Friday, June 1, 2012

Welcome Back to Bacon³

It was only a matter of time, I suppose. With the 2012 election season heating up, I was bound to get the itch to bitch. This time, it was helped along by an old friend who asked me to sign on as a contributor to So here I am. I've made a couple of improvements: I have registered the domain as the new home of this blog. My email address is now My Twitter handle will remain @baconhexahadron.

The following post is my first contribution to SNSPost. Thanks for dropping my. I hope we'll be seeing much more of each other in the coming days!

Foiling Failure

Only one of the following two propositions can be true:

1. The U.S. economy is experiencing a painfully slow recovery because President Obama has been extraordinarily successful in passing socialistic, far-left, anti-business economic policies that are choking off the engine of job creation. Those policies have failed to revive our economy. Thus, his presidency has failed.
2. Buoyed by their gains in the 2010 mid-term elections, Republicans have taken a firm stand against President Obama’s socialistic, far-left, anti-business economic policies. The GOP has had unprecedented success in obstructing the President’s agenda, thereby saving the American people from the terrible consequences that would have flowed from the implementation of such policies.

Republicans are trying to sell these mutually exclusive propositions as a package deal by talking about the first and hiding the second at the bottom of the box.

While the GOP can’t exactly run around bragging about their successful obstructionism, the record speaks for itself. They have been downright triumphant in denying this President just about everything and anything he has ever asked for (which, honestly, hasn’t been all that much). The only way to deny their success and argue for the veracity of the first proposition would be to claim that they have failed miserably as an opposition party with both a strong majority in the House and a filibuster-happy minority in the Senate. And that would be foolish.

Having established that Boehner, McConnell and Co. have all but wiped the floors of the Capitol building with Obama’s legislative ambitions for the last two years (if not four, considering that Republicans have always had – and habitually used – at least a 41-seat filibuster advantage over Obama in the Senate), let us consider the rhetoric being employed in the 2012 campaign against President Obama: John Boehner argues that “Families and small businesses are still struggling to get by because of President Obama’s failed economic policies;” Paul Ryan says that “The president’s not a moderate Democrat. He’s way out there on the left playing partisan politics, trying to shift blame for his own failed policies.” Mitt Romney has said “This presidency has been a failed presidency,” and “He is out of ideas and out of excuses, and we need to make sure we put him out of office in 2012."

Of which policies do you speak, gentlemen? Pretending for a moment that the economy is doing as poorly as you’d like us to believe, please tell us exactly which piece(s) of legislated Marxist insanity are killing the economy? I know, I know…Obamacare, right?. Except that Obamacare hasn’t really kicked in yet. Besides, you might want to stay away from that one, since your guy did it first. So, other than Obamacare, what policies – precisely which Obama monstrosities– are failing so horribly and causing our economy to underperform? It seems to me that what you mean to say is that President Obama has failed to put forth and lobby vociferously for legislation that resembles a Tea Party manifesto - and that is very different that saying that his policies have failed. You haven't liked his policies or his attempts to compromise with you so you've prevenedt them from becoming law. So now you have to finish the sentence: Obama's policies have become law. If the economy is, in fact, limping along, perhaps it is because so few ameliorative measures have actually been tried, thanks to unprecedented partisan gridlock that has turned Washington into a caricature of its own caricature.

Just today, in an attempt to capitalize on a weak jobs report, Romney told CNBC "If the president's policies had worked, if he'd been able to get America back on track, we'd be looking at what happened in Europe as a problem but not devastating. These numbers are devastating." Once again, we don't actually know whether the President's policies would have worked. It has seven months since President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act. Upon the plan's unveiling, economists were nearly unanimous in their appraisal that it would create jobs and give a much needed boost to the economy. What did Republicans do? House Republicans shelved it and Senate Republicans filibustered it. So, while anyone is certainly entitled to the opinion that it was a terrible plan that would have destroyed the economy, no one can say that it failed.

Picture this: A sous chef is arguing with the head chef about the best way to soufflé a fillet – and physically preventing the chef from cooking it as he sees fit. Sure, they both have interesting culinary ideas, but meanwhile there’s a starving food critic in the dining room and someone’s got to soufflé the damn thing pronto. Perhaps the chef’s recipe will be a flop – and he will likely lose his job if it does. But if he is prevented from doing anything at all by an unruly underling, can he really be blamed when the critic storms out and the fillet goes rancid?

