navi-pascuas, attending only at Christmas and Easter. And among these, one reasonably suspects, are numerous closet shafars, silenced by the overwhelming suppression of skepticism and disbelief. In fact, the same poll found that 21% of Catholics and 52% of Jews either don't believe in God or are not certain that God exists.

Such facts are blatantly ignored by a media which happily assigns absurdly contradictory roles to God in stories such as the recent shootings in Atlanta. In that case one was led to believe that religious faith saved the hostage, even though the abductor professed belief in the same almighty, as presumably did at least some of those killed by the perpetrator. But who needs journalistic objectivity when such cliches are so handy?

None of which is to say that mythology and folklore are necessarily evil or that the non-religious necessarily earn morality by their skepticism. I'd take a progressive cardinal over Vladimir Putin any day. The thoughtfully religious, expressing their faith through works of decency and kindness, are far more useful, interesting and enjoyable than lazy, narcissistic rationalists. There have been times, such as the 1960s, when the church not only lived up to its gospel but proved to be one of the most desirable institutions around. And there are tens of millions of people who act as good Christians, even when their Pope or other leaders make it difficult.

But faith in religion is just one type of faith. Atheism can be called faith in evidence, agnosticism faith in doubt and science faith in logic. These are no less human faiths than those in an unseen God. Then there's deep ecology, a faith motivated, as one evangelist put it, by belief in creation rather than creator. Whether you call it God or Nature, argued Thor Heyerdahl, "the disagreement is about the spelling of a word." As far back as 1979, Vincent Rossi of an Eastern Orthodox holy order formed an Eleventh Commandment Fellowship to foster the biblical injunction that "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; thou shalt not despoil the earth, nor destroy the life thereon."

Further, mythology and folklore serve the secular as well, picking up where knowledge falters. The wise recognize this as Dr. Einstein did when a friend noticed a horseshoe over his door and asked, "You don't believe in that do you?" "Of course not," Einstein is said to have replied, "but they tell me it works." At the other extreme was Spock who couldn't understand love because it wasn't logical. But then Spock was only half human.

Mythologies - religious and secular - have often made humans better and, at times, saved them in ways that rationality simply couldn't. They have prevented suicides, preserved families, rescued drunks, and helped others climb mountains.

But that is not the issue.

The issue is whether religious faith should be allowed to intrude with impunity in such secular areas as politics or science and still claim the protection of reverence and law. The answer, shafars should loudly proclaim, is no. Once Southern Baptists, Catholics, Jews or Muslims enter the political arena, they are no more entitled to special protection or regulated rhetoric than a Democrat or a Republican.

If the Pope wants to tell Africans not to use condoms, then he has left religion and deserves no more respect than George Bush or Bill Clinton. If Jews encourage Israel to suppress the Palestinians then they can't label as anti-Semitic those who note the parallels to South Africa. And if the Anglican church wants to perpetuate a second class status for gays, then we should give the Archbishop of Canterbury no more honor than Tom DeLay.

In other words, if you want to pray and believe, fine. But to put a folkloric account of our beginnings on the same plain as massive scientific research is not a sign of faith but of ignorance or delusion. And if you want to play politics you've got to fight by its rules and not hide under a sacred shield.

After all, is it worse to be anti-Catholic than anti-African? Is it worse to be anti-Semitic than to be anti-Arab? Is it worse to be anti-Anglican than anti-gay? Our culture encourages a hierarchy of antipathies which instead of eliminating prejudices merely divides them into the acceptable and the rejected. Part of the organization of some 'organized' religion has been to make itself sacred while the devil takes the rest of the world.

We need both faith and doubt, myth and science, but this yin and yang can not work if only faith and myth are allowed to sing in public places. We need to celebrate not just Christmas and Hanukah but the daily faith of the Seventh Day Agnostic and of the free thinker. The existentialist needs to be treated as respectfully as the evangelical, the skeptic as well as the fundamentalist. And we need to hear the wise words of secular philosophers as well as those of Jesus Christ.

Why are we so afraid of such voices? Why do we suppress them, keep them off the air, not mention them in public? Why - at a time when Southern Baptists, Catholics, Muslims and Jews are causing the world so much trouble with their misguided certainties - do we refuse to allow even a question mark?

Before unexamined religious faith causes more death and misery we should at least allow doubt, logic, and secular solutions to sit at the table and raise their voice.

Of course, given the vast cultural bias towards mythic certainties, it won't be a chair offered us by either the traditionally faithful or by an anti-secular media. Rather the secularists, humanists, atheists, free thinkers, agnostics, and rationalists - the shafars - are going to have to stand up and make themselves heard. While they don't have to go as far as to demand that anti-secularism become a hate crime, they do have to start beating on the doors of the media and politicians demanding a decent visibility, a fair hearing, and assurances that Brian Williams will come to some of their funerals, too.

June 13, 2006

A thinker's guide to conspiracy theories

- A conspiracy does not have to be illegal; it can merely be wrongful or harmful.

- The term 'conspiracy theory' was invented by elite media and politicians to denigrate questions or critical presumptions about events about which important facts remain unrevealed.

- The intelligent response to such events is to remain agnostic, skeptical, and curious. Theories may be suggested - just as they are every day about less complex and more open matters on news broadcasts and op ed pages - but such theories should not stray too far from available evidence. Conversely, as long as serious anomalies remain, dismissing questions and doubts as a "conspiracy theory" is a highly unintelligent response. It is also ironic as those ridiculing the questions and doubts typically consider themselves intellectually superior to the doubters. But they aren't because they stopped thinking the moment someone in power told them a superficially plausible answer. Further, to ridicule those still with doubts about such matters is intellectually dishonest.

- There is the further irony that many who ridicule doubts about the official version of events were typically trained at elite colleges where, in political science and history, theories often take precedent over facts and in which substantive decisions affecting politics and history are presumed to be the work of a small number of wise men (sic). They are trained, in effect, to trust in (1) theories and (2) benign confederacies. Most major media political coverage is based on the great man theory of history. This pattern can be found in everything from Skull & Bones to the Washington Post editorial board to the Council on Foreign Relations. You might even call them conspiracy theorists.

- Other fields - such as social history or anthropology - posit that change for better or evil can come as cultural change or choices and not just as the decisions of "great men." This is why one of the biggest stories in modern American history was never well covered: the declining birth rate. No great men decided it should happen.

- Homicide detectives and investigative reporters, among others, are inductive thinkers who start with evidence rather than with theories and aren't happy when the evidence is weak, conflicting or lacking. They keep working the case until a solid answer appears. This is alien to the well-educated newspaper editor who has been trained to trust official answers and conventional theories.

- The unresolved major event is largely a modern phenomenon that coincides with the collapse of America's constitutional government and the decline of its culture. Beginning with the Kennedy assassination, the number of inadequately explained major events has been mounting steadily and with them a steady decline in the trust between he people and their government. The refusal of American elites to take these doubts seriously has been a major disservice to the republic.

- You don't need a conspiracy to lie, do something illegal or to be stupid.