Archive for May, 2012

The Culture of Greed: Puff Daddy’s Son Accepts Scholarship Despite Father’s Half a Billion Wealth

That this is a world of the rich, by the rich and for the rich becomes evident to me everyday. The latest example to the point: Puff Daddy’s son who received a $ 54,000 scholarship to attend UCLA despite his father’s whopping half a billion dollar wealth.

Puff Daddy is considered the riches man in hip-hop and his wealth was estimated at nearly $550 million by Forbes magazine last year.

The rap mogul’s oldest boy will attend top athletic powerhouse UCLA on a full Division 1 scholarship to play football.  The scholarship is only available to the most elite high school athletes, aged 19 and under.

At the same time, UCLA is a school where tuition and fees have tripled in the past ten years, rendering the once affordable UC an expensive school resulting in open protests and general dissatisfaction on the side of students who find it increasingly more un-affordable to attend UCLA.

Naturally, some have questioned the rationale of the school to give this much money to the son of a multimillionaire, especially in light of the astronomic budget crisis in California in general and the UC system in particular.

UCLA’s athletic department needs to consider the fact that perhaps there is another athlete on the football team, who could perhaps really use this scholarship,” UCLA student Neshemah Keetin told CBS Los Angeles.

In its response to criticism over the award, UCLA stressed its “robust financial aid program,” 30 percent of which it said is funded by tuition and fee revenue:

“Unlike need-based scholarships, athletic scholarships are awarded to students strictly on the basis of their athletic and academic ability — not their financial need. Athletic scholarships, such as those awarded to football or basketball players, do not rely on state funds. Instead, these scholarships are entirely funded through UCLA Athletics ticket sales, corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters,” the statement said.

Others have argued similarly, namely that his son earned the scholarship and has every right to it, regardless of his father’s wealth.

But it is really not as straightforward as the wanna-be millionaires who keep pandering to the cause of the wealthy in the hopes that one day they will be one of them, claim.  And while no one is debating the fact that Justin Combs is a good student and capable athlete who earned this scholarship, the uproar is not about his scholastic abilities or questioning them or even depriving him of what he  rightfully earned,  this is about a teenager receiving funds to attend college he does not need. Sean “Diddy” Combs is said to have given him a $ 360,000 Maybach for his 16th birthday.

The statement bu UCLA is misleading in its assertion that this is a non-issue since the funding for Justin Comb’s scholarship does not come from the state but through ticket sales,  corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters.

While it is true that the money Combs receives does not come from tax payer dollars, that is beside the point because regardless of the source, the money has to come from somewhere no matter what you call it and every dollar that goes to some rich kid that really doesn’t  need it, is taking away money from someone who does.

The whole point of a scholarship is, or ought to be, to honor the work of excellent students and provide them with an opportunity to obtain higher education which they would not be able to do without the scholarship.  Giving people who are wealthy and can afford it money to go to school sort of defeats the whole purpose.

If Justin Combs was independent and could take care of himself without his father’s money, yes, he should be able to keep it. But he is not. His father has been and continues to support him financially, therefore there is no need for him to also keep the money.

Pimp Daddy’s son doesn’t need a scholarship when his dad is sitting on half a billion dollars, just like wealthy people and millionaires don’t need tax breaks.

Taking something you don’t need is not earning it, it is being greedy.

And that is what it ultimately comes down to once again. And that is also why so many people cheer for it and don’t think he should return the $ 54,000.

Greed and with it the love for money are the cultures that have been fostered deep into the American mind. Any unscrupulous act in this country is excused, condoned  and apologized for as long as it creates wealth.  Whether the means by which one arrives at that wealth is unethical or hurting others is irrelevant.  If it makes money, it goes and is erroneously called The American WayThe American Dream or “success”.

The sad reality is that UCLA is in a budgetary crisis. Tuition has gone up, the economy down and lots of students will have to either take out more student loans, thus remaining in debt for a long time after entering the workforce, to be able to attend college or they will not be able to attend at all. In fact, UCLA became a focal point in the Occupy Wall Street protests, with students rallying against a planned 16 percent tuition fee hike. In April, the school was forced to embarrassingly clawback $27 million in financial aid accidentally deposited into students’ accounts.

