Archive | June, 2010

Dissent is not hate speech

13 Jun

A common way religious factions try and dismiss Atheists around the United States is to simply call their views hate speech. Not only are Atheists views not “hate speech”, but the supremely ironic thing is that often these very same religious factions spout actual “hate speech”.

Atheists: “We are citizens too and we want a voice at the table.” Hate speech?

Religious factions: “God hates fags and homosexuality is a sin. Gays will BURN in HELL!” Not hate speech?

Atheists: “You don’t need god to be good.” Hate speech?

Religious factions: “Without following our holy book you cannont possibly have a moral foundation, therefore all non-believers are immoral scum.” Not hate speech?

Atheists: “We are all born free and equal, with no debts or chains.” Hate speech?

Religious factions: “Everyone is born a sinner and most continue on in life as filthy sinners. You should be disgusted with yourself and ashamed. Only we have the formula for becoming clean.” Not hate speech?

I could go on, but you get the idea. Atheists are not the ones threatening and degrading other people, yet we get slapped with the label of “hate speech” in an attempt to silence our voice.

Religious billboards are everywhere. So are religious bumper-stickers and fish. Lots of people wear crosses around their necks or have them dangling from their rear view mirrors. Religious radio stations flood the air waves, there are plenty of religious shows on TV, even full time religious channels. Religious books permeate the grocery store shelves. The religious fill the halls of government on all levels, boldly and proudly spouting their beliefs in Iron Age desert gods. The fact that religion has a privileged place in American society is self-evident, yet when Atheists try to be included in the society we are shot down. No, our message of independence and freedom from fear, reliance on reason, the intrinsic value of human life, human rights, and responsibility for one’s actions are dismissed as hate speech.

One of my biggest fears:

8 Jun

I just finished watching Equilibrium, a film the critics hated, but I thoroughly enjoyed. The basic idea behind it is that society, in order to stamp out war, tries to stamp out emotions. Through the use of emotion inhibiting drugs and a Fahrenheit 451 style war on art, they destroy everything that makes us human, including other humans who are “sense offenders”.

But I’m not going to go into the movie, this post isn’t about that. Ever since I was introduced to stories like Fahrenheit 451, 1984, V for Vendetta, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and now Equilibrium, I’ve had a fear. This fear has always sat in the back of my head, just beneath the surface. It creates an almost love/hate relationship with stories of this type.

I have always feared that I would find myself in the position of a character from one of these tales; in a dystopian society as part of a resistance force operating in cells, fighting for freedom. It exhilarates and terrifies me at the same time. I can’t think of anything more romantic than being a freedom fighter in a small group, mutually pledging  to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

But what if I’m not quick enough, clever enough, smart enough? What if I make a bad call and watch my friends die because of me? I’m so afraid that I won’t be able to keep up with the mental mind games of my hunters. They will outsmart me, lure me in with some bait, perhaps torture the ones I love. We might be infiltrated. I might wrongly place my trust in someone who’s a double agent. How am I supposed to succeed against such a highly organized, technologically advanced, well funded enemy?

And then I begin to think of the different types of resistance forces. One type is the guerrilla fighters hiding out in caves, setting off bombs, conducting hit and run raids. How would I work in a group such as this? I could never consent to indiscriminately killing unarmed people in a market place, so as long as we don’t sink to that I would be ok.

Then there are the infiltrators. These do just that, they infiltrate the system, helping out secretly where they can. But could I do this? How long would it take? Most of these people are somehow involved in the groups that hunt the resistance fighters. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that I was helping kill my comrades. There would be times when I would be a bystander watching my fellow fighters be tortured and executed; I would be powerless to stop it without running the risk of revealing myself. I’m not sure I could take that.

Just watched “Capitalism: A love story”

7 Jun

I will state up front that I consider myself a socialist. Not the “Zomg! Obama’s a fascist/socialist/communist/racist/muslim!!!11” kind that the people with tinfoil hats seem to think is socialism, but the one of the actual kinds of socialism.

To be completely honest, I’m not quite sure exactly where I fit on the socialist spectrum. I think I land somewhere between “progressive” and “democratic socialist“.  (At least those were my top too according to this test)

I’m of the position that a government, formed by the people, should be charged with conducting itself in a manner that best protects the interests of the people as a whole. In other words, the government should work to make sure the greatest number of people possible have the best standard of living possible. (Yet the rights/views of minorities should be protected, hence why I don’t believe in direct democracies that lead to mob rule, but I digress)

I feel that hard work should be rewarded, and that people should benefit from their labor. But then this is where my views get confusing, even to me. I do not feel that the wealthiest people in America are necessarily “hard workers”. I feel they cynically game the system much the same way welfare freebooters game the system.

