It’s not that there isn’t enough. It’s that there are so many who cannot pay.

Spotted recently, loitering in the vicinity of taxes and healthcare reform:

embarrassedmillionaires

I used an image quote because I never stopped to appreciate how awesome John Steinbeck’s hair was. Also, the look in his eyes sort of reminds me of this sloth who is flabbergasted at what unrelenting asshats people can be sometimes.
 
The words of others are wide open to interpretation (most especially in their absence), but I suspect this is in the ballpark.

“Look, fucktards, unless you have like, eleventy billion dollars*, all the socialesque programs and high-earner taxes probably won’t be affecting you.  You are not wealthy, and you probably never will be. You are not in the same socio-economic class of people whose right to decadence you are defending.”

Those who strive for the power that obscene wealth brings do not wish to assist you, that is anathema to them. And I am not talking about wealth in the sense of abundance. Wealth in this context is not a bountiful land of plenty with enough for all who are willing to put in an honest day’s work.

 
Wealth in this context is money.

 
Money is the thing which governs access to the resources people need. There may in fact be abundance, but without the tokens representing units of purchasing power, it is out of your reach.
 

Money obscures the relationship between the needs of the people and the actual available resources. Keeping the focus on the money can make it feel as though a shortage of money is synonymous with a shortage of resources. This notion grants money unwarranted influence, because so many people fail to understand that it is a made up thing.
 

A promissory note was shorthand to facilitate people actually getting what they needed when barter wasn’t working out. It used to represent something else of value that was perhaps not immediately accessible or just really inconvenient to carry around. Like, “You give me some food, or a place to stay, and I’ll give you this note that says you can have this something else which is held in trust by a mutually acknowledged third party.” It was understood that, in exchange for some item, you were effectively handing over the deed to some other item of approximately equal value.

 
A dollar (for example) is now just a note. It basically represents how awesome everyone else in the world thinks America is. It is a permission slip backed by popularity that you use to gain access to resources which may or may not actually be scarce. If it is just a stack of tokens used to move resources around, then perhaps we should try to understand that it is a bad idea to let a few greedy processes sit on the whole goddamn stack. Otherwise, money ceases to be a useful tool for the people to get what they need, and becomes a useful tool for the powerful to remain powerful. Money becomes a metric by which you may evaluate the amount of control you have over your fellow man.

 

Further, money loses all meaning if we ever reach a point where there is just . . . enough. For everyone, everywhere, enough of whatever we were previously willing to spend money to get. Money is only useful if resources or distribution methods are limited. If money ceases to be useful, professions that revolve around managing money will similarly cease to be useful. People who are powerful because they wield vast wealth will cease to be powerful.

 

Those that gather power to the detriment of all others do not want to give it up, and they do not want you to join them. The whole point for them is use the power they have to shape the world to their liking. They like you right where you are. Why? Because personalizing the world to your taste is a large task, and plebs are fucking needed.

 

But I digress. My original purpose here was to point out that, if we are going to call on Steinbeck to highlight issues of economy and society, there are far better quotes. (All from The Grapes of Wrath)

Regarding tweaking resources for the sake of profit.

“Carloads of oranges dumped on the ground. The people come for miles to take the fruit, but this could not be. How would they buy oranges if they could drive out and pick them up? And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges… A million people hungry, needing the fruit – and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains.
And the smell of rot fills the country.
Burn coffee for fuel in the ships… Dump potatoes in the rivers and place guards along the banks to keep the hungry people from fishing them out. Slaughter the pigs and bury them…
And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificates – died of malnutrition – because the food must be forced to rot.”

 
Regarding the disconnect between the elite and common society:

One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another
family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlarge of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here “I lost my land” is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate–“We lost our land.” The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first “we” there grows a still more dangerous thing: “I have a little food” plus “I have none.” If from this problem the sum is “We have a little food,” the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It’s wool. It was my mother’s blanket–take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning–from “I” to “we.”

If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin, were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into “I,” and cuts you off forever from the “we.”

 

Regarding . . . I’m not entirely sure. The limits of man. Dawning understanding that you have been taken for a fool. Indignation. Revenge. All of the above.

. . . and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

 
I am deeply grateful to the teacher who assigned this to me as summer reading. It altered the way I viewed the world. It made me angry and sad in ways I had not yet experienced. I guess that was the point. Well played, 10th grade American literature teacher.
 
It also prompted one of the first conversations I had with my grandfather where he made no pretense at behaving as an authority figure, and I managed to listen without being an impudent little shit. I feel like it has to be some mark of adulthood when you are able to consider your parents (or grandparents) as actual human beings on their own terms, and not just who they are in terms of you.

