Saturday, July 31, 2010
From Slacktivist Posted by Fred Clark on Jul 30, 2010 at 05:55 PM
Newcomers are often insecure, and a debt of gratitude can make anyone feel a bit awkward, so I try my best to be patient with some of the sillier things often said by those from the American "heartland" about supposed "East Coast elites" in general and New York in particular.
But that patience has its limits and I may have reached those limits listening to various non-New Yorkers bloviating about where and how New Yorkers ought to be allowed to worship. (I'm from the heartland of New Jersey, myself, where I was taught that real Americans don't imagine it's their business to tell someone where they can or cannot worship.)
So before I endure yet another silly speech about how the real-er real Americans from the real-er real America are so superior to the illegitimate pseudo-Americans of New York, I would ask that the speaker first respond to the following questions.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
1. Please indicate which stripe on the American flag represents your home state. (New York's is that red one third from the bottom.)
2. Please name the representatives of your state who signed the Declaration of Independence. (William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis and Lewis Morris signed on behalf of New York.)
3. Was your state originally part of a territory purchased by the United States and thereby paid for, in part, by the taxpayers of New York? If so, please say "Thank you."
4. Was your state formed out of territory claimed by armed conflict with another nation and thereby purchased, in part, with the blood and treasure of New Yorkers? If so, please say "Thank you very much."
5. Has your state ever committed treason in defense of slavery, declaring war on the United States of America and firing on American soldiers fighting under the American flag? If so, please recite the Pledge of Allegiance -- not as a loyalty oath, but just as an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the words. Especially the last six. (The Pledge of Allegiance, by the way, was written by a New Yorker.)
6. How many American citizens reside in your state? If it's less than 19.5 million, please recite aloud the following sentence: "I acknowledge that more real Americans reside in New York than in [name of your state]."
7. Is your state willing and able to supplant New York as what E.B. White described as the "clear priority ... of all targets" and the "steady, irresistible charm" for "whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lighting"? Please circle the answer below and initial in the space provided.
No, of course not, don't be silly. _____
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
So now, what was that again you were saying about how the real Americans of the real American heartland are so much more authentically American than those pseudo-American New Yorkers?
Thursday, July 29, 2010
~The humidity has been in the single digits. It was 6% and 96° around 2pm and there has been a steady breeze. So we got a fire on our doorstep.
Name: Crown Fire
County: Los Angeles County
Location: North of Sierra Highway at Anthony Road, Agua Dulce
Administrative Unit: Los Angeles County Fire
Status/Notes: 2,000 acres
Date Started: July 29, 2010 2:22 pm
Last update: July 29, 2010 8:30 pm
Google Map Search: Anthony Rd, South Antelope Valley, Los Angeles, California 91390
We can see the flames upon a hillside North West of Palmdale and this whole portion of the Antelope Valley is under a vast smoky pawl. I suspect we'll be staying sealed up over night.
I'll up-date as things develop....
Plus, as I was going back through old entrees on the subject looking for material for said re-writing, I realized that I first started on this project nearly three years ago with The First Rough Assemblage of a Temple Information Package, which runs barely 6000 words.
And so it is....
Monday, July 26, 2010
~E says, ”Being slaves to your gods will be the path to your destruction, so stop it! Your deities are created by you, not - as far to many of you falsely believe - the other way round. You have allowed one deity to kill off another many times before, but only by denying that you created each deity in the first place.
Some of you try killing off all deities completely, but your race makes more every single day. It is past time for you to take control of your deities. They are your creatures, not you theirs.
Keep them while they are useful, but release them when they not longer serve you, and KILL them when they become a problem. Such is essential on your path to becoming gods yourselves...and such is the Path of your race, like it or not.”
Just have your feelings in an Authentic fashion and allow yourself to have your needs might as best you can. Yes, it's messy, but it is also human and that is in fact the path that you are on.
Our Divine Imperfection can be a wonderful thing if we truly accept it. Doing so means when you get up each morning you always know what you're going to do today."
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
...hand written at 4:30am...
~We've had the windows open since around 1am, which is a Good Thing, especially as we just got the Park Rent and the electric bill is a bomb, close to $200. But if this weather holds, as it likely will because of the whole 'hot/cool-day/night desert thing', next month should be a bit less steep.
I'm not feeling so hot today, sinus stuff buggin' me. Probably the radical shift in humidity that's allowing us to crack the hatches.
Been sleeping a lot, as well.
The other evening I started giving myself grief about that, but I realized in the moment that I have been expending a great amount of energy on my Sisters lately, IM's, e-mails, phone calls, etc. Goddess Knows I am not complaining about that; it is my job to do so and I'm good at that job. I simply have to remember that it does require a major output of energy and that I need to freely allow myself the time to recharge.
The Catch-22 here is that part of what makes me so good at this is my ability to 'show up one hundred percent in the moment' with each Sister and then when we're done, 'let go of it totally'. Because of that I often forget that I just put out so much juice and then wonder why I'm so fried. Geeze...lol
I've also been writing steadily even since I let go of X-Plan's deadline, both on that and The Imperium. Been busy chewin' on da intrawebz, too. Combined that with the above mentioned work and Yours Truly comes out pretty toasty. I'm in a generally good mood, just a bit crisp around the edges.
And that's the name of that tune...
Note@9:40am: Right after I hand wrote that, something I have not done in donkey's years btw, I went back to bed for a few hours. Felt much better as a result.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
~Forty years ago today, Neil Armstrong step off that ladder onto the surface of the Moon. I expect most of you know that by now, even if it's not being plastered all over the mass media, there are enough reminders.
I was watching that moment of course. I'd been a hard core consumer of Sci-Fi for a decade even at that point, six weeks before my seventeenth birthday, and this was in fact a Dream Come True.
Most seem rather blasé about the whole thing now. But keep in mind that at time it had only been forty two years since Lindbergh had flown the Atlantic. And in the intervening four decades, we as a species have not made a comparable journey.
This is not merely disappointing, it is distressing.
Becoming a spacefaring race is crucial to us as a species for reasons of survival and for both our Evolutionary and Spiritual growth. Yes, the Earth is our home, but all of you reading this have various names for those who never leave home and I suspect not one of them is complementary.
Which leads me to the following; the image of a prototype design for an FTL Star Ship.
Yes, it's a hypothetical design propelled by a hypothetical engine powered by a hypothetical power source, though some think that power source is not all that hypothetical. The important part is that actual design plans are beginning to emerge.
There is still plenty to do inside our Solar System:
~Build a space elevator
~Industrialize the Moon and mine it for Helium 3
~Create a zone for the relocation Earth's heavy industries
~Mine asteroids for that industry
~Build space habitats and even orbitals
~Terraform and colonize Mars
~And in the process, change ourselves as it's likely unmodified humans will not fare well in space for any length of time.
But the Solar System is also still our home and one day we will need to leave that home as well...and for that we need Star Ships.
I know this may seem pretty far fetched to many, so let me close this with another quote from Sir Arthur: “If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative.”
And Happy Anniversary, Apollo 11.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
~Yes, I have been working on this thing....
The Makassar Maru slipped out of Panjim's harbor a little after one in the morning. That was very much her style, coming and going in the dead of night.
She was a disreputable looking vessel, faded paint and rust streaks on her and decking. But inside she was as spit and polish as the flagship of the Royal Navy. She had a good turn of speed and a pair of 3.5 inch guns wrapped under tarpaulins, one each, fore and aft. There were numerous other weapons on board, as well.
Though she was registered to a Dai Bo Shipping of Hiroshima, the Makassar Maru had never been within five hundred miles of Japan. She plied Indian Ocean route almost exclusively, where overly suspicious harbor masters could be told unofficially to “mind their own business” by very official Imperial officials.
On another registry in the files of a 'non-existent' government bureau in New York City she was simply listed as C-23.
At five thousand dead weight tons, the Makassar Maru was small enough to to blend in, yet large enough to be flexible. Powerful engines and over sized fuel tanks cut her cargo capacity by nearly half, but since it was usually some type of contraband, that was a non-issue.
