Archive for November, 2013

Speak Of Being Ungrateful

Princesses never have bad-hair days thanks to private stylists who jet with them around the world

Princesses never have bad-hair days thanks to private stylists who jet with them around the world

These fucking royals. They seem to be operating under the archaic mindset that anyone who works for them is some indentured servant whose sole purpose in life must be to cater to their pompous needs and asses without any interests, rights and/or business ambitions on their own.

Case in point, James Pryce, the man who used to brush Duchess Kate’s hair a thousand times with a sterling silver brush every night and condition her locks with the sperm of William the Conquerer that’s kept in a jar in the dungeon. he was just recently fire for treason.

See, Pryce is the guy who used to work on her famous wedding mane and traveled with her when she was going on her world tour of awesomeness to make sure she is well groomed when posing for photo ops and exhuming her royal superiority on all the peons in the world who are clearly inferior to her because they aren’t, well, royal.

However, when Pryce started to gain some notoriety for his work on Kate’s hair, he quit the salon he worked at and began to move on his own. In order to promote his solo career he, according to some sources at The Daily Telegraph, launched a Facebook page and Twitter account which featured hundreds of pictures of Kate and her various hairstyles to promote his business. When the Palace found out, he was unceremoniously booted out for having violated her privacy or some shit.

Creating a portfolio of your work, which is what every artist  – from paint, to print, fashion, make up and hair  – does is apparently something you may not do when you work for your Royal Assness and her clan of usurpers who are wealthy beyond anyone’s wildest dreams  – and also apparently important and superior human beings –  for no reason other than a long established tradition that says so.

What really gets me, however, is this claim that apparently her privacy was violated – to which I can only say: when you become the wife of some famous rich prince with metric fucktons of money he never worked for  – and you never have to work for (other than birthing him a male offspring that is) – you know that you won’t have any “privacy” –  so just get over it. Seriously.

I am so tired of listening to wealthy people who make a million dollars in half an hour piss and moan about how hard life is because they don’t have any privacy. Fuck you, bitches. You can have my privacy in exchange for all the easy millions you got. Go count your blessings, assholes, and stop making an issue of it.

The man did you hair, the work he has done on your hair is part of his body of work which he has every right to promote and showcase because unlike you, he still does have to work for a living.

I know it must be hard going through life having to kill the time in between endless hair appointments, shopping sprees, soirees and hiring staff to wait on you hand and foot, but try to level with us mere peons, dear Kate, and remember that there are human beings on this planet who need to actually work for the things they got, including the person doing your fucking hair. And if that person wants to continue doing work and making a living, there are certain things he needs to do to promote himself, such as creating a portfolio showcasing his body of work.

Others write resumes, artists and creative people have portfolios, blogs and websites. That’s how people who don’t have everything handed to them just have to do.

Considering that more than half the world’s population is living in complete and utter poverty – thanks largely to the imperialist ambitions and a host of ravaging and devastating overseas and colonial policies of the very crown that is paying for your overpriced private, jet-setting hairstylist whom you just fired  – I find it shameful to be sitting here and making an issue of your privacy.

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Review: The Company Men

Company Men

The Company Men

The 2010 feature The Company Men makes a significant statement about corporate morals, or lack thereof, and how corporations view as acceptable the devaluing and discarding of the men and women whose life’s blood made them what they are while only caring about the bottom line and shareholder interests. Naturally, it begs the question of whether it is enough to merely compensate such people with mere wages and benefits, or is respect and honor, and thus the acknowledgement that their wisdom and experience make them indispensable to a company’s continued future, due as well.

It also quite expertly showcases the immense greed that takes place in all of these places where –  on the one hand  – the executives who sit in their cushy 400 square feet corner offices with ceiling-to-floor windows and mahogany desks talk about cutting down and casually and without compunction lay off thousands of people while  – at the same time  – somehow having found the funds to buy a brand new building whose entire floor they retrofit to house three executes each pulling $15 million a year in cash plus about half of that in stocks and securities.