 

*estimate
http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-taxes.php
http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/economy-politics-must-serve-man-pope-tells-g8-president/
http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/03/01/how-will-obamacare-affect-your-tax-bill/
http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-03-25/business/fl-strawberries-rot-20100325_1_parkesdale-farms-berries-farmers
http://www.milkeninstitute.org/publications/publications.taf?function=detail&ID=38801012&cat=PBriefs
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_money
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_money
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representative_money

WWAD

I tend to think of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in terms of the three laws of robotics. Or at least I always thought similar caveats were implied. So, given this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

My interpretation would be:

Ok, humans have been around long enough now that it has become obvious that we are more or less the same. Most people can look at another person and know they are of a kind, driven by the same urges and feelings. But it’s like 1776, and we don’t know why that is so, God. That given, there are a few thing that we just have to agree to be cool about.

  1. We each have the right to life. This is predicated upon non-interference with rule 1 (in the immediate sense).
  2. We each have the right to liberty. This is predicated upon non-interference with rule 1.
  3. We each have the right to pursue happiness. This is predicated upon non-interference with rules 1 & 2.

No God, Only Man

A few months ago, my father and I were discussing morality and whether it is necessary for a person to believe in god in order to be a good person (to have a moral center). I hold that no, it is not.

The concept of morality (much like law, rights and money) is man made. It is a fabrication to facilitate orderly existence among creatures that have evolved to be primarily concerned with their own immediate interests. Morality is not handed down by the god of any particular religion. Any rights that I have were granted to me by my fellow humans. And they were granted with the expectation that I will behave in kind.

You be cool. I’ll be cool. Everyone is cool.

Though you could make the claim that the urge to establish a moral code is natural to us – as a consequence of evolution. Evolution gave us the ability – the instinct – to “feel” for others. It is why laughter and tears seem infectuous. It is why you flinch when you see someone injured. It is why you can learn a task by watching it performed. It is a reflexive twinge that says “Here is a connection. Here is a thing like me. Here is symmetry.”

This is the basis for empathy, compassion and ultimately, morality.

On this foundation we may begin constructing a moral framework. It is because we are able to identify with other people that admonishments like “How would you like it if someone did that to you?” have meaning to us. And I intend here real meaning – as in understanding. Not “I know the definition of the words you uttered and how they relate to the other words in the sentence.” This is more like visceral knowledge – the way we understand what blue is, or what sour tastes like. It is that understanding that makes us see the connection between another person’s condition and our own. Without that understanding, all you have are rules with no real meaning attached other than obedience avoids punishment.

Now, it may be the case that a god or gods put this whole mechanism into place. It may be the case that, at the end of everything, we will find a very smug deity all “See what I did there?” and shit. That’s fine, but it says nothing about the necessity of belief in god, and so cannot really be used to support the argument that belief in god is necessary for morality.

However, if you do want to start from the assumption that a deity built into its creation a means by which the denizens of said creation might understand morality independent of a set of explicitly stated rules, is it not also reasonable to suppose that the deity might wish us to look to that deeper understanding?

For example, you might set a rule for your child like “Don’t punch your little brother in the face.” Certainly you want them to obey that particular rule, but you may also hope that they eventually grasp why it is in general a bad idea to go around punching people in the face.

If you never extrapolate past the rule to understanding the concept, morality has not yet come into play – you are an amoral creature. Simply following rules does not make you good, it makes you programmable.

Subtext

I call bullshit on anyone claiming abortion is murder while also claiming that it should be allowed for cases involving rape or incest.

To claim that abortion is murder, you must regard an embryo (or fetus) as a person. So if abortion is killing a person, and you say that there should be exceptions for cases of rape or incest, you seem to be saying that it is ok to kill people so long as they were born as the result of rape or incest. Or possibly you are saying that anyone born as the result of rape or incest is not a real person.

Or possibly you are saying that you don’t actually give two shits about saving innocent little babies. Maybe, just maybe, what really bothers you is the idea that these women – these whores – are out there having shameless, enjoyable pre-marital sex . . . and they are getting away with it.

If you remove all the negative consequences, how will people know it’s bad?

Diff

It is important to remember that debate and discussion are different tools when dealing with conflicting ideas.

Also, it is good to keep in mind that humans are rationalizing rather than rational animals. We have minds capable of logic, but instinct drives us to use that tool to assert our own beliefs wherever possible rather than to verify whether our beliefs are actually in line with presentable evidence.

Debate

Debates are for political campaigns, courtrooms and high schools.

A debate is a sport – a display of technique and drama. It has a clear winner and loser, so you never want to say “Oh, I see where I went wrong there. Thank you so much for pointing that out to me.” That means you have lost. You develop a strategy for hiding weaknesses in your arguments.

