Archive for February, 2014

An Observation About Paula Deen

paula deen racist

Paula Deen stepped out yesterday by making this following statement  “I feel like ‘embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name. It’s like that black football player who recently came out. He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying. I’m fighting to get my name back.”

Note to Paula Deen: You were rightfully vilified for being a racist piece of shit who discriminates against people based on their race. That is not the same thing as a gay man not wanting his sexual orientation to overshadow his identity in a sport mostly hostile to that identity.

Moreover, if you want to make the point that you are not, indeed, a racist asshole,  then maybe you care to refer to said man by his name, Michael Sam, as opposed to just calling him “that black man.

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Checkmate, Atheists

checkmate

I don’t know what’s worse: Ray Comfort and his dribble or the 147 people who clicked “Like”. But I guess this is what happens when you are lobotomized by fear and ignorance.

Is the idea of there not being a higher power so unbearable that people will remain willfully, purposefully and grossly ignorant? That just does not resonate with me. I do not know how people go through life like that.

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West Virginia Is For Toxic Waste Lovers

Are you against regulation? Do you hate the EPA? Do you think in case of a national disaster, such as chemical spills or hurricane Katrina, the first entities arriving at the scene are Mitt Romney, Bain Capital, General Electric and other Fortune 500 companies? Do you think the government and its regulatory agencies holding corporations that handle your food, air and water, accountable was some kind of a conspiracy by a socialist Kenyan to take away your god-given freedoms and a ploy to destroy your American way of life?

Darwin_Evolve

That’s ok, because you have a lot in common with Freedom Industries and the citizens of West Virginia – a chronically Red state whose residents have been voting against their own self interest so much, they deserve the Darwin Awards if you ask me.

Last month, a storage tank leaked 10,000 gallons of a chemical used to wash coal into the Elk River, about a mile upstream from the intake for West Virginia American Water, the largest water utility in the state, leaving over 300,000 residents without access to safe drinking  water.  As a result of the spill, emergency rooms treated hundreds of patients for symptoms related to chemical exposure and numerous people were admitted with acute symptoms and who knows how many people have been exposed to levels that will show effects over time.

In a second spill later in February, more than 100,000 gallons of waste from a coal processing facility leaked into a tributary of West Virginia’s Kanawha River, blackening six miles of Fields Creek.

West Virginia is the prime example of what happens when you put corporations, who are paying off politicians, in charge while keeping regulators out and neuter the few remaining ones to a degree that they may as well not be there.

freedom 2Lack of regulation in a state where coal and chemical companies form the heart of the economy ultimately allowed for a chemical storage facility to sit on the river and close to a water treatment plant.

As Angela Rosser, the executive director of West Virginia Rivers Coalition points out, the site of the spill has not been subject to a state or federal inspection since 1991. That is because West Virginia law does not require inspections for chemical storage facilities — only for production facilities because as we all know, spills can only happen during the production phase of a chemical, and not during its storage.

Critics say the problems are widespread in West Virginia where coal and chemical industries, such as Freedom Industries which is responsible for the first spill in January,  are powerful forces in the state’s politics and which have long pushed back against tight federal health, safety and environmental controls.

This is not the first chemical accident to hit West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley.

After an explosion at a West Virginia chemical plant owned by Bayer CropScience killed two employees in 2008, a 2010 congressional investigation found that managers refused for several hours to tell emergency responders the nature of the blast or the toxic chemical it released. It also found that they later misused a law intended to keep information from terrorists to try to stop federal investigators from learning what had happened. The plant manufactured the same chemical that was being processed at the time of a gas release in 1984 that killed 10,000 in Bhopal, India.

In 2009, an investigation by The New York Times found that hundreds of workplaces in West Virginia had violated pollution laws without paying fines. In interviews at the time, current and former West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection employees said their enforcement efforts had been undermined by bureaucratic disorganization; a departmental preference to let polluters escape punishment if they promised to try harder; and a revolving door of regulators who left for higher-paying jobs at the companies they once policed.

West Virginia has a pattern of resisting federal oversight and what they consider EPA. interference, and that really puts workers and the population at risk,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a lecturer in environmental health at George Washington University.

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The logo of freedom.

Naturally, no charges have been filed against the company that, ironically enough, goes by the name of Freedom Industries.

Oh yes, the irony here is biting.

