Archive for March, 2013
He is real. He was real. He must have been real!!! Because the star who plays Jesus on the History Channel’s miniseries “The Bible” says that he just saw his whole life in a flashback in front of his eyes when he was hanging on that cross waiting to shoot the scene.
Amazing. This “strange occurrence” as the teaser headline on Yahoo! News says has me definitely convinced that in fact something divine may have had a part in this and that I was wrong and that Jesus was the son of god who died for my sins.
Strange occurrences like this always convince me – and they should convince you too – that even the most fantastical and far fetched myths are truths that we all just missed. I am sitting here in shame that I ever doubted him – whoever he is – especially now that I know that a “strange occurrence” during the reenactment of this scene totally makes the case for the veracity of the whole Jesus being the savior thing. Amen. Thank you for this sign. You had me on “strange occurrence.”
As the Portugese actor Diogo Morgado said “It’s so strong when you feel that you’re where you should be, you know, and you feel that this is what you were kind of … that you were born to, at one point, to touch people’s hearts. If the goal of an actor is to tell the best story ever, there’s no higher story than Jesus Christ. It’s the ultimate love story, and the way he can touch people, it’s just a privilege, it’s just beyond words, having this opportunity of doing this. It was really a personal journey and a spiritual journey. And it touched me, in a way that I’m still digesting. It didn’t end with the shooting. It’s still alive.”
I like how Jesus makes self righteous people feel great about themselves Something he was born to do? His destiny? Yeah right. As T.S. Eliot once said “most trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important. “
Morgado got the whole “greatest story ever told” part right because that is exactly what Jesus is, a nice story about the triumph of good over evil and self sacrifice, magic, love, pain, blood and tears. Shit, I mean if you were to add the lightsabers, Chubacca and the evil emperor to the mix, you could pitch the script to Hollywood and make crap loads of money of of it. Oh wait…
Elijah Wood (left) and Macaulay Culkin (right) on the set of The Good Son in 1993.
As a kid I had such a crush on Elijah Wood – the most beautiful kid I have ever seen. I love this pic because it shows these two before the fangs of Hollywood and fame got to them, especially Macaulay Culkin. Elijah Wood seems to be doing pretty awesome.
I miss the good old days where child stars were actually talented and good at something instead of famewhoring assholes.
Do you think if I sent Obama an invitation to come over to my house for dinner he would? Like he did with Sarah Jessica Parker, George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and the countless other 1%ers?
Amidst all the discussions about what a terrible person Mitt Romney is (which he is) who is out of touch with how most human beings on this planet live their lives and the challenges they face and amidst all the talks about how Obama is not such a person – since he clearly is the “man of the people” – a self made man and community organizer who did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth – I noted that while that may have been true about Obama a long time ago, that person no longer is.
The tragedy is that Obama and co are claiming to fight the good fight: “For hard working Americans” while Mitt Romney is seen as that greedy asshole who could not care less about such hard working people. Yet, in essence, Obama is not all that different from Mitt Romney when it comes to the privileges they enjoy.
Having a spread in Vogue magazine depicting a lavish 1% er setting and stating how the Obamas inspire America – shortly after the sequester, no less, where millions of people – most of whom are poor and vulnerable – have seen the kind of cuts that make the difference between employed or not/roof over your head or not/food on your table or not/able to afford medication or not etc – also doesn’t help and make you a man of the people.
When Clooney threw a fundraising soiree for Obama last year, it cost $40,000 a plate to attend. In other words, these Hollywood high rollers at Clooney’s house were paying more for two hours with the president than they pay their nannies, housekeepers and gardeners in a year. Just like Romney. And they call themselves the good guys. The ones working for you and I instead of the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
Let us backtrack.
Scott Prouty, the man who shot the infamous 47% video of Mitt Romney where he is seen talking, in horrid yet very detached detail, about the slave labor conditions in Chinese factories and trashing everyone in this country who isn’t a member of the social register, sat down for an interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz a couple of weeks ago to not only reveal his identity but to mainly talk about the video and what inspired his decision to release the footage.
I highly recommend watching the video (a transcript to follow later) as it – more than anything else – is a shining example of how a man, a seemingly ordinary citizen who remained invisible to Romney even as he was serving him his $50,000 plate of food, made the courageous decision to record and release a video of a candidate running on the platform of patriotism and love for all of America, when in reality the only people he was going to represent were the kind of people he was having that $50,000 a plate dinner with.