Trying to find a new job at 60

Trying to find a new job at 60

They lay off hard working, middle class, mind you, folks who have put in decades and endless hours into their jobs and who have mortgages to pay, kids to send to college and lives to live while in the same breath planning their exclusive winter getaway to some luxury resort with $500 dinners and $5000 a night suites. And these very men have gotten this rich not by actually producing something, or building something tangible that you can feel, touch and smell, but by pushing figures on a sheet – which is perhaps why they view their employees as nothing more than said figures on a sheet to be added or deleted off at will.

The sad reality is that too many of America’s companies (which means, not just Wall Street) have gotten quite cozy with this callous arrangement whereby actual people and their lives have stopped mattering, while greed and the bottom line have fully taken over. One example in this movie is the CEO who fires his best friend (Jones) whom he’s known from college and who helped him build the company he is being fired from, from the ground, without a trace of irony and compunction and even a smile on his face because hey, “business is business” and apparently nothing else matter; friendship, loyalty, devotion, honor and just doing the right thing are secondary when it comes to amassing wealth.

Amongst the Ruins - Tommy Lee Jones (L) and Ben Affleck

Amongst the Ruins – Tommy Lee Jones (L) and Ben Affleck(R)

Companies today seldom strive for a higher standard of value that extends beyond the dollar and this movie does a great job at showing that.

That said, it still felt a bit out-of-touch and as if it was written by people who have genuinely never experienced economic hardship. So, if you are into movies where for some of the characters the idea of being poor is that they are no longer multi-millionaires but just regular millionaires or whose idea of being broke is that the wife cannot take the company jet to go shopping or that you may have to do the unspeakable, which is rent a town home instead of living in an estate with twelve gardeners, then this is the movie for you. Have at it.

Try feeling bad for people who went from 180k a year to half that. Try feeling bad for people who own ten million dollar mansions, who won’t be eating filet mignon and lobster every night anymore ’cause they got canned; try feeling bad for people who commit suicide because they can’t send their kid to a senior trip to Italy or just don’t have the heart to tell that kid what is going on (but think that being dead is apparently a better option than admitting that they have no money to send them on such a trip).

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) and blue-collar brother-in-law Jack Dolan (Kevin Costner)

Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) and blue-collar brother-in-law Jack Dolan (Kevin Costner)

Try feeling bad for people whose monthly mortgage is just as high as one year’s tuition at Brown. Try feeling really sorry for someone who no longer gets to start their work days at 11am because they had just spent the last three hours on the golf course; feel heartbroken that some rich puke had to sell his overpriced sports-car or could, god forbid, not buy his kid a $400 dollar x-box.

I personally found it hard to feel entirely too sorry for them because real struggle post recession for many was facing card-board boxes as an alternative to a home, bankruptcy, loss of their entire life savings and retirements, loss of their health care as a result of loss of their jobs, not to mention chronic unemployment with sustenance level unemployment insurance pay (which ran out), the inability to feed their children and themselves and generally having to navigate a tedious existence stuck in the trenches of destitution without any real prospects in sight, thanks to a host of middle-class busting policies by both of our parties and a practically non-existent social-safety net.

It is amazing how the architects of the Ownership Society and Hard Work – people who carelessly assert that those who don’t have everything they need just aren’t trying hard enough or are lazy mooches and and who tell those very same people to “live within their means” and “suck it up” – themselves fall into a deep emotional and existential crisis when they are tasked with the unspeakable act of having to navigate life not as a semi millionaire, but as an ordinary, middle class person, and thus like hundreds of millions of others, who rent instead of owning and who drive one car instead of housing six in a garage the size of a family town-home.

These people expect poor people or just the normal guy on an average salary to not complain about being poor, low wages, lousy benefits and exploitative employers, but they themselves aren’t even willing to live, literallyeven for one second without the luxuries and perks that come with immense wealthy and, who view their lives as so worthless without such wealth that they, in fact, commit suicide when all the luxuries, emphasis on luxuries, are taken away from them.

