Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What Poverty Entails

Before the discussion on a lower thread gets any more heated than it has already (not that it is so VERY heated, it is just that stresses and tensions are already high enough), let Pretty Lady clarify a few things, gleaned from Personal Experience.

That is, that life as a member of the American Underclass is utterly unlike anything that most of us with jobs, computers, and middle-class families can comprehend.

Pretty Lady has lived in ghettos. This is what a person living in a ghetto contends with, on a daily basis, with no respite.

Garbage collection and mail delivery is spotty to nonexistent. One cannot receive checks in the mail; they are likely to be stolen. Once, Pretty Lady's vindictive ex-roommate put her new drivers' license and her paycheck on the outside of the mailbox for her to come pick up; Pretty Lady thanks her lucky stars that she got there before a bum did. Once, Pretty Lady dumped her bag in her car, ran indoors for 30 seconds to lock a door, and when she got back, her bag was being rifled on the Bad Corner for cash, I.D., credit cards and camera. She engaged in a months-long battle with Blockbuster Video and its collections agency, over the subsequent theft of 8 overpriced videos, using her expired card and cancelled bank account.

Credit is only available in cash advances of $500 or less, at interest rates of over 30%. (At least it was in the early 90's. Latterly it has been available in mortages of $500,000 or more, at similar interest rates.)

There are no grocery stores within walking distance that carry wholesome, affordable food. Most people are forced to buy nutrient-free, processed junk food at extortionate prices from run-down bodegas full of thugs and junkies.

Schools are dangerous, chaotic, and teach no useful information whatsoever. Drugs are available on every other stoop.

Minimum-wage jobs do not cover your minimum living expenses even if you work two of them. If you get hurt or sick, you usually do not have sick leave, health insurance, or worker's compensation; illness or injury thus frequently results in bankruptcy and homelessness.

You are in chronic danger of being robbed, mugged, hit by a stray bullet or a car driven by a drugged-out thug with no insurance.

It is important to emphasize that if you are born into a ghetto, this is your whole world. You can't take a vacation. You can't call up relatives and get a bailout. You can't call a college classmate and get a reference, a recommendation or a loan. You can't even get a decent meal and a good night's rest in a quiet place without shouting, rap music and gunfire penetrating the walls. You are almost certainly semi-literate and nearly unemployable.

It is important to understand that one does not rise from a ghetto childhood by Individual Will alone. People who rise from ghettos do so because of schools like Bronx Science, scholarships, Pell grants, subsidized housing, Social Security and disability, and mentorship via community service organizations.

Finally, it is important to understand that a society which perpetuates the existence of an underclass, via corrupt governments, parasitic industries, and public apathy, is rotten at the core. The toxicity of the ghetto is not confined to the ghetto; it produces crime, disease, addiction and malaise that spreads to all segments of society. Poverty is not Their Problem; it is ours.

A Plea To Genuine Conservatives

Darlings, Pretty Lady has a heartfelt favor to ask.

That is, if you cannot bring yourself to vote for Mr. Obama in this election, due to your rock-bottom conservative principles of limited government, individual freedom, and civil liberties, that you vote for a third-party candidate. Barr, Hagel, Nader, that Green party lady, a write-in for Ron Paul. It doesn't matter.

As you all know, Pretty Lady herself is an Obamaphile all the way. It is no use arguing with her about that. She will turn a deaf ear to all your blandishments, finger-pointing and cries of "Socialism!" She sees in Mr. Obama a calm, graceful, intelligent leader with a grasp of the big picture, genuine pragmatism, and the ability to deliberate with integrity and diplomacy. And for those of you who point to his unregenerate liberalism, she responds that at least the gentleman sticks to his principles.

Mr. McCain, on the other hand, has shown no adherence to principle whatsoever, except to the principle of "Self at All Costs." He goes around threatening to start random wars, despite the fact that both the economy and the military are stretched beyond their limits. He has shown no respect for principles of true conservatism, or consistent, deliberative leadership that adheres to reality.