Prouty explained that one should not pay $50,000 to hear what a candidate has to say – as if that kind of fundraising was confined to Romney and his kind only. The evidence above with respect to Obama and his late night soirees with Hollywood -listers shows that paying tens of thousands of dollars to hear a candidate speak is not something solely confined to Romney.
Income Gain Disparity 1966 to 2011
Syracuse University professor and Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston analyzed the disparity between the gains in incomes of the average taxpayers and those in the top 10 percent and the results are shocking but not surprising.
Incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans only grew by $59 on average between 1966 and 2011 (adjusted for inflation), according to Johnston’s analysis. During the same period, the average income for the top 10 percent of Americans rose by $116,071, Johnston found.
To put that into perspective: if you say the $59 boost is equivalent to one inch, then the incomes of the top 10 percent of Americans rose by 168 feet, Johnston explained to Alternet last week.
Incomes for the bottom fifth of Americans, for instance, grew about 20 percent between 1979 and 2007, according to a 2011 study from the Congressional Budget Office. During the same period, members of the top 1 percent saw their incomes grow by 275 percent.
Another way to illustrate the huge disparity: the six heirs to the Walmart fortune had a net worth equivalent to the bottom 41.5 percent of Americans combined in 2010, according to an analysis from Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute.
While income inequality may be great for those reaping the big bucks at the top, it’s likely hurting Americans overall. Greater income equality is correlated with stronger economic growth, according to a 2011 IMF report and in fact one of the hallmarks of poor, developing nations is the income gap: the poorer and more economically unstable a nation is, the bigger the income gap – with a lot of poor people (one of the hallmarks of poor nations) and a few very wealthy people and no one in between.
The American Dream hard at work
We, sadly, live in a culture of get-rich-or-die-trying. Where average, middle class (I am not even talking about the poor) is considered a one way ticket to loser-town; a failure of some sort. As John Steinbeck once said “socialism never took root in America, because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”
Everybody is being manipulated in one way or another to want be a millionaire. People watch the movies and TV shows, ads and magazine spreads depicting the high life and they want be part of it too. After all, why be a community organizer when you can take group pictures clenching money between your teeth.
Obama Just Another 1%er
Even our President is part of the one percent now. Make no mistake about it.
Hanging out at lavish dinner parties and soirees in the homes of celebs and fellow 1%ers, such as Sarah Jessica Parker, George Clooney and Will Smith. Going to fundraisers at $40,000 a plate with other Hollywood hot shots.
In fact, last year Clooney himself held such a lavish soiree for Obama, inviting 150 of Hollywood’s richest for $40,000 a head to raise a meager $15 million dollars (compared to SuperPac monies, $15 million is drop in the bucket). This party was held in Los Angeles, a city plagued by chronic lack of funding where school libraries are being shut down, teachers laid off firehouses shut down. And VIPs were paying $40,000 for a Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvre and a silly photo with a president who only now has come to think it might be OK for gay people to have the same rights as straight people.
Democracy hard at work. As Steve Lopez wrote in the L.A. Times “Yeah, sure, Obama’s got to raise all he can to fend off Mitt Romney and hold on to his seat. But is that a race to the top or a race to the bottom? If money buys victory and access, what about the masses who can’t afford a $40 fundraiser, let alone a $40,000 party? When do they get the president’s ear?”
Do you think if I sent Obama an invitation to come over to my house for dinner he would? Like he did with SJP and George Clooney? The tragedy is that Obama and Co are claiming to fight the good fight: “For hard working Americans” while Mitt Romney is seen is that greedy asshole who could not care less about such hard working people. Yet these high rollers at Clooney’s house were paying more for two hours with the president than they pay their nannies, housekeepers and gardeners in a year. Just like Romney.
As Scott Prouty said in his interview with Ed Schulz about the Romney speech and fundraiser and thus his motive for taking the video “You shouldn’t have to be able to afford $50,000 to hear what the candidate actually thinks“, as if that was something solely confined to Mitt Romney and rich, greedy Republicans while Democrats and the wealthy liberals who support them would clearly not ever do such a thing.
The above evidence begs to differ.
$40,000 a Plate Fundraiser for Obama = $50,000 a Plate Fundraiser for Romney
I am sure people like Clooney and co are acting in good faith, hoping to do something so the worst man in the world in the form of Mitt Romney does not get to run this country. But if they’re so desperate to celebrate their wonderful ways and important causes, why not a Hollywood fundraising party to save the libraries, schools, rec centers or parks? Why not start paying the people who clean your house and tend to the garden and take care of your privileged kids decent salary and health coverage?
