Misplaced Priorities

President Barack Obama formally vetoed legislation authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on today, the latest development in what has become an ongoing standoff between him and congressional Republicans over approval of the controversial pipeline.

At the same time, there is all sorts of hell breaking loose over immigration and President Obama’s deportation relief which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children temporary authorization to stay and work. The plans  are currently on hold, because twenty-six states, led by Texas, sued the federal government to block those actions, and a federal judge sided with them in issuing a preliminary injunction. But it was not a final ruling on the constitutionality of Obama’s action. Instead, the order will prevent the policies from moving forward as the lawsuit proceeds. The federal government is expected to appeal.

Congressional Republicans are committed to gutting the immigration policies as part of a funding package for the Department of Homeland Security, thus holding thousands of DHS employees hostage to extort a concession out of the President. Should Obama and Democrats keep their promises to block the Republicans’ package, DHS could shut down on Feb. 27. Republicans want Democrats to approve a bill that would fund DHS and stop Obama’s immigration executive actions from moving forward.

Republicans say the blame should be put on Democrats if a shutdown occurs. But a majority of Americans think the GOP would be to blame rather than the president, according to a CNN poll released Tuesday.

What a clusterfuck.

But I have to say: Keystone pipeline and immigrants. Who the fuck cares?

What about tax relief for the middle class instead of just for millionaires?

What about closing tax loopholes so rich people and corporations pay the taxes they should?  That would take care of our deficit problem in no time.

What about a national debate over minimum wages and increasing them to something resembling a livable wage (not that $10 or even $15 an hour are livable wages).

What about the fact that over the past few years abortion rights have been restricted in an unprecedented manner?

What about student loan relief and bail outs?

How about not appointing bankers and Wall-street execs into key government positions, Mr. President?

These should be our priorities –  not illegal immigrants and a freaking pipeline.

It is good to see that no matter what the occasion, the President’s priorities are always messed up. Choose your battles. I could not give two shits about whether immigrants get to stay or not. when there are far more pressing issues at stake here. What does he want all these immigrants here, if they are not going to get paid a decent, livable wage anyway? What about people who are here right now and struggling? Shouldn’t his limited time, resources and energies be spent on more pressing issues? I am so sick of the misplaced priorities by even so-called allies.

For months now it’s been about these issues. If he cares about the environment, then how about holding BP accountable and criminally charging them? How about giving more funding and authority to the EPA so that they can go after polluters? How about tightening environmental legislation by imposing stricter standards? Who the fuck cares about the Keystone Pipeline? Not that it is not an issue, but if environmental protection and human health is the priority here, then there are far more urgent issues we need to tackle than the Keystone pipeline. Obama knows that, as we speak, Republicans are gearing up to destroy the middle class even more so than they have done in order to enrich the wealthy some more. So shouldn’t he be spending his resources and priorities accordingly? Shouldn’t he be choosing his battles more wisely, instead of on immigration and the building of a pipeline?

Priorities. We don’t have them.

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Wage Increases Alone Are Not Enough

In a move that could alter the minimum wage debate and improve the image of the world’s largest retailer, Walmart announced it will raise the baseline wage of its current store employees to $10 per hour, bringing pay hikes to an estimated 500,000 workers.

The company said in an announcement on Thursday that it would raise its wage floor to $9 in April, followed by a second boost to $10 by next February.

Now I do not want to berate them for giving their employees a wage increase. That is a good thing and better than nothing, I guess.

But I do want to make a few observations:

1) A dollar or two more per hour spread out over two years is nothing but a drop in the bucket and is not likely going to change the situation of people in Wal-mart’s employ all that much, if at all.

2) Compared to the obscene wealth Walmart and the Walton family have (the six Waltons have a net worth of $144.7 billion. This fiscal year three Waltons—Rob, Jim, and Alice (and the various entities that they control)—will receive an estimated $3.1 billion in Walmart dividends from their majority stake in the company), giving their employees a mere dollar or two an hour more in wages is not only a drop in the bucket but, quite frankly, insulting. It reeks of the kind of greed communists have not only predicted but almost caricatured since the beginning of the industrial revolution and the emergence of capitalism. The greed here is unfathomable.