The Culture of Greed

Given the genuine crisis the UC system finds itself in, scraping for every dollar to be able to make education semi-affordable to people, is it unreasonable, jealousy or assholish even to ask that the son of a semi-billionaire not accept the $54,000 athletic scholarship? Don’t we have a responsibility toward one another as human beings to do the right? Is the “each person on his own” mentality the American Way? Are these the values we ought to instill upon future generations? The bottom line?

No wonder Mitt Romney thinks that being a business person is the one and only legitimate claim to the Presidency.  In fact, the entire platform he is running on is based on this ridiculous assumption. He actually believes that every American can and should want to be a millionaire.  As if jobs like teacher, firefighter, nurse, scientist or professor could ever produce millionaires.  Jobs that, nonetheless, are vital to the functioning of society.

We are a nation of wanna-bes chasing the money or die trying.  And of course we embrace and applaud anyone and anything that caters to that notion, thinking that maybe by supporting such notions we somehow “reserve” a place for ourselves in the millionaires hall of fame.

I think Bill Maher, as usual, summarized my sentiments quite brilliantly:

Mitt Romney has to start understanding why people don’t like him: it is not because he is rich, it is how he got richNow here are some other rich guys.  Here’s Henry Ford with his Model T.  Walt Disney with an early cartoon idea.  Jobs and Wozniak with their first desktop. 

You see what the first three have that Mitt doesn’t?  A product.  Something they made besides money.

You know, venture capitalists are not creators.  They’re businessmen who find weak companies, and prey on them.  And Mitt can’t understand why anyone would ever question capitalism no matter how feral it gets.  ‘What?  We found a wounded animal and we ate it!’

The quintessential America

The folks at Bain, including Romney. This picture summarizes the reality in America and everything that is wrong with it.

 At one of the debates, Mitt said, ‘I won’t try and define who’s rich and who’s not rich, I want everybody to be rich.’  Cue the morons in the audience clapping their hands like seals at a Sea World getting a bucket of chum.

Well, I can define who’s rich and who’s not.  Who’s rich is Mitt Romney. And who’s not is someone making $26,000 a year. And the success or failure of his campaign will depend on his ability to convince someone making $26,000 a year that he, Mitt, a rich guy, knows how to make them rich too.  And if you elect him, he’ll tell you the secret.

It’s not a political platform, so much as a wealth seminar.  This is the same thing that makes guyslike Tony Robbins rich.  They have a secret.  But the secret turns out to be that they’re rich because they’re robbing you! And somehow Americans are good with this.

Yes, that’s how Mitt Romney rolls, straight outta Salt Lake.  Get equity or die trying. Remember, Mitt knows the secret.  Obama doesn’t know the secret.  As Mitt always says, Obama never even ran a corner store.  He was a community organizer helping poor people!  Bleh!  What would you rather do, help poor people, or have money in your mouth?” 

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War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

While we gather together this Memorial Day to honor the fallen, the veterans and military personnel in ceremonies and private remembrances – people who have died while serving their country in the line of duty – it is important to take a step back and remind ourselves of what war actually is and what it does to people.

When I think about the kinds of wars we have sent our young people to in the past two or three decades, I can’t help but feel a great sense of sadness and betrayal to those who have fallen.

Contrary to what our leaders with often questionable motives tell us, war is not romantic or heroic.

War is destruction, mutilation and devastation,  leaving those going to war and at war, physical, emotional and spiritual wrecks. Going to war to defend your country is one thing, but to go to war preemptively or for political reasons – as has been the case for the most part in the past two decades – is not heroic and it is certainly not worthy of an enlightened nation.

We should not celebrate, we should mourn our war mongering and use this day to rethink our policies, especially in light of the war drums being beaten against Iran.

On this day, while people fire up the grills and decorate the decks with patriotic colors and hold a moment of silence, I can’t help but feel a great sense of sadness and disappointment over the fact that most of these same people don’t truly understand the consequences of war and starting next week will probably come around cheering for another confrontation  – this time against Iran – based on lies and manipulations of our political leaders and the entities they serve and are enslaved to (hint: it is not the American people).

It also saddens me to know that the people we buried and honor now,  have lost their lives not to defend their country, but due to political game playing and posturing and power tripping of the leaders they entrusted with their lives.

Mandatory military service during declared war time would reduce the number of politically motivated fiascoes and save us thousands of lives and trillions in treasure.

There are wars that absolutely must be fought, and there are all the others that are a slap in the face of our servicemen and their families.