I tell you why: because George Clooney, much like Obama, much like Steven Spielberg, much like Nancy Pelosi, much like Mitt Romney are part of the 1% and throwing soirees for the President is much more about the soirees and meeting the president than about giving a damn about the 99% and hard working Americans you claim to fight for.
Whether Obama earned it or not, he is up there now, living the good life. Sequester or not, he won’t have to worry about whether he can send his kids to college, if he will one day be without health care or lose his house and retirement and be destitute and all the other myriad of things 99% of the people in this country have to worry about. In fact, none of the policies coming from D.C. and our legislators will ever actually affect them personally. And that is a huge deal, namely that those making the laws are not affected by them. There is a reason half of Congress are millionaires.
And the thing with being part of the 1% ultimately is that more often than not it gives you amnesia. You forget. Obama had no problem letting the payroll tax-break expire, thus making almost everyone making $ 113,000 or less pay more each month, but he did increase the 3% tax increase income threshold from $250,000 to $400,000 because god knows people making 250k a year need consideration and a break. How so 99% of him.
No Soirees for the 99%
When was the last time any representative of the middle class had a candidate throw dinners and soirees for them? And not just a candidate but the President.
When was the last time the White House threw a dinner or a black and white ball for employees of NGOs, charities, volunteers and other public service jobs?
When was the last time the White House threw a dinner in honor of hard working folks, inviting them over for a night filled with Jimmy Kimmels and hanging out with the President and celebs? Sure, you can win a dinner with the President and first lady at Sarah Jessica Parker’s 10 million Borwnstone in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, if you donate money and are automatically entered into a pool, much like a lottery, with thousands of others. But when was the last time, or ever, anyone of these people have actually done something in that regard for us hard working middle or working class – heck even unemployed and poor – folks who aren’t members of the social register? Even the White House Correspondents’ Dinners that are supposed to be about journalists, have become just another 1%er event for celebrities transplanted from Hollywood to DC – but only A-listers mind you since most regular actors and SAG members are not part of the 1% – which seems to be the only requirement to attend the Dinner.
So when I heard Prouty say that one should not have to be able to pay $50,000 a plate to hear what a candidate has to say it made me wonder if Obama is any better. Of course, Obama hanging out at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and mingling with other rich people is not the same thing as Romney’s 47% speech where he is exposed as an insincere hypocrite and the fact that he thought he could and should talk like this behind closed curtains.
But there is a broader canvas here to consider because Romney or Obama – the common theme here is that those with big bucks are being invited to the discussion table and getting parties thrown for them while most people – i.e. those who make up the majority of the voter base and also carry the economic burden of the nation – since rich people clearly aren’t – never see any of that.
The fact that those with money and the power that comes with it run the world is nothing new. However, if you are a country (or claim to be a country) that was founded on principles diametrically opposed to such a paradigm, then that is a problem. Yes, we could be just like any other third-country oppressive shithole with an income gap the size of Mount Everest, but this is not what this country is about or should be about. Back in the day, only landowners were allowed to vote and thus have their voice heard. How is that different from today where the wealthy asset holders get invited to the table and private meetings with the President and this are made part of the debate, while you and I are lucky if the White House ever returns any of our letters on a pre-written template designed for concerned citizens?
How Can You Inspire People, Barry
As to the Obamas: How can you inspire people? You inspire people by being one of them. Not by living the kind of lifestyle you just criticized your opponents for five minutes ago and which almost none of the people you are addressing can ever afford.
Yes they worked hard but what use is all that hard work and social upward mobility and thus power that comes with wealth if you are just going to behave like any other wealthy, 1%er? You have to be the change you want to see and when you say you stand for the causes of the 99% while living the life of a 1%er, that makes you not only a hypocrite but also a large part of the problem.
I understand that he is the POTUS ans as such he has a standard of living. But I am not talking about his salary. That isn’t, after all, the source of his wealth. It’s his privilege that detaches him and just makes him part of the problem.
The gross inequalities described above with respect to stagnant income growth for most Americans go far deeper than people like Boehner, Romney or the robber barons of Wall Street. Half of Congress, i.e. our lawmakers, are millionaires and in fact D.C. is the one city where one is more likely to run into a millionaire than anywhere else.
And these are law makers and legislators. The people that run this country but who are clearly beholden to the interests of the 1% – mainly because they themselves are one of them – while trying to appeal to the 99% on the surface to get their votes. And who knows, with all the voter suppression efforts by Republicans soon they may be able to even skip that and just directly work for the 1%.