3) What Walmart is doing here is voluntary. They are not obliged, per federal minimum wage laws, to give their employees more than $7.25 an hour. People are all beside themselves over the “generosity” of Walmart  and celebrate this as some kind of a victory for workers.

There is a whole lot wrong with this, not the least of which is that 10 dollars an hour is not a livable wage. It amounts to not more than $18,720 a year before taxes. After the tax collector is done with you, that amount is most likely reduced by another 40%. No one can live on this.

But the bigger issue here is that  people waiting to be paid a livable wage for a days’ work shouldn’t be dependent on the largesse and generosity of their employers voluntarily giving them wage increases. In other words, it should not be up to an employer’s discretion to not only treat their employees well but to also give them wage increases. Because a lot of them will be waiting forever.

That is why we need regulation in the form of laws that guarantee a realistic livable wage, limiting executive income to a reasonable multiplier of that wage, so that if executives want to make more, they need to give their employees more, too.

4) All this brings me to my next point, which I cannot emphasize enough: $10 an hour is not a livable wage.

Heck not even $15 an hour is.

Making $28,880 per year (which is what someone getting paid $15 an hour would be making) is not a livable wage. After taxes, not much remains. People in such a situation, which is already considered the gold standard (the $15 an hour minimum wage)  won’t be given healthcare benefits or will not be able to afford quality health care with low deductibles and co-pays.

Many of them will not qualify for government subsidies as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as the poverty levels are set so low that most people do not qualify and  many of these people won’t earn enough money to feed themselves, much less a family, and many of them won’t be able to save as much as they’ll need for their retirement, if they can save anything at all.

People who honorably dedicate their time, energy, and talents to jobs that might not traditionally pay well because some capitalist pig decided it is worth less, are indeed entitled to something though. They are entitled to not work their whole lives only to find themselves poverty-stricken, or hungry, or homeless after one small (or not small) financial crisis. And if we’re not going to ensure that every job comes with a livable wage, access to affordable healthcare, and retirement benefits, then we’ve got to provide a robust and well-funded social safety net.

None of which we have these days. The money you get deducted each pay-check for social security may as well be torched and dumped into a landfill, because you most likely will not see much of it. It is just money the government collects from everyone each month that lands into a pool of money that Congress regularly steals from (i.e. borrows against) and then when it is time to pay-back, they talk about cutting social security altogether.

So we do not even have a social safety net.

Unemployment benefits run out after a year or two max and most people do not qualify for welfare and foodstamps because the bar for qualifying for such benefits has been set so low, that no one but people pushing shopping carts, qualify.

I know someone in their 60s making $800 dollars a month and they were denied food-stamp benefits because they allegedly make too much money. And that is in California. An ostensibly liberal state.

5) Finally, and most importantly: wage increases are meaningless if they are not accompanied by tax reform in the form of reducing the taxes on the poor and middle class while closing the loopholes and increasing the taxes on the wealthy.

Imagine if you could keep 85% of the money you make each month, instead of having relinquish nearly 40% of it to the Federal government. Imagine how much better off you would be. I know I would be able to pay off my student loan debt and increase my standard of living by manifold.

But the reality is that the majority of us do not get to keep that money. We have to give it to the government, while someone making 100 to 1000 or even 10,000 times or more than we do gets to keep all their money, accumulating wealth fast and easy while free-riding on the taxes we all pay for them. This is wealth redistribution bottom to top, make no mistake about it. The middle class has been and continues to underwrite the success of the wealthy.

That is why minimum wage increases alone are meaningless if they do not go hand in hand with tax reforms. Because even if we were to push for higher minimum wages, people end up just paying more of that in taxes, which then effectively nullifies the whole reason why wages needed to be increased in the first place. The only one benefiting from wage increases is the government.

Hard work and making more money won’t do you any good if you are crippled by high taxes. At least in Europe the higher taxes people pay go back to them in social programs and a robust social safety net. Here, the poor and middle class are taxed into oblivion and when push comes to shove, they don’t see any of it come back to them in form of healthy, meaningful and robust social programs.

Right now, thanks to our current tax system that has been designed to benefit the very wealthy, corporations and wealthy individuals have managed to exploit loopholes to such an extent that has allowed them to keep the trillions of tax dollars we ought to be collecting from them, as profit.  That is how they keep getting richer and why you and I, are not.  Trickle down my ass.