She did have passenger accommodations: a high security brig forward that could hold twenty 'special prisoners' for long voyages or up to fifty for a short run. Topside were six small but comfortable cabins grandly called 'staterooms'.
There was only one passenger on this run however, William Frederick Dudley “Snapper” Pennington, Commander, Royal Navy Reserve, and he slept soundly in Stateroom C, the door locked and a Fosbery .488 revolver tucked under his pillow.
Once out of harbor, the Mak, as her crew called her, picked up speed, her bow hissing through the dark ocean, its surface slightly illumined by the slim crescent of a very new moon.
The sound of the engine's increased throbbing caused Snapper to turn over, snuggle in his covers, and then fall into a deeper sleep. He knew that India was being left behind, at least physically.
In all his dozen plus years with the aforementioned 'non-existent' government bureau he had never been this tired before and his sleep was blessedly without dreams.
He vaguely remembered turning over, looking at dawn's pink glow coming in the porthole, snorting derisively, and going back to sleep. Next time he woke up, the sun's light was flooding brightly into the cabin.
“Coffee time,” he muttered and hauled himself upright.
At the edge of the bunk, a brand new pair of rubber flip-flops awaited his large callused feet. He'd bought them just before boarding and planned to wear nothing else for the duration of the voyage. Digging into his duffel bag, he pulled out a raw cotton shirt, short sleeves, v-neck. The red and white stripped shorts he'd slept in completed his ensemble.
After peeing in the cabin's small metal sink, he washed his face using a bar of the fragrant green soap he had come to favor during these last two years in India. He dried his face and then looked at the thing in the mirror.
It was still a handsome face, though certainly well lived in; tan and weathered, high brow, not too full lips, blue eyes, black hair with a bit of gray. He'd been a fine featured youth, almost pretty, which he had hated...except for the part where women swooned over him.
That boyishness had been well beaten out of him. Twice broken nose, once broken left cheek, and various small scars. Plenty more on his body, bullet holes and stab wounds. He was thirty pounds heaver than that slim ensign stepping out of the Royal Naval Academy sixteen years ago, yet he was as hard as jerky.
But there were dark circles under those blue eyes and he hadn't shaved in three days. He rubbed that blue-black bristle.
“Well, Snaps, old man, you look like a fucking dago,” he said in his best Pukka drawl.
He then looked past that face to the reflection of his cabin and it reminded him of another small room, a simple cubical really, off of a throne room in the abandoned palace of a dead maharajah.
Five by twelve, but with an over twenty foot ceiling, it had seemed the bottom of a pit, which was precisely the effect that Snapper had wanted.
It was now nearly a decade since Snapper had been recruited by his 'employers' and he would work for them for two years before he learned the name by which they went; Room 19. That was it, the entire title. He approved of its simplicity.
Back then his 'supervisor' was Mr. Greane, a 'naval type' who was a rather elderly gentleman, but sharp as a tack, make no mistake about it. It seemed that many of those who worked for Room 19 were 'naval types'. These days, Mr. Blaque ran things. He also had the smell of the sea about him.
It was a well known and high ranking Royal Navy officer who first approached Snapper about 'alternative service' as he put it. The transfer came with an automatic promotion and a shift to the Naval Reserve List. He thought the assignment would last a year or two. This was before the adrenaline hooked him.
His first assignment was a simple 'bean counting' op to see if the expenditures of 'certain persons' matched their income using both legal and extra legal means which took him through central and southern India. It was a boring and tedious operation meant to test his patience and diligence.
It was during that trip he came upon The Palace, seen in the distance from the window of a train.
It belonged to a maharajah who'd gone broke and moved to his house in the city, where he had died. His family still owned the place, but had no money to run it, so the place stood empty and abandoned for decades. As the local economy had depended upon serving The Palace, it was now effectively in the middle of nowhere.
“What a marvelous base of operations this would make,” Snapper had thought as he explored its dozens of large, empty rooms. He informed his employers of its potential and advised them to purchase it forthwith. To his surprise, they agreed.
He then went about his business and largely forget about the place. He would some times hear that The Palace was in use, but neither needed nor wanted to know the details of said use.
But when he realized it had become necessary to kidnap and interrogate Johannes Troutmann – and at length – right away he knew the perfect place to stage the operation.
Troutmann was an interesting character, in some ways quite representative of the Anglo-Indian Ascendancy that ruled Her Majesty's Indian Empire and much of Her other Imperial possessions.
Troutmann's parents had moved to India when he was three years old. His father was a civil engineer from Brandenburg and his mother a teacher from Saxony. As they were both devout Roman Catholics, they were not welcome in the Grand Dominion of America, a circumstance that brought many non- English Europeans to India.
Troutmann's father found work right away even though his English was poor to begin with. India's cities were booming and his skills were in high demand. His mother stayed home and studied not only English, but also the major Indian languages, which she taught to her husband and son. The Troutmann's prospered and moved up in society.
Somewhere along the way his father lost his Catholicism, not an uncommon occurrence in the Ascendancy, and became a Tamist, a follower of the Nine Fold Tara, the faith inspired by the Queen-Empress. His son followed suit. Mrs. Troutmann however remained a staunch Catholic and, when Johannes turned seventeen, she returned to Saxony and became a Bride of Christ.
This had a profound effect upon both the Troutmann males. The father went completely native, married a Hindu woman half his age, and proceeded to have seven more children.
Johannes left home just before that marriage and never spoke directly with his father ever again. He joined the Merchant Marine and was absent from India for over a decade. It is believe it was during this time that he was recruited by the SIR, the Sluzhba Inostrannoi Razvedki, Czar Michael's Foreign Secret Service.....
...the story of the Troutmann Episode here...
.....He slipped sunglasses into the V of his shirt, tucked a ciggy behind his ear, but left the Fosbery under the pillow. He knew where all the small arms on board were kept.
The galley was empty at mid morning, but there was still hot coffee in the pot, bread, some crock cheese, and he knew how to use a bloody broiler grill.
No newspaper. They were at sea after all. He grunted at that and made a mental note to raid the captain's library. Reading something was a key part of his morning ritual. When he had the luxury of one.
No newspaper was just as well. The whole purpose of sailing in the Mak was to unwind a bit. The wireless would inform him of any overriding crisis. It would be a week to ten days from Panjim to Cape Town. He'd be moving fast again soon enough.
At Cape Town he'd grab a berth on board any available warship of the Imperial Naval Air Service, which would take the ocean route to New York. Normally he would have booked a cabin on a commercial airship, probably an Imperial Airways aeroliner, but those stopped at Recife in the Brazilian Empire and relations with them were strained these days.
No use taking chances.
His operational logs were already en route in a fast scouting airship, probably reaching Gibraltar just about now, and New York before he ate dinner. By the time he reached New York, they'd be properly prepared to debrief him.
The afternoon before he left Panjim, a hard looking Royal Marine major had showed up with two even harder looking Royal Marine sergeants to pick up Snapper's lock box, a steel case with three locks and two wax seals.
“I'm here for the item, sir,” he said, offering Snapper a form on a clipboard to sign. And “Thank you, sir,” at attention after Snapper signed it. “Loquacious chap,” Snapper had thought.
Snapper watched from his window as the two sergeants put the box into a closed van. There was an open truck full of Marines armed with various types of automatic weapons stopped both fore and aft of the van.
He would have preferred something a bit more low key, maybe one of his local operatives with two bully boys and a donkey cart full of straw. But he knew the whole operation had passed far beyond that point.
“A show of raw power is best, I suppose,” he thought as he watched the military convoy pull away from his doorstep. There were in fact six heavily armed men in his house at the moment.
Still, he did slip away quietly after dark dressed as an ordinary seaman lugging a ratty looking duffel bag and he was quite certain that his exit had gone unobserved.
He ate his breakfast slowly and silently, feeling the ships engines throbbing through his feet. “About twenty, twenty two knots,” he estimated.
