Posts Tagged french revolution

Revolutionary Quotes

Man will only be free when the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

Denis Diderot

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The United States Congress is a Millionaire’s Club at the Expense of the American Tax Payer

According to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics, 238 of the 535 “public servants” (Congressmen), are millionaires. That is 44% of all members of Congress are rich beyond the wildest dreams, and possibilities, of most Americans they govern. In fact, your chances of running into a millionaire in the state’s capital are four times higher than in the rest of the nation.

And this is just the reported wealth. No one knows how many undisclosed assets members of Congress possess. The numbers would likely be even higher if personal residences, government salaries, and pensions were included. Yes, you read right.  They are millionaires without even counting their already bloated salaries and perks and that awesome health insurance that you and I pay for.

Half of Congress is basically part of the 1% and we are expecting that they enact legislation that would in any shape hurt their position in society? Increase their taxes? Is this a joke? 

One reason for why half the people running this country are millionaires  is that members of Congress are not subject to any of the ethics and conflict-of-interest laws that most public servants are. Congressmen can own stocks and investments unhindered and in any company while at the same time being often in charge of drafting legislation that might affect said company.

This leads to a fundamental conflict of interest because these Congressman are not likely to enact legislation that might hurt the cash value of any of the companies they and their spouses have personal investments in.

Joe Lieberman, for example, who has been opposing any and all health care reform has close ties to the insurance industry as his wife worked for a health care lobbying firm whose clients benefited from the senator’s legislation.

Oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, banks and the likes of Koch Brothers own Congress and they have spread the golden parachute so wide that these Congressmen and women don’t see anything else but dollar signs and thus rarely, if ever, enact legislation to benefit the majority of this society that isn’t part of the millionaires’ club.; the average citizen. All they care about is pandering to the causes of the wealthy to ultimately line their own pockets.

To make matters worse, not only are Congress members not subject to any kind of ethics standards while in office (except for those of the sexual kind because we all know how bad sex is. See Anthony Weiner), but most Congressmen go working for some of the companies they “failed” (read: refused) to properly regulate while in office.

In secret, pre-arranged deals they are promised millions of dollars or more in pay if they come to work for them after they leave office. Once a public official makes a deal to go to work for a lobbying firm or corporation after leaving office, he or she becomes loyal to the future employer. And since those deals are done in secret, legislators are largely free to pass laws, special tax cuts, or earmarks that benefit their future employer with little or no accountability to the public. While campaign contributions and super PACS are a big problem, the everyday bribery of the revolving door may be the most pernicious form of corruption today.

Unlike some other forms of money in politics, politicians never have to disclose job negotiations while in office, and never have to disclose how much they’re paid after leaving office. In many cases, these types of revolving door arrangements drastically shape the laws we all live under. For example, former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) spent his last year in office fighting reforms to bring greater transparency to the derivatives marketplace. Almost as soon as he left office, he joined the board of a derivatives trading company and became an “advisor” to Goldman Sachs. Risky derivative trading exacerbated the financial crisis of 2008, yet we’re stuck under the laws written in part by Gregg. How much has he made from the deal? Were his actions in office influenced by relationships with his future employers? Does anyone care? Do most of the middle class, or poor chest thumping idiots who fight for the causes of the rich, even know this?

Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) made $19,359,927 as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2010. Tauzin retired from Congress in 2005, shortly after leading the passage of President Bush’s prescription drug expansion. He was recruited to lead PhRMA, a lobbying association for Pfizer, Bayer, and other top drug companies. During the health reform debate, the former congressman helped his association block a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, a major concession that extended the policies enacted in Tauzin’s original Medicare drug-purchasing scheme. Tauzin left PhRMA in late 2010. He was paid over $11 million in his last year at the trade group. Comparing Tauzin’s salary during his last year as congressman and his last year as head of PhRMA, his salary went up 7110 percent.