The idea behind trickle down was that by giving the wealthy and big earners and corporations tax breaks, thus lessening the burden on them,  you create the kind of environment that creates jobs and allows the wealth to trickle down to the lower ranks. The idea was that your employer will pass to tax savings it got on to you in the form of benefits and great wages.

That is one huge lie. And it never happened, given the decline of the middle class ever since trickle down was being sold to the American public.

In fact, trickle down is one of the biggest lies ever told and it does not work. It is a myth.

Corporations and the wealthy do not pass on the savings they get in taxes to their employees and workers. Instead they hide all those monies in off-shore accounts and pocket them. There is a reason Romney did not want to publish his tax returns and can afford gold plated car elevators in one of his mansions.

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How Gullible Are You?

After a three month hiatus I am back and what better way to start off the quest for knowledge, wisdom and non bullshittery than to ask yourself this very simple question: How gullible are you?

10942607_1429185550706710_5682680835405031896_nAre you gullible enough to believe that the billion galaxy universe was just created for us?

Are you gullible enough to believe that a god would impregnate a poor peasant girl to give birth to himself so he can then grow up and die for a bunch of sins that he created in the first place so that one day he may come down and die for them to prove a point? (Are you officially lost amid this convoluted clusterfuck way of thinking here? Um, yeah, so am I)

Are you gullible enough to believe that Islam is a wonderfully peaceful religion that is merely misunderstood?

Are you gullible enough to believe that ideas, even bad ideas  – and religion is full of bad ideas – do not influence the people we become? The decisions we make and the priorities we set?

Are you gullible enough to believe that corporations are people? That money does not influence political outcomes?

Are you gullible enough to believe that giving rich people tax exemptions so they can hide their wealth in offshore accounts creates jobs and helps some worker stuck in a minimum wage paying slow death improve their standard of living?

Are you gullible enough to believe that wealthy people are wealthy because they work for it instead of being the laziest, greediest, most opportunistic moochers that they are, who exploit the system, with proficiency and profligacy about which poor would-be swindlers can only dream?

Are you gullible enough to seriously think that beliefs and the ideas that inform them are beyond criticism and above reproach?

Are you gullible enough to believe that there is an actual marked difference between Democrats and Republicans?

Are you swayed by fluffy and hopeful State of the Union Addresses by our one percent fellating leaders? Are you so enamored by the belief in them that you forget that despite lofty speeches promising to help the middle class, they wanted to (and have in the past) appoint Wall Street executives in key goverment positions, such as President Obama’s nomination of Wall Street executive and banker Antonio Weiss for a top job at the Treasury Department?

Are you gullible enough to believe that one middle-class boosting policy enacted for every twenty pieces of legislation enacted furthering the “causes” of millionaires, bankers, corporations and oil companies, will bring us a step closer to the direly needed changes we need? That such half-assed steps will strengthen the middle class?

Are yo gullible enough to believe that giving more tax breaks to millionaires is good for all us?

Are yo gullible enough to think that most millionaires are even paying any taxes?

Are you gullible enough to believe that placing health care in the hands of private corporate entities that do not give two shits about your health but instead care a whole lot of about the bottom line, was better for people? Or constitutes health care reform?

Are you gullible enough to believe that the Republican party stands for anything else beside hate, greed and bigotry?

Are you gullible enough to seriously believe that the solution to the crisis we face today with respect to a diminishing middle class is corporatist Hilary Clinton?

Are you gullible enough to believe that a Senate that actually votes on whether climate change is real or not can be trusted with accomplishing anything meaningful for this country and its people?

So exactly how gullible are you?

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Organization Pushing For $20 An Hour Minimum Wage Offers Job for $13 an Hour

Earlier this month The Freedom Socialist Party posted listings on Craigslist and Indeed to advertise an opening for a part-time web designer offering to pay $13 an hour.  That’s well below the $20 minimum wage the party pushes for in its platform, and lower than the $15 wage it helped pass this year in Seattle.

But Doug Barnes, the party’s national secretary, told The Huffington Post on Saturday that the group relies heavily on donations from low-wage workers and could not afford to pay much to an inexperienced designer.

