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You’re a cow on a farm.

28 Dec

I know that in many parts of the western world, particularly in Europe, the primary role of government is seen as a service provider to its people. People pay taxes and in return the government provides emergency services, infrastructure, schools, healthcare, and looks after public safety.

That concept is similar to the concept taught all US school children, minus the healthcare. The US government, however, is unlike any other western government because it’s a superpower. The fact that the US government is a superpower drastically changes its relationship with its people. Its massive scale simply changes the dynamics in a way that makes it unlike a smaller country in Europe.

The primary aim of the US government is NOT to provide services to its people. The primary aim is to  protect the interests of its shareholders.

Who are the shareholders if not the people?

In American society, money = power. Money = a stake in the game. More money = more shares = more influence.

Someone might attempt to counter argue that voting = power and that despite a rich person having more money than a poor person, they both have one vote. If you seriously still think the act of voting is somehow a check on power, why is it that the income gap is the largest it has ever been? Why is it that government policies all favor helping the rich get richer while the poor get poorer? If there’s more poor people than every before and fewer rich people than ever before, why is it, if as you say they both have 1 vote, that government policies still favor rich people and corporations? It’s because voting is a placebo. You don’t even get to pick the people or things you want to vote for. Those choices are made for you by the establishment to ensure that whatever it is you’re voting on is “safe” to those in power.

But I digress. We just needed to get that out of the way.

Money = power = influence in the government.

The government exists to protect the interests of those with the most influence over it.

But what about the services the government does provide?

The services the government provides to people are the bare minimum needed to keep them working. Healthcare was/is recently a big issue and perfect example of this. The US is one of the only western countries without universal government healthcare. Yes we recently pass “Obamacare” but if you look past all the news headlines and actually read it, you’ll see that it was not the universal healthcare everyone wanted, but rather a trainwreck of “reform” written by the very companies it ostensibly is meant to be reforming. It’s a joke.

Regardless, during the debates, the point of office productivity kept coming up. The cost to the economy of not having healthcare and being unable to pay for being sick was repeatedly brought up as an argument for providing healthcare.

Most Americans don’t understand their role in society, in the government. Their role is of the cow. Their role is to produce milk for the farmer. The farmer is there to ensure the cows are as productive as possible while minimizing costs. And what an elaborate farm it is…

You go to school, you get a job, you go to work, you pay your taxes, you saddle yourself with debt, you pay interest on that debt, you marry, reproduce and put more people into the system. Once in a while you take a vacation to convince yourself that you’re still free. In reality you’re in a cage. You’re the engine of the system; you’re the cow that produces milk for the farmer. The farmer will provide for you only the bare essentials you require to remain productive. Anymore and you’re cutting into his profit margin, any less and he loses money in lost productivity.

 

Moo motherfucker.

Where are the Hank Reardens?

25 Jul

I’ve read Atlas Shrugged. In the book the business owners are portrayed as hard working honest people who want to add value to the world through their labor. They create wealth through their labors. They raise up themselves and those around them through hard work.

Where are those honest good business leaders? I look around and all I see is unrestricted corporate greed at the expense of others for short term gain. The entire financial sector is built of white collar crime as a business model. Many fortune 500 companies get away with negative tax rates while taking advantage of publicly educated workers, publicly funded roads, firefighters, and police. Executive pay is through the roof and workers are getting shafted.

One of the latest and clearest examples is Catepillar corporation. Catepillar makes hydraulic construction equipment. Times are tough and Catepillar has decided to freeze all of their worker’s pay for six years, including their pensions. So for the next six years, worker’s wages will remain flat, regardless of the increase in gas/food/housing/education/you name it costs. Consequently, the amount workers will take home for their savings after living expenses are taken care off will plummet.

But times are tough, what are you going to do right? Except they’re not. Times are great! You know how much Catepillar made last year in profits? Not revenue, profits.

4.9 Billion dollars.

You know how much they’re on track to make this year in profits?

6 Billion dollars.

Catepillar is rolling in money. They have money up to their eyeballs, but no, the workers need to take a pay freeze for six years to help keep costs down. That includes the CEO too right? Hahahahahaha, you’re joking right? Pay freezes are only for little people like the workers that make the company run.

Douglas Oberhelman, the CEO of Catepillar was given a 60% pay increase over the course the year. He now makes $17 Million Dollars a year.

But I’m sorry, the little people need to tighten their belts during these great times.

Where are the Hank Reardens? Where are these virtuous business owners? Where are the CEOs that want to make the world a better place by enriching themselves AND those who help them create wealth?

