Archive for December, 2013

The Illusion of Control and Climate Change

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One of the great things about not being religious is that you do not hold on to ridiculous notions of eternity or control or think that somehow you and your species are the alpha and omega of the universe holding a more privileged position vis-a-vis other creatures who share this planet with you. In a way it is liberating.

Sustainability and environmental protection are important. We need to keep the environment safe and clean so that people don’t get sick drinking the water, eating the food and breathing the air.

We need to protect habitat to maintain biodiversity of both flora and fauna and because for the very simple reason that we share this planet with other creatures who have just as much of a right to be here and exist, as we do  (if one can call existing a right or entitlement. I guess the idea is that once you do exist, you oughtta stay).

I believe in engaging in a host of environmental protection activities, especially in the from of government regulations, in order to keep this planet and its inhabitants, safe and healthy. But that is just about where it ends or should end.

It is imperative to realize that while there are things than can be changed, stopped, improved and restored, there are certain  things that cannot and that ultimately there are limits to control. This is where climate change comes in.

This is not an argument for inaction when it comes to CO2 emissions, this is an argument for relinquishing control when it comes to climate change and this absurd notion that we can somehow control the Earth’s climate.

The reality is that the Earth’s climate changes. That’s what it’s been doing since its inception six billion years ago and that is what it will continue to do until its end, probably a few billion years from now when the Sun eventually goes supernova. That is the reality and no amount of cap and trading or energy saving light bulbs are going to change that.

Planet Earth also doesn’t care we are here and have cities and houses and economies and civilizations and just things that may be compromised in the face of warming temperatures or a changing climate in general.

The only thing it does require us to do is adapt – which we must do at this point. That’s what evolution is: adaptation; and if you don’t adapt, then you go the way of the dinosaur. Simple as that.

Fact is, the extent to which our entire economy and existence as an industrialized species depends on fossil fuels, it will be next to impossible to move away from fossil fuels entirely and thus in any meaningful way and meaningful is the only way we could, theoretically, avert this.

While the mechanisms for climate change (man-made or not) are not fully understood, in order for us to see a meaningful drop in the Earth’s temperatures as a result of us having pumped excessive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, we have to – as a species – start to drastically change the way we do things – which means no more fossil fuels. Period. Yet, I simply do not see that happening – especially with India and China that pump a substantial amount of CO2 into the atmosphere and have no plans on changing their output as fossil fuels are needed for their development.

We have reached the point of no return with respect to being able to actually change things and thus avert global warming some thirty years ago. Maybe in the 70s, if we had really curbed our greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions as a species, we could have prevented the Earth’s climate from heating up. Jimmy Carter did set such a movement into motion that was immediately halted by Reagan when he took office in the early 80s.

Right now, it is too late. Energy saving light bulbs, a few solar panels, planting trees, driving hybrids and turning off the lights will not avert global climate change. Don’t kid yourselves. Those are just token actions to make people feel like they are doing something about it but it does not lead to real, meaningful ghg reductions.

Important to note that while “something is better than nothing” may work well with a lot of other issues, with respect to climate change, it does not work because climate change is an all-or-nothing deal.  The atmosphere knows no state lines and geopolitical jurisdictions. It is one interconnected entity and either everyone stops using fossil fuels or no one. It cannot be that just half a dozen nations curb their ghg usage while everyone else keeps going on with business as usual.

Piecemeal policies aimed at slowly reducing ghg do not work either. You have to do something now, immediately, drastically and collectively or else the inevitable will just be at your door. A4% reduction by 2020 (which is what US’s commitment is right now) is not going to lead to reduced global temperatures either. I mean really? A 4% reduction?  Who is the government kidding with this?

What we are doing now is sort of like a car going 90 MPH towards a cliff and hitting the breaks two feet before the edge. Too little, too late.

Control is an Illusion

It is foolish to hold on to illusions of control and eternity. This Earth goes through cycles and climate changes. Global warming will not destroy Earth, it will be just fine. Only that its inhabitants have to adapt just like it’s always been. Again, we humans do not hold a more privileged position vis a vis other creatures who have ever lived or who will ever live on this Earth. And i mean what – do people really think this whole human kind and civilization thing is going to last forever? The arrogance of our species is quite staggering.