An important thing to note is that political affiliation doesn’t appear to matter when it comes to wealth as both Democrats and Republicans seem to be rolling in money. Even Nancy Pelosi owns vineyards in Napa Valley and Barack Obama’s wealth as of 2010 is estimated at $ 11.8 million. And these are the good guys. Although frankly I doubt that Obama or Pelosi amassed the wealth by selling out to big money.  Most of Obama’s money comes from book sales and he has spent most of his life being a community organizer. Pelosi seems to have married rich.

It is certainly no coincidence that Congress has been repeatedly favoring the wealthy and the corporations that keep them wealthy at the expense of the middle class and middle class causes and thus the overwhelming majority of the people who elect them into office and on whose behalf they are to act. The reason we are this money-loving, greed-is-good society that doesn’t give a damn about the greater good, is because of legislation that has been favoring the wealthy and corporations that, in turn, keep members of Congress wealthy and cushioned so they continue creating the kind of legislation and with it society conducive to their paradigm of greed and exploitation in the name of Jesus and capitalism and the Founding Fathers.

Rich politicians without accountability to anyone is a serious problem. And nothing gets done with respect to the occupy Wall street movement because the 1% are in charge. 

That is the theme in America and these corrupt congress members have convinced millions of minions, which make up the base of the Republican party, that it is in their very interest to vote for people like them, making referneces to Jesus, god and love for one’s motherland because those tactics always work.

I am not advocating for our leaders to be poor but based on the aforementioned and the non-existence of laws restricting Congress from behaving in such a manner and pretty much next to zero accountability on their part, I do have to question the extent to which those laws truly benefit the public that elected those officials.

When looking at a piece of legislation or law we take for granted and accept in this society as a given through the social contract, we often forget that those laws were drafted by a Congress member who, most likely than not,  is primarily looking out for his own interest. Yet we often don’t question those laws – from tax law to anything that is regulated by Congress really. W just obey them, no questions asked.

Remember laws aren’t written in a vacuum or by divine, infallible beings. Behind every law that you see, on the local, state or federal level,  sits a human being who has an interest and altruism and the greater good usually aren’t  part of those interests

A congress member’s primary irresponsibility  is to its constituents. Instead, it seems like Congress members are using their position as elected officials to line their own pockets.

I also have to wonder about the extent to which someone whose earnings and assets are orders of magnitude higher than those of the masses, can actually relate to the people governed. When you are that far removed from the people you make decisions for, like some sort of a royal in his ivory tower, how effective of a leader can you be? How much of their causes are you going to fight for ? How much of their struggles do you truly comprehend?

Rich people also tend to suffer from amnesia. Just because someone grew up poor, doesn’t mean that once they do make it they will relate or be charitable. Look at John Boehner. The man grew up poor, apparently twelve people in his house sharing one bathroom, and he is worse than Mitt Romney – repeatedly blocking legislation that would benefit the middle class in favor of legislation that only furthers rich people – and thus indirectly his pockets.

The Culture of Greed is the New American Dream

But isn’t that whole pandering to rich people and that wanna-be millionaire mentality exactly the problem in the US?  What everyone is encouraged to do? Not being rich has become a liability. And the get-rich-or-die-trying mentality has become the American Dream unbeknownst to most of those who dream it.

We don’t like non-rich people. Forget about the poor. They are a non-issue. We definitely can’t stand those. Just look at the streets in the US where the poor, who are often mentally ill, have been abandoned and discarded by society, roaming the streets like stray dogs, eating out of garbage and sleeping under bridges. We treat stray dogs better than these human beings.

But even middle class folks are not favored upon. Middle class seems to have become a mere transition stage for most people on their way to this elusive millionaire thing. John Steinbeck’s quote about why socialism never took root in American comes to mind, because “the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” 

Most people, even middle-class folks, don’t like middle-class. And being filthy rich, not just rich, is what has become the new American Dream.

In fact, the entire platform Romney is running on is that he is rich ipso facto he is entitled to the presidency.