Instead it seems that the current business model is to leech as much out of society as possible, to squeeze your workers for every possible ounce of productivity you can get out of them while paying them the absolute minimum you can get away with. When workers fight for an decent pay it’s class warfare, when corporations screw them out of every penny possible, it’s business.

 

Money destroys democracy

17 Jul

Equality is at the core of a 1 person, 1 vote democracy. Your vote is a unit of direct political power. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, your vote matters just as much as the next person’s. It doesn’t matter what title comes before your name, or what your bank account statement says, at the end of the day my vote is just as powerful as yours. Without this equality democracy couldn’t function.

Unfortunately, things are not as simple in reality as 1 person, 1 vote. Is money speech? Is it a form of your free speech to choose to give your money to a political cause? If money is speech, does that mean those with more money have more speech then those with less money? What if a small group of people pool their resources so that they have an inordinate amount of speech compared to everyone else? What if they use this inordinate amount of speech to affect politics? Now you no longer have 1 person, 1 vote system. Money = speech = power; money = power.

 

At this point democracy starts to crumble. A person’s vote becomes irrelevant when there are much larger units of power in play. It’s similar to the difference between an arithmetical increase and an exponential increase. A large group of individuals can coalesce around a cause, but if another group has more money, they will have more influence and power. Congratulations, you’re now on your way from democracy to oligarchy.

The degree to which you’re an oligarchy depends on how much big money is involved in politics. This issue has always been around since the start of democracy, however, only relatively recently have we’ve seen the advent of super PACs and corporations pouring millions into politics in order to twist the law in their favor. The more money in politics, the less democratic those politics become.

“Well what’s the problem with that?” some might ask. If you’re fine with some people having more power than others, then you need stop your flag waving and acknowledge that you don’t support democracy. While you’re at it, stop using democracy as a buzzword completely. Democracy as a term has become as debased and valueless as liberty, freedom, and terrorism have in the past decade. They are cheap, gilded terms devoid of any real meaning.

“Why shouldn’t the rich have more power? They have more stuff and thus more of a stake in society.”

No. The amount of material objects you possess doesn’t matter. We all have the ultimate stake in society, our lives. When someone dies for their country, we say they paid the ultimate price. It is the most valuable thing we have as individuals. Your fancy cars, houses, and trust funds are drops in the bucket by comparison.

Happy 4th of July. Celebrate [the illusion of] freedom

4 Jul

“The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” –Frank Zappa

Happy 4th of July. Everywhere you look in America today there is something or someone espousing the attitude of “AMERICA!!!FUCK YEAH!!!!” It’s freedom this or liberty that. Yet despite all this spirited celebration, not a single brain cell is occupied with contemplating what freedoms and liberties we have. If you ask someone, they’ll probably give some answer that sounds like it could be spoken from a character out of the Idiocracy movie. “What freedoms are you celebrating today?” “Well, ah….our freedom to be free!”

You have no freedom. You have only the illusion of freedom.

You might point to the bill of rights as a clear example of the freedoms you have, but then you would be incredibly naive. Rights by their nature are absolutes. If they are not absolutes then they are not rights, their enforcement is subject to the whims of the ruling power; an illusion. The ruling power will maintain that illusion as long as it is convenient for them to do so. In cases where it is no longer convenient, they will dispense with the theater and the true nature of your “rights” are relieved.

Over the past century the US government has shown that no right is absolute. Freedom of speech, press, and assembly? That will be tolerated as long as it is the correct speech, press, and assembly. Look at the brutal crackdowns on protesters, “free speech zones” miles away from the subject of the protest, the police violence .Freedom from unwarranted search and seizures? Nonexistent. Everything you do on facebook, every phone call and text message you send is recorded by the government. You are suspect by default. Every citizen is a potential enemy of the state.

The right to due process, a speedy trial and protection from cruel and unusual punishment? Ask Bradley Manning about that. Or ask Anwar al-Awlaki, an American tried, sentenced, and executed with no due process, no trial, and no appeal. Or ask his dead 16yr old son who was executed two weeks later in the same manner. Ask anyone on the US government’s “kill list.” Ask the owners of Megaupload or any one of the other websites arbitrarily, illegally, and capriciously shut down by the government.

“But at least we’re not some third world country suffering starvation, civil war, and lawlessness!”