We, as a species, will have our extinction event at some point. That is a certainty. Maybe this is it.. Who knows. At any rate, it is not something we can control.

Remember dinosaurs roamed this Earth for 135 million years before they became extinct. Human beings have been around for what, less than a million – most of it not even in the present form as homo sapiens.

Let’s focus our efforts on things that we can change, such as the lining of cans being laced with Bisphenol-A (BPA) and the number of chemicals released into our food and water supplies each year having rendered cancer an epidemic. What do I care that this planet’s temperature will be 7 degrees hotter several decades after I am dead?

What about your kids, you ask. They will adapt. I have no more control over their future regarding anything that may happen to them and the world they live in anymore than I, or anyone of us, have control over this planet’s changing climate.

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As a species, humans have come a long way. We have learned to control a host of things – from DNA to matrimony. We have had more success than any other animal controlling life. We create it artificially, we clone it, we mimic it with computers. Yet we still don’t know what it is that makes it tick. What keeps life lunging forward, desperately screaming for survival.

Sometimes wisdom lies in knowing what the limits are on the things you can control and know. Maybe there are some things we’ll never know and be able to control. And maybe the key is to know what those things are and to leave them alone.

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One In Three Americans Don’t Think Evolution Is Real

There is all sorts of ignorance going around in this country, thanks to religion and religious people, and today that collective level of ignorance can be found in one in three Americans who do not believe in evolution – that is about 30% of the US population.

On Monday Pew released results of a survey showing that around 33% of Americans do not believe in evolution. 

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White evangelical Protestants were most likely to not believe in evolution, with two-thirds saying humans have existed in their current form since the beginning of time. Half of black Protestants said the same. Only 15 percent of mainline Protestants agreed.

Views among the general population have remained roughly the same since Pew last surveyed on evolution in 2009, although the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the issue has grown. Currently, 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats believe in human evolution, while in 2009, 54 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats held that view.

Religion as the Source of Ignorance

I am tired of this country having fallen into a stupor of anti scientific ideologies and anti intellectual mentalities under the  guise of fair play and equality. Religious people, and religious people alone, are responsible for the decline in education and knowledge in this country; they are the reason that one third of the population of the world’s most prosperous, advanced and developed country still believe that humans were hand crafted from mud by some fictional character himself and that a woman was made using Adam’s rib; people who believe in talking snakes, Noah’s arc and a host of other ridiculous, fairy-tale level claims.

When one third of a country’s population believes in fairy tales essentially when discussing human origins and existence, then you can be certain that those ignorant 1/3 will continue to have an impact on how discussions and policies are framed in this country. 

Next time someone tells you that you are being one mean motherfucker for criticizing religions people and their belief, point them to this and remind them that there are very many real life consequences to people being religious. Religion is not a personal matter, no matter how often religious people tell you that. Religion does not only create bigotry, judgment, hate and wars but it creates and nourishes ignorance to the point of seriously harming individuals – see stem cell research that is going nowhere thanks to our government’s  – and society’s  – refusal to extensively fund such research that could save millions of lives. 

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Parenting For Purity

The other day I ran into this unscripted piece of mind vomit from a religious member of Lighthouse Catholic Media‘s Facebook page, Ms M. Lopez.

Ms Lopez had the following to say when responding to the post by Lighthouse Catholic Media on Facebook encouraging parents to manipulate teach their children to believe sex was a bad, sinful thing and that they needed to remain “pure” and chaste for the Lord blah blah yawn.

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M. Lopez said: “we have a 14 year old and we teach her to stay pure for God, Herself and most of all to save that very special gift for her husband. So, today I took her to her doctor’s one year appointment and why would this doctor take her in another room and ask her and talk to her about sex like its a great thing, I mean it is a great thing when your married, but I wish people would just respect the way I teach my children. When I say I am Catholic RESPECT IT.

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Dear Ms Lopez: First of all, yes, how dare that doctor have a frank, honest and fact-based discussion about sex and reproduction with your teenager. That is completely irresponsible and your kid is definitely better off with being fed misinformation and the head-in-the-sand approach when it comes to exploring sex and her sexuality. Don’t worry about STDs and unwanted pregnancies, abstinence totally works. HPV is fun and what you are doing is totally responsible parenting.