When he was done, he washed his cup, plate, and silverware. “The proper gentleman is aways a good guest,” had been drilled into his head before he could tie his own shoes. He put on his sunglasses, lit his cigarette from the broiler grill, and headed topside
It was a clear warm day, about eighty degrees at the ocean's surface. The breeze from the Mak's speed was quite pleasant.
Snapper leaned on the railing and watched the water rushing past. He allowed it to mildly hypnotize him, letting his body and mind loosen up. That both were wound tight was an understatement.
The ship's engines suddenly throttled back by at least half. Snapper automatically looked up and scanned the horizon. Off the port bow was a sliver of white.
He focused upon it with great intensity. Soon enough its silhouette resolved itself into a warship. Of course, a white hulled warship in the Indian Ocean meant only one thing: the Royal Navy.
He relaxed a little.
He could tell the vessel was moving at a good clip by the speed with which it grew. A single fast warship traveling alone meant either a corvette or a frigate, probably heading into Panjim, mostly likely on general maritime security patrol.
No wonder the captain had slowed down. An old rust bucket like the Mak whizzing along at twenty knots would raise the suspicions of a first year midshipman, especially with a Japanese ensign waving at the stern, ally or no ally.
A few more moments passed and then a small grin twitched upon Snapper's lips. He knew that outline by heart; a Truxtun class fast frigate. Too soon to tell which one, however.
He was slightly surprised at how happy seeing her made him feel, no matter which ship she was.
His first billet out of the Academy was HMS Truxtun herself, only a year in commission and already upsetting the Naval Establishment. His classmates were green with envy.
He served two years in her as a Nav/Com officer and received his first promotion from her captain, Sir John “Mad Jack” Hartley, who was quite the old seadog by then. It was the happiest time he had ever known, before or since.
His eyes practically caressed the oncoming warship, her sleek six thousand ton hull, clean lines, two raked funnels, a pair of turrets forward and one aft, each mounting a single 3.5 inch Mark VII Ellis gun.
It was Truxtun's speed – rated at thirty two knots, but demonstrated at up to thirty eight – and her Ellis guns that created such a stir. Properly maintained and operated, the Mark VII, a five barrel electric rotary cannon, could fire thirty one 3.5 inch shells per minute, sufficient to reduce a battleship's superstructure to ruin if she got close enough.
The Royal Navy's 'old guard' still had their bowels in an uproar over the creation of the Imperial Naval Air Service as a separate arm a few years earlier. That Ellis guns were an Air service innovation simply added insult to injury.
But a number of the crusty old bastards fell in love with her once they saw her glide swiftly across the water. Nine more were ordered.
Snapper finally got a fix on her hull number; large black characters reading F-51. He thought for a moment. “HMS Bonaire, ” he whispered. Truxtun was F-43.
She was almost upon them now, her hull a high gloss white, superstructure a flat off white, red and blue bands on her funnels. Her 'spit and polish' was fully evident from stem to stern.
Most of her on-deck personnel paid little overt attention to the disreputable looking tramp steamer, but four officers on her bridge watched the Mak closely through their binoculars.
The Mak dipped her ensign as the Bonaire slid past and got a brief toot of her horn in acknowledgment.
Snapper still leaned casually against the railing, but as the Bonaire's stern came up, her White Ensign flapping vigorously, he could not help but come to attention and give a crisp salute. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed one of the officers on her bridge point that out to the captain.
And then she was past. And getting smaller.
He looked up at the Mak's bridge. Captain Ederveen was watching him, too. He nodded his head and Snapper nodded back.
Suddenly, he felt very tired. Time for some more sleep.
Five hours later, Snapper lay in his bunk dozing. It was a truly wonderful sensation. He did not have to be anywhere he didn't want to be. He did not have to see anyone he didn't want to see. He had nothing unpleasant to attend to.
“Fucking bliss,” he muttered with a smile.
There was a quiet knock upon the cabin door. He instinctively grasped the grip of the Fosbery and almost flowed out of the bunk to the door.
Back to the metal bulkhead, pistol at the ready, he said, “Yes?”
“Captain's compliments, sir,” said a voice from the other side of the door. Snapper thought, “Good English, slight Malay accent.” He let out a deep breath and opened the door.
A fierce looking South Asian greeted him with a polite smile.
“The captain is serving dinner in an hour and fifteen minutes, sir. Medallions of veal in a massala sauce he told me to say,” the crewman said pleasantly.
Snapper returned the smile. “Please tell the captain medallions of veal sounds lovely and thank him for giving me time to make myself presentable.”
The crewman grinned. “Certainly, sir. Do you have all that you need, sir?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Very good, sir.” The crewman gave the slight nod that passed for a salute on The Mak, which Snapper returned, then headed back up the companionway. Snapper closed the door. He noticed he was squeezing the grip of the pistol.
“Steady, Snaps old man,” he whispered.
He shaved and showered in the closet sized stall at the head of the companionway. He dressed in a fine cotton shirt and the raw cotton pants that went with the v-neck shirt he'd worn earlier...and his flip flops, of course. He fished around in the duffel and retrieved a leather bound jewelry case. From that he took his Naval Academy graduation ring. It still fit comfortably.
Now he felt properly dressed for dinner.
To be continued...
© 2008/2010 Michael Varian Daly
Monday, July 12, 2010
~This 'rant' was prompted by a comment made on a post where I said, "...[R]emember we're an Open System. Coming and going is part of how we'll Spread The Word. None of this hiding out in the compound bullshit. That's for those who are waiting for Jesus or Hale-Bopp or what/who/fucking/ever to come and 'take them away'.
No End Times around here, babe. The Wheel keeps Turning and we have to do the Work ourselves, Blessed Be!!"
A friend asked, “And your plan to deal with a potential Climate Change end to the current Interglacial's stability and the utter collapse of the technological levels needed to make the Sisterhood viable is? The current Climate Catastrophe pretty much kills off contemporary society as we know if it even is a medium-range scenario, while your Sisterhood depends on a much higher level of technology which in turn means Climate Change must be averted which is now not likely..... “
I replied, “I suspect a pretty high level of tech will actually make the transition, but part of our game plan is the 'lifeboat' scenario and we'll be able to preserve a goodly amount of tech ourselves if it comes to that.
In addition, Stage Three of our desert community will be based upon this design. There are other elements, but it is best to keep those under wraps for the time being.”
I felt the need to expand upon all that, so here goes....
First, let me state up front that I believe that Climate Change is real and that it is fully coming upon us in the next quarter century or so.
I cannot say for certain if we caused it or if it is simply part of Mother's natural cycle of things. I strongly suspect it is a combination, that we pumped a batch of pollutants into an unstable climate system and then 'shit happened'.
I also believe that we cannot stop this process, and maybe not even ameliorate it. But I do believe we can ride it out. Some of us at least. Many are going to die. Most actually.
I know that's easy to say with equanimity from my comfy First World life, but there it is. I presently live in a double wide in a mobile home park on the far outskirts of the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area and I'll just have to settle for that level of 'cultural authenticity'. I sure the fuck ain't gonna move to a tent in Darfur and nether are any of y'all, so you can shut the fuck up!
While there are huge numbers of folks who are in full on denial about this, there are also a cluster of people, mostly educated white males, who seem to be actually looking forward to this. John Michael Greer writes very thoughtfully on the subject – which makes him all the more depressing - and does manage to conceal his feelings.
But my old summer camp counselor, Jim Kustsler? Fuck, dude, you can hear him whacking off as he preaches Collapse. I consider him the foremost purveyor of Catastrophe Porn, the Al Goldstein of The Collapse.
But this is just End Times for intellectual atheists and is steeped in the same type of Apocalyptic emotions, but comes from those educated white males who feel alienated from, and dis-empowered by, the monstrosity that is, if you'll pardon the phrase, Modern Civilization.
James Lovelock seems really the most sincere and authentic in this matter and his sadness is palpable. He may not think that we shall become extinct, but he can see the pain and suffering ahead, and to his great credit, it makes him weep.
I suspect I'll do some weeping myself, but I have been tasked with a Plan and need to limit the exercise of that particular emotional luxury. I have Work to do.