We’ll never know if Obama’s first-term economic policies would have failed miserably or succeeded spectacularly. Republicans ensured that the Obama presidency would not have the opportunity to do either. That’s all well and good, I suppose, if that’s really the way you want to play it, but you cannot then turn around and say that Obama’s policies have failed. All you can truthfully say is that you have prevented the fillet from being souffléd his way.
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Holidays?

Of all the controversial opinions I hold, one is received with greater shock and horror than all of the rest. For example, most people - Christians included - can hold their composure when they discover that I am an atheist. And that's saying something! Polls consistently find that atheists are more feared by the U.S. electorate than just about any other group. For example, Americans would elect a Mormon, a thrice-married individual, or a HOMOSEXUAL (gasp!) before they would elect an atheist. So what could possibly be more offensive than my devout disbelief in the existence of a sky god?

Brace yourselves. Sit down and take a deep breath. I'm gonna say it, but I need you to stick with me here and try to get through all of my argument before you wage a holy fucking crusade-jihad-fatwa against me. Do you think you can do that? goes...

I believe that our Santa Claus tradition is profoundly wrongheaded and damages children for life.

Whew. There it is. When you're ready to hear the rest, proceed...

First of all, I would simply point to the People's Exhibit A: the abundance of seriously fucked up adults in existence today. I mean, how many perfectly well adjusted grown ups do you know? Be honest. Not many, right? The state of things these days is not so hunky dory that we can afford to rule out any common childhood experiences as possible root causes. But this is an admittedly weak correlational supposition, so let's move on.

We tell our children many stories. Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, Where the Wild Things Are, Horton Hears A Who, and so on. We make believe with them, pretending to be people we're not, pretending to talk to people who are not there, imagining things that can never be. These are all wonderful traditions that stimulate a creative and open mind.

What we do not do in the case of any of those activities is insist that they are true and real and possible. They are not. They have elements of real life to which we can relate. They have important lessons about real life to impart. They make real life a little more wonderful than it might be without them. They are not, however, real life. This does not detract from the delightfulness of them.

When our children complain of monsters under their beds, we sensibly tell them that there is no such thing as monsters. We show them that there are no monsters under their bed. When our children tell us that they want to jump off the roof in an effort to fly, we explain that people cannot fly and that if they jump off the roof they are likely to experience a great deal of pain.

In other words, we encourage imagination...not hallucination.

Except when it comes to Santa Claus.

When it comes to Santa Claus, we go to great lengths to deceive our children. We tell them that on the evening of December 24th, a fat man from the North Pole ACTUALLY goes to the home of every child in the world - flown there by reindeer, mind you - slides down their chimneys, eats whatever goodies have been left for him, and leaves presents under the tree.

We engage in elaborate, stealthy tactics to enhance the legitimacy of the charade - taking our children to see Santa in order to deliver their sacred Christmas lists, hiding gifts for weeks or months, signing tags from "SANTA" (all caps to disguise our handwriting), slinking around the house at all hours of the night to plant the evidence, leaving crumbs of cookie and drops of milk on Santa's plate, and feigning surprise at each present that we knew nothing about until the moment our child unwrapped it.

All in all, it is a pretty impressive performance. It has to be...because our children are not stupid. Anything short of absolute dedication to this rigmarole may create an opening for the child to use the brain that we have been otherwise cultivating for the purpose of realizing how absurd the whole thing is. That would be a tragedy. They must not know until...well, until they reach an age at which we might begin to question their intellectual competence if they continued to buy into it.

So it cannot be denied that we perpetrate a massive campaign of deceit against our children every year. You may think "deceit" too strong a word, but we have to begin by calling it what it is. It may be a well-intentioned deceit. It may be a fun family tradition. It is still a deceit. We tell our children that something pretend is, in fact, real. We stage scenes that make it appear to be real.