And he has shown himself unfit to be commander-in-chief by selecting Mrs. Palin to replace him, in the unfortunate event that he should be incapacitated. Kathleen Parker has expressed this more eloquently than Pretty Lady ever could.

As Ross Douhat points out, a landslide McCain loss could be the impetus for the Republican party to reorganize itself on genuine conservative principles, as espoused by Ron Paul. If you vote for a third-party candidate who espouses these principles, you are boosting the probability that this eventuality occurs.

For Pretty Lady, truthfully, is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and the polarization of debate into Democrat and Republican bashing makes her nauseated. She is a strong advocate of liberal principles, such as compassion, tolerance, community service and social awareness, implemented honestly, efficiently and pragmatically. She is also a strong advocate of conservative principles, such as individual freedom, civil liberties, personal responsibility, fiscal restraint and strong families, implemented honestly, wisely and compassionately. She does not see that these principles are in any way mutually exclusive. It is all in the willingness to think, communicate and learn, rather than blindly adhering to the narrow ideologies of Ego in the face of Reality.

Thus, she supports Mr. Obama, who is both liberal and pragmatic. She would dearly love to see a loyal opposition which was both conservative and pragmatic, to temper him. A national debate consisting of genuinely principled parties, willing to honestly engage on genuine issues, could produce miracles we cannot now imagine.

But a national debate consisting of the sorts of random demagoguery and blind ignorance we have seen in the last month, emanating from the McCain/Palin campaign, can only produce national disaster. Please, if you have any sense or conscience at all, reject this travesty.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What Lies Ahead

Pretty Lady has a vague recollection of once being told, somewhere, that she was a snob and a Condescending Bitch for saying that she would not marry a gambler, whether his gambling consisted of poker tournaments or investment banking.

She stands by her opinion. The Desiderata remains on her bathroom wall: 'Keep interested in your own career, however humble, for it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.'

Gambling is not a career. It is a vacant, parasitic, ultimately destructive occupation. (Thanks to 'a christian' for the link. The episode of 'This American Life' is long, but highly informative, and the perfect thing to listen to while decluttering one's desk of credit offers from defunct institutions.)

So please bear with Pretty Lady while she makes a few obvious points. In moments of crisis, sometimes the obvious is helpful.

1) This crisis did not come about because of Helping Poor People. It is not Helpful to a Poor Person to thrust unlimited credit upon him at a ballooning interest rate. This is known as usury. In many cases, it amounts to blatant fraud. If you listen to the entire TAL episode, you will note that many callow young investment bankers simply made up enormous monthly incomes for poor people and put them on loan applications. This is lying, criminal fraud. It does not relate to programs which help poor people become economically self-sufficient. Attempting to shift blame onto would-be helpers of poor people is of a piece with the weaselly mentality that commited this fraud in the first place.

2) This crisis is not about mortages anymore. It is a crisis of credit. So many people borrowed imaginary money in order to make themselves obscenely rich by manipulating numbers that now, people who are genuinely working, building and employing others cannot finance their enterprises. The credit crisis cannot be solved by giving more imaginary money to usurious, fraudulent drones. It may be solved by providing judicious assistance to people who--gasp--ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING.

3) Examples of actually doing something:
•Developing alternative energy sources.
•Fixing decaying infrastructure.
•Designing and building energy-efficient housing.
•Designing and building energy-efficient vehicles.
•Growing and distributing food.
•Patching roofs.
•Providing healing therapies.
•Developing healing techniques.
•Teaching practical information, such as how to read, write and manage money responsibly.
•Building hospitals and public transportation systems.
•Repairing bicycles.
•Delivering babies.
Pretty Lady keeps noticing that whenever she brings up this notion of actually doing something, both as an inevitable outcome of the current situation and as a worthy end unto itself, she seems to be greeted by the twittering of crickets. Is this because her notions are self-evident, or unthinkable?

For as Deborah points out, we have verily come to the End of Modernism. We can no longer operate as though our ego-will were the entirety of reality. We must acknowledge that any action we take affects other people, and that eventually, these effects return to us. Thus we cannot engage in 'careers' which are parasitic, manipulative, solipsistic or destructive without suffering destruction in turn. We must actually connect with other people in healthy, positive, pragmatic ways.