My own view is that Modern Civilization is not going to undergo a Total Collapse. Shit's gonna get Real Hairy, but I don't buy the End Times/Late Roman Empire paradigm. History does repeat itself, but never in the same way.
While the sheer size and complexity of Modern Civilization is part of the problem, it is also what will save our bacon, though maybe not bacon itself. There is massive informational redundancy built into the whole thing, so much so that wiping it all out is nigh impossible, short of an asteroid strike. *bites tongue*
Plus, this is not some Hollywood scenario. The so-called Collapse will happen over decades and will never be truly complete. Many parts of the whole will die off partially or totally, but other parts will survive nearly intact.
Things like The Road are just what I named above; Catastrophe Porn. You can watch them with popcorn or with lube, depending upon your proclivities.
Me, I don't watch them at all.
Cynical as a I am, I'm really one of those hopeful solution oriented mother fuckers, and if you have a problem with that, I'll shoot you in your fucking face and take all your stuff.
And so it is....
July 06, 2010
By Joe Bageant
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
As an Anglo European white guy from a very long line of white guys, I want to thank all the brown, black, yellow and red people for a marvelous three-century joy ride. During the past 300 years of the industrial age, as Europeans, and later as Americans, we have managed to consume infinitely more than we ever produced, thanks to colonialism, crooked deals with despotic potentates and good old gunboats and grapeshot. Yes, we have lived, and still live, extravagant lifestyles far above the rest of you. And so, my sincere thanks to all of you folks around the world working in sweatshops, or living on two bucks a day, even though you sit on vast oil deposits. And to those outside my window here in Mexico this morning, the two guys pruning the retired gringo's hedges with what look like pocket knives, I say, keep up the good work. It's the world's cheap labor guys like you -- the black, brown and yellow folks who take it up the shorts -- who make capitalism look like it actually works. So keep on humping. Remember: We've got predator drones.
After twelve generations of lavish living at the expense of the rest of the world, it is understandable that citizens of the so-called developed countries have come to consider it quite normal. In fact, Americans expect it to become plusher in the future, increasingly chocked with techno gadgetry, whiz bang processed foodstuffs, automobiles, entertainments, inordinately large living spaces -- forever.
We've had plenty of encouragement, especially in recent times. Before our hyper monetized economy metastasized, things such as housing values went through the sky, and the cost of basics, food etc. went through the basement floor, compared to the rest of the world. The game got so cheap and fast that relative fundamental value went right out the window and hasn't been seen since. For example, it would be very difficult to make Americans understand that a loaf of bread or a dozen eggs have more inherent value than an iPhone. Yet, at ground zero of human species economics, where the only currency is the calorie, that is still true.
Such is the triumph of the money economy that nothing can be valued by any other measure, despite that nobody knows what money is worth at all these days. This is due in part to the international finance jerk-off, in which the world's governments print truckloads of worthless money, so they can loan it out. The idea here is that incoming repayment in some other, more valuable, currency will cover their own bad paper. In turn, the debtor nations print their own bogus money to repay the loans. So you have institutions loaning money they do not have to institutions unable to repay the loans. All this is based on the bullshit theory that tangible wealth is being created by the world's financial institutions, through interest on the debt. Money making money.
As my friend, physicist and political activist George Salzman writes,
"Everyone in these 'professional' institutions dealing in money lives a fundamentally dishonest life. Never mind 'regulating' interest rates," he says. "We must do away with interest, with the very idea of 'money making money'. We must recognize that what is termed 'Western Civilization' is in fact an anti-civilization, a global social structure of death and destruction. However, the charade of ever-increasing debt can be kept up only as long as the public remains ignorant. Once ecological limits have been reached the capitalist political game is up."
You can see why I love this guy.
Boomers and Doomers and XXL bloomers
Capitalism wouldn't be around today, at least not in its current pathogenic form, if it had not caught a couple of lucky breaks. The first of course, was the expansion of bloodsucking colonialism to give it transfusions of unearned wealth, enabling "investors" to profit by artificial means (death, oppression and slavery). But the biggest break was being driven to stratospheric heights by inordinate quantities of available hydrocarbon energy. Inordinate, but never the less finite. Consequently, the 100-year-long oil suckdown that put industrial countries in the tall cotton, now threatens to take back from subsequent beneficiary generation everything it gave. The Hummers, the golf courses, the big box stores, cruising at 35,000 feet over the Atlantic -- everything.
You'd never know that, to look around at Americans or Canadians, who have not the slightest qualms about living in that 3,500 square foot vinyl sided fuck box, if they can manage to make the mortgage nut, or unashamedly buying a quadruple X large Raiders Jersey because, hey, a guy's gotta eat, right? Why don't I deserve a nice ride, a swimming pool and a flat screen? I worked for it (sure you did buddy, your $12,000 Visa/MasterCard tab is proof of that).
The doomers and the peak oilers gag, and they call it American denial. Personally, I think it is somewhat unfair to say that most Americans and Canadians are in denial. They simply don't have a fucking clue about what is really happening to them and their world. Everything they have been taught about working, money and "quality of life" constitutes the planet's greatest problem -- overshoot. Understanding this trashes our most basic assumptions, and requires a complete reversal in contemporary thought and practice about how we live in the world. When was the last time you saw any individual, much less an entire nation, do that?
Compounding our ignorance and naiveté are the officials and experts, politicians, media elites, and especially economists, who interpret the world for us and govern the course of things. The go-to guys. They don't know either. But they've got the lingo down.
Somehow or other, it all has to do with the economy, which none of us understands, despite round the clock media jabbering on the subject. Somehow it has to do with this great big spring on Wall Street called "the market" that's gotta be kept wound up, and interest rates at something called The Fed, which have got to be kept smunched down. The industry of crystal gazing and hairball rubbing surrounding these entities is called economics.
In heaven, there are no jobs
The following may be old news to some who studied economics in college. However, I did not. And, for me at least, this gets at the heart of our dilemma (if dilemma is the right word for economic, environmental and species collapse). Here goes:
The human economy is made up of three parts: nature, work and money. But since nobody would pay people like Allen Greenspan or Milton Friedman millions of dollars if they talked just like the rest of us, economists and academics refer to these three parts as the primary, secondary and tertiary economies.
Of these, nature -- the world's ecosystems and natural capital -- is by far the most important. It comprises about three quarters of the total value of economic activity (Richard Costanza et al. 1997). To western world economists, nature -- when it is even give nature a thought -- is considered to be limitless.
The second part, work, is the labor required to produce goods and services from natural resources. Work creates real value through efficient use of both human and natural resource energy. A potato is just a potato until people sweating over belt lines and giant fryers turn it into Tater Tots.
The third economy, the tertiary economy, is the production and exchange of money. This includes anything that can be exchanged for money, whether it is gold, or mortgages bundled as securities, or derivatives. In short, any paperwork device that can be rigged up in such a fashion that money will stick to it. Feel free to take a wild-assed guess which of the three economies causes the most grief in this world.
To an economist, work -- the stuff that eats up at least a third of our earthly lives, is merely a "factor" called labor. Work is considered an unfortunate cost in creating added value. Added value, along with nature's resources, is the basis for all real world profits. Without labor, the money economy could not gin up on-paper wealth in its virtual economy. Somewhere, somebody's gotta do some real-world work, before bankers and investment brokers can go into their offices and pretend to work at "creating and managing wealth."
Paying the workers in society to produce real wealth costs money. Capitalists hate any sort of cost. It represents money that has somehow escaped their coffers. So when any behemoth corporation hands out thousands of pink slips on a Friday, Wall Street cheers and "the market" goes up. No ordinary mortal has ever seen "the market." But traders on the floor of 11 Wall Street, people who've deemed themselves more than mortal by virtue of their $110 Vanitas silk undershorts, assure us the market does exist. No tours of the New York Stock exchange are permitted, so we have to take their word for it.