At its best, debate is a competitive event that tests and hones the persuasive skills of the competitors. It tests you grasp of logic, the flexibility of your thinking and your ability to deconstruct language. It sharpens your ability to communicate ideas with precision.

As a metaphor, think of it like this:

At its worst, it is just spectacle. The winner is the participant who manages to most cleverly stir the passions of the audience, and yoke that emotional strength to the argument.

To invoke the previous metaphor, think of it like this:

If you are very good, you can manage both at the same time.

Either way, you are not seeking some common ground with another person, you are trying to defeat them at a game. You and your opponent are not really talking to each other. You are addressing a topic and countering the arguments of your opponent as a presentation to some third party who evaluates the winner of the event. You attempt to understand your opponent, because it lets you see how they think, what arguments they are likely to use, what mistakes they are likely to make and what mistakes they are likely to miss. Ideally the third party would be neutral, but since they are typically human, it is tactically advantageous to understand their biases and motivations as well. It is the person presenting the stronger argument in the eyes of the third party who wins, not necessarily the person who is “right”.

In a perfect world, all you take away from the practice of debate are the skills you have acquired – the ability to construct a logically sound argument, the ability to recognize flaws in reasoning and the ability to understand the way another person thinks.

Discussion

Discussion is for reaching an understanding between people on some point of contention without concern over who wins. If you made a mistake, it is ok to acknowledge it.

You and the other person state your beliefs as clearly as possible. You ask questions of each other to determine how you each view the details of a particular topic. You ensure that you are defining terms the same way. You compare ideas back and forth so you each understand how to construct the argument (in the formal sense) that will best present your case in terms the other can relate to. This process continues until one of two things happens:

1. You find that you agree with each other, and the disagreement was merely a matter of semantics.
2. You discover that there is some premise on which your argument rests that is mutually exclusive to some premise on which the other argument rests.

You want to keep ego out of discussion to avoid the emotional states that can be triggered when you interpret criticisms of your argument as attacks on you personally. Once you start feeling your way through a conversation instead of thinking through it, the temptation to debate arises, because you have the instinct to defend yourself. When you start trying to debate while in a highly emotional state, guess which style you will probably adopt.



It is worth noting – all that is resolved in any case above is whether or not some people agree with you, not whether you were right or wrong.

Operation: Iroquoi Freedom

Which is to say, Happy Thanksgiving! It’s 5 A.M. and I’m still sort of too full to sleep. I have done this American tradition proud.

Holidays usually don’t mean much more to me than enjoying the company of friends and family and enjoying obscene amounts of food. I do not mean to minimize rituals I’ve embraced, I just recognize that getting drunk on poultry and watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 might appear to miss the point of the occasion. The particulars of any given holiday typically don’t concern me beyond what I recall observing in my childhood. Even then I’m probably just enjoying all the nostalgia chemicals.

However, I would like to take a moment to appreciate the truly balls-out way that we celebrate conquering the land on which this nation was built. In a gesture rife with symbolism, I feed the heart and liver of the turkey to my little dog. It’s how he steals the turkey’s power.

He also enjoys the end of the day ritual wherein I tear down the main bird structure and occasionally flick scraps his way. As I toss him chunks of offal that I only deign to touch in order to retrieve the surrounding meat, he gazes up at me like i am his best friend. It shows what a special bond we have. It also shows that I am not above attempting to buy love.

Since I probably fed him a good two cups or so of grease and meat(ish) substances, he is now stretched out next to me, occasionally grunting like an old man trying to rise from a chair. Call me an irresponsible pet owner, but if we can wreck our bodies in celebration of our bountiful spoils, I see no reason why he shouldn’t as well. Besides, I’ve already decided to tell myself that all that fat will really help promote a shiny coat.

Happy Thanksgiving buddy, your cup runneth over. With fatty skin.

It’s the smooOooke.

I’ve been signing this to myself for the past couple of days.



I’m pretty sure one of these dudes is stalking Katie Couric. I picture him in a little studio in his basement, obsessively recording and editing the evening news to make Katie talk to him. Possibly he just has an in at CBS that sends him copies. Along with a baggie full of hair from her brush.

PETA dislikes being taken seriously.

No, really – go look at this bullshit

I can only express my awe and respect at the wholehearted commitment to utter lack of credibility. Bravo guys. Way to whittle away support you might of had in preventing legitimate cruelty to animals by making this tripe your public face. Now I want so badly to distance myself from anything associated with you that I have to go stand outside and grill up some panda or otter or something. I live in Ohio and it’s the middle of January, you inconsiderate pricks.

You can create your own sea kitten on their site, to help raise awareness of the plight of fictional beasts. Here’s mine:



When I saw the option to make one of these, I thought the most offensive thing would be sticking fur and ears on a fish in an attempt to fashion it into an image that triggers a sympathetic human response. That was until I saw that you also have the option to give it a bowl of water and inflatable water wings. Oh, and there’s also a tube of lipstick to test on it.

