#75 Irrational Arguments in Irrational Times (2003)

All Rights Reserved © 2003 Thomas W. Day

For my first rant, post killing off my newsletter, I've decided to change my format.  I used to work at "doing a column," creating a consistent train of thoughts on a single topic.  Screw that.  I'm branching out into random thoughts on any damn thing that crosses my mind.  And here we go.

I recently wasted a few moments listening to Myles Brand, the President of the NCAA (The National Collegiate Athletics Association, for those of you who have more useful things on your mind.), excuse the self-serving aristocratic behavior of the folks who administrate college athletics to the folks who rationalize that behavior to the rest of us; the press.  One of the questions this esteemed educator fielded from the peanut gallery was "what do you think about athletes who go straight from high school directly into professional basketball?"

The Pres responded by using Labron James as an example.  James is a high school wunderkind basketball player who is entering this year's NBA draft and will be making more money than a hospital full of doctors before he's old enough to drink beer.  Mr. Brand advised the kid to go to the pros, make as much money as he can, and get a college degree on the side.  According to Mr. NCAA, a college degree is a necessity if James is going to "have a happy life." 

I've heard a bag of reasons for a college degree, but this might the first time I've heard happiness and a college education linked.  From my own experience, I can't imagine how Brand could hope to prove that college and happiness even have a passing acquaintance. 

In the last half-dozen  decades, universities have worked hard to link themselves to financial success.  As college education prices have leapt out of the reach of everyone but the ruling elites' offspring, the focus of that education has become financial with minimal intellectual associations.  The concept of "a liberal education" has fallen into disrepute and even conservatives would have a hard time keeping a straight face while tying the current "conservative education" to a happy life.  Since the overwhelming majority of working people dislike, or hate, their work lives, the connection between education, work, and happiness is as disassociated as the reasons middle class folks vote Republican. 

While I'm picking on conservatives and education, the ultimate conservative catbox liner, the UK's Economist, recently provided its readers with an article praising the ascendance of "conservative think tanks."  This is a concept that is tough to take seriously.  A "think tank" that focuses on unoriginal thoughts intended to preserve the status quo.  While that does sound incredibly English, it's not the kind of organization that inspires visions of ground-breaking intellectual accomplishment.  While no one can honestly argue that it is impossible to be conservative and intelligent, being intelligent is not the primary requirement for original thinking.  Being conservative is contradictory to creativity. 

In the first years of this new century, conservative think tanks are doing quite well.  Their big tasks are explaining to the rest of us how trickle-down economics are going to work "this time" and why the fight we've picked with Iraq is "not a war about oil."  Conservatives have a vested interest in trickle-down, since the theory is when the rich get richer the poor will get some of the spillage; not exactly an intellectual exercise in economic calculus.  I'd be astounded if the majority of think tankers are not trust fund babies.  Rich kids arguing that they should be allowed to stay rich in the interests of those who are struggling to survive.  That argument always reminds me of a Green Peace booth I saw years ago.  It was staffed by the fattest woman I've ever seen in my life and their banner read "save the whales."  And I wondered . . . which sort of whale are we referring to?

The not-about-oil war arguments have been considerably more entertaining in recent weeks.  One of my favorites is that the Bush crowd couldn't be waging a war for their oil interests because oil is only one faction of the economy.  This argument has several variations, but I've heard it so often that it appears to be taking on veneer of credibility.  The conservative think tanks' best friends are conservative media who don't question any argument that comes from old money.  So the rest of us are left to decipher some meaning from the Bush-babble.

The flaw in this irrational argument is the hilarious assumption that Bush was elected by, and represents all of, all citizens and American economic interests.  A tiny number of interests provided GeeWiz with his financing, mostly oil and other viciously corrupt special interests, and an embarrassing minority of citizens voted for him.  Bush and Co. do not have to represent the majority of economic, political, or social interests to do the job they were elected to do.  Therefore, it's entirely possibly that a war on Iraq is precisely about oil.  Or only about oil.

All three of these irrational concepts are intended to make the rich richer and keep the rest of us in our place.  It's only logical that the rich want to hang on to their power and money, but it's not rational for the working class to want to help them.  When the have-nots want to protect the haves, conservative thinking has overwhelmed logic and self-interest.  The next step is to rejoin the United Kingdom and  sing "God Save the Queen." 

One of the favorite conservative catch-phrases, when they find themselves accused of pandering to the rich and powerful, is "class warfare."  In their minds, class warfare is supposed to be waged in only one direction; the rich putting it to the poor.  Somehow, they have managed to equate the poor fighting back with communism or socialism or liberalism or anti-Disney-ism.  Some damn thing that we're all supposed to hate as Americans.  The fact is, America was founded on class warfare.  The revolutionary war was nothing if not violent class warfare, taking up arms to defeat England's entrenched class system that had no business existing let alone migrating to the "new world."  Following that, by 100 years, we fought among ourselves to defeat the ultimate class system, slavery.  It's not hard to see how WWIIl, the great war fought by the self-proclaimed "greatest generation," as yet another class war.  The master race vs the rest of the world.  The master race got its master butt kicked and Americans returned to segregation, impoverished inner cities, and growing corporate power and influence.  Still, a good class war is always a big part of the American way.  I can always hope and I always do.

CornFairy.com "a leader in the search for innovative executives."  That's who the announcer on my Public Radio station said had sponsored the evening news.  Finally, truth in advertising.  I'm not an expert in mythology, but I'd assume a corn fairy is something like a tooth fairy.  So, this is a company that gets paid for hunting an imaginary creature.  Sort of like hunting snipes, but getting money to do it. 

I wonder what sort of company would hire a corn fairy hunting consultant?  General Motors seems like a likely customer.  GM isn't even a real company, having turned in profit losing tax returns for the last ten zillion years while finding the cash to over pay it's own corn fairies in salaries, stock options, and outright handouts.  Executive pensions at GM cost the company nearly $100,000,000 per year and that's an expense that isn't likely to shrink in the next decade or two.  I'm sure the corn fairy can help them find even more ways to squander GM's stockholder investments.  A room full of retards could do as well as the existing GM executive selection process.  What's that old statistical proverb?  Something about an infinite number of monkeys, typing at an infinite number of typewriters, will in an infinite amount of time, eventually, crank out a Shakespearian sonnet.  That's about the kind of still GM has shown in selecting CEOs.  Does anyone believe GM will exist long enough to find an intelligent exec with this system?

I'm tired, you're tired, the economy is smashed, and we're all going broke "saving the world" for international oil corporations.  Amerika, what a country.

June, 2003

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