Guilt tripping your child and threatening them with eternal damnation is also a very effective way of keeping them from engaging in sexual activity and – as an added bonus – it is sure to result in a lot of dysfunctional behavior later in life, not to mention that it will instill a sense of trust and confidence in your child knowing that her mother, and god, think that she is a worthless, sinning, filthy whore simply because she likes sex and considers using contraceptives.

So please, keep telling your child sex is dirty and unnatural (except for when you are married, of course. Hint: this is a good way of rushing her to get married to just any guy who can read a Bible) and that sex is overall a liability that makes her a sinner whom god hates and will punish fiercely.

Signaling to your child that sex is a sin resulting in eternal damnation and hate from god will do a whole lot of psychological damage to them in the long run and result in them having a pathological relationship to sex, viewing it as something bad, dirty, undesirable, and sinful rather than as a perfectly normal biological function.

Therefore, dear Ms. Lopez, it is not enough that you just unleash a chastity belt in the form of threats and guilt onto your child, but it is imperative that you also work hard to unleash a chastity belt of the mind onto her to make sure she grows up to be a formidable bigot, going through life ignorant, confused, frustrated; a truly fucked up individual full of judgment and issues regarding sex and sexuality, coming full circle with the cycle of ignorance and hate you planted earlier when praising that Duck Dynasty was coming back . Amen to that.

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France Initiates the “Millionaires Tax” – Puts An End to Trickle Down Myth

The wealthy enjoy all the advantages of living and doing business in a first world country. However, they believe that all that should come at no cost to them. They believe that their wealth exempts them from contributing to the very society and structures in that society that have enabled them to be where they are. In other words, wealthy people want a free ride (which is ironic because “wanting a free ride” is precisely what is often used to argue against social safety net and various other programs aimed at keeping people off the poverty wagon).

Well, France has finally put an end to the free ride wealthy people have been enjoying at the expense of everyone else when its Constitutional Council gave the green light on Sunday to the government’s controversial ‘millionaire tax’, to be levied on companies that pay salaries of more than 1 million euros ($1.38 million) a year.

The measure was introduced in line with a pledge by President Francois Hollande to make the rich do more to pull France out of crisis. To that end, a 50 percent tax is to be paid by high earners on the portion of annual income exceeding 1 million euros. This change has infuriated the wealthy because, of course it did; god forbid anyone ever asks a rich person to pitch in a dime for the common good. Let’s go after Medicare and food-stamp recipients and thus the poor as we do in this glorious, most awesomest country in the world blah blah fart.

Hollande’s 2012 supertax election pledge infuriated high earners in France and prompted actor Gerard Depardieu to flee the country. It has also alienated entrepreneurs and foreign investors, who have accused Hollande of being anti-business.

Hollande has said that the wealthy should contribute more to help to repair the country’s finances, arguing that the supertax should also encourage companies to curb excessive executive pay.

Not Being Greedy Is Difficult

I find it interesting that rich people, the 1% to be precise, get all riled up, feel exploited and, literally, run away as it’s been the case with Depardieu the moment they are asked to give a bit of their obscene wealth in the form of taxes, but that poor people – the elderly, food-stamp recipients, the disabled, student loan borrowers – heck even hard working middle class folks that hold two jobs and still are barely able to make ends meet and are fucked in case of a crisis – are repeatedly being asked to make more and more sacrifices to subsidize, essentially, the privilege of the wealthy. And they are asked to do so without complaining and in the name of compromise, good will and bi-partisan ship – as if agreeing to be underpaid, worked to death and rendered unable to make ends meet were compromises.

However, let me ask this: is it fair to ask someone who makes $20 million a year to spend half of that in taxes or is it fair to ask someone making $65 thousand a year to pay half of that in taxes?

Is it fair to ask someone living at the poverty threshold, eeking by on a miserable existence by collecting an abhorrently low, not-fit-to-feed-a-dog-in-a-pound welfare check and food stamps in this country, to please take some more cuts to their already meager, not-fit-to-feed-a-dog-in-a-pound welfare check and food stamps so that the wealthy can remain tax exempt and still pay very little?

Is it fair to ask a recent college graduate stuck in a shitty job making $45k a year and drowning in student loan debt (which he had to accrue to get that 45k job)  to pay nearly 40% of that in taxes while the CEO of Facebook pays less than 10% of his billion dollar income, if that, in taxes?