My view that the wealthiest people unfairly manipulate the system was really confirmed by this movie. Now before you make the assumption that I am some Michael Moore fan boy, there was a lot about this movie that did not sit well with me. I felt the lion share of this movie was an appeal to emotion, which makes sense, Moore is trying to outrage you into action, yet I would have preferred he focus more on facts rather than sensationalist teary-eyed families being forced out of their homes.

The facts that are in this movie should speak for themselves. The most compelling part of the film is when Moore weaves together the story of how America became a plutonomy starting with the recession of the Carter years and the capturing of the government by Wall Street during Reagan’s presidency. The scene where Don Regan tells president Ronald Reagan to “speed it [his speech to the NY stock exchange] up” is amazing.

The whole tale of a calculated and organized hijacking of the nation by Wall Street’s CEOs seemed to smack of conspiracy theory. It’s an amazing, and infuriating, story, but I would like to find some evidence outside of Moore’s documentary in order to decide for myself if it’s true. There is one thing, however, that this conspiracy story has going for it that others don’t:

In most conspiracies, the actors are the government. The problem with this is that the government is notoriously incompetent.* The “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy is extremely improbable merely because of the high level of planning and competency required to pull off such and act and then cover it up. A government is just not capable of that level of finesse. (Especially under Bush’s incompetent reign) In this conspiracy story, however, the actors are not some clumsy government, but a small collection of some of the smartest, most brilliant people in America, the CEOs on Wall Street.

“But wouldn’t market competition dictate that different CEOs be working against each other?” Yes and no. While they most assuredly were in competition with one another, it makes more sense for them to work together on something that would benefit them all greatly. (Like no regulations) However, the ultimate “winner” was Goldman Sachs. Under Clinton and Bush, Goldman Sachs managed to fill top Treasury Department positions with its “former” employees, including even the position of Secretary of Treasury with Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs. (His net worth was $700 million when he left to become Sec. of Treas.) With this superior posturing, Goldman Sachs was in prime position to pressure its will on the government.

(Goldman Sachs also had their CEO in the Sec. of Treas. position with Robert Rubin. (Who also served as CEO of Citigroup) The current Sec. of Treas., Timothy Geithner, is a protegee of Rubin’s)

The most shocking and outrageous part of the film for me came when Moore discussed the recent bailouts of the super banks.  Two months before elections, Sec. Paulson drew up a 3 page plan to bail out Wall Street. (Keep in mind, usually legislation passed by congress is hundreds, if not thousands, of pages long) In that plan Paulson stipulated that all laws, including court review, would be waived:

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Checks and balances anyone? The American people were rightfully outraged, but Paulson and his goons ramped up the fear factor, hoping to cram through the bill with a little debate as possible, just as Bush had done for the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq. Amazingly, for once, the American people fought back and the bill was defeated, by 12 votes. Congress then went home to prepare for elections.

Here is where I become really furious: Enter the democratic party leadership. Paulson and company rush back to DC and enter in backroom deals with the democrats. Promises are made, futures are sealed, and then congress does a complete 180, the American people be damned. Paulson gets the key to our pockets and makes off with 700 Billion; proof Wall Street has muscles to flex over our government.

The film is very thought provoking to say the least. It’s clear that our “free market” system is being manipulated to the benefit of a very select few. Employment near 10%, thousands of people being evicted from their homes, corporations making millions off of “dead peasant” policies, meanwhile banks take billions in our money, only to send their executives on luxurious vacations and the CEOs retire with unholy amounts of money. This isn’t working, but what’s the answer?