I added the horn, because a Narwhal wouldn’t put up with such absurdity, and neither should you.

Clearly I would like children to watch porn.

A couple weeks after I had already put this conversation out of my head, finding this article on Kotaku – Americans More Offended by Sex, Gay Kissing Than Severed Heads – made me ready to grumble about our culture’s fucked up value system again.

I really don’t get why we are, in general, way more ok with our kids seeing a violent act than a sex act. I watched a lot of war movies as a kid – my grandfather was a marine, so they were on a lot. He seemed to think that is was healthy for me to watch them. I also watched a lot of horror movies as a kid. I remember specifically a horror marathon I was watching with some friends. My grandmother was walking in and out of the room while we sat merrily enjoying the blood bath with nary a word of admonishment for what we were watching. Then she came in during a scene where there was a naked girl swimming in some dude’s water bed (he was dreaming). Holy crap, you could see boobs. As everyone knows, boobs are horrible things that will scar a young child for life. At this point we were told that we ought not be watching movies where we could see a lady’s dirty pillows, and it was time to change the movie.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if I’m too young to see a naked person because it might have some kind of negative impact of my developing morals, then I probably shouldn’t have been watching wholesale slaughter performed by psychopaths/cops/soldiers either. So why does the former get a far sharper reaction than the latter?

One of my friends explained to me that sex was a selfish act, whereas people fight in wars based on love of country. That just doesn’t ring true for me. Sex is usually based on very positive things – love, pleasure, the instinct to continue the species. The majority of any kind of conflict, ranging from getting mugged to waging war tends to arise from one basic thought – “I want my way, and I’m willing to kill to see that I get it.” I want your land. I want your oil. I want your wallet. I want my ideological view to prevail over yours. It all boils down to the same thing.

And just so people don’t get confused, let me make it clear that I am not saying parents should let their kids see sex in movies. Neither am I complaining that they aren’t more restrictive about viewing violence. I’m simply trying to figure out why we think like we do. That seems to be a really difficult concept for some people to grasp . . .

Back me up Mr. Malthus

I already know I’m going to get shit for this from all five people that read what I post, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad idea: UK official proposes “temporarily” sterilizing teen girls. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s completely safe – will not hinder development, will not cause ovaries to erupt into tumors, etc. Seems at least like a not terrible idea . . .

Of course I’m also a fan of requiring a breeding license before you start inflicting your offspring on the general population – to at least make sure you can afford to cast your lot into the gene pool rather than filling out your welfare forms during the first trimester. And before anyone cries inappropriate government interference, consider that you already need a license to get married, drive a car, carry a gun or catch a fish. It’s not such an infringement on your rights to make sure you can afford a kid before you have one. You don’t actually have a right to breed and expect the state to compel the rest of the population to support your young.

And where do you suppose most of the welfare mums come from? Just taking a wild guess, I’d say a fair amount were high school girls either too stupid, uninformed or self-destructive to take steps to prevent a pregnancy. I knew a lot of girls in high school that ended up pregnant. One girl admitted to me that she thought as long as the guy pulled out, you were ok. That’s bad enough for a face-palm, but I also knew a girl whose plan was to get pregnant and collect welfare. That was it – she had figured out how many kids she needed to have to get by without even working. Is . . . is it going too far to think some people need their uterus revoked?

I don’t think this is going to make teenagers more promiscuous. Most kids feel as though they are exempt from consequences anyway – it just seems to go with the youthful territory. This would just protect them – and the rest of society – from their own poor judgement.

As part of a greater plan, you give the girls one of the five year implants, say from 13-18 or 12-17. Health classes starting in or around the seventh grade should start educating kids about sex. Yes this should happen in schools. No, this is not the domain of parents – at least not anymore than any other school subject is. Homeschool if you want, but know that if your kid doesn’t understand the basics, you fucked up. Sexual reproduction is a biological function, and as such is the province of science, not ethics. Much like our other biological functions, a series of social mores and restrictions have grown up around it – that is a more personal subject, and probably the right time to tell the public educators to butt out.

“Fixing” your kids for a few years might be an extreme step for a parent to take, but if it were safe I think I’d do it. I’ve said before – I’d advocate a broad spectrum vaccination for all STDs at birth if such a thing were available. I wouldn’t fear my child becoming a sex addict at fourteen because of it. Ideology can still be taught. If the ideology takes hold, then that young person will have made their choices based on the “right” reasons, rather than out of fear of mundane repercussions. If the ideology does not take hold . . .well, then at least society will not have to bear the burden of the person’s choices.