We’re practicing what we’re preaching in terms of continuing to fight for the minimum wage,” Barnes said, making his first public comment on the controversy. “But we can’t pay a lot more than $13.” He went on to accuse Right wing critics as hypocritical, citing that “these are the same people who fought against the minimum wage and support companies like Walmart.”

I mean look,  I am a liberal socialist in the sense that I do believe in strong unions, labor rights and regulation, but I have to admit this is pretty hypocritical. “But we can’t pay a lot more than $13” is exactly what everyone else who opposes minimum wage increases, including the $ 20 an hour proposal this party supports, argues:  “we cannot afford it.” Why is it then that the socialist party’s reasons are legitimate and everyone else’s aren’t?

This is the same thing as non-profits who fight for social and economic justice and fair wages etc. turning around offering non paid full time internships. That is just not right and goes against the very things you are arguing and allegedly fighting for.

And the thing is, if you want to change things, you have to be the change you want to see, trite as it may sound. Not to mention that I am going to take a wild guess here and say that the president or CEO of this non-profit probably gets paid quite a lot. Maybe he cares to cut his salary so they can afford the 20 bucks they are pushing for because $13 an hour is not a livable wage for anyone, especially a highly educated and skilled person who probably had to rack up student loan debt and such to be able to pay for this education which, in turn, was going to qualify him for this job.

Either way you look at it, this just does not look good and doesn’t strengthen your position to not be living what you preach.

Yeah Republicans and Conservatives are a bunch of indecent hypocrites and scumbags, opposing the minimum wage and unions, but then again they never pretended otherwise. You, on the other hand,  claim to stand for more so be more.

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Christian Evidence

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The emperor has no clothes. Religions and their associated gods are the biggest fraud that ever existed! I genuinely feel sorry for religious people. It is like they walk this Earth with blinders – willingly and gladly, no less. The more I study religions, the more I am convinced that man never worshiped anything but himself. In the case of Christianity how absurd that a god would become human just to sacrifice himself to himself in order to create a loophole for a rule that he created. 

The fundamental problem with the entire idea of religious faith is that there’s no reality check. The ultimate arbiter is an invisible, inaudible,  intangible being, whose nature and attributes nobody can agree on, and whose ultimate decisions we have no way of knowing until after we die. And the only way to “know” what this being thinks is to either trust in the word of people who swear that they’ve spoken to him directly… or to close our eyes, and think really hard, and tell ourselves that the voices in our heads and the feelings in our hearts are being planted there by our invisible friend.

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My God Is the Right God

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And then Thog cut off both their heads, took their wives and daughters as slaves and everybody worshipped his rocks.

 

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More News From The Religion of Peace

Islam sure knows how to spread the love and every minute, of every day citizens of Islamic countires can feel just how much god loves them. Let’s see, the first person in the long line of people god loves especially and who got to personally experience both the Prophet Muhammad’s and also god’s love is Soheil Arabi, an Iranian man who has been sentenced to death for saying disparaging things about Muhammad.

Branch 75 of Tehran’s Criminal Court found Mr Arabi guilty of insulting the Prophet, or “sabb al-nabi”, on 30 August.

Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code states insulting the Prophet carries a punishment of death, however, article 264 of the Penal Code says if a suspect claims to have said the insulting words in anger, in quoting someone, or by mistake, his death sentence will be converted to 74 lashes.

The anonymous source claims: “Unfortunately, despite this Article and the explanations provided, the judges issued the death sentence.

Just like Muhammed would do. And i don’t mean that tongue-in-cheek because Muhammad really did kill people for insulting him and god whose message he was carrying.

The second person at the receiving end of god’s oh so endless love as said in the Koran is a British-Iranian woman, who has been imprisoned in Iran for nearly three months, after attending a men’s volleyball match.

Ghoncheh Ghavami

Ghoncheh Ghavami: law student, charity worker, activist – imprisoned indefinitely for attending a men’s volleyball game.

Ghoncheh Ghavami has been held in Tehran’s notoriously tough Evin Prison since June 30 with no idea when she will be released.

After approximately 50 days in solitary, during which the family spoke to her just three times, they were allowed to see Miss Ghavami, once she was finally moved in with another cell mate. They have visited her four times in the last 80 days.

The infamous Evin prison, in North Tehran, known for detaining political prisoners and journalists, is one of the “most intimidating places” in the country according to Mr Ghavami.