In any case, in the money economy, eliminating costs, even if those costs happen to be feeding human beings, citizens of the empire, is sublime. That is why economists in the tertiary economy can declare a "jobless recovery" with a straight face. By their lights, the perfect recovery would necessarily be 100% jobless. Human costs of generating profit would be entirely eliminated.
Say what you will about the tertiary "money economy," but one thing is certain. It's virulent. Right now finance makes up 42% of GDP, and is rising. Traditionally that figure has been around 9%. Fifty eight percent of the economy is "services." When it comes to the service economy, most people think of fried chicken buckets and "customer service," call centers harassing debtors or selling credit cards. However, much of the so-called service economy consists of "services" sub-corporations and entities owned and operated by monopolies in communications, electronic access and energy. They are designed for the sole purpose of robbing the people incrementally. Borrow a microscope and read the back side your cable and electric bill. Billing you is a "service" for which you pay. So is the guy who cuts off your lights if you don't.
And manufacturing? Ten percent. Mostly big ticket items such as salad shooters, as near as I can tell.
Still though, the foundation of the world, including our entire economic structure, is nature. This is clear to anyone who has ever, planted a garden, hiked in the woods, gone fishing or been gnawed on by chiggers. In vis est exordium quod terminus.
Yet, not one in a thousand economists takes nature into account. Nature has no place in contemporary economics, or the economic policy of today's industrial nations. Again, like the general American public, these economists are not in denial. They simply don't know it's there. Historically, nature has never been considered even momentarily because economists, like the public, never figured they would run out of it. With the Gulf oil "spill" at full throttle, the terrible destruction of nature is becoming obvious. But no economist who values his or her career wants to start figuring the cost of ecocide into pricing analysis. For god sake man, it's a cost!
With industrial society chewing the ass out of Mama Nature for three centuries, something had to give, and it has. Capitalists, however, remain unimpressed by global warming, or melting polar ice caps, or Southwestern desert armadillos showing up in Canada, or hurricanes getting bigger and more numerous every year. They are impressed by the potential dough in the so-called green economy. In fact, last night I watched an economist on CNN say that if the government had let the free market take care of the BP gulf catastrophe, it would not be the clusterfuck it is now. Now THAT might qualify as denial. In the mean time, anthropogenic ecocide and resource depletion, coupled with the pressures of six billion mouths and asses across the globe, have started to produce -- surprise surprise, Sheriff Taylor! -- very real effects on world economies. (How could they not?) So far though, in the simplistic see-spot-run American mind, it's all about dead pelicans and oiled up hotel beaches.
Monkey with the paper
When the U.S., and then the world's money economy started to crumble, the first thing capitalist economists could think of to do was to monkey with the paper. That's all they knew how to do. It was unthinkable that the tertiary virtual economy, that great backroom fraud of debt manipulation and fiat money, might have finally reached the limits of the material earth to support. That the money economy's gaming of workers and Mother Nature might itself might be the problem never occurred to the world's economic movers and shakers. It still hasn't. (Except for Chavez, Morales, Castro and Lula). Jobs disappeared, homes went to foreclosure, and personal debt was at staggering all time highs. America's working folks were taking it square in the face. Not that economists or financial kingpins cared much one way or the other. In the capitalist financial world, everything is an opportunity. Cancer? Build cancer hospital chains. Pollution? Sell pollution credits. The country gone bankrupt?
"Nothing to do," cried the mad hatters of finance, "but print more money, and give gobs of cash to the banks! Yes, yes, yes! Borrow astronomical amounts of the stuff and bribe every fat cat financial corporation up and down The Street!" All of which came down to creating more debt for the common people to work off. They seem willing enough to do it too -- if only they had jobs.
Along with the EU, Japan and the rest of the industrial world, the US continues to flood the market with cheap credit. That would be hunky dory, if was actually wealth for anybody but a banker. The real problems are debt and fraud, and tripling the debt in order to cover up the fraud. And pretending there no natural costs of our actions, that we do not have to rob the natural world to crank up the money world through debt.
No matter what economists tell us abut getting the credit industry moving again, papering over debt with more debt will not pollinate our food crops when the last honeybee is dead. I suggest that we put the economists out there in the fields, hand-pollinating crops like they do in China. They seem to know all about the subject, and have placed a monetary value of $12 billion on the pollination accomplished by bees in the US. Can you imagine the fucking arrogance? All bees do is make our fruit and vegetable supply possible. Anyway, if we cannot use the economists for pollinators (odds are they are too damned whacked to do that job), we could also stuff them down the blowhole of the Deepwater Horizon spill. For the first time in history, economists would be visibly useful.
Speaking of China: Since there is no way to pick up the turd of American capitalism by the clean end, much less polish it, American economists have pointed east, and set up a yow-yow about China as "the emerging giant." The "next global industrial superpower." Many Chinese are willing to ride their bicycles 10 miles to work through poisonous yellow-green air, and others in the "emerging middle class" are willing to wade into debt up to their nipples; this is offered as evidence of the viability of industrial capitalism. All it proves is that governments and economists never learn. In the quest of getting something for nothing, China follows the previous fools right into the smog and off the cliff.
Sumthin' fer nuthin'
The main feature of capitalism is the seductive assertion that you can get something for nothing in this world. That you can manufacture wealth through money manipulation, and that it is OK to steal and hold captive the people's medium of exchange, then charge them out the ass for access. That you can do so with a clear conscience. Which you can, if you are the kind of sleazy prick who has inherited or stolen enough wealth to get into the game.
Even so, to keep a rigged game going, you must keep the suckers believing they can, and eventually will, benefit from the game. Also, that it is the only game in town. Legitimizing public theft means indoctrinating the public with all sorts of market mystique and hocus-pocus. They must be convinced there is is such a thing as an "investment" for the average schmuck drawing a paycheck (and there is, sort of, between the crashes and the bubbles). It requires a unified economic rationale for government and industry policies, and it is the economist's job to pump out this rationale. Historically, they have seldom hesitated to get down on their knees and do so.
It ain't robbery, it's a business cycle
Capitalism is about one thing: aggregating the surplus productive value of the public for private interests. As we have said, it is about creating state sanctioned "investments" for the workers who produce the real wealth. Things like home "ownership" and mortgages, or stock investments and funds to absorb their retirement savings. That crushing 30-year mortgage with two refis is an investment. So is that 401K melting like a snow cone the beach.
As the people's wealth accumulates, it is steadily siphoned off by government and elite private forces. From time to time, it is openly plundered for their benefit by way of various bubbles, depressions or recessions and other forms of theft passed off as unavoidable acts of nature/god. These periodic raids and draw downs of the people's wealth are attributed to "business cycles." Past periodic raids and thefts are heralded as being proof of the rationale. "See folks, it comes and goes, so it's a cycle!" Economic raids and busts become "market adjustments." Public blackmail and plundering through bailouts become a "necessary rescue packages." Giveaways to corporations under the guise of public works and creating employment become "stimulus." The chief responsibility of economists is to name things in accordance with government and corporate interests. The function of the public is to acquire debt and maintain "consumer confidence." When the public staggers to its feet again and manages to carry more debt, buy more poker chips on credit to play again, it's called a recovery. They are back in the game.
Dealer, hit me with two more cards,. I feel lucky.
Does it hurt yet?
To anyone who is paying attention, things look doomed. Fortunately for American capitalism, nobody is paying attention. They never have. Even given the unemployment numbers, foreclosures and bankruptcies, most Americans are still not feeling enough pain yet to demand change. Not that they will. Demand change, I mean. We haven't the slightest idea of any other options, outside those provided by the corporate managed state. So in a chorus well-schooled by the media the public demands "reform," of the present system, the systemic pathogenic system based on exploitation of the many by the few, the one presently eating our society from the inside out. How do you reform that?
We are clueless, and the state sees to it that we stay that way. Take the price of gas, about which Americans are obsessive. In one way or another, petroleum is the subject of much news coverage, nearly as much as pissing matches between egomaniacs in Hollywood or o Capitol Hill. So one might think that by now Americans would have a realistic grasp of the petroleum business and things like oil and gasoline prices.