Freedom Industries reminds one of Freedom Fries, the Statue of Liberty, apple pie and red-white-and-blue. I envision sunny picnics being held for employees on the AstroTurf overlaying the semi-leaking chemical landfill next to the toxic chemical plant, to rally them up against them evil, socialist Liberals who want the EPA to interfere with their time honored right to be exploited and poisoned and to take away their America and guns as they know it.

I bet it is named Freedom Industries because the owner of the plant, in some jingoism induced nostalgic delusion, wanted to show the world what we can achieve with the freedom of free enterprise bestowed upon us by Jaaysus, god and the Founding Fathers.

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This is what freedom looks like.

Looking back, in what appears to be a strange twist of fate, what they really meant with Freedom Industries, of course, – which is incidentally what all Republicans mean when they talk about freedom and America the wonderful blah blah blah –  is the freedom to be exploited and poisoned without any avenues of recourse and accountability, because accountability in the form of regulations is for socialists, Liberals, gays, the French and other similar suckers. We here don’t need them. We have our guns, our Bible and the god-given right to be exploited and poisoned by the hard working job creators and American Dream generators of big industry.

Wake up Call

Thing is, the residents of West Virginia are just now getting up to a rude awakening and realizing that they do need these pesky regulations they have been religiously voting against  for the past half a century. Now that the toxic shit has hit the fan, so to speak, many resident are just now seeing this as a “wakeup call” on the need for better regulations, according to new polling data released Monday.

The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates and commissioned by the Sierra Club, found that 73 percent of residents polled agreed that the state “has paid too little attention to addressing threats to air and water,” and felt that the spill was a signal that “things must change.” Seventy percent of the people polled also said they thought other incidents like this would occur if efforts are not made to prevent them.

No shit! Imagine that, regulations actually being good for people. A truly radical idea in this country.

Yet, I must admit, have very little sympathy for the people of West Virginia who made their toxic waste and now will have the pleasure to bathe in it. I suggest trying to pray away the chemicals, dear residents. I hear West Virginia is a highly religious state so I am sure god keeps an eye out for you and can, with his magic wand of omnipotence, make it all go away.

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Goodbye Harold Ramis

ramis

If you, like me, grew up in the 80s and woke up yesterday morning to the sad news that Harold Ramis had passed away, then you probably felt like a huge chunk of your childhood just broke off and floated away.

It feels as though this has been happening quite a lot lately, seeing many legends and pop culture icons from my childhood get old and die like John Hughes, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Roger Ebert, and now Harold Ramis, the wonderfully talented writer, actor and creator of so much comedy awesomeness who passed away yesterday at the young age of 69.

His movies and the projects he was involved in, from  “Groundhog Day,” “Ghostbusters,” “Animal House”, “Caddyshack”, “Stripes”, “National Lampoons Vacation” and “Meatballs” – just to name a few –  are a staple of the great 80s classics and their comedic genius timeless and unprecedented.

Unlike the landscape that prevails in Hollywood today, Ramis was part of the small breed of film makers who was in it for the craft of acting and story-telling instead of for fame and wealth and shameless self-aggrandizement.

A lot of people these days just want to be “in the entertainment industry” for the easy money, the easy women, or the easy fame to the point of hiring PR firms to follow them around when they do “private stuff” so they can be “candidly” photographed for a page in some tabloid, increasing their exposure.

I personally know this actor from one of the Star Trek shows who is, literally, begging people on his Facebook page to follow him on Facebook and Twitter because hiring someone who has a lot of followers on social networks can help the production he will be working on generate more money. His talents appear secondary; this kid has to work on amassing a sizable following first before he is called in for casting.

Aspiring and current entertainers look at the likes of the Kuntrashians who invite the cameras, literally, up their vaginas, and trash like Snooki  – parasitic entities that merely exist to increase ratings and profitability while  racking up millions of dollars for being walking advertisements for cheap products and famous for being famous, as opposed to famous because they are creating something of value, and these newbies want a piece of that famewhoring pie.

But it is not just these bitches, look at Oscar nominated pukes like Jonah Hill whose douchebaggy assholishenss has increased in proportion to his fame and Oscar nominations to the point where he thinks he is even too good to shake hands with common folks.

Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, John Candy etc. and the film makers they worked with were a different breed. They weren’t fame-whoring and could tell jokes and make you laugh and sympathize with the underdog and question authority without being Judd Apatow vulgar. That is rare and I am sad to see Ramis, who was such an integral part of that, go.