Why is this so awful?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Crisis, Reexplained

Joe goes to the track and bets $2 on a horse.

Two guys standing nearby get into a discussion and Fred says to Sam, "I'll bet you $5 that Joe wins his bet."

Next to them are Bill and Bob. Bill says: "I'll bet you $10 that Fred welshes on his bet if he loses."

Next to them is Sally. Sally says: "For $3 I'll guarantee to Bill that if Bob fails to pay off, I'll make good on the bet."

Sally then goes to Mary and borrows the $7 needed in case she has to ever pay off and promises to pay back $8. She doesn't expect to every have to pay since she believes Bob will always make good. So she expects to net $2 no matter what happens to Joe.

A quick calculation indicates that there is now 2+5+10+3+7 = $27 riding on the outcome of the horse race.

Question how much has been "invested" in the horse race?


$50,000 by the owner of the horse who is expecting to recoup his investment from the winnings of the horse and other future deals. Everyone else is gambling, not investing.

The issue with the home market is that the only "investor" was the person who bought the home. All those engaged in the meaningless derivatives spun off from this are gambling. You can see how quickly the face value of all these side bets can exceed the underlying investment. Who is holding these side bets - not the homeowner? It is the people at the failing investment banks, hedge funds and similar enterprises. Notice that the bailout is being directed at them not the homeowners.

The real world is, of course, even more complicated. Over the last 30 years people have been allowed to place bets on everything starting with the value of stock averages. They might as well bet on the temperature in Newark at 8:00 AM.

So when you hear everybody saying this is a crisis caused by the housing collapse, be skeptical. We are in the midst of a classic pyramid or Ponzi scheme and there is no way out except for people to lose a lot of money. All that is different this time is that it is the taxpayers who are being asked for the cash.

Do you hear that? No way out except for people to lose a lot of money. Money that they never had in the first place. People are going to have to go out and earn a living by doing something productive.

What Was NOT Said

Pretty Lady must admit she had her hopes up. When the question was asked, "What have you taken from the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq?" she was just waiting for somebody to answer, "You can't export democracy by force."

But nobody said it. They went on and on about 'winning' (whatever that means) and opportunity costs (good point) and tactics vs. strategy (McCain thought he knew, Obama actually did.)

But when in the world are we going to admit that democracy is a system of government that arises organically when a majority of the citizenry is physically safe, well-fed, well-educated, and socially aware? And that when this is not the case, attempts to impose a democratic system result in chaos, kleptocracy, demagoguery, pyramid schemes, mass manipulation of an ignorant public, and eventual civil war?

And that this, by the way, is why Pretty Lady is advocating that we pay a great deal more attention to educational standards in this country?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hooray, conservative Republicans!

Pretty Lady is glad that somebody is balking. As far as she can tell, the sky has not fallen yet, despite its being a little wet and windy. Washington Mutual was going down anyway. And if she has to pay huge amounts of extra taxes in the future, she'd rather have it going to healthcare and education, not rescue funds for unscrupulous gamblers.

Keep stalling, folks!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Watch CBS Videos Online

Couric: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

Palin: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on the other side, the land boundary that we have with, uh, Canada...It's funny that a comment like that was made to, kinda...cari...I dunno...reporters...you know...

Couric: Mocked?

Palin: Mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah...

Couric: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

Palin: Well, it certainly does, because our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And...

Couric: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

Palin: We have trade missions back and forth. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska, it's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are there, they are right next to, uh, our state.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Incentive Myth

Pretty Lady, it must be said, is not an economist, except perhaps the household kind. She does not understand 'credit default swaps' or 'hedge funds' or 'asset leveraging.' She is, however, very good at generating a balanced, nutritious meal for under $3/person; she can juggle the bills so as to avoid late fees, interest rate increases and service interruptions, even during long periods of enforced unemployment; she knows exactly where and in what order to invest sudden unexpected infusions of cash, so as to maximize interest and long-term savings. In other words, she's an artist.