In the US the top one percent hold 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.  What the average CEO of a Fortune 500 company makes in an hour, the average worker (not the janitor, but the college graduate  in the cubicle) makes in a month. The on-the-book tax rate for Capital gains, primarily the payment vehicle of the rich, is 15 percent –  while most American workers pay upwards of 40 percent of their  sustenance in taxes.

The narrative here, according to the 1% and those who hold the torch for them in the name of The Grand American Dream,  is that average American workers are hundreds of  times less productive than the CEO who makes hundreds of times more money than they do. And that they are lazy. Lack motivation. Work Ethics. Depend on hand-outs and just don’t know how to be successful or properly manage their hand-to-mouth earnings.

Just earlier this year, our spineless President made permanent the Bush administration’s tax cuts. Permanent; barring and preventing top earners, the 1%, from ever having to pay more in taxes than the maid who cleans their house or the even the educated engineer even who builds their car elevator.

Trickle Down Economics A Scam

One of the biggest scams, one of the most outrageous, yet effective, lies of the 21st century has been trickle down economics and the absurd idea that the more you let a company or individual amass wealth without taxing them or regulating them, the more those rich people will invest back in the economy and in the long run benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole. In other words, the bullshit here is the notion that the wealth the wealthy amass by not paying much in taxes or fair wages etc., will come back to citizens as a whole.

The truth is, unregulated Free Market Trickle Down theory and ideology has been tried and has proven, beyond all reasonable doubt to be a failed idea. In practice, it simply does not work (for 99% of the people, that is).

The only people this ideology of greed and immoral self-service works for are the robber barons and thus the very people that spend hundreds of millions a year selling this lie to the masses – under the guise, and false promise may I add, of the American Dream and how hard work pays off and that those “who are successful” should not be “punished” yadda, yadda, yadda, blah.

I cannot imagine anyone still holding on to this perverse lie where people are basically asked to personally fill the pockets of robber barons  – willingly and unquestionably no less – with a straight face.

Trickle down economics and the promise of prosperity-for-all as long as the wealthy get to remain wealthy while the economic burden will be carried at the backs of the middle class, the poor, and disabled, is an outrageous lie and blatant deception.

It is also brilliant from a robber baron/Mitt Romney/one percenter perspective because it has convinced people for decades to hand over their hard-earned dollars to said robber barons, willingly and passionately, in the hopes that they too, one day, can be one of those barons. And you know what? It may work for a very few who manage to somehow get a foot in the door to the Kingdom  and profit immensely while the majority of their fellow men will not.  But for most people becoming the next Bill Gates or Mitt Romney is nothing but a pipe dream. Most people have to get an education or training, get a job and work for a living and save up for a retirement instead of playing golf until 11 every day and letting other peoples’ hard-earned monies work for them and when they fail to make that money work for them they are let go with a golden parachute and set for life.

At any rate, as the wealth gap between the rich and poor has been increasing to staggering heights over the past thirty to forty years, people are yet to see any of that trickle down wealth come to fruition. If anything, a dwindling middle class and a tremendous wealth gap in this country appear to be testament to the exact opposite, namely that the more you let rich people amass wealth, the more they will amass wealth but without putting much of it back into the economy in terms of fair wages, benefit, jobs and investments.

Just enter the world of labor export to places like China where slave laborers are paid abhorrent “wages”, if one can even call it that – I believe slave labor is a more appropriate term since a few dollars a month are hardly wages – so that a company like Apple Inc. – which is supposed to be the example of the American Dream – can post a $7.5 billion profit; Apple Inc.  – the great American company that employs more people in China than its beloved US of A.

I applaud France’s measure because it is attempting to close the immense wealth gap – which is the cause  and further catalyst of economic recessions  – by forcing those navigating an existence in extreme wealth and privilege to pay a bit more so that the poor don’t have to. A lesson this country could learn and will learn – the hard way if need be.

The truth of the matter is that cash flow must exist in the economy for all parts to work effectively. If the upper levels of earners are not keeping those monies flowing, then the only mechanism left to us is taxation. It’s sort of like a parent trusting a child with something but then realizing that it is not working, after all, because said child has taken gross advantage of said privilege given to him.  So the parent has to step back in again.