I am sad not only because he was way too young and died too soon and appears to have been a genuinely nice guy, but because in a way his departure signifies a change within those of us who grew up with his movies and pop culture presence and for whom deaths like his signify the painful realization of the days of youth gone by.

Harold Ramis once said about his work:

Well, for me, it’s the relationship between comedy and life – that’s the edge I live on, and maybe it’s my protection against looking at the tragedy of it all. It’s seeing life in balance. Comedy and tragedy co-exist. You can’t have one without the other. I’m of the school that anything can be funny, if seen from a comedic point of view.”

Indeed. What tragic and short lives we all live.

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Quote of the Day

[The minimum wage is] not the government’s business.” – Rick Perry 

I could spend the next week detailing everything that is wrong and garbage about this classist, privileged, contemptible and rancid piece of mind vomit that left Rick Perry’s mouth and whose stench keeps lingering in the air as its contents are being ravenously gobbled up by the Republican leadership and voter-base, and there is nothing I can say here that I have not already said a hundred dozen times, but what I do want to point out is that entities who believe bullshit bootstrap narratives, who admonish people for not working “hard enough” or trying “hard enough” or put in the “effort” (as ostensibly wealthy people have done, hence the reward of blissful wealth) do so without a trace of irony because they not only subscribe to the false notion that we are all born with the same set of opportunities and access, but because it is those very notions of “it is not the government’s business to deal with minimum wages” that deny people the upward mobility the likes of Perry preach about, no matter how hard they work and no matter what kind of an entrepreneur spirit they have.

How much people earn does matter because every $1 raise to the minimum wage creates $2,800 in purchasing power according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Denying them that while in the same breath exclaiming that they should “work hard(er) already” so they can make it is colossally hypocritical.

Hard work means nothing, and it leads to nothing but a tedious existence to just meet one’s basic needs, if it is not accompanied by things like a steady paycheck, livable wages, healthcare benefits and paid time off  – just to name a few of the things that, at a minimum, make a job an acceptable job.

These, in turn, are things that the government needs to legislate because entities, such as corporations, that have a profit motive and only care about the bottom line cannot, and should not, be tasked with governance. That would be like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

The government exists not only as the entity calling in for and maintaining order but most importantly as an equalizer to level the playing field and protect consumers and to provide for the general welfare of the populace. It is a form of accountability because regulation creates accountability and transparency, which are indispensable for the functioning of a democratic, equitable and prosperous society.

If it was not for the government that had legislated things like the 40-hour work week, minimum wage laws and a host of other such provisions aimed at protecting wage-earners and consumers in general, things would still be the way they were during the gilded robber baron age and thus during the early start of the Industrial Revolution, whose exploits and excesses inspired Marxism and subsequently communism.

If it had not been for the government stepping in, people would still be living under abysmally bad social and  living conditions with lives full of poverty, hunger and illness, as it is the case in many developing countries today.

In other words, we have already seen what happens in the absence of government regulations and when corporations are left to their own devises and tasked with governance and it doesn’t work, unless exploiting people for all they are worth to enrich yourself is what you want – which is, incidentally, the context within which Perry’s assertion needs to be seen.

Republicans don’t value work or hard work and they are only interested in the government with respect to the extent to which it can be used to transfer wealth from the masses, the 99%, to the top while disseminating prosperity gospels about bootstraps, trickle down, job creator and hard work.

The thing is, you cannot tell people they need to work hard and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but then keep them systematically subjugated and exploited – and thus without the ability to buy those boots on whose straps they can pull themselves up, effectively barring them from moving upward the social class ladder you just gave them shit for not having climbed because they allegedly failed to work hard enough.

Republicans  expect people to pull themselves up by ex-nihilo apparently; take these magic beans and hope they turn into a kingdom.

They refuse to understand, or do not want to understand, that poverty is a trap that creates and begets even more poverty and that if it had not been for the government stepping in (see particularly, but not only, FDR’s “New Deal”) things would still be like they were at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution where wages, labor laws and working conditions were not regulated and entire families, including children,  had to work under harrowing working conditions for abysmally low wages that did not allow them to properly sustain themselves, much less move upward; where the only entities that reaped the wealth from production and sales were the wealthy owners who kept getting wealthier and wealthier without passing any of that newly acquired wealth down to the workers whose hard work led to the prosperity of the company. You know, the same thing that is happening in China today and India.