Romney doesn’t actually like the United States and he certainly is not a patriot. Because a patriot pays his taxes, a patriot does not spend most of his life working against the United States by betting against the American dollar or siphoning his wealth off to offshore accounts to evade paying his fair share of taxes to the government that has provided him with the groundwork and infrastructure  necessary to be the man he is today.  In fact, he has worked so hard against America, that he doesn’t dare to release his tax records because they show a man who spent his entire life ruining the American dream for everyone – which was the creation of the middle class after WWII, not the creation of vacuous vulchers like him.

Yet Romney and that god awful callously ignorant wife of his feel entitled to this country as leaders  because he has money. He treats running for president like a hostile corporate takeover or a promotion – from CEO of a company to CEO of the United States. He doesn’t have any concrete policy proposals other than undo everything Obama did and that “being successful” ought not to be punished. As if capitalism was about stealing, which is how he got rich.

The Love of Money – A pillar Next to Jesus and Jingoism

There is a theme to be found here folks and that theme is called the unconditional love of money. This country is a lot about the love of money and every policy out there, or not out there, is because of this love for money and this wanna-be millionaire mentality.

As Marina Keegan – the late Yale student who tragically died in a car accident this past May wrote in her essay on the sad lives of Ivy League graduates that blindly chase corporate jobs even though they really have many other wonderful things in mind  when they first enter college as hopeful freshmen: “When I arrived at Yale as an eager 18-year-old, I had never even heard of consulting or I-banking. And to be honest, I still didn’t totally understand the function of a hedge fund. But what I do understand is that students here have passion. Passion for public service and education policy and painting and engineering and entrepreneurialism. Standing outside a freshman dorm, I couldn’t find a single student aspiring to be a banker – but at commencement this May, there’s a 50 percent chance I’ll be sitting next to one. This strikes me as incredibly sad .” 

It is indeed very sad. But the reason those kids feel the need to do exactly that is because we have created a culture of greed and money-above-all. Charity is not rewarded. Working for a non-profit to better society for everyone is not rewarded. Being an engineers to build bridges is not rewarded or lucrative. What is rewarded is greed and selling out: Kim Kuntrashian does it, and so does the US Congress. There is no difference. So of course those kids, after four year, end up with shattered dreams and then resign to it and follow the money.

When you live in a society in which every action is measured by the financial bottom line, from medical research to environmental protection, you create a culture of greed filled with narcissists thinking they have to get rich or die trying and that in fact doing so is a virtue. A  lot of people think that the American dream is about getting rich.

That is why in Mitt Romney’s universe people who aren’t millionaires are nothing but losers to spit on. That is also why his wife condescendingly referred to the voter base as “you people.” Ann Romney is too well-bred to call African-Americans “you people” in public, of course, especially after what happened to Ross Perot. But she obviously has no problem referring to other folks she holds in contempt that way. And she holds them in contempt because they aren’t rich – which is her criteria for success in and worthiness to life.

So with millionaires in charge of our country and the ongoing, all-encompassing corruption of elected officials – corruption that has become so widespread it is invisible at this point – is it any surprise that the United States is going down fast? Is it any surprise that the world looks at us in astonishment when they see our people show up to public hearings with assault rifles to oppose access to health care? Is it any surprise that unemployment is high? And the economy a mess? Or that some elitist, Mormon nut-job who nets a quarter of a billion dollars but who has never done a hard day’s work in his life, is running as the leader of this country?

Corporate raiding, mass-layoffs and tax evasion are not hallmarks of either a patriot, a person of integirty or a successful man who earned his riches. The operative word here being earned. And they most certainly are not the hallmarks of a man who wants to represent us.

We are no longer the subjects of our leaders as was the case hundreds of years ago – at least not in the way we used to be. We are slaves to money in a very high tech fashion – but we are still  enslaved. Nearly every politician is a multimillionaire while the overwhelming majority of those they represent lead very modest, wage earning, middle-class lives, about two paychecks away from destitution and definitely several lifetimes and dreams away from being millionaires.