The Futility of Politely Asking the 1% To Come to the Aide of the 99%
It is quite ironic and futile that we are looking to them – the 1% – to please change things in favor of the 99%. What incentive do any of these people have to change the status quo in our favor? Congress just got a pay raise – signed by our man of the people, Obama. It was no coincident that there was no student loan bailouts. Students don’t have lobbyists stationed in DC 24/7 – unlike Wall Street and thus the members of the one percent.
Yes President Obama, I appreciate your tough upbringing and that you can somehow vaguely apparently remember what it is like to “have a rough time” as you once told a crowd of supporters. The only difference between you and everyone else, however, is that you are a millionaire who wines and dines with celebrities and goes to $40,000 a plate soirees – money than can be used right here and then to help out someone rather than falling into this bottomless pit of your campaign fund that just sucks up money and produces little results for the people you claim to stand for; your children don’t have to worry about racking up student loan debt at high interest rates to get an education, because you have the money to pay for it.
In fact, you are part of the 1% and as such you are not only part of the problem, you are just another out-of-touch wealthy rich puke condescending and making casual life and death decisions (and yes, these are life and death decisions you are making, believe it or not) because they won’t affect your family. Your multi million dollar retirement is secure, your pension is fat, much like you assets.
As far as I am concerned you, Mr. President, are about only “better” than Romney in so far as Romney is truly nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing with a horrifying track record and agenda for America. But don’t come here insulting mine and the intelligence of your supporters struggling every day at the hands of your bipartisan, failed policies – not the least of which is the gamble you took with the Sequester, purposely making it draconian, hoping that it would deter Republicans even though your gazillion years of experience working with them and common sense, if nothing at all, should have told you that these are not the kind of people who mind draconian cuts – by claiming that you are on our side and are fighting on our behalf. if you actually do come to my house for dinner one day, maybe I believe you. Until then, you are just another rich asshole fighting to make sure you and your kind remain where you at: at the top of the food chain.
Atheism is the absence of belief in a god, gods or any kind of other divine power(s). For the atheist, the only thing you can really ever know is that which can be proven to exist. Moreover, the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims. In other words, it is not the atheist’s job to prove that gods, pink elephants, teapots orbiting the sun and so forth do not exist. It is up to the entity making such claims to prove they do exist.
Agnosticism is the notion that the existence or non-existence of any deity is unknown or cannot be known because said existence cannot be disproved. Agnostics, therefore, do not believe that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically unfalsifiable claims. For an agnostic not being able to disprove the existence of god is good enough of a reason to remain open to the possibility of its existence.
Agnosticism and Organized Religion
Note that agnostics may also be people who believe in a higher power or a god without the attachment of organized religion. An agnostic may believe in a higher power or a transcendent nature of reality that “drives” the universe, life and the human condition. In that case, the higher power is not necessarily god as described in the Abrahamic religions or the gods in polytheistic traditions. The “I am spiritual but not religious” phrase is often used to self-identify a life stance of spirituality that rejects traditional organized religion as the sole or most valuable means of furthering spiritual growth.
Agnosticism is, therefore, compatible with both theism and atheism. A person can believe in a god (theism) without claiming to know for sure if that god exists; the result is agnostic theism. On the other hand, a person can disbelieve in gods (atheism) without claiming to know for sure that no gods can or do exist; the result is agnostic atheism.
Agnosticism More Reasonable?
There is also a common (false) perception that agnosticism is a more “reasonable” position while atheism is more “dogmatic,” ultimately indistinguishable from theism except in the details. An assertion that could not be further from the truth because the very things, the “details” that inform a religious person and an atheist are precisely the things that starkly set them apart and define them. Atheism and theism are not like catholicism and protestantism that in essence adhere to the same principles and are only different with respect to their (extreme) interpretations of each belief system.
To state that atheists are just like theists, “except in detail” is missing the whole point and thus what those “details” consist of. It is like saying anti-segregationists and segregationists are indistinguishable from one another “except in the details”. As if being against slavery and the subjugation of human beings was as valid and desirable of a view as being pro slavery.
Similarly, stating that theism and atheism are the same except for some “minor detail” implies that theism is an equally valid and desirable view only distinguishable from atheism with respect to some minor “details”.
Fact is, they are not. Theism is clearly an inferior and undesirable view to hold for all the reasons that have been discussed at length by skeptics. Therefore, to equate both as being merely two sides of the same coin misses the essence and nature of either belief.
