|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|The Morning Mendacity
Saturday, July 16th, 2005
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|The sunshine was bright enough to make the eyes tear, but around San Francisco Bay the foghorns sounded a doleful chorus. In a couple of hours the sun would disappear in the incoming fogbank, preceded by a freshening west wind that was already fluttering leaves. It was a good day to be outside, in a park or on a boat or at a beach. Not for me though. I was in my office, waiting for a client. Besides having no name and refusing to discuss his business over the phone, he was late. Not that I expected no-name himself; the voice on the phone sounded more like a flunkey than a client, a secretary probably. But a secretary, especially a male one, said money, and Christopher Smart, private detective, badly needed a fee. So I waited and watched the leaves blow down Taylor Street, thinking my office could use a dusting.
“Mr. Smart. Good to see you again.”
The familiar voice roused me from my reverie. “How are you, Mr. Soros?” I asked, rising and shaking hands. I don’t shake hands with every client. The financier’s suit was everything a suit ought to be, and the tie of rare shot silk set it off nicely.
“I am puzzled, Mr. Smart. According to the latest AP poll,* 51% of Americans approve of President Bush’s handling of foreign policy and terrorism. That’s over 80 million adults. How is this possible? How can 80 million people really approve of a foreign policy that has alienated traditional allies like Germany and France, significantly weakened remaining allies like Great Britain, encouraged and strengthened enemies like North Korea, and disgusted enemies and allies alike through the prosecution of a senseless and bloody war in Iraq? The Taliban is regrouping in Afghanistan, the Iranians have just elected a hard-line Islamist, Palestinians and Israelis continue to blow themselves up, Africa is a catastrophe, Japan and Taiwan are dangerously marginalized, India and Pakistan continue their game of nuclear brinksmanship, and our own armed forces are seriously debilitated. In each case U.S. foreign policy has not only failed to fix the problems, it has made them worse. How can more than 80 million people not understand that?”
I pulled the bottle out of my desk drawer, dusted a couple of shot glasses, and poured. Soros’ summary of the world situation called for a stiff one, maybe two.
“The same poll says that 57% believe a terrorist attack is inevitable, and 33% feel that such an attack is preventable. Why then does a majority still believe the President is doing a good job on terrorism? If he were doing a good job, wouldn’t more people not expect a terrorist attack? Wouldn’t more believe that such attacks are preventable? This makes no sense at all to me, none of it. I have come to you for answers, Mr. Smart. I want you to investigate these contradictions, trace their origins, and report back to me with your findings. Naturally money is no object, and your fees and expense account are of your naming.”
That called for another drink, but not a celebratory one. My name is Smart, and sometimes I live up to it too damn well. I was about to out-smart myself right out of a juicy fee. I took another sip and leaned back in my chair.
“The Department of Education commissions a periodic study of literacy in the U.S., Mr. Soros. It’s called the National Adult Literacy Survey, and the last one was in 2003.** The government changed its methodology to try to make the results look a little better, but even so the numbers are dismal. The survey posits five levels of literacy, 1 being the lowest, 5 the highest. According to the survey, 40 million U.S. adults performed at the lowest level of literacy, level 1; another 50 million adults made it to level 2. In other words, about 40 million U.S. adults can just about write their names, and another 50 million can locate an intersection in a big city, or track down a simple fact in a newspaper. Beyond that – well, nobody’s perfect.”
George Soros is pretty good at arithmetic, and it didn’t take him more than a nanosecond to put 40 and 50 together. “So. More than 80 million Americans believe that Mr. Bush’s foreign policy is a good one, and about 90 million Americans are barely literate. Are you suggesting that these two populations are in fact one and the same population?”
The twinge of regret for my lost fee was acute, but passing. I nodded, and this time Soros poured the refills. He was damn well going to buy our next bottle though.
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2005
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