Hah, think again! This is America, this is Strawberry Fields, where nothing is real and the skies are not cloudy all day. We're stewed in a consumer hallucination called the American Dream and riding a digital virtual money economy nobody can even prove exists.
Is there an economy out there or not?If we decide to believe the money economy still exists, and that debt is indeed wealth, then we damned sure know where to go looking for the wealth. Globally, forty percent of it is in the paws of the wealthiest one percent. Nearly all of that one percent are connected to the largest and richest corporations. Just before the economy blew out, these elites held slightly less than $80 trillion. After the blowout/bailout, their combined investment wealth was estimated at a little over $83 trillion. To give some idea, this is four years of the gross output of all the human beings on earth. It is only logical that these elites say the only way to revive the economy, which to them consists entirely of the money economy, is to continue to borrow money from them.
However, the unasked question still hangs in the air: Does the money economy even exist anymore? Is it still there? (was it ever?) Or are we all blindly going through the motions because:
A: we do not understand that, for all practical historical purposes, it's over;
B: we do not know how to do anything else so we keep dancing with the corpse of the hyper-capitalist economy;
C: the right calamity has not come down the pike to knock us loose from the spell of the dance,
or D: we're so friggin brain dead, commodities engorged and internally colonized by capitalist industrialism that nobody cares, and therefore it no longer matters.
This is multiple choice, and it counts ten points toward survival, come the collapse.
If there is no economy left, what the hell are we all participating in? A mirage? The zombie ball? The short answer is: Because the economy is a belief system, you are participating in whatever you believe you are. Personally, I believe we are participating in a modern extension of the feudal system, with bankers as the new feudal barons and credit demographics as their turf. But then, I drink and take drugs. Whatever it is, the money economy is the only game in town until the collapse, after which chickens and firewood may become the national currency. The Masai use cattle don't they?
At the same time, even dumb people are starting to feel an undefined fear in their bones. When I was back in the States last month, an old high school chum, a sluggard who seldom has forward thought beyond the next beer and Lotto scratch ticket, confides in me:
"Joey, I can't shake the feeling that something big and awful is going to happen. And by awful I mean awful."
"Happen to what?"
"Money, work, our country. Shit, I dunno."
"Probably all three," I opined. "Plus the environment."
"Cheerful fuck, ain't ya?"
"That's what they pay me for, Bubba."
Some in the herd are starting to feel a big chill in the air, the first winds of the approaching storm. Yes, something is happening, and you don't know what it is, dooooo yew, Mistah Jones?
However, the most adept economists and other court sorcerers are going along as if nothing too unusual is happening -- calling it a recession, or more recently a double-dip recession (don't you love these turd-balls, making it sound as harmless as an ice cream cone -- gimme a double dip please!) or even a depression. But no matter what it is, they smugly assure us, there is nothing happening that the world has never seen before. Including the insider scams that ignited the catastrophe. It's just a matter of size. Extent.
OK, it's a matter of scale. Like the Gulf oil spill. We've seen spills before, just not this big. But over the next couple of years as the poison crud circulates the world's oceans, the Deep Horizon spill will prove to be a global game changer, whether economists and court wizards acknowledge it or don't. Anything of global scale, whether it is in finance, energy, foreign aid, world health or war contracting, is accompanied by unimaginable complexity. That makes it perfect cover for criminal activity. Particularly finance, where you are always close to the money.
Jim Kunstler, never at a loss to describe a ludicrous situation, sums up the paper economy's engineering of our collapse nicely:
"Wall Street -- in particular the biggest 'banks' -- packaged up and sold enough swindles to unwind 2500 years of western civilization. You simply cannot imagine the amount of bad financial paper out there right now in every vault and portfolio on the planet … the people fabricating things like synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) had no idea what the fuck they were doing -- besides deliberately creating documents that nobody would ever understand, that would never be unraveled by teams of law clerks ... and were guaranteed to place in jeopardy every operation of the world economy above the barter level."
So, for $5,000 and an all expense paid trip to Rio: What does a good capitalist do after having stolen all there is to steal from the living, then stolen the nation's future wealth from the unborn through debt both public and private?
Tick tock, tick tock. The wheel spins.
"Your answer please."
"A good capitalist would 'invest' his haul in some other racket, some other scam in the money economy."
"Vanna, a pie in the kisser for this guy, please."
The problem with the answer is that economy is now toxed out. Radioactive. Crawling with paper vermin and all manner of vermin, especially toxic derivatives -- about $1.4 quadrillion worth (even as we are still trying to get used to hearing the term trillions), according to the Bank of National Settlements. That is 1,000 trillion, or $190,000 for every human being on the planet. There is not now, and never will be, enough wealth to cover that puppy -- because there is not enough natural world under the puppy to create it. Not the way capitalism creates wealth.
Defenders of capitalism who say it can and must be saved must also admit that there is not enough money left to work with, to invest. There is only debt. Oh, yeah, we forgot; debt is wealth to a banker. Well then, all we gotta do is collect $190,000 per head from people in Sudan and Haiti and the rest of the planet.
Naw, that's too hard. Elite capital's best bet is a good old fashioned money raid on the serfs; create another bubble that will buy enough time before it pops to make the already rich a few billion richer. To that end, the G-8 is blowing one last bounder out there in the hyperspace where the economy s alleged to be surviving. Naturally, they are doing it in order to "save the world economy." The tough part is figuring out what to base the next bubble on.
May I suggest Soylent Green?
Under God, with fees and compound interest for all
From the outset, capitalism was always about the theft of the people's sustenance. It was bound to lead to the ultimate theft -- the final looting of the source of their sustenance -- nature. Now that capitalism has eaten its own seed corn, the show is just about over, with the nastiest scenes yet to play out around water, carbon energy (or anything that expends energy), soil and oxygen. For the near future however, it will continue to play out around money.
As the economy slowly implodes, money will become more volatile stuff than it already is. The value and availability of money is sure to fluctuate wildly. Most people don't have the luxury of escaping the money economy, so they will be held hostage and milked hard again by the same people who just drained them in the bailouts. As usual, the government will be right there to see that everybody plays by the rules. Those who have always benefited by capitalism's rules will benefit more. That cadre of "money professionals" which holds captive the nation's money supply, and runs things according to the rules of money, can never lose money. It writes the rules. And rewrites them when it suits the money elite's interests. Capitalism, the Christian god, democracy, the Constitution.
It's all one ball of wax, one set of rules in the American national psyche. Thus, the money masters behind the curtain will write The New Rules, the new tablets of supreme law, and call them Reform. There will be rejoicing that "the will of the people" has once again moved upon the land, and that the democracy's scripture has once again been delivered by the unseen hand of God.
Joe Bageant is the author of Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War. His newest book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, deals with America's permanent white underclass, and how it was intentionally created. To be released in September in Australia and October in the United Kingdom. Rainbow Pie is available for preorder from Amazon-UK and Amazon-Canada. In Australia, the book can be pre-ordered at Scribe Publications.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
~If you really believe that OMGZ The World Is Going To End!!!!!tm on December 21st, 2012, then WTF are you doing on da intrawebz blabbing about it? Why are you not out there having as much sex as you can? Or getting as drunk and stoned as possible? Or seeing all the places that will be gone in a few years? Or telling those you love that you actually do love them...and then going traveling and drinking and fucking?
Why are you instead hiding in your little life the same as always? Cause if that is in fact what you are doing – you would not even see this is you were engaging in the above activities – then you really Do Not Believe that OMGZ The World Is Going To End!!!!!tm on December 21st, 2012 and you just need to STFU cause you're really annoying the rest of us who are trying to focus on solutions for actual 'end of the world' issues like Peak Oil, Economic Meltdown, Global Warming, Corporate Evil and so on.
On the other hand, I suppose somebody has to buy all those fucking books about The Great Mayan Doom Fest of Twenty Twelve.