In the world view of religious people, rationality, logic, fact-based knowledge and thus not wanting to live one’s life based on fairy tales and anecdotes, are considered too radical and threatening. Therefore, the religious person prefers the agnostic over the atheist whom they often equate with and perceive as a path to evil – mainly because atheists do not have religion to guide their ethics and morals.
Agnosticism gives the impression of reason. Therefore, while an agnostic, just like an atheist, may not believe in any of the fairy tales perpetuated by religious thinking, the agnostic may still say – unlike the atheist – that he is “open” to religion
so he is left alone to appear reasonable. After all, no one can blame you or attack you or think less of you because you don’t know any better. In fact, as long as you are open to the religious person’s belief in falsehoods, said religious people are cool with you and you aren’t considered a radical or a threat. On the contrary, in that case you become merely a lost, misguided soul eligible for redemption.
Note that while both atheists and agnostics operate from the standpoint of “I don’t know” – agnostics remain open to the possibility of a higher power “just in case” or because they cannot disprove it, while atheists do not leave any room for religion and higher power and will only be convinced if they see evidence.
Psychologically speaking, agnosticism appears more “bearable” as a philosophy than flat out rejection of a deity. Agnostics may remain open to the possibility of a higher power because ultimately they cannot fathom that there is no higher power and deeper reason behind all this. While their logical, rational mind tells them that all the stuff they read in the Bible and other outlets of religiosity are a bunch of made up hooey, their hearts – the emotional aspect of their being, the part of their higher developed brains capable of abstract thought – that which is looking for the meaning of it all – does not permit them to just dismiss god and the notion of a higher power.
That is because existential angst and uncertainty can be terrifying and something a lot of people cannot get their minds around. The idea that there is no higher power. No father figure with a plan for all of us. No afterlife and instead a real end to consciousness and existence as we know it is something most human beings find unbearable to live with. In fact, it can be argued that if it wasn’t for the belief in a higher power, a higher purpose and a promise of a better tomorrow and heaven surrounded by one’s loved ones for eternity etc., most people wouldn’t put up with the crap they are putting up with everyday. In that sense, being a non-believer is a luxury most people do not have.
Spirituality and Atheism Are Not Mutually Exclusive
If one defines spirituality as the private realm of thought and experience connoting a blend of humanistic psychology with the internal experience of the individual and esoteric traditions aimed at personal well-being, growth and development (as opposed to religion that represents the organized aspect, the institutions, which press people into a mold) then atheists can be spiritual people too. However, that does not mean that they believe in a higher power as an explanation for existence.
An atheist, much like an agnostic, admits that he simply does not know (unlike religious people who seemingly have an “answer” for everything). However, unlike the agnostic, the atheist is not willing to entertain the possibility of a god and religion simply because he “does not know.”
Atheists are skeptics, much like agnostics, and any good skeptic maintains an open mind and is willing to learn, evaluate and re-evaluate their beliefs and views as well as be educated. But being a skeptic, having an open mind and being willing to learn and find out more does not equal entertaining far fetched fairy tales and fantasies in the from of religion as a serious possibility for our existence and being. This is were atheists and agnostics diverge as for the atheist, religion does not become the substitute belief or truth until something else comes around.
The reason atheists are quite persistent is that they do not believe that standing by and respecting religious supremacy can do any good. On the contrary, atheists see a real and palpable danger in giving credence to such views as atheists find religion to be solely responsible for the decline in knowledge and education (such as pertaining to stem cell research, teaching creationism and intelligent design being taught in schools in the United States as a viable theory next to evolution, just to name a few examples) and the myriad of other wrongs taking place in the name of religion.
Atheists may even adhere to the notion that religion is just a byproduct of the diseased human mind as opposed to its driver. Misogyny was not born out of religion. It existed before religion was invented and became incorporated and institutionalized into religious doctrine. That is why misogyny is prevalent among religious people and atheists alike.
I Do Not Know
Finally, one of the most important things that distinguishes atheists from agnostics is that the latter ultimately believes that the answers may be there and are just waiting to be discovered. That there is a possibility that there is a higher power and purpose that we just haven’t figured it out yet but one day may.
An atheist, on the other hand, is perfectly fine with not knowing all the answers or the notion that there may really never be an answer when it comes to the questions of why and the nature of existence. In fact, an atheist operates from that assumption and is only willing to entertain the alternative with definite proof. An agnostic, however, is willing to entertain the alternative even without proof.
Ultimately, the atheist recognizes that maybe there are some things we will never know. And maybe the key is to know what those things are and to leave them alone.