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Stupid Things People Do: Celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Thus the British Crown

There are a few things that truly irk the crap out of me: religion, greed, racism, trying to control people – be it economically, culturally, socially or emotionally, ignorance, misogyny – the Kuntrashians.

And then there is royalty, which is sort of like the overarching hub that encompasses all of the aforementioned. Yes royalty has got them all under one convenient umbrella for your oppression and bigotry pleasure.

As with anything detrimental for human kind, the concept of monarchy and royalty has its origins in religion. The appeal to a higher power has not only been used to justify the crown but to also oppress people.

Under feudalism, there were a few very powerful landowners who acquired large amounts of territory through military force (i..e kill the population and steal their land and call it their own) or purchase. These landowners became high-ranking lords, and one of them was crowned king. This probably happened through a show of military force or through political machinations, or some combination of the two.

The king or sovereign claimed divine rights, stating that it was subject only to God and not to the law. The king was thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm, including (in the view of some, especially in Protestant countries) the Church. According to this doctrine, only God can judge an unjust king (which effectively means no one).  The doctrine also implies that any attempt to depose the king or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute a sacrilegious act.

The remote origins of this theory are rooted in the medieval idea that God had bestowed earthly power on the king, just as God had given spiritual power and authority to the church, centering on the pope.

As it is the case with all of religion, however, none of that had anything to do with the divine and god of course, it was about power and wealth and the monarchs of the time understood that religion could be conveniently used to get people to submit to their will and power. Dissidents, including questioning the royal’s power, was severely punished. If you are going to mass exploit people and usurp money out of them, as was done during Feudalism, you need to come up with some other justification beside “because I said so” or “because I have the power“. Not to say that those justifications weren’t used either. Christianity helped create a certain kind of society, world view and structure through which those in charge channeled their power and controlled people.

The king, therefore, was nothing but a powerful bully who took what he wanted and tried to justify his theft by appealing to a higher power.

When you trace back the origins of royals, including your “majesty” queen Elizabeth, you will find that  her only claim to that title and all the riches that followed it is forceful acquisition of land from someone else. There is nothing honorable about the Royal blood line – or any blood line for that matter.

When I walk into a house and take all the furniture and possessions, claiming they are mine and shoot anyone in my way, it is called stealing and murdering. There is nothing divine or majestic about that, especially when you remember how the royals acquired their title, rank, wealth and legitimacy.

It is, therefore, genuinely bizarre to me that in the 21st century, hundreds of years after Revolutions and the Enlightenment, not to mention after the very foundation of this country – which is fundamentally inspired by the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment and  a rejection of royalty – people still celebrate royalty as if it was no big deal.  Even in the US. I still remember the hype here about Prince Williams’ and Kate Middleton’s wedding last year.

Needless to say that when I found out that the Brits were going to embark on four days of pomp, pageantry and patriotism to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the throne, I was taken aback, to put it mildly.

I know there are a lot of Indians, for instance, living in the UK and I do wonder how they feel about celebrating a Crown that has caused so much blood-shed on their lands and almost cost them their independence. And that is just one nation of peoples that endured death and suffering at the hands of the British crown everyone was so diligently celebrating this weekend.

Am I the Only One Who Finds Celebrating Royalty and All it Stands For in Poor Taste and Just Inappropriate? 

It is the Queen’s Diamond jubilee and the Brits are so serious about this shit that they have actually turned it into a national holiday. Across the country, Britons celebrated with street parties and days off work. On Sunday, her “Majesty”  attended a luncheon and traveled down the Thames river on a barge. The British flag, the Union Jack, fluttered from buildings, shops and train stations across the country and with a crowd of rain-soaked spectators estimated by organizers at 1.25 million cheering from the riverbanks, the pageant was the largest public event in four days of celebrations of the monarch’s 60 years on the throne.