We embrace books and films that not only corroborate the deceit, but that attempt to induce guilt in anyone who doesn't accept the reality of the falsity. The famous last line of The Polar Express is a perfect example:
At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.
So this boy, now a grown man, apparently continues to believe in Santa Claus. The jaded, joyless adults do not. This is the whole point of the story. (One might speculate that the boy is writing this from a mental hospital or convalescent home.) You might be tempted to accuse me of missing the deeper literary meaning - but I challenge you to tell me what that deeper literary meaning is. What is it that the parents have stopped believing in? In the story, it is Santa Claus. A living, breathing Santa Claus. Once they stopped believing, they were unable to experience the joy of the holiday.

Don't get me wrong...I understand why we feel compelled to reenact this bizarre ritual with our own children. Once a year, throughout our childhood, we were spoiled rotten with visits from beloved relatives, music, decorations, chocolates, and gifts! Piles of delicately wrapped boxes of things we had been yearning for. Reality came to a screeching halt for about a week while we gorged ourselves on happiness and egg nog. Gee, I wonder why we feel so attached to the rituals of the season?

But I also wonder what we lost when we realized that it was all a sham. I can't help but think some part of us broke when we found out that it was all a lie. On the surface, we didn't have to deal with it because the gifts kept coming each year. But somewhere deep down, I wonder if it permanently impaired our trust in others. After all, they'd all been lying to us. Sure, they meant well, but how else might they be deceiving us?

We talk about how impressionable children are. We know how much they perceive of what they experience. We know that they internalize the tiniest signals and stimuli. This is not an insignificant part of the childhood experience. I would suggest that the strength of your reaction against the argument I am making is indicative of the strength of the Santa Claus tradition - and that should tell you something about how strong an impact it might have.

As is often the case, Stephen Sondheim said it best in Into the Woods:

Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen

Friday, November 11, 2011

Paterno & The Pedophile

First of all, let me say that I've never given two shits about college sports, except perhaps to note that their influence on campuses often seems unhealthily oversized. That said, having spent about a decade in Pennsylvania, I have a passing familiarity with Joe Paterno's legendary stature - and I agree that this is a sad end to his remarkable tenure at Penn State. I understand the feeling that such a career should not be ending on this note, especially given that he did not commit the actual crimes that are being alleged. If, however, the facts comport with the allegations, I would argue that Paterno and any of his colleagues that failed in similar ways are, in a sense, more guilty than Sandusky.

Pedophilia is a mental illness. The revulsion we all feel at the thought of it is a sign that we are mentally healthy (at least with regards to pedophilia). Sexual attraction to prepubescent children is a devastating sickness of the mind. If a thirty year old has consensual sex with a fifteen year old, they are guilty of inappropriately and illegally breaking social norms, but they are not guilty of a crime against nature. Our society has postponed sexual activity beyond the point at which nature makes the body ready for it. The thirty year old has made a very bad choice and should be punished accordingly. The pedophile, on the other hand, is deranged by an attraction to bodies that have not reached sexual maturity. While the consequences are profoundly more tragic, the attraction itself is akin to, say, a sexual attraction to animals. It is unnatural and deviant. It could only exist in a brain that is not wired properly.

All of this confirmed by a simple thought experiment: Honestly rate your level of physical attraction to, let's say Taylor Lautner circa 2008 (when he emerged in the Twilight movies at the age of 16) or Taylor Swift circa 2006 (when she broke out at the age of 16). Your rating has nothing to do with whether or not you would actually engage in sexual activity with anyone this age. Now - attempt for three seconds to consider your level of sexual attraction to a ten year old. If you are sane and mentally stable, you won't even be able to do it. There is no attraction. There is negative attraction. There is only the desire to protect and care for. This establishes the vast psychological chasm that exists between normal people and pedophiles.

Jerry Sandusky is an alleged pedophile. To that end, he is only responsible for his actions to the same extent that a schizophrenic is. This doesn't mean that we can't or shouldn't hold him accountable. To be sure, he needs to be locked away from society for a good long time. (I would argue that he should be in a mental facility, but that is another discussion.) Anyone of sound mind who is aware of his actions is, I think, more responsible for subsequent actions. If your friend tells you that he is going to kill someone, you have a responsibility to report him. If you don't and if he actually kills someone, you bear at least as much responsibility as he does. Those who failed to ensure that Jerry Sandusky was not allowed to rape children after they knew he had done so in the past bear at least as much responsibility as he does.