No. Making that argument is surrender. You are setting the bar so low that it might as well be on the ground, and yet you seem elated that you’re able to step over it. No amount of sarcasm can express my disdain for this argument. The funny thing is that you can’t even step over it, it’s more like you trip over it. Corruption, lawlessness, and starvation exist here in the US. The difference is that our aliments are better hidden. People are expecting to see starving Africans, or warlords, or guards taking bribes. Yet in America our starving people look like everyone else, or a homeless veteran under a bridge. Our warlords wear suits and drive nice cars. Our corrupt officials take bribes from corporations and sit in congress. There remains only one absolute right in the US.

Your right to remain silent.

The passage of “Obamacare” highlights republican disconnect with reality.

30 Jun

Last week Obama’s healthcare reform legislation was upheld by the Supreme Court. CNN and Fox, showed just how little facts matter to them in their rush to be first to break the story by neglecting to read the whole document before declaring the legislation dead. Meanwhile, republicans showed just how little facts matter to them by promptly exploding upon hearing that the legislation passed.

Some republicans hilariously threatened to move to Canada as a result of this ruling. Little do they know, Canada has universal healthcare much stronger than anything passed in Obama’s legislation.

Romney promptly came out and denounced the legislation, vowing to repeal it on his first day in office.

Which is hilarious because in 2006 it was his idea:

In fact, the whole notion of an individual mandate, the government forcing you to buy something against your will, was originally the brain-child of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.

You see, the anti-free market notion of being forced to buy health insurance was developed by conservatives. Obama’s legislation was crafted by the health insurance industry. It spoon feeds them 30 million new customers who are required by law to buy from them.  Back in 2009, when all this was starting, 77% of the country supported having a public (government) option to generate competition and help keep prices down. Competition would have been bad for health insurance industry profits, so they made sure to take that option off the table. Instead we got this watered down legislation. Yes, it’s better than nothing at all, assuming it lives to take full effect, but what we needed was real systemic reform and this is not it.

But you see, conservatives are masters of compartmentalization and ignoring cognitive dissonance brought on by hypocrisy. None of the above mentioned facts will have an effect on them. They will continue to scream about the evils of making sure everyone has access to health care, and how this whole thing is liberal big government taking over their lives. This just goes to further highlight what I’ve been saying is the rosetta stone to understanding conservatives:

Objective reality and facts don’t matter. Narrative does.

In other news, republicans ban scientists and city planners from discussing sea level rise.

Trying to find a job while being an atheist

8 Jun

Looking for a job is always stressful. It is even more stressful when you’re the most maligned and mistrusted minority in the country, looking for work in the most hostile part of the country. Being an atheist and looking for work in the South can be a tricky predicament.

I found that out first hand over the past two days.

I’ve been looking for work since March when the company I worked for went under. I was really excited to get a call back from a company three days ago, asking if I would come in right that moment for an interview. I grabbed my stuff and drove 45 mins to the next town over. During the course of the interview the boss said I didn’t have all the experience he was looking for, but that he was in really bad need of somebody and wanted to see how fast I could pick things up. He mentioned a salary figure which I agreed to, then asked me to come in at 7am the next morning to shadow him. Throughout the interview he was giving me things to write down and to study.

I went home, extremely excited about the prospect of finally working again, and for somebody from whom I felt I could learn a lot. Then I started to explore the company’s website more in-depth as I had only a few moments quick glance before I was out the door rushing to the interview. He explicitly states on their website that it is a Christian company.

“Meh, whatever, I don’t care what they believe as long as I’m working and getting paid” I told myself. I got up at 5:30 the next morning and went to meetup with my prospective employer. We spent the morning going to a meeting and then it was off to make service calls.

The question came while we were in the car.

“This has no bearing on you getting hired, but what do you think about Obama?”

“Um…I don’t know…”

“Well do you like him or not like him?”

“Um…I’m not really a big fan?”

“For what reasons?” (I wanted to reply “Well, because he’s a center-right corporate whore parading as a progressive” But I didn’t for obvious reasons)

“For a variety of reasons, but I rather not say.”

“Ok, good, I don’t like him either. His taxes are going to crush my business.” (I wanted to point out that the president doesn’t control taxes, that congress does, and congress is republican controlled, but I doubt those facts would have either made me look good or mattered to him.)

“Can I ask you some questions about religion?” (The knot in my throat grows tighter)

“Only if you don’t mind if I don’t answer.” (“Damn I’m must sound like some secret-agent wannabe wacko” I thought.)

“Again, this is just out of personal curiosity, it doesn’t have any effect on you getting hired. What religion are you?”