Friday, July 9, 2010
~I slept and then went back and re-did the whole set of X-Plan* posts again. [*that's my new shorthand, which I personally think is pretty catchy..lol]
The revised, edited, expanded, updated X-Plan is now here at The Explanation Blogspot, which I also cleaned up by deleting all the old versions. Plus I've posted the Portal Post on all my bloging platforms and switched out the old URL's in places like my LJ Header Post.
This is still just an interim measure as I plan to post the final and complete X-Plan on nebris.net, which is itself in dire need of work, still having links to the late lamented Commie Journal and being pretty plain and boring design-wise
But that's for 'later'. Now, I take a nap....
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Democrats are constantly resorting to disaster messaging. Here's a description the typical situation.
- The Republicans outmessage the Democrats. The Democrats, having no effective response, face disaster: They lose politically, either in electoral support or failure on crucial legislation.
- The Democrats then take polls and do focus groups. The pollsters discover that extremist Republicans control the most common ("mainstream") way of thinking and talking about the given issue.
- The pollsters recommend that Democrats move to the right: adopt conservative Republican language and a less extreme version of conservative policy, along with weakened versions of some Democratic ideas.
- The Democrats believe that, if they follow this advice, they can gain enough independent and Republican support to pass legislation that, at least, will be some improvement on the extreme Republican position.
- Otherwise, the pollsters warn, Democrats will lose popular support -- and elections -- to the Republicans, because "mainstream" thought and language resides with the Republicans.
- Believing the pollsters, the Democrats change their policy and their messaging, and move to the right.
- The Republicans demand even more and refuse to support the Democrats.
We have seen this on issues like health care, immigration, global warming, finance reform, and so on. We are seeing it again on the Death Gusher in the Gulf. It happens even with a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.
Why? Is there anything the Democrats can do about it? First, it has to be understood. It doesn't just happen.
The Difference Between Framing and Messaging
Framing is the most commonplace thing we do with thought and language. Frames are the cognitive structures we think with. They are physical, embodied in neural circuitry. Frames come in systems. Their circuitry is strengthened and often made permanent through use: the more the circuits are used, the stronger they get. Effective frames are not isolated. They build on, and extend, other frames already established.
All words are defined in terms of conceptual frames. When the words are heard, the frames are strengthened -- not just the immediate frames, but the whole system.
Fit matters. The brain is a "best-fit" system. The better a new frame "fits" existing frames, the more effective it will be; that is, the more people will think, and make decisions, using that frame.
The activation of one brain circuit may either activate or inhibit another. A frame that fits a system will activate other frames in the system and make them stronger. Strongly activated frames will weaken frames that they inhibit.
There are progressive and conservative frame systems. Activating the conservative frame system, weakens the progressive frame system -- both individual frames for particular issues, but also the system as a whole.
That is how framing works. There are consequences.
High-Level, Moral Frames Matter More
Higher-level frames, deeper in the system, have a disproportionate effect.
The more the language of frame is repeated, the stronger the frame gets, along with the system the frame is in. And the weaker the frames of the contradictory system gets. The stronger high-level frames are, the more effective frames that fit them will be. And the less effective frames that contradict them will be.
In politics, the high-level frames are the moral systems that define what is "right" for a conservative or progressive.
Most Framing is Unconscious
Frames are conceptual; they are the elements of thought. Most thought is unconscious. Words activate frames. We are rarely conscious of the frames that are activated by the words we hear. Yet those frames are there in our brain circuitry, and more we hear the words, the stronger the frames get, even though we aren't aware of it.
Framing is Long-term
Framing is the establishment of permanent (or long-term) high-level frames and systems of frames with the brains of voters. Framing can be done by long-term careful political messaging, or through education (say, by controlling school textbooks).
An important part of framing is the establishment of prototypes: social stereotypes, prototypes (typical case, ideals, nightmares, salient exemplars). Stereotypes are used in automatic reasoning and decision-making.
For important domains of thought, like morality, religion, and politics, it is commonplace for people to have two inconsistent frame systems that inhibit each other. When those frames apply to different issues and in different contexts, we speak of "bi-conceptuals." When you can shift back and forth on an issue, you are bi-conceptual on that issue. That is, you can frame the issue in two ways, using inconsistent higher-level frame systems.
In politics, the high-level frames are moral frames. There are opposing conservative and progressive moral systems. Important political concepts are "contested," overlapping in some classic cases, but diverging in content depending on the moral system. Thus, vital political concepts like Life, Freedom, Responsibility, Government, Accountability, Equality, Fairness, Empathy, Property, Security, and so on are contested.
A major goal of political framing is to get your version of contested concepts accepted by the voters. Messaging can then use these concepts and their language freely and effectively.
That is how framing works generally -- independent of whether the frames are used in politics. In politics, bi-conceptual voters can shift back and forth on an issue, depending on how the issue is framed in terms of higher-level political systems.
Messages use words. The words activate frames. In political messages, you have a double intention: to get voters to think using your frames and to keep voters from thinking using the other side's frames, which contradict yours.
Your message will be more effective if it fits existing high-level frames in the brains of voters, and less effective it contradicts such high-level frames.
Political messaging and bi-conceptual voters
Your goal, with bi-conceptual voters, is to activate your system of political frames and inhibit the other side's system of political frames. Your message should therefore fit your high-level frame system, and it should not fit the other side's high-level frame system. If it fits the other side's high-level frame system, your message will be helping the other side, because it will tend to make voters think using their frame system.
Why Does Disaster Messaging Arise?
Suppose the other side has structured its messaging over a long period of time to consistently strengthen its high-level frames, prototypes, and versions of contested concepts in the brains of voters. They can now do effective messaging by using those high-level, morally-based frames in messages that evoke the existing strong high-level frames.
Why Conservatives Consistently Win Messaging Battles
In the US, conservatives have set up an elaborate messaging system. It starts with an understanding of long-term framing and message experts who know how to use existing their long-term frame systems. Then there are think tanks, with experts who understand the high-level frame system and how it applies to the full range of issues. There are training institutes that teach tens of thousands of conservatives a year to think and talk using these framing systems and their language and argument forms. There are regular gatherings to consolidate messaging and policy around a contemporary issue that fits the conservative moral system. There are booking agencies that book conservative spokespeople on tv, talk radio, etc. There are lecture venues and booking agencies for conservative spokespeople. There are conservative media going on 24/7/365.
As a result, conservative language is heard constantly in many parts of the US. Conservative language automatically and unconsciously activates conservative frames and the high-level framing systems they are part of. As the language is heard over and over, the circuitry linking the language to conservative frames becomes stronger. Because the synapses in the neural circuits are stronger, they are easier to activate. As a result, conservative language tends to become the normal, preferred "mainstream" language for discussing current issues.
This messaging system has existed and has been extended and strengthened over many years. Democrats have a few of these elements, but they are relatively ineffective, since they tend to view messaging as short-term and issue-based, rather than long-term and morally based. Democrats tend not to understand how framing works, and often confuse framing (which is deep, long-term, systematic, morality-based, and conceptual) with messaging (which is shallow, short-term, ad hoc, policy-based, and linguistic).
This situation puts Democrats at a messaging disadvantage relative to conservatives, which leads to conservative victories. Hence the regular need for disaster messaging.
Polling and The "Mainstream"
When the Democrats are out-messaged, they call upon polling and focus groups to given an "empirical, evidential" account of public opinion and which language is preferred by the public. The "evidence" comes from polls and focus groups that test the normal "mainstream" language and logic, versus language and logic that is not "mainstream." This is, naturally, conservative language and logic, because the conservative messaging system has systematically made it that way patiently over years. The pollsters therefore report that the "mainstream" of Americans prefer the conservative language and logic, and the policies that go with them. The pollsters then suggest moving to right to go to where the public is. They then construct and test messages that move enough to right to satisfy the "mainstream." They also construct "good arguments." If the "good arguments" activate the conservative worldview, the conservative position will just get stronger in the brains of the voters.
When the Democrats use conservative language, they activate more than the conservative framing on the given issue. They also activate and strengthen the high level, deep conservative moral frames. This tends to make voters more conservative overall -- and leads them to choose the real conservative position on the given issue, rather than the sort of conservative version provided by the democrats.