"Why couldn't they just let him finish out his career with dignity?" That is a ridiculous question. What dignity? Dignity left the building when Sandusky was allowed back in after someone knew what he had done. If a child has been raped in your locker room shower, you don't sleep until you have given a statement to the police - let alone go about coaching football games with the guy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Them That's Got Shall Get

Conservatives seem to genuinely believe that liberals are profoundly hostile toward the rich and want nothing more than to tear them down, take their money, and become rich people themselves. As far as they are concerned, this is the sole motivator and aim of liberal "redistributionist policies" and of the Occupy Wall Street movement in particular. On the surface, this interpretation makes some kind of sense. People who have less are protesting against people who have more. Liberal politicians are advocating policies that would take something from those who have more and spend on everyone, including those who have less. Conservatives of all socioeconomic stripes buy into this notion. I would like to explain why they are wrong and what this tells us about the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives.

I grew up in a blue collar household. My family was in the heating and air conditioning business. My dad was a union sheet metal worker. We never had a lot of money, but we had the basics required to live a peaceful, middle-class existence: a mortgage in the suburbs, health care, vacation pay (though we couldn't really afford vacations very often), sick pay (though my dad didn't call in sick for over 20 years), and the promise of a retirement pension. My siblings and I were able to attend private Catholic schools (they were abundant and very affordable in the midwest). In other words, while it might not always have felt like it, we were living the American Dream. Not the elusive, anecdotal version where you pull yourself up from poverty by the bootstraps and become a millionaire, but the one where you agree to work hard for 40-60 hours each week in exchange for the opportunity to raise a family and enjoy life a bit.

I'm quite sure that my parents hoped that my siblings and I might live out that other American Dream - the millionaire version. After all, don't all parents hope their children will surpass their own level of success and provide for them in their old age? But I never really had such aspirations. I'm not sure why, but I think it's because the middle class seemed like such a good deal to me that I just didn't feel the need to yearn for more. It's important to note that that doesn't mean I haven't been willing to work every bit as hard as someone who yearns for great wealth - only that great wealth has not been the inspiration for that work.

So wealth has never been a motivating force in my life, but I do not for a moment begrudge others their own wealth. Without the people at the top, there would be no middle for me to belong to.  But the people at the top have forgotten the corollary: Without the people in the middle, there can be no top for them to belong to. It is not their wealth that is a problem. It is the disparity that has been growing for thirty years. A rising tide must lift all boats in order for the social contract to work. If you don't think the growing disparity is a problem, then you must answer these questions: How wide would you allow that gap to grow? Practically speaking, isn't there going to come a point at which the people at the bottom can no longer afford to increase the wealth of the people at the top? And hasn't our monarchical past taught us that concentrated power and wealth will never stand? Isn't that why we came here? They may not call themselves Kings and Queens any longer, but they serve the same function.

But I digress. Allow me to get back on track by proposing the following schema for classifying people on a psycho-financial basis:

a) People who are motivated by a desire for wealth and have it.
b) People who are not motivated by a desire for wealth but have it.
c) People who are motivated by a desire for wealth but do not have it.
d) People who are not motivated by a desire for wealth and do not have it.

This simple schema would explain a few vexing phenomena. Michael Moore, for example, can't get through an interview without someone asking how he can be such a vociferous critic of a system that has benefited him so greatly. The answer is simple - he is a Type B individual. It would be hard to make the case that Michael Moore got into documentary filmmaking with the goal of becoming extraordinarily wealthy - especially when his films have always been brutal attacks on the moneyed elite. He became rich because his own passions resonated with the public - not because he set out to become rich.

Many successful people fall into this category. Consider doctors - good and bad ones alike. Some got into medicine out of a genuine interest in medical science or a passionate desire to heal. Others got into the field because doctors make really good money. I think you would find that conservative doctors fall into the latter group. You are probably more likely to find them on the golf course than volunteering for Doctors Without Borders. Again, either type might turn out to be a brilliant or incompetent physician based on many other factors. The motivation is only important within this schema.