The middle class was the creation of governments as before it we mostly had very few wealthy people who owned lands, assets and later the means of production and very many poor people who were barely eeking by an existence.

Republicans do not value hard work or any work for that matter. They are not interested in helping you “become rich” or to be anything but just a source of tax revenue and unlimited supply of quasi-free labor.

Such is the gist of Rick Perry and his party’s agenda, which is astoundingly the most honest thing I have heard a Republican politician/leader say in a long time about the Republican party’s true credo. Note that while most Republican leaders at least try to wrap the bootstraps rhetoric in euphemisms, Rick Perry is just openly saying what those phonies are not. That is the only difference between Perry and some other “reasonable” Republican, such as Chris Christie.

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Pro-Life

People who are against abortion usually label themselves as pro-lifers or “pro-life”. Pro-lifers, in turn, are almost always Conservatives who vote for politicians and policies that favor and help wealthy entities so they can enrich themselves at the backs of the poor and middle class wage earners, while having manipulated their voter base, that mostly consists of poor and middle class wage earners, to subscribe to bullshit bootstraps narratives and other associated Gordon Gecko prosperity dribble.

The real problem arises because Conservatives categorically vote against social safety net programs that lend a helping hand to people who cannot afford to properly provide for, oh, I don’t know, the children they were just forced to have.

A social safety net program may include anything from minimum wage laws, union representation to welfare checks. Pro-lifers are categorically opposed to a host of social safety net programs aimed at keeping the middle class strong and prosperous, instead of weakened and exploited.

 The pro-life advocates are the same people who vote against unions – which are in place to protect workers against exploitative employers; they are the same people who vote for giving the wealthy and corporations tax breaks they do not need at the expense of the middle class, which then will have to pick up their slack; these are the same people who vote against proper safety standards on the job and unemployment/disability benefits; they are the people who vote against increasing the minimum wage and providing everyone with affordable, proper access to health care regardless of their employment status. These are the people who think people aren’t entitled to food!!

The thing is, when you, for example, vote against unions, fair wages and benefits and thus take away a person’s ability to protect themselves against their employer, or when you subscribe to the notion that people aren’t entitled to food, then not only are you not “pro-life”, but you render people vulnerable to a host of exploits and abuses by their employers, thus ultimately leaving them unable to properly provide for themselves and their families, including the baby you just forced them to have.

When you do not have protection on the job and become subject to a host of exploitative tactics by your employer. without any avenues of recourse available to you to protect against such exploitation, you slide down and eventually end up needing assistance too.

Note how these things are interconnected: when you vote against unions, fair wages, overtime laws and so forth, you help create more poverty, which then results in people having to rely on welfare programs that you voted against as well.

Despite these realities, one will, however, be hard pressed to find a so-called pro-lifer who would vote for social safety-net programs such as unions.

What they do want to do is be able to shame and coerce a woman into giving birth to a child she does not want to have, under the guise of love, god and reverence for life. After having shamed and coerced said woman to give birth to a child she does not want to have/cannot afford, they then refuse to vote for policies that would allow that woman to properly provide for said child.

That anti-abortionists would call themselves pro-life is both ironic and deeply hypocritical because their position is anything but pro-life as they merely want a child to be born, but not fed, or educated, or clothed, or housed, because doing so would require prioritizing and funding social-safety net programs instead of defunding and de-prioritizing them to subsidize corporations, the wealthy, banks and oil companies – thus effectively siphoning and redistributing wealth from the bottom to the top under the guise of The American Dream, hard work and other such prosperity gospels.

To be clear, wanting a child to be born but then not giving a damn what happens to it once it is out of the womb is unequivocally not pro-life but, it is, in fact, hostile to life. Theirs is a position that is pro-birth and there is a chasm of a difference.

We need to really think about, and ask ourselves, what the morality of the pro-life position is and who  in this debate really has the welfare of people in mind; who the entity is that respects agency  –  which is related to acknowledging  a person’s (in this case a woman’s) consent, boundaries, and autonomy – and which entity does not,  thus resulting  in women being dehumanized by being repeatedly robbed off their ability to consent and set boundaries and maintain autonomy over their own bodies, including their reproduction and family planning.

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In Honor Of Today’s Court Ruling Regarding Same Sex Marriage In Chicago

gay and starving

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