Objectively, none of the people in this movie, even after they lost their jobs, was in such a bad shape that one could call it destitute and, in fact, they were better off than most Americans today. It’s just that they no longer could spend $600 a month on dry cleaners or thousands of dollars on the country club membership.

the-company-men

Booted Out

As mentioned above, one of the characters commits suicide because he cannot pay for his kid’s tuition and his mortgage at the same time. While watching that I was sitting there thinking: really? You are willing to throw your life away and die because your head is so high up in the clouds that you cant even conceive to oh, I don’t know, maybe get a student loan for your kid and rent? You’d rather be dead than to tell your daughter that she may have to take a job to pay for her senior trip to Europe? You’d rather be mud and worms than to take out a student loan and rent the roof above your head?

Watching members of the 1%  – which these people were, more or less, hit “hard times” – which really just means not living in obscene wealth they mostly cheated others out of (hence the economic meltdown), is not interesting and it does not evoke my sympathy. Yes, it really is bothersome to go from an almost 200k salary to a 90k one, but not as troublesome as going from a 50k salary to 0 without a job in sight and unemployment running out. Not being able to go to the country club doesn’t make you poor, but making $12 an hour, paying 35% of that in taxes and renting, does.

Halfway through the movie i realized that these people don’t know what real struggle is. What it means to only have 5 dollars left in your checking until payday, what destitution really is and it made me realize that being poor is not for weak and lazy people, but apparently being rich is.

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The Problem With Obamacare and the Real Reason Insurance Companies Cancel Polices

Now that President Obama has said it’s OK with him if insurance companies keep their policyholders in health plans that don’t meet the standards established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), at least for another year, the big question is whether insurers will take him up on the offer.

The answer: it depends.

Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s big PR and lobbying group issued the following statement when trying to justify why insurance companies have every right to cancel policies:

The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the ACA (Affordable Care Act) requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today.”

In other words, they require us to do our jobs and actually have health maintenance in mind when in reality all we want to do is make profit and pretend to offer services to people we have no intention of ever paying because doing so cuts into our profit margin – which is what we are after and nothing else: profits.

And that, in a nutshell, is the whole problem with the health care system in this country and Obamacare (ACA) by extension.

The reason for the cancelling of such policies is that insurance companies make money by denying people health care. That is why they have such things as high deductibles (or deductibles at all), as well as premiums or higher premiums when the benefits package get bigger. That is also why insurance companies constrain their customers in a limited network of doctors and hospitals and call the shots about whether a knee replacement or liver transplant your doctor recommended is really necessary. In other words, they make health care decisions for you.

I wish people would, once and for all, understand this about insurance companies: they are not in it for your health, or to protect your health, they are profit rackets out to make money off of you. And the way they do that is by charging you a lot but paying off very little when it comes down to it and when you need to actually utilize the benefit you paid for.

Ever since Obama announced the ACA, insurance companies have been working on finding other ways to keep profits high and your benefits minimal: they migrated their customers from traditional managed care plans to so-called “consumer-directed” plans, the industry euphemism for high-deductible policies, requiring people to pay more out of their own pockets for care – which really is just a strategy to reduce benefits. Investors and Wall Street financial analysts refer to these common industry practices as “benefit buydowns.”

Under the ACA, a lot of, most notably poor or even struggling middle class folks (remember, the middle class is no longer what is used to be)  are stuck with the Silver and Bronze plans under the ACA that have something like $5000 and $10,000 deductibles. How is an individual making 25k a year, or 35k or even 50k to come up with a $10,000 deductible? That is a lot of money and they may as well not have insurance.

Under this supposedly amazing “reform”, you end up paying a lot of money in premiums each month and still get nothing from them until you meet your 5k or 10k deductible. Remember that a lot of preventive care and just normal medical procedures cost less than $10,000, so by placing the premiums this high, insurance companies effectively end up with just collecting your money and still have you pay for everything else – unless something catastrophic happens – but even then you still have to meet your 10k deductible before the benefits kick in.