Now let's consider folks like Joe the Plumber. These are the people Thomas Frank wrote about in What's the Matter With Kansas? They present a conundrum in that they appear to be advocating against their own self interests with their votes and voices. I would suggest that these are Type C people. They hope(d) or plan(ned) to be rich one day and are thereby naturally sympathetic to those who have achieved the goal that motivates their own existences, even if their own progress toward that goal is not going as well as they'd hoped.

Type A individuals are easy to spot. Watch the new film Margin Call for a magnificent case study of them. The movie presents a meticulously layered portrayal of the various types of people who fall into this category. They are not simply the gross caricatures of the wholly evil suits that you might expect. They include: Peter (Zachary Quinto), the brilliant and earnest former rocket scientist who stumbles upon the data that is about to bring the economy crashing down in 2008; Eric (Stanley Tucci), the former bridge builder who is laid off unceremoniously at the beginning of the film after 20 years; Sam (Kevin Spacey), the fast talking, fast dealing, show-me-the-money boss who first appalls us when he is more devastated by his dying dog than by the massive number of human beings he just laid off, but later displays the dying remnants of his conscience and humanity but is ultimately unable to redeem himself; John Tuld (Jeremy Irons), the financial automaton (clearly modeled on Dick Fuld), whose only concern in the world is the survival and enrichment of himself and his firm at any cost.

These men could not be more different from each other in their biographical histories and personality types. What they have in common is that each of them chose wealth over everything else, as evidenced by their career choices. They left behind families, careers, passions, and principles to push money around, much of it into their own pockets. The longer they do it, the colder they grow to the world around them. They more money they get their hands on, the less important everything else becomes. You can argue that these are merely fictional characters, but you cannot argue that anyone goes into the money business out of any personal passion other than a passion for money. In fact, you will fail in the financial sector if you are not motivated by the desire to make massive amounts of money. I am not here to make the case that this is or is not a valid passion - I am simply trying to establish that there is a difference between people with that passion and people without it.

Moving on. I suspect that most of us fall into Category D. Sure, maybe we buy a lottery ticket now and again or speculate about what we would do with a million dollars, but our lives are motivated primarily by the desire to live a fulfilling life. Money is a means to an end for us, not the end itself. If we see improvement in our personal wealth, it is generally modest and allows us to pay off a little debt, make a home improvement, save it for a rainy day, or treat ourselves to something nice - like a new television. Or a sweater. So for us, a discussion about the distinction between making, say one million dollars and two million dollars is not something we can really engage in with any degree of seriousness. Whether Albert Pujols will sign a $200 or $300 million dollar contract is sort of an absurd abstraction to us. That would be 4,000 - 6,000 years at my current household income, just to give you some perspective. (Plus, he probably gets health and dental benefits for the whole family. I pay $400/month for my high deductible plan and I spent about $1600 on dental work last month.)

This brings us full circle to the question of disparity. I don't know anyone who really gives a rat's ass how much money rich people make. God speed to them and their money. But that attitude was formed in an environment in which the better off they were, the better off we all were - even if just a tiny, little, eensy-teensy bit. So unless you can explain how this gap could possibly grow unchecked, you have stumbled upon the fundamental complaint of the Occupy movement. And I mean you'd have to explain it in practical, economic terms. You can't just say "It's their money, they earned it, we shouldn't spread the wealth around, stop begging for handouts," etc. You have to explain the difference between the current imbalance and the sort of plutocracy our system was supposed to be an improvement on. You also have to explain why, if business is so oppressed by economy killing regulations and taxes, are the rich still getting richer? That argument might have some credibility if all sectors were suffering equally, but they are not. The folks at the top are still getting wealthier. The rest of us are still out here trying to pull our weight - but the rewards are being funneled to the top.

I would like to be a conservative. I would like to live in a world in which unions are not necessary because employers simply do right by their employees. I would like to live in a world in which we don't need to raise taxes on millionaires because millionaires are fairly distributing the wealth down through the ranks of their companies. Unfortunately, the system has run amok and the guys at the top have grown too disconnected from the real world that the majority of us live in. They've distorted the system so that it is making less and less sense for the rest of us to participate in it. Whereas the Tea Party has an abstract argument about the sustainability of our national debt in the long term, OWS is about something tangible. You can malign the OWS movement all you want for its sloppiness, but is simply a natural, populist reaction to the reality. There is no reason to expect it to be a highly refined movement. It is the stuff of revolutions, not of tidy political calculation. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

We Are All Polar Bears Now

What do polar bears have in common with the 99%? 