Despite the film being directed by Michael Moore, a person people on the right hate as strongly as they love Reagan, I feel a large portion of the movie would appeal to the right as well, especially the Tea Party movement. The fact that we’re being universally fucked by our leaders is something we can all rally behind, and I think this is one of the great points the movie tries to make. Moore references a Citigroup memo that was leaked where Citigroup explained to it’s top investors that they [Wall Street] had successfully turned America into a plutonomy, and that it was no longer a democracy. (Seriously, go read it, it’s scary) The memos explained that the top 1% of America now had more wealth than the bottom 95% COMBINED. Here’s the real kicker: Citigroup states in the memos that the biggest threat to their “gravy train” (yes, that is a direct quote) would be if society demanded a more equitable share of the wealth. The biggest problem was that despite having more money, a rich person can only cast as many votes as a poor person, 1. In other words, if the peasants realized that they were never going to get that carrot, the “American dream” of wealth, that they would revolt and vote the puppet government out of office. (Seriously, go read the memos)

I certainly feel communism is just as evil as American style unregulated capitalism. While we have vast economic inequity, communism, as practiced as a political system, is totalitarian and oppressive. I want there to be a middle ground, that’s why I call my self a progressive socialist. But do my views work? I don’t know. To be honest, I’m not sure how closely my views fall to those in Europe. I’ve always dreamed about moving to Europe because there they work to live, whereas here we live to work. Unfortunately, Europe is going through a financial crisis right now because Greece took that to the extreme, completely unbalancing their budget. I’m interested to see how European style socialism weathers this crisis.

*unless you work for the Coast Guard

Palin: Oil spill fault of environmentalists

5 Jun

The dumbfuckery of this comment hit me like…well, like an Alaskan tanker truck to the face. Sarah Palin, proving her wonderful wisdom again, wrote a Facebook note blaming the oil spill on….get this….environmentalists!

With [environmentalists’] nonsensical efforts to lock up safer drilling areas, all you’re doing is outsourcing energy development, which makes us more controlled by foreign countries, less safe, and less prosperous on a dirtier planet. Your hypocrisy is showing. You’re not preventing environmental hazards; you’re outsourcing them and making drilling more dangerous.

Extreme deep water drilling is not the preferred choice to meet our country’s energy needs, but your protests and lawsuits and lies about onshore and shallow water drilling have locked up safer areas. It’s catching up with you. The tragic, unprecedented deep water Gulf oil spill proves it.

Oh, and apparently Palin says we shouldn’t trust BP because their “foreigners”. That’s interesting. Palin didn’t seem to have a problem with BP when she and husband worked for them for 18 years! And if foreigners are so bad, then how come Fox “news”, the station Palin loves oh so much, is owned by a Saudi oil prince Alwaleed bin Talal? (He owns 7% of the stock, second only to Murdoch himself)

War is peace! Freedom is slavery! Ignorance is strength!…..nope…not feeling it. Black is still black and white is still white, and Sarah Palin is still a complete moron. Maybe we could plug the leak with her ego.

Atheist game quirks

4 Jun

This is kinda silly, but my atheism affects my gaming habits. How so? Well when I’m playing a game such at Total War, Age of Empires, or Civilization I will try and make my empire as atheistic as possible. In the Total War games I delete all the churches and instead build schools and universities. If I can’t dismiss or assassinate my own religious leaders, I send them off to the very corner of the map. In the Civilization games I refuse to adopt any religion when it is invented, and try my best to avoid researching religious techs. As for Age of Empires, I build the church grudgingly to get the technologies, and then delete it the moment I’m done. (When I played I usually played online and there are other non-religious techs available at the church, so I needed them to play my best against other people) Again, this is all really silly and I know that it’s just a mechanic of the game, but I like to imagine that somewhere, in an alternate universe, my little nation exists. It’s for this same stupid reason I hate to delete units. 😦 I can just imagine the NPCs kissing their families and children goodbye before being executed, all at my command to make room for another 20 heavy infantry. (If I absolutely have to kill off villagers in AoE I delete the male villagers. Beautiful women being killed is a major pet peeve of mine) I know they’re just 1s and 0s, but I care….

Not good for my health

1 Jun

Being stuck down here in South Carolina is not good for my health. It’s almost 6 am and the sun is starting to dawn on yet another sleepless night. I think it’s something like my fourth sleepless night in a row? I’ve lost count. I’m becoming a vampire. I sleep all day, and I’m up all night. I think it’s partly the depression, partly the fact that I just have nothing to do. I really badly miss my friends. I’m extremely lonely here. The internet and computer games can only pacify me so much. After I get bored I’m just stuck in this room going insane. I have almost nobody to talk to, and the people I do talk to I have to bug to talk to me. They’re hardly the ones who pop on to see how I’m doing. I guess they’re busy with their lives. I really need a job, I really need my friends back. Loneliness is my biggest fear and there is no escaping it down here…