However. She must speak out upon one issue that she hears repeatedly during discussions of "Whither Capitalism?" That issue is the one of "Incentive."

People must have Incentive, she hears, to do things. They must have Incentive to invest, to build, to invent, to labor; without this Incentive, they will all become welfare drones. This Incentive, she hears, primarily includes the God-given right to pursue amounts of personal wealth so obscene as to allow the Incentee to say a big, resounding F.U. to Everybody Else. If we remove this Incentive--in the form of salary caps, progressive income taxes, or regulation of industry practices--the world will simply Fall Apart, and we will all go back to living in caves.

Well, Pretty Lady always knew she was a freak, but that's never particularly been the reason she works for a living.

No, Pretty Lady's bizarre, arcane incentives for doing the thing she does include, but are not limited to:

1) Paying for housing, food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, and art supplies.

2) Creating beautiful things.

3) Helping people feel better when they are in some sort of pain or discomfort.

4) Connecting with interesting people, for the purposes of friendship and engrossing conversation.

5) Exploring speculations in the area of psychology, philosophy, spirituality, economics, technology, social science, architecture, fashion design, education, gardening, cooking, physics, mathematics, metaphysics, and all sorts of other fun things, just because.

Making millions of dollars simply in order to HAVE millions of dollars has never appeared on her list. Moreover, she doesn't know too many other people whose top priority is becoming obscenely wealthy, either; they're all too busy living full lives as engaged, creative citizens.

Perhaps all of Pretty Lady's friends are freaks, too.

But she does have it on excellent authority that in Denmark, people work for a living. Despite the fact that the economic system of Denmark provides education, healthcare, housing and basic human dignity to every one of its citizens, at the expense of massive wealth accumulations by the Elite Few, everybody gets up and goes to work anyway. They do good jobs, too.

What shall we make of this?

Well, Pretty Lady is starting to wonder if perhaps she isn't such a freak, after all. It certainly seems to her that many people, perhaps even the majority, share her priorities in life. That there exist, in nature, plentiful numbers of citizens who would go about inventing, building, designing, growing, nurturing, experimenting, and creating, even if the option of becoming a billionaire by manipulating abstract numerical phenomenae was off the table.

In fact, she is starting to wonder if the impulse to manipulate abstract financial phenomenae in order to accumulate disproportionate personal wealth isn't...just...a bit....abnormal. Perhaps even pathological.

At the very least, she is certain that she doesn't want someone whose priorities are thus established to have a greater-than-average share in community decision-making processes. For people who want to make a lot of money without doing any concrete benefit to others tend not to take other people into much consideration. Ergo...well, voilá.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Pretty Lady Was JUST About To Say

For Bane

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lighting they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

--Dylan Thomas

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ready, Set...

“As for foreign policy, you know, I think that I am prepared,’’ Ms. Palin said at an enthusiastic town-hall-style meeting she held alongside Mr. McCain. “And I know that on Jan. 20, if we are so blessed as to be sworn into office as your president and vice president, certainly we’ll be ready. I’ll be ready. I have that confidence. I have that readiness. And if you want specifics with specific policy, or countries, go ahead and you can ask me. You can even play stump the candidate, if you want to.’’

But before anyone could take her up on the offer, Mr. McCain stepped in...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Irresponsible Psychological Theory

Please forgive Pretty Lady, darlings, she's getting a bit punchy with anxiety over complete economic meltdowns, both personal and national. To distract herself, she is engaging in a bit of armchair psychoanalysis, not to mention projection, over the affair that's on all of our minds:
We all expect a certain amount of deceit from people running for office, in the form of fudging, distortion, exaggeration, and omission. But the McCain campaign's approach, as this episode illustrates, is of an entirely different scale and character. It is to normal political attacks what Hurricane Ike is to a drive-through car wash.

Why does McCain insist on running such a mendacious campaign?
Oo! Oo! Pretty Lady thinks she knows.