And that is why they are cancelling insurance premiums now: under the ACA they have to make certain basic, minimum services available which they don’t want to do because that undermines their profit. So they kick you out because it is cheaper that way or they change your plan and increase the deductible. 

ACA: Insurance Reform, Not Healthcare Reform

The Affordable CARE Act is actually only an insurance reform, not a health care reform and either way you look at it, insurance companies still get the upper hand and are the ones winning and really nothing has changed in terms of who gets to make health care decisions for you. It’s just that now the matrix has been altered and as long as insurance companies do not blatantly violate the laws set forth in the ACA –  and instead find a way around them, which they have, they can go on with business as usual.

In order to have true, meaningful, effective health care reform, insurance companies need to be removed out of the health care business.  The fact that the ACA did just the opposite, namely make insurance companies an integral part of this so called reform by promising them every single person in this country , under penalty of law, as prey customer,  makes it a weak policy and pseudo reform.

Entities that have solely a profit motive in mind and that make money by denying claims, should not be in charge of making health care decisions for us.

ACA is a Conservative Idea

Remember that the core principles of the ACA were all originally conservative in nature. In fact, the idea of an individual mandate was popularized by the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks as early as 1989.

In 1992, Heritage proposed a sweeping reform it called the Heritage Consumer Choice Health Plan. Among the plan’s features:

Require all households to purchase at least a basic package of insurance, unless they are covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or other government health programs. The private insurance market would be reformed to make a standard basic package available to all at an acceptable price.”

As President Bill Clinton began to push for a government-run system in 1993, Republicans introduced bills that included an individual mandate. At the time, Newt Gingrich hailed them:

I am for people, individuals — exactly like automobile insurance — individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance,” he told “Meet the Press” in 1993. “And I’m prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals, on a sliding scale, a government subsidy, to ensure that everyone as individuals has health insurance.”

It is, of course, quite ironic that the same people who supported and championed something similar to the ACA, ended up shutting down the government and causing financial harm to this country last month because of their opposition to the ACA under Obama (although their opposition was directed toward Obama really. Yes, Republicans hate Obama more than they love their country).

The ACA, which is basically just a scrambled version, or in fact exact replica of the Heritage Consumer Choice Health Plan, is therefore, a very conservative, Right wing piece of legislation aimed primarily at securing the business interests and profit margins of insurance companies. It has nothing, whatsoever, to do with offering people affordable, quality health care and its implementation is not health care reform.

There is nothing liberal about Obamcare and the idea of turning to the private market – which, by its very nature, does not care about common welfare but profit – as providers of health care to citizens is  in direct contradiction to the very principles of health care reform and why we need health reform in the first place.  It would be like depending on Bain Capital or Koch Industries for Medicare, social security, disaster relief and even governance. Entities that are in it for the money and the money only, however do not have any business being tasked with providing as well as securing basic necessities and rights, which access to health care, is.

As a progressive who is a strong supporter of a single payer system and/or universal health care, I view the ACA is nothing but a lousy, unholy bargain people are being forced to strike and like even.

The argument by its proponents is that it is better than nothing – and that may very well be true – after all, every little something is better than nothing and if you go by that mentality then you don’t ever have to complain about or try to change anything in life. But can we call that reform? Change? Even the beginnings of it? Is it reform when we, on a very fundamental, philosophical level, believe that peoples’ health should be in the hands of profit rackets in the form of insurance companies and that such entities should be at the core of any health care “reform ” and tasked with making healthcare decisions for us?

The only ones I see winning in this are insurance companies that have already found a myriad of ways to circumvent the provisions of the ACA. The consumer, the sick person in need and without the assets, will just be taking it up the ass and end up with nothing. Remember, those stuck on the Bronze and Silver plans (note that certain income levels don’t even qualify for the Gold and Platinum Plans- i.e. the poor), still won’t get the care they need  because of high deductibles -so for them really nothing changes because that 10,000 may as well be a million because they dont’s have that either.