The prison is notorious. Ghoncheh is in the worst part of it and has been interrogated repeatedly [without a lawyer being present]. It’s the worst place you can be. It’s like something you see in the movies. The psychological conditions are awful. I’ve only seen one photo of it but my parents visited her yesterday [Wednesday] and they are at breaking point,” Mr Ghavami said. “My mother had to leave the visitor’s room and vomited so many times outside that she nearly passed out […] My sister is very distressed as she has gained the impression from her interrogators that she may have to stay for a long time.

And finally, a group of six Iranians has been sentenced to six months in prison and 91 lashes for releasing a music video in which they dance along to Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy.”

The group became famous in May when their music video for the hit song circulated on YouTube, racking up more than 150,000 views before attracting the attention of Iranian authorities. It featured three men and three unveiled women singing and dancing along to the four minute song in the street and rooftops of Tehran, mimicking the style of Pharrell’s official video.

Authorities arrested the group for contravening Iran’s strict vulgarity laws, which prohibit public displays of dancing, and paraded the six on state television, forcing them to express remorse for their behavior.

The Islamic Republic condemned the video as a “vulgar clip which hurt public chastity” and in a trial on Wednesday sentenced the participants to a suspended sentence of six months in prison.

Pharrell Williams responded to Iran’s actions on his Twitter account in May, saying: “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”

But. let us all walk around pretending Islam is the religion of peace, misunderstood and that the horrible things that take place as a direct results of the things written in the Koran are not really true and happening but merely confined to a few lunatics on the fringe and extremists. This is apparently not Islam. ISIS is not Islam. All the horrible things happening in the name of Islam and by Muslims are not Islam and it is everyone else’s fault for misunderstanding and misrepresenting such a beautiful and peaceful religion. Even our President went on live TV saying “ISIS is not Islam.”

Collective denial of the horror that is Islam is only going to hurt people. This is a barbaric faith and an uncivilized religion. Executing non believers and those who insult a prophet? Beheading infidels like swine at a slaughter?

The instances here are about Iran and the reason I have chosen Iran today is because Iran is not an Arab nation, thus dispelling the myth that Islamic extremism is is something confined to Arabs and Arabic countires and because the kind of atrocities that take place in Iran do not get much, if any, international attention. Let’s face it, if it does not affect the US and our war mongering efforts, we couldn’t give a shit.

Secondly, people rarely think of Iran when they think Islamic extremism.

In reality. Iran is just as bad not because of extremists but because of Islam. Period. This is not the works of extremists, this is the reality of Islam. Iran is an Islamic country and this is what you get when you have an Islamic country.

The sad truth is that what we see here and what does make the news every now and then is only a tiny glimpse of what the young people of Iran have been experiencing since the Revolution of 1979, when Iran became an Islamic Republic Shithole. The Iranian government has so much blood on its hands that the atrocities committed by known genocidal regimes, such as Rwanda, pales in comparison to it. Iran has been committing internal genocide for decades, but they have not done on a mass scale, so it is just considered internal turmoil.

Over the past 35 years, millions of young people  – mostly women, especially anyone perceived as exhibiting any kind of Western likes and traits, including Western pop music and culture – have found a torturous demise in Iran’s prisons and “judicial” system, and I use the word judicial system here quite loosely as a kangaroo court where you are guilty until proven innocent isn’t much of a judicial system at all. It is more like a tribunal the likes of which one can expect to find in any totalitarian dictatorship.

All this is a result of Islam, and Islam only. Before the so-called Revolution (more like a Devolution) Iran, while having its problems, was still a country where existence was bearable; where you wouldn’t expect execution and indefinite imprisonment and lashes for dancing or talking to a man who wasn’t a relative.  Women could get an education, a real education, and did not have to wear the hijab. Whatever it was, however imperfect it was, it wasn’t the unbearable soul crushing cesspool it is today.

When I look at these young people who have been sentenced to receive a horrible punishment for dancing happily on the streets, I not only feel sadness but also revulsion. Revulsion at a religion that tells its followers that doing such things violates god’s laws. A system that condones the murder of a man because he insulted someone.

Sure, everyone should be free to believe what they want but I would say in this case the price is too high. Islam is truly evil and it needs to be done away with. No more excuses for it, no more apologies.

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