In the end we have to realize, as a nation but mostly as human beings, that the answers to our problems as a country and human kind in general cannot ever be solved through warfare and violence, but through diplomacy and cooperation. And while the above picture with the little girl holding the flag amid a graveyard might really seem adorable, remember all those grave stones behind her each represent dead human beings who probably did not have to die if it had not been for the irresponsible decision making of their leaders.

When i think of people cheering for the troops and war like it was a sports game, I can’t help but feel a great sense of nausea in the pit of my stomach. All these celebrations are meaningless if we don’t leanr from the past and continue with business as usual.

Today, people are making both a mockery of themselves  as well as the veterans and thus those who have fallen. They honor them now but tomorrow they’ll be back at square one cheering once again for war against Iran or whatever country Israel has come up with this time and forget everything said today.

Thousands of Americans dead to fight a fraudulent war, mass deficit and people think they have a clean slate, like a walk to the confession booth, for having “honored” the troops with patriotic colors and a bbq. Tomorrow everyone will go back to business as usual because somehow they have been manipulated into thinking that war is honorable and inevitable.

War should always be the last resort and only to defend oneself, because contrary to what our leaders and even pop culture like to tell us, war is not peace, ignorance is not strength and slavery (of the mind) is not freedom.

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Brilliant Quote of the Day

We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.

Will Smith in an Interview with Parade

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Harvard Apologizes for Including Unabomber in Alumni Directory

Ted Kaczynski – Criminal

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski graduated from Harvard in 1962 with a degree in Mathematics. Harvard had invited all alums, including Kaczynski, to update their directory and so he listed his occupation as “prisoner” in the alumni directory and said his awards are “Eight life sentences, issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, 1998.”

Harvard went ahead and published the information but the alumni association quickly regretted that decision and later apologized for it.

A stupid move when considering that Mitt Romney is an alum whose information, I promise you, won’t be deleted off the alumni directory.

Now before anyone jumps my throat because of the comparison let me elaborate: there are two kinds of violence in the world: overt violence and covert violence.

The Unabomber engaged in overt violence, directly costing the lives of three people and injusring 23 others.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand,  has for decades engaged in covert violence – through hostile take overs that have left countless people jobless with all the perils and consequences following such layoffs, including the loss of health insurance and thus ones health. I believe the latter can lead to death. Much like it did with Kaczynski’s victims.

Yet we send the former to jail and call him a psycho, we honor and decorate the latter as the American Dream in the flesh and have him run for the highest office in the country.

The Unabomber killed three people but how many people have suffered, and died, at the hands of Romney’s policies first as the governor of Massachusetts and of course for decades as CEO of Bain Capital?

An ad by Priorities USA Action last week featured former employee Loris Huffman, who was laid off after Bain Capital drove her place of employment – office supplies plant Ampad –  into bankruptcy. Huffman – who had worked at the company for 34 years before Romney’s actions left her with no health care insurance – stated that she thought that she was going to retire from there since she only had about two and a half years to go. “I was suddenly 60 years old. I had no health care and that’s scary. When Mitt Romney did that, he — he made — he made me sick“, Huffman stated in the ad.

Mitt Romney – Man of the People

And this is just one person speaking out. Imagine how many thousands of people had similar fates due to the actions of Mitt Romney as the head of Bain Capital. That does not even include his actions as governor of Mass; actions that were so irresponsible that they resulted in the state he was running to rank 47 in job creation.

How many people and families have suffered and lost their livelihood and health care, and with it health and maybe even life, as a direct consequence of Mitt Romney’s policies?

Yet he is a revered man and the Unabomber a psycho whose existence Harvard refuses to even acknowledge.

Two things to learn from this story:

1) Our priorities as a nation and as a peoples are skewed. We are easily impressed and swayed by outward appearances and labels and rarely look underneath to truly comprehend the nature and essence of what we see and what is presented to us. Overt violence is condemned  – and rightly so – but covert violence is wrapped in euphemisms, masking its true consequences, thus often going unnoticed.

2) Ted Kaczynski has a sense of humor.

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Review: The Reef

Roger Ebert once said that “a good movie is not what it’s about, it is how it is about it.” There are many shark and human vs. creature movies out there – some good, a lot of it mediocre and predictable. And then something like The Reef comes along.