Once upon a time, Pretty Lady had a rather horrible best friend. This friend was spoiled, grabby, self-righteous and bitchy. What she wanted, she took--whether it was Pretty Lady's favorite jeans, her French fries, or her boyfriend. She was like this with everybody. She would ransack other people's closets and refuse to give them their clothing back. She invited herself along on their dates. She usurped her friends' intimate relationships. And she got away with it.

This last fact was what baffled Pretty Lady. This woman perpetrated the most egregious atrocities, right out there in the open, and was not socially ostracized for it. People kept introducing her to their significant others, and 'loaning' out their wardrobes. They acted as though her friendship was some sort of exotic prize, rather than the toxic vortex it actually was.

Finally, after viewing the situation in perplexity and despair, Pretty Lady decided to try it, too. She started borrowing people's motorcycle boots, and flirting with their boyfriends. (She confesses this to you in all due shame and humility, decades after the fact.)

It SO did not work. Retribution for attempted spoiled-brat behavior was swift, certain, and universal. Pretty Lady simply could not get away with acting like a shameless trollop, because she wasn't one. She was faking it, very very badly.

What Pretty Lady suspects, then, is that John McCain is in a similar situation. The poor gentleman has no executive experience, despite many decades of honest followership; he is confused, out of his depth, and insecure. Thus he is aping the perceived Behavior Necessary To Win, with no understanding of its subtleties, tenets and boundaries.

For when Karl Rove says you've crossed the line, you're not getting away with it.

Please understand, furthermore, that Pretty Lady is not excusing Mr. McCain's behavior, any more than she excuses her own. She merely theorizes that his ethical compass has been so thoroughly undermined by a fathomless, destructive world that he no longer has one. He is flapping around in the breeze like a crippled seagull. All we can do is put him out of his misery.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Global Village

Pretty Lady can feel you wondering if she's gone Right Off The Rails. Either that, or she's lazy; why else would she post all four of those tedious, boring O'Reilly videos, which she is positive that none of you watched? After all, it is a fast-paced world, and you can't skim video. Moreover, anybody who watches O'Reilly is unalterably opposed to Mr. Obama, and supporters of Mr. Obama simply cannot endure Mr. O'Reilly. What, indeed, was the point?


Pretty Lady, as she has occasionally mentioned, lived for a time in a Very Small Town. This town was so small that it was literally, physically impossible to avoid persons with whom one had a conflict. One's ex-spouse's ex-lover regularly appeared at the next table in the café. One's landlady could be tripped over, at the end of the alley, casually slandering you to the millionaire's wife. If you switched bars to avoid your ex-boyfriend, you ran into his cousin at the other one. There were no secrets, and No Getting Away.

Under these circumstances, a person has two choices. One may play draconian power games, hold personal vendettas, muster cliques, and generally engage in a game of unending strife, which rends the social fabric and forces every innocent bystander into the fray. Life becomes dramatic, exhilarating, and in the long run, unbearably miserable.

Or a person can reach out for understanding, tolerance, common ground, and eventual forgiveness.

What impressed Pretty Lady about Obama's interview with Mr. O'Reilly was how they ended it, joking amicably about basketball. Those of you familiar with Mr. O'Reilly's personal style and political views are well aware that this conclusion was not a given. Even on his best behavior, Bill cannot help behaving in a rude, dismissive, peremptory and aggressive fashion. Bless his little heart.

But if you dared to watch the tape, you saw that Mr. Obama neither allowed himself to be bullied and stampeded, nor to lose his temper. He answered every question with a clarity and precision which indicated his comfort and depth of knowledge; he deftly acknowledged their common perspectives (there were several!) while assertively pinpointing and defending points of disagreement. In short, he imposed a civilized debate upon a borderline uncivilized man, and did so without incurring visible resentment.

As the world grows smaller, due to complicated things like technology and economics, it grows more and more difficult to wrap oneself in a cocoon of like-minded, loyal cronies. One must Interact. One must Interact with borderline uncivilized persons who, moreover, have access to things like armies, artillery, and nuclear weapons. In such circumstances, temperament becomes a life-or-death matter. Do we want a leader who has shown a preternatural ability to befriend the opposition without compromising his principles? Or do we want a belligerent liar and a paranoid drama queen?