In my mid-life attempt to complete my BA, I find myself required to take Geography 100. While I would never have chosen the class myself, I must admit that I am finding it pretty damn interesting. It's nice to fill in the blanks that have long existed in my vague knowledge about some of these basic concepts. As a non-scientist, I have always held the field and the process in high esteem without feeling compelled to understand it at all. That sort of distance from the actual science has, perhaps, prevented me from realizing just how much is now known about...well, so many things.

For example, I have never questioned the science behind climate change. I have simply accepted the consensus of those who have devoted their lives to studying such things. A week ago, I couldn't have told you any more about climate change than the fact that temperatures are rising and ice caps are melting. I might even have been marginally susceptible to mild skepticism about the overall importance of rising temperatures in the grand scheme of things.

Having just grazed the surface of geographic science - looking at the basics of how Earth functions as a system - it has already become amazingly simple and clear to me, in a way that it was not before, that we are overloading that system, draining its resources, and imperiling the future of all living things on the planet. Paradoxically, it turns out to be much less complicated than I could have imagined before I knew anything about it.

We have managed to construct a conception of our place in the universe that goes something like this:
  • The universe, of which Earth is a part, is incomprehensibly immense. 
  • We are tiny. 
  • Our puny little species couldn't possibly do any real damage to the wider world around us.
The fatal flaw in that schema is the distinction between our puny little species and Earth. Practically speaking, we are quite literally one with the earth. We, along with all living things, are trapped together in an infinitesimally small bubble - a snow globe, in which the glass represents the incredibly thin layer of atmosphere within which all life is possible. That layer extends upward from sea level a mere 480 kilometers. Just to give you an idea of how little space that actually is, the distance through the center of Earth at its widest point (the equator) is 12,756 kilometers. 

Here's what I never realized: Nothing gets into the bubble and nothing leaves the bubble, resource-wise. The only thing that enters the bubble is solar radiation. Yes, we project things out into space and many of them return, but this represents a statistically insignificant variation from the general rule. For all intents and purposes, we may as well have a glass barrier surrounding us. When you think about things this way, you begin to see that we are not puny at all, as far as Earth is concerned. We may be insignificant. It may not matter whether we live or die and kill every other living thing in the process. Either way, it simply cannot be denied that we are having a major impact on the behavior of matter inside this bubble of ours. 

Believe it or not, this piece is not about the environment. is and it isn't. Bear with me here as I attempt to pivot to the economy and the Occupy Wall Street movement. First, back to the environment for a moment. Look at this:

Roughly half of the Arctic sea ice has melted since 1970, with the losses increasing exponentially in more recent years. It is estimated that the remaining 23,000 polar bears will see their numbers dwindle by two-thirds by around 2050. Now those polar bears don't know or care anything about climate change. They don't know why they're nearly extinct. They don't know or care that a considerable number of humans refuse to accept the science supporting the notion that we are contributing to climate change. They don't know or care whether these people are motivated by politics, religion, greed, or all of the above. All they know is that the ice is disappearing from beneath them. Actually, they don't even know that...until they find themselves drowning in the middle of the too-warm Arctic ocean.

This is how we, the 99%, feel at the moment. The relentless pursuit of profit by the corporate sector is the energy that is overheating our financial atmosphere. The solid ground beneath our feet is vanishing, leaving us adrift in an ocean of uncertainty and dimming hope for the future. It doesn't much matter to us whether some deny this reality. The facts and figures speak for themselves: Rising corporate profits and increasing executive compensation for them; stagnating wages, rising unemployment, and increasing costs-of living for us. 