Yet, what worries me is that if this health insurance reform or whatever it is somehow fails, it is going to set back meaningful healthcare reform—single-payer, universal healthcare, i.e. Medicare for all—for who knows how much longer. It would be a very long time before a healthcare reformer can make a proposal without the specter of failed Obamacare haunting the national discourse.

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Atheist FAQ: How Do Atheists Celebrate Christmas & Thanksgiving?

Atheists are a diverse group of individuals. The only commonality they have with other atheists is the lack of belief in a higher power. Other than that, atheists are very different from one another and each atheist may choose to address the season in their own way – which includes partaking in any number of Christmas traditions or none at all.

The idea that atheists are Scrooges that hate Christmas and want nothing to do with it is, however, not true. Atheists celebrate the spirit of the season, which is all about giving, caring, good will to all, family and togetherness, good meals, seeing relatives you have not seen for a while and so on – none of which are things that have anything to do with religion or Christianity and which, in fact, can be done outside of such a realm.I, for example, don’t have crosses and nativity decorations around or go to church or pray or do any of the other religious themed things people do around the holidays. Unless children are involved, I do not give out gifts either because of the ridiculously commercial aspects that have come to overpower Christmas. Other than that, I enjoy the spirit of the season with its familiar sounds, smells and imagery just as much as the next person.

It is important to remember that,  after all, Christmas, just like Halloween and Easter, is a pagan holiday. In fact, it is an exclusively pagan tradition and was only co-opted later by Christians who wanted to convert pagans into their ways. Therefore, if there is anyone who should be feeling like they are celebrating something untrue to their beliefs, it is Christians – because none of the Christmas traditions have anything, whatsoever, to do with Christ or Abrahamic religions.

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Some More Fun Christmas Facts

Atheists are a diverse group of individuals. The only commonality they have with other atheists is the lack of belief in a higher power. Other than that, atheists are very different from one another and each atheist may choose to address the seasons in their own way – which includes partaking in any number of Christmas traditions or none at all.

The idea that atheists are Scrooges that hate Christmas and want nothing to do with it is, however, not true. Atheists celebrate the spirit of the season, which is all about giving, caring, good will to all, family and togetherness, good meals, seeing relatives you have not seen for a while and so on – none of which are things that have nothing to do with religion or Christianity and which, in fact, can be done outside of such a realm. I, for example, don’t have crosses and nativity decorations around or go to church or pray or do any of the other religious themed things people do around the holidays. Unless children are involved, I do not give out gifts either because of the ridiculously commercial aspects that have come to overpower Christmas.

It is important to remember that, after all, Christmas, just like Halloween and Easter, is a pagan holiday. In fact, it is an exclusively pagan tradition and was only co-opted later by Christians who wanted to convert pagans into their ways. Therefore, if there is anyone who should be feeling like they are celebrating something untrue to their beliefs, it is Christians – because none of the Christmas traditions have anything, whatsoever, to do with Christ or Abrahamic religions.

Walking Upright Citizen's Brigade

Christmas-Tree-Fireplace-1024-127315

A look at history shows us that none of the Christmas traditions observed have anything, whatsoever, to do with Jesus or  Christianity.

In fact, Bible forbids the decoration of trees (see Jeremiah 10).  That is the case because around the time the old testament was written, people knew that some cultures and traditions already did worship trees and vegetation and decorated them as part of their religious rituals.

Centuries before the Christ was allegedly born, many cultures  – in response to the changes in the natural world such as the changing of the seasons – brought evergreen trees into their homes for decoration in the month of December to celebrate the beginning of winter.

Much like the celebration of All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween, originally influenced by western European harvest festivals and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly the Celtic Samhain. The original spelling of the Celtic…

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