“I rather not say.” *nervous laugh*

He then launches into a bit explaining how he and his wife are Christian, and that he came to realize God’s plan for his life when he almost died, was airlifted to the hospital and lived, how that got him to change his business around, etc etc…

We get to a service call and I get a reprieve. I’m extremely uncomfortable but I need this job. I need the experience and I need the skill set it will give me. So I bite my lip.

Two weeks ago my uncle almost died when he fell off a rough while working and was airlifted to a hospital. I was curious what happened to him, so I explained what happened to my uncle and asked him what happened to him. He explains how he had some rare condition and how the emergency crew in the helicopter didn’t think he was going to live, but he got to the hospital in time and Christ spared his life.

I didn’t say anything, but the whole time I was thinking: “Oh, Christ saved your life? Not the doctors with years of training? Not the paramedics and the helicopter, developed by science, that enabled you to be quickly rushed to a hospital, staffed with the fruits of scientific labor that kept you alive and saved your life. No, it was none of that, but the iron age God of the desert came down, skipping the 16,000 children that die of starvation everyday to save your butt and show you the way while you were conveniently in a first world country’s hospital attended by a swarm of doctors. Oh I see. Of course!”

But I obviously had to hold my peace.

Later I ended up driving him in the company car to a service call an hour away. He mentioned how he met his wife on eHarmony. I had tried eHarmony before in the past. I spent 45 minutes filling out their survey only to be rejected. eHarmony is a Christian oriented dating site. Atheists don’t do well on there.

Without thinking much, I mentioned how I tried eHarmony but that they rejected me.

“Why did they reject you?”

“Oh, erm…They reject you if you don’t match up with their ‘values’ system.”

“Why’s that?”

(In my head: “Shit shit shit….whatever. Fuck it. I don’t care.” Did I mention that sometimes I have a self destructive streak?)

And so I explained that I was, in fact, an atheist, that I do stuff with my local atheist community (even though I’ve been kinda off the radar for the past bit), that I used to be an evangelical as an early teenager, that religion is a interest of mine, that I’m pretty well read in it, and that I’ve been working on app development for atheist counter-apologetics apps.

The cat’s out of the bag now…

He was just kinda like “Oh…..ok…” Later he asked me “So what made you become an atheist?” I’m sure he was expecting that some disaster had befallen me and that I now hated God, or that I just wanted to lead a sinful lifestyle.

The problem with this question, besides all the problems with the situation, is that it is a trap. Most likely inadvertently, but a trap nonetheless. Let me rephrase the question and you’ll see exactly what I mean:

“So what made you abandon and discredit everything I hold dear, everything that is intimately intertwined with how I see myself and my world?”

There is absolutely no possible way I can answer that question without being offensive. There just isn’t. It’s a loaded question.

“Um…it was more of a journey for me over time.” (I wanted to say “Well, because I grew up, I read books, I experienced things outside of the narrow world view the church taught.”)

He mentioned how he never really knew any atheists, that he had come in contact with a few, and that they were all really big jerks. I mentioned that there are all types in every group, and that I’m very non-confrontational (in person) and live and let live. Oddly, he didn’t really understand what “live and let live” meant so I had to explain it to him. We really didn’t talk much the rest of the trip. He was busy working and making phone calls from the passenger seat. Throughout the day, before atheism came up, he was making me write down all the things he wanted me to study. “On Friday I’m going to have you do X, on Monday I’m going to have you do Y.” He didn’t really give me too much more to study after religion came up.

At 5pm I finally started the long drive home. I had been up for twelve hours and rushing around town with him for ten. I was exhausted. When I got home, I spent the rest of the night studying my ass off. He said I could take Thursday off to study, because it was more important that I pick up the concepts fast for when he tests me on Friday than for me to shadow him for another day.

I took a short break to get a few hours of sleep in the wee hours of Thursday morning, then was back up and studying some more. At the end of the day on Wednesday he said he might have me come in again later Thursday to do some stuff, but that he would call and let me know.