Both of these forms of denial are promulgated as conservative orthodoxy. Actual truth is no competition for their divine truth. If they can feel it, it is so. Reality be damned. This is the chief tactic of the new oligarchy. Just look at how successfully these two disparate issues have been manipulated in precisely the same way: 
  • Appeal to the viscera. 
  • Vilify science and intellectualism. 
  • Deify individualism. 
  • Demonize collectivism.
  • Connect faith with finance. 
Once those principles have been instilled in the portion of the populace that is susceptible to them, the world is your oyster. You have established a visceral connection to your audience that does not require rationality. You have made them skeptical of anyone who is pompous enough to have become an expert in their field (while remaining free to profit from those people when it is convenient). You have trained them to decline a benefit for themselves in order to prevent others from receiving a benefit. Finally, you have secularized  the prosperity gospel by harnessing faith in the service of justifying selfishness and greed.

Take the polar bears, for example. Climate change deniers have followed these directions carefully and with great success. They viscerally hook their audience with contempt for the sort of hippie intellectuals who think they're smarter than everyone else, disseminating arbitrary factoids that look damn convincing to a layperson but have no scientific credibility when considered in context (if they're even factual to begin with). They incite righteous indigation of the "I'll-be-damned-if-anyone's-gonna-tell-me-what-kind-of-car-I-can-drive"sort, riling up the faux-libertarian that lurks within, as if personal liberty has anything to do with the question of whether or not we are warming the climate. They rally the troops against any notion that we, as individuals, have any responsibility to anyone or anything other than ourselves. Then, wire all of that into their faith system. Sell it like their pastors sell God. Make them feel it deep down in the cockles, where they are unable to think about it.

Our economic oppression has been accomplished and perpetuated using the same framework. They have successfully connected intellectualism to liberalism. (All liberals are high-minded, ivy-league snobs; all conservatives are...what?) They have elevated Ayn Rand to the status of Prophet, lending more credence to her founding principles than they ever have to those of Jesus Christ. Collectivism has been found guilty by association with its worst adherents and summarily executed in the square of public opinion.

We, as reasonable people, have been trained to feel that the use of words like "tyranny" and "oligarchy" and "fascism" is extreme and not applicable to anything that might occur in this great nation of ours. (Note that while socialistic ideas continue to have success in various sectors of economies all over the world, fascism has no corresponding positive associations. So when they call us "socialists," we are offended not at the term itself, but at their ignorance of what the word means and they ways in which they are the daily beneficiaries of socialistic systems. Once again, knowledge be damned. They merely want to tie us to Stalin - in the same way we could connect all Christians to Pope Innocent III.) We have been trained to behave. Revolt is for less civilized peoples. After all, we have iPods and plasma TVs. Why would we ever revolt?

Because the ice is melting out from under us. We were raised to believe that we could stay on solid ground if we played by the rules and worked hard. We grew up in a world in which a person willing to work 40+ hours a week could buy a home, start a family, provide for that family, take a vacation now and then, and retire before death. Pretty basic stuff for the "greatest nation in the history of the world," right? Sure, if you wanted to be a millionaire, you could try to go out and have a great idea and work day and night and build an empire - but ambition of that sort was not required by any means. Ambition is not the same as work ethic. I, for one, have never wanted power or great wealth. I grew up in a blue collar household and as a result I developed very modest expectations and desires. I just want to do something well, contribute my piece to society, and enjoy my family. That's it. Well, that's no longer enough.

The people with ambition decided that their ambition entitled them to a larger and larger piece of the pie. If us little folks can't be bothered to work as hard as them, then screw us. If we don't like it, we can get off our lazy asses and become investment bankers or invent something amazing, like Pillow Pets. Until then, we should take what scraps they're willing to provide in the form of jobs. That's right...they're the "job creators." They seem to think that they are bestowing a great gift by creating these precious jobs. What happened to the notion that employees are the most valuable commodity a company has? How exactly are the job creators going to get filthy fucking rich if we don't honor them with our time and service? If they're doing us such a favor, they should be able to get along without us, right? And who is going to buy their shit? If we don't allow them to pay us for our labor, where are we going to get the money to buy they stuff they're paying us to make?

They need us badly, but they've convinced us that it's the other way around - and they're taking a huge gamble. They're betting that if they pull the rug out just far enough - if they melt just enough ice - we'll all scramble to fit into the tiny space that's left. And we'll be grateful for it. Well maybe we won't. It's beginning to look like our only option is to get vicious on the bastards.