The wealthy, the 1%, have taken immense advantage of the freedoms their governments gave them for all these years – so much so that the world is in a recession thanks to deregulation and abolishing a host of other mechanisms in place to insure a level playing field where all members of society pay their fair share. This has resulted in stagnant wages, the complete non-existence of a social safety net in this country (when I say welfare monies in this country are not fit to house and feed a dog in a pound for a month, I am not exaggerating) and a host of other middle-class busting policies keeping the 99% poor and asset-less while the 1% keep getting wealthier by the minute.

If corporations and the rich paid in taxes what they used to pay back in the 40s and 50s, and 60s when America grew like wildfire to be the planet’s economic powerhouse truly resulting in making the American Dream a reality for millions, America would not be discussing, as recently as the budget debate and lousy compromise of just a couple of weeks ago, what poor, sick, or elderly group need to be gutted, cut, or kicked to the curb next.

(Have you noticed how so-called “entitlements” are always on the table when it comes to budget discussions in this country? By both parties.  It is never “let’s stop subsiding oil companies” or “maybe we do not need another aircraft carrier” because apparently oil companies and defense contractors that post record profits already getting our tax dollars is not entitlements, but someone getting money back they paid into for years, is).

Currently, the conversation in America is a conversation being set up by guys like Charles and David Koch, the Walton heirs, Exxon, Lockheed, Raytheon, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney and so forth. Entities that feel entitled to their greed and do not want us ever talking about re-taxing them. That is why they complain about the debt to muddy the waters and distract from the real cause of the recession, demanding that the poor, sick, and elderly give a pound of flesh, because the CorporateCon Right Wing Mega-Rich have no intention of helping anyone with anything and want to keep and secure their massive economic gains which they have made at the backs of said poor, sick, and elderly.

The paradigm in this country, regardless of party affiliation, is always cutting more food-stamps or gutting Medicare or keeping minimum wages stagnant for a bit more. No one, not even Democrats, ever truly considers taking those things off the table and instead solely putting oil companies, the Defense Department and tax exemption for the wealthy on the table when talking fiscal responsibility.

That conversation needs to change.

So let what France is doing be a lesson to those of us in the US. If you do not want taxes set upon you, get to work doing your part to keep the economy moving, such as paying your employees fair, livable wages and great benefits to balance a home/at work lifestyle so that people do not feel enslaved to their jobs. 

The Walton family (i.e. owners of Wal-Mart) is a prime example of entities that possess more wealth than can be used in several lifetimes, yet insist on continuing to pay wages to their workers that are essentially poverty level, even though they have more than ample room to improve those wages and still profit handsomely. As long as the government stays shies away from holding Wal-Mart accountable and hopes instead that they will somehow eventually come out and do the right thing, nothing will change.

At any rate, in the case of France, one million euros per year should be more than sufficient to live and thrive on, dear Wealthy People. Remember, that you are being taxed on your income and wealth while 99% of the people in the world are being taxed on their subsistence. I do, however, dare you to try to live on 30,000 Euro for one year without running away – or hey, I’ll be generous, let’s make it an even 100k – if you can, that is.

Remember, being poor is not for lazy people but making a little less than a million per year apparently is. So much so that those wealthy people are, literally, fleeing their motherland.

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Unintended Irony

537282_562591573818310_1811387710_nIt is hard to find religious people so in tune with themselves. But when you do find them, what comes out is epic. Thank you First Church of Stupideism – you took the words right out of my mouth. 

 

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An Observation

There are no two sides to every story when your side of the story is fictional.

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Quote of the Day

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Yes, because trying to give people access to affordable health care is definitely the same thing, if not worse, than committing genocide by burning and gassing people alive or blowing them up into little pieces to be scraped off the ground and walls. In fact, it is worse than all those things combined. You hear that, fools? As far as Senator Rucho is concerned, genocide would be better than Obamacare.

The idea that this willfully ignorant asshole with his violence instigating rhetoric is in charge of making the law of the land is not only distasteful but at this point right out scary.

Martin Bashir had to issue apologies and resign his position at MSNBC for having called Sarah Palin out on her vitriol and suggest she eat the same kind of excrement she spews, but this Senator – who is a lawmaker – gets to say that attempts at giving people access to affordable health care are worse than genocide, and he is sitting pretty and no one can touch him.

Priorities (and apparently competent leaders). We got them.

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