Disaster framing is a disaster.
There are bi-conceptuals of many kinds-- you can have partly conservative, partly progressive views on many issues, and people vary considerably. There is no general ideology of the center. The myth that there is a single "center" is an artifact of current polling practices.
Here's how this works. Ask people whether they When you pick a given issue and poll on the most common "mainstream" language. It will be favored by both full conservatives and bi-conceptuals who happen to be conservative on that issue. Those bi-conceptuals may identify as "democrats" or "liberal-leaning" or "independents." With suitable framing, those bi-conceptuals should shift on the issue, while the true conservatives will not.
Do they form a "center?"
That is an empirical question, but they do not appear to. Change the issue and a new issue-specific "center" may appear, person-by-person.
Such polling is rarely done, so claims about a single "center" -- or a single left-to-right spectrum -- should not be believed.
The Importance of Bi-conceptuals
Pollsters tend not to test for bi-conceptuals. They are not just undecideds, or independents, or mere swing voters. They are voters who have both relatively strong progressive and conservative high-level moral systems and apply them in different contexts to different issues. There are usually a significant number -- in the US my guess is around 20% ± 3. They often determine elections. If they are given only conservative messaging, that messaging will activate their conservative frame system. If they are given progressive messages often enough over a reasonably long period, there is a good chance that their progressive moral system will be activated and strengthened.
The directly contradicts the traditional view of mainstream pollsters. As a result, it has not been tested empirically on a large scale, though there is one solid result.
Don't move to the right. Start thinking longer term. Build as much of a communications system as possible. Design long-term framing for your own high level, moral system and basic policy domains. Fit your immediate messaging needs to the long-term frames. Carry on both kinds of messaging in parallel.
Design polling to study bi-conceptuals through value-based frame-shifting. Always use batteries of questions.
How Conservatives Change Policies Without Winning Elections
How do conservative Republicans have a large effect on policy even when they are largely out of office? Their communication system is never out of office. That allows a conservative minority to stonewall and resist and gain popular approval for it. Their communication system intimidates Democrats into disaster messaging and policy shifts to the right. The Republicans don't have move the country in a conservative direction by holding office. Their communications system can get the Democrats to move the country to the right by forcing disaster messaging upon them.
The example of immigration
The most recent example of disaster framing is reported on in an important Politico article by Carrie Budoff Brown "Dems Tough New Immigration Pitch". It's an excellent piece, and I will be quoting liberally from it.
Brown reports that Democrats have taken "an enforcement-first, law-and-order, limited-compassion pitch that now defines the party's approach to the issue." Democratic leaders are now following the advice of pollsters Stan Greenberg, Celinda Lake, and Guy Molyneux and strategist/focus-group dialer Drew Westen: Talk like Republicans.
"The 12 million people who unlawfully reside the country? Call them "illegal immigrants," not "undocumented workers," the pollsters say." The pollster team was organized by John Podesta of the Center for American Progress.
"When [voters] hear 'undocumented worker,' they hear a liberal euphemism, it sounds to them like liberal code," said Drew Westen, a political consultant who has helped Sharry hone the message through dial testing. "I am often joking with leaders of progressive organizations and members of Congress, 'If the language appears fine to you, it is probably best not to use it. You are an activist, and by definition, you are out of the mainstream.'"
And craft a policy with lots of Republican elements. Here is what President Obama, following the pollsters' advice, said at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House:
"The way to fix our broken immigration system is through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. That means responsibility from government to secure our borders, something we have done and will continue to do. It means responsibility from businesses that break the law by undermining American workers and exploiting undocumented workers -- they've got to be held accountable. It means responsibility from people who are living here illegally. They've got to admit that they broke the law and pay taxes and pay a penalty, and learn English, and get right before the law -- and then get in line and earn their citizenship."
Conservative Republican elements are being communicated here: Use force against the illegals ("secure our borders"); get tough ("held accountable"}; personal, not social, "responsibility"; criminals ("living here illegally"); be punitive ("admit they broke the law and pay taxes and pay a penalty"); English only ("learn English"); they're getting free handouts ("earn their citizenship.").
Put aside for a moment the substance of the policy, and notice that these are conservative Republican themes that fit a conservative Republican view of the world. Democrats, starting with the President, are using the language that activates the conservative Republican view of the world. Why? As Brown reports,
"We lost control of the message in the 2007 debate," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a pro-immigrant rights group that worked with Center for American Progress founder John Podesta on the messaging overhaul.
"We were on the inside fighting off amendments, and the other side was jacking up their opponents and getting Rush and Hannity and O'Reilly on fire about this. We needed to do a much better job on communications."
But the biggest factor came from Greenberg's polls: the threat that Democrats could lose "swing districts" in elections, but could win them with this message. So the Democrats not only adopted the message, but much of the largely conservative policy that went with it.
A major feature, however, is that the "illegals" would be legalized while on the path to citizenship. The conservative response is obvious: It's just amnesty warmed over. The Democrats are still soft on "illegals" -- a term now embraced by Democrats who follow Drew Westen's recommendation.
With the Administration's lawsuit against the recent Arizona anti-immigrant law, you can bet that the Republicans will use that lawsuit to pin "soft on illegals" on Democratic candidates. And the Administration's new "tough" right-wing rhetoric will only help support the Republicans.
Repetition over The Long Term
The only way progressives can avoid the disaster of disaster messaging is by regularly saying what they believe, in an effective messaging system -- out loud, over and over, with the idea of changing how the public thinks and talks over the long haul.
Here is an uncompromising example of a possible op-ed:
Bad laws, laws that hurt far more than they help, should be eliminated. Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is a bad law. Here's why.
Almost all immigrants who entered the US without papers are honest, hard-working, decent people, who have often risked their lives to come the America. They do essential work, mostly for low wages, work that makes the lifestyles of most Americans possible: cleaning homes, caring for children and the elderly, gardening, cooking in restaurants, working on farms, doing odd jobs, working on construction. They deserve our gratitude. They are America's mainstays, good guys. There are twelve million of them in America, helping us all live better every day.
A small number, as in any population, are bad guys: occasional murderers, human traffickers, drug dealers, gang members, and thieves. They need to be captured and convicted.
But 287 g mostly harasses, jails, harms, and deports the good guys, and in doing so, mostly lets the bad guys escape.
287g allows local police and jailers to act as deportation agents with ultimate power over the lives of the good guys, who are assumed to be guilty until proven innocent. Their very entry into the US without papers constitutes sufficient "guilt" to justify their mistreatment and deportation.
287 g promotes a form of racial profiling. 287 g is immoral, an affront to the human rights that define what America is about.
287 g is also ineffective in getting the bad guys, partly because it uses so many resources on going after the good guys.
As Alex DiBranco reports, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that 287(g) is poorly managed, ineffectively organized, and arbitrarily implemented from place to place; ignores or actually provides false information to the public; fails to focus on non-citizens who pose a safety threat; gives shoddy training; and lacks oversight and has not terminated those local partners who have clearly violated the terms of the agreement -- local law enforcement officials running amok in hunting down harmless undocumented immigrants. 287(g) also deters undocumented immigrants who witness a crime from coming forward and encourages racial profiling in which Latinos are "guilty until proven innocent."
287 g should be ended, and replaced by a law that protects the good guys and pays serious attention to catching the bad guys. It is not just ineffective; it is downright immoral.
Almost every day, I get a request from somewhere in the US -- or various other countries -- to help some group do disaster messaging. It's sad. Reframing rarely works with disaster messaging.
To work long-term, progressive messaging must be sincere and direct, must reflect progressive moral values, and must be repeated. Progressive framing is about saying what you believe, telling the truth, and activating the progressive worldview already present in the minds of those who are partly conservative and partly progressive.
Framing is, of course, about policy, more than about messaging. What you say should go hand-in-hand with what you think and do.
And, of course, the best messaging requires an excellent communications system, or it won't be heard. Progressives have the money to build such a system. The question is whether they understand the desperate need for such a system, and whether they have the will to build it.