Personally I don’t find sharks scary. They are predators and it is their nature to hunt for prey. That is not scary and it is silly to be scared of or hating on an animal that acts on instinct and whose nature is to be a predator. There is no volition and evil in the shark’s behavior. And the thing that in fact makes horror movie villains scary is the volition and perpetuation of evil. That is why zombies, vampires and psychos are scary. And that is why animals aren’t really.

I also understand that a lot of the fear about sharks is pop culture hype immortalized in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, where sharks, or the Great White to be precise, are portrayed as comic-book like, vengeful, villainous beasts out to get you.   The reality is more like that most sharks don’t even attack humans and when they do then it is because we encroached upon their habitat. Ultimately,  if you go out on the sea, swimming on a surfboard and looking like a delicious seal served on a platter, you can’t blame the shark for doing what comes natural and attack you.

So if you are trying to sell me a movie from the angle that there is a beastly shark involved that we all must run away from, I am the wrong audience. You don’t have to swim with sharks and if you are stupid enough to do, well then that is your fault. Don’t knock the shark.

The Aussie thriller The Reef understands this very premise and has, therefore, managed to create a truly scary and haunting experience without drifting into story-book mode. For the most.

The movie strands a group of friends in the middle of the ocean after they hit something that capsizes their boat. Subsequently, the protagonists are left with a difficult decision: stay on the overturned yacht, drifting further into the ocean or swim over ten miles due north until they hit land. What ensues after this setting of the stage is a frightening and terrifying journey of four people through the dark waters of the Australian ocean near the Great Barrier Reef.

The haunting sense of the unknown and that of an unrelenting menace create almost unbearable tension in this movie. Being adrift in the open ocean like that must be one of the most helpless and terrifying positions any human could find themselves in. You are completely vulnerable and exposed with no place to hide. You can’t even crawl up into a ball and hide away because it is the open water. That is extremely unsettling.

Watching all those scenes where these peoples’ legs are sort of dangling above the abyss surrounded by unknown creatures in the hostile Australian waters kept me at the edge of my seat at all times.

The idea of being confined in that dark water with miles of deep darkness and the unknown underneath you and having no escape route – no boat or rock or wall to hide under –  must be terrifying. Just writing it gives me goosebumps.

This movie does a great job at conveying that mood of the isolation and desperation but also the terror these people experience being adrift in the middle of the ocean.  There’s just something about the deep, dark, vast ocean (and what’s in it) that never fails to make the perfect setting for a truly unsettling horror film.

The great thing about The Reef is that it does not venture into gory shark-attack territory.  In fact, this movie works because, unlike Jaws – that feels like a Disney movie compared to this, by the way – this movie is one of the few great creature-features that focuses more on the situation and the horror the character experience rather than on the creature itself.

The directing and cinematography, right down to the soundtrack, further do an excellent job at conveying a sense of utter exposure and menace and there is no CGI but real Great White footage. Even the score in the opening credits gives you a preview of what to expect and sets the mood.

The underwater shots are menacing as well because much like the protagonist, you keep looking in horror into the darkness and its seemingly endless depths, scanning back and forth,  to see if you can make out any silhouettes. Since this is the deep ocean and the waters turbid, there is little visibility, further catapulting you into menacing depths surrounded by darkness.

Having said that, I don’t know if I, or anyone in their right mind, would have made that trip into the unknown like that. That is one of the things that irked me about this movie and gnawed at the believability. It didn’t seem realistic that these people really thought they could swim over ten miles in shark territory no less so save themselves. Then again, the other option would have been being drifted further into the sea and the boat sinking.

I hear the waters around Australia are home to some of the most exotic and strangest creatures. Some kind of a Cambrian effect. It is also home to some of the most poisonous and meanest sea life. Trying to swim over ten miles in that water is lunacy at best.

I also did not like the whole villainous shark/nemesis-who-can -track-them-through-the-ocean-like-a-bloodhound angle that this movie drifted toward the end. While most of the movie was not about that and we don’t encounter the shark until half-way through the movie, I thought inserting that formulaistic element into this otherwise truly menacing and terrifying movie took something away.  Animals aren’t mean or out to settle a score going so far as to chase you the last 10 feet to your destination while you are swimming for your life. That part seemed made up.

Other than that I thought this was one hell of a movie. Everything created the mood, even the soundtrack, and the cinematography was amazing. Good job Aussies.

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