I sent him an e-mail around noon on Thursday telling him how far I’d gotten studying. (I really did learn a shit ton really fast). About an hour later I got a response:

“…My wife and I, as well as the other people in the office are discussing it, but we are thinking we need to find someone that already has extensive experience. You are doing a great job on all of this studying as far as I see it, but I am thinking a history of experience would serve us better at the moment. I am getting busier and busier by the second and I thinking it would be best for us to find someone who can hit the ground running, who would require no shadowing…

If you don’t mind, if there are any reminders on your note pad that I needed, I would really appreciate you sending them to me. I am in with a few other companies as far as passing along resumes, and I will certainly pass yours along. You have great potential!
Thank you in advance for understanding.”
Rejection.
I’m fucked. I didn’t get the job I desperately needed in order to give me the skill set, background, and money to accomplish my goals. I was, am, depressed. What about the ten hours I spent running around with him? I had other things I would have liked to do that day too. I probably won’t see a penny for my time.
I really do think he rejected me because I didn’t have the experience he was looking for, but part of me wonders. Even if he says that it has no effect on my getting the job, it does have an effect subconsciously in how he perceives me.
Before atheism came up, he did mention that his wife was coming on board with the company and that they would have to have dinner with me so she could meet me before they hired me. She apparently has a good sense about people, or so he told me. I wonder if his wife put her foot down at the idea of hiring an atheist. I can just imagine her asking how they’d be able to trust such a deviant, someone without morals. How could someone like that represent the family company?
Yet I have no proof of this, so it’s pure fantasy and speculation.
I would like to hope I was rejected just because of my skill set, and not that I was discriminated against based on my religious stance.
I’ll honestly never know for sure. Such are the perils of trying to find a job as an atheist in an often fundamentalist Christian south.

Why are bombs ok, but not condoms?

3 Mar

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of how the conservatives held a one sided “hearing” on birth control where not a single woman was able to testify. Here in America, reproductive health is not viewed as a legitimate issue, and women are not women, rather they are a sum of parts to be regulated. (At least in the eyes of our politicians) One such sum of parts was a Georgetown law student named Sandra Fluke. She was supposed to go to the hearing to testify on why reproduction is part of human health (seems obvious) and thus should be covered by healthcare. Unfortunately the conservatives barred her from testifying.

Bombastic conservative icon Rush Limbaugh the proceeded to call this woman a slut and a whore for wanting healthcare to cover contraceptives. He went further to say : “if we’re going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

I’m not sure if Rush is aware, but it takes two people to have sex. Actually, Rush might be aware seeing as he was stopped when trying to re-enter the US after a trip to the Dominican Republic because he had a massive quantity of Viagra. What were you doing in the Dominican Republic with all that Viagra Rush? You weren’t married, and according to you, unmarried women who have sex are sluts and whores. Were you on a sex binge with prostitutes? Of course not. I’m sure it was somehow related to a church mission to help the poor.

Conservatives are decrying contraception coverage as symptomatic of the nanny state, a big government waste of tax payer money so others can have sex.

Lets exam this:

1) The government isn’t paying for the birthcontrol. Healthcare companies are.

2) If healthcare companies covered contraceptives, it would save you money. Pregnant women are expensive for healthcare companies. The fewer pregnant women in your healthcare pool, the less a healthcare company has to charge to pay for them and you.

3) It is ok for healthcare to cover Viagra so old men can still get a hard-on and have sex, but it is not ok for healthcare to cover birth control, which some women take as a hormonal treatment and not just so they don’t get pregnant?

Why aren’t conservatives calling men sluts and whores and decrying how healthcare is paying them to have sex? Why aren’t they demanding sex tapes of these individuals online? Like Rush Limbaugh for example. (Hint: Answer starts with H and ends with ypocrisy)

Viagra is used to treat one thing, limp dick. The pill treats a number of issues besides preventing pregnancy.

4) Why is it not “nanny state government” for the government to regulate who can marry, who can have what types of sex in their private homes, and what a woman can do with her body, but it IS “nanny state government” for healthcare to have to cover contraceptive?

5) Conservatives claim that they want to stop abortion. Birth control stops unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortions. If A=B and B=C, A=C, thus birth control stops abortions. (That’s a liberal conspiracy called logic)

A rational person would think that if someone truly wished to lower the amount of abortions per year, you’d invest heavily in birth control and stop the problem before it starts. Surely that would be the most effective use of resources.

6) Lastly, if conservatives can refuse to pay for life saving healthcare, can liberals refuse to pay for their bombs? Why is it ok for us to be forced to pay for you to kill people, but not ok for you to be forced to pay to make people’s lives better?

I’m sure a conservative will try to counter that last point with “national security. Killing people overseas makes us safer” but that’s extremely debatable. A liberal could easily counter with how fewer unwanted pregnancies = fewer unwanted children = fewer crimes = safer America.

Let’s be honest. This isn’t an issue of tax payer money going to fund wild sex parties. This is an issue of conservative sexism, hypocrisy, and disdain for women.