The Jest Is Not Infinite

David Foster Wallace is dead. Long live David Foster Wallace.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

The Experience Issue

As Pretty Lady's dear friend put it this week--Harvard Business graduate, author, successful international businessman and public speaker that he is--it is perfectly possible for an utterly inexperienced person to succeed as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. All he has to do is work hard, study his industry, learn from his mistakes, plan ahead, organize, consult experts, form good relationships, make the right decisions at the right times, and presto! Success!

However, were this same successful CEO to hire a person off the street to replace him--with no industry knowledge, no connections, no history of forging solid relationships, no organizational network, and untested decision-making skills--he would, indeed, be crazy.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Attempt at Balanced Reporting

Here is a down-home, Alaskan political insider blog which seems to have taken on the role of providing information about our most recent Vice-Presidential nominee. And the banned books list which has been circulating is a fraud.

Now back to the sorting of paperwork.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Short History of Community Organizing

David has very kindly alerted us to an excellent article in The Nation about community organizing, and its vital role in producing a free, populistic democracy:

Palin, Giuliani and Pataki denigrated not only the tens of thousands of community organizers who help everyday citizens to participate in shaping their society and the millions of Americans who volunteer as community activists but also a long American tradition of collective self-help that goes back to the Boston Tea Party.

Visiting the United States in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville observed in his Democracy in America, how impressed he was by the outpouring of local voluntary organizations that brought Americans together to solve problems, provide a sense of community and public purpose and tame the hyper-individualism that Tocqueville considered a threat to democracy. In the same speech in which Palin ridiculed Obama's organizing work, she touted her own experiences as a PTA volunteer and "hockey mom"--the very kinds of activities that Tocqueville praised and that community organizers support.

The Republicans' nasty attacks on grassroots organizing reflect another longstanding tradition in American politics--the conservative elite's fear of "the people." Some of the founding fathers worried that ordinary people--people without property, indentured servants, slaves, women and others--might challenge the economic and political status quo. In The Federalist Papers and other documents, they debated how to restrain the masses from gaining too much influence. To maintain their privilege, the elite denied them the vote, limited their ability to protest, censored their publications, threw them in jail and ridiculed their ideas to expand democracy.

But grassroots activists wouldn't give up. Every fight for social reform since colonial times--including battles to abolish slavery, promote workers' rights, fix up slum housing, strengthen civil rights, clean up the environment, expand women's rights and protect consumers--has reflected elements of that self-help tradition.

Pretty Lady thinks that it is little short of bizarre that a political party would, in one breath, espouse a populist, can-do rhetoric, while simultaneously denigrating the actual people who are doing something. Even stranger is their decrying of these people as 'the elite.' 'The elite,' as far as Pretty Lady understands their use of the term, ought to be the people who casually deride the poor, the struggling, the undereducated and underprivileged--the people who do not do any actual work, but march into their gubernatorial offices and summarily fire those whom 'they sort of feel don't support them.'

Pretty Lady can attest, from personal experience, that community organizing is one of the most difficult, thankless, exhausting tasks a person can undertake. She herself is utterly incapable of it. It involves learning how to communicate with people from vastly different backgrounds, engage their attention and support, motivate them to take on unpaid labor when they are already overworked, and convince them that these efforts will not be in vain, when all evidence points to the contrary. Salaries for community organizers range from a pittance to nothing at all.

As one Christian lady recently pointed out, "Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor."

Pretty Lady privately suspects that the root of this failure of reasoning on the part of the conservative elite is their unquestioning espousal of the myth of independence. They honestly believe that they obtained their own considerable privileges on their individual efforts alone, without assistance from forbears, friends, relatives, employers, churches, schools, investment banks, civil rights, rule of law, infrastructure, or technology--no, they just woke up in a cave one day, by themselves, invented the position of governor, and assumed it.