To royalists, the occasion is a chance to express their thanks and appreciation to the 86-year-old Elizabeth, head of state for 16 countries from Australia and Canada to tiny Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean, for her years of public service”. the Huffington Post reports.

Express their thanks? To Royalty? For what exactly? Centuries of authoritarian rule over people and exploitation, enslavement and blood shed of innocent people – overseas or at their own shores? Really?

Royal biographer Robert Lacey stated that “original jubilees were invented in the 19th century by the popular press as modes of national celebration for which the monarchy and monarch was almost incidental.” Lacey further stated that the jubilee was as much about society celebrating itself as it was about the head of state and the now largely symbolic institution of the monarchy. “They tend to work best in times of economic hardship. It provides a tonic for the country,” Lacey told Reuters.

A tonic for society? Watching a bunch of unemployed freeloaders who neither earned nor deserve any of the riches they have except for a long established tradition that says they do, is a tonic for the masses? And they are celebrating that like it was cool or something to be proud of? Have these people forgotten what the royalty in England is responsible for and what it did to the world up until 65 years ago?

Why Do We Still Care About These Monarchies in the 21st Century? 

The whole concept of royalty is pretty insulting as it operates from the fundamental assumption that some human beings are inherently better and more worthy than others.

That is problematic, especially in this day and age, because the idea that somehow a human being is superior or better than another one by virtue of birth and that as a result he is not only celebrated and worshiped but also wealthy and “entitled” to some reverence goes against everything our collective consciousness fought for over the past three to four hundred years to achieve freedom, which meant being liberated from the yokes of royalty.

There is absolutely no difference between Prince William and a child born to parents in Zimbabwe or a boy born to parents in Iran. They all deserve the same praise and respect, love and chances in life and I would most certainly not bow down (either literally or figuratively) before the former or give them special respect because some tradition of establishment by nothing more than powerful bullies who just took what they wanted, claims I should.

The concept of royalty is insulting just as the concept of slavery is insulting. They are two sides of the same coin and there is certainly nothing cute and romantic about either one of them.

It is also irrelevant that the monarchy in England is now symbolic and has no actual political power. I don’t even care all that much about holding the Queen accountable for the actions of her family and lineage, but I do care about, and I am stunned that not more people do,  what the crown stands for.

It is especially worrisome that people think they need to thank the Queen and be grateful to her.

Each human being posses an inalienabl­e value irrespective of heritage and lineage. After all, we don’t choose whom we are born to and what our heritage is so we should neither be rewarded or punished for it.   Royalty assumes some peoples’ blood is better and nobler than that of others by virtue of lineage or some other arbitrary reasons, thus indirectly devaluing everyone who isn’troyalty.

All such concepts are diametrically opposed to and antithetical to the very notion of freedom. The past of monarchs that had reign over everyone else, exploiting, enslaving and killing people is not something to romanticize and fondly remember. While it is important, of course, to remember and accurately retell history, celebrating the British crown directly like that as if it was something really cute and honorable is out of place and in poor taste, especially because the world today is still suffering from the aftermath of the actions of said royalty.

Worshiping the crown irrespective of what the crown stood for for hundreds of years and the lives it extinguished and destroyed is sort of like being an accomplice to the crimes committed. A lot of the mess the world is in today is as a direct result of British imperialist and expansionist efforts.

Moreover, the wealth and money the Queen and her kind have – and which they now allegedly flaunt around for good causes – was usurped at the back of slave laborers and poor exploited farmers.  This is really their wealth and thus their charity, not hers and that of her children.  She’s never done a hard days work in her life and other than being born into it, has done nothing to deserve the title and all the honor that goes with it.

At some point in the distant past some person decided that they are entitled to rule over everyone else and so the “tradition” that the Brits go out on the streets to celebrate now, i.e royalty, was established.

Nothing more to it. She isn’t an important and worthier human being.

Of course, there is nothing that can be done about the past but we can decide what to do now – and celebrating the British crown is as tactful as reenacting the US Civil War by special emphasis of the old South before end of slavery.

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