by kehote on August 11, 2012
We’re seeing a huge philosophical divide in this upcoming election: Helping the super-wealthy and the merely rich (making over $250K a year) vs. helping the middle class and poor (making under $250K a year).
The two things every voter needs to decide in the coming months is pretty simple, really… do you make under or over $250k a year, and would you rather help yourself and the folks in your bracket or the folks in the other bracket? (And remember, a little psychological trick the spin-masters of the wealthy use is prompting us to imagine ourselves as being rich in the FUTURE so we vote for their interests TODAY. I’m sorry, but the reality is the vast majority of us will struggle our entire lives to pay our bills.)
A recent study shows that we all share a big disconnect when it comes to understanding real, actual proportions of “who-has-what” in America. The study suggests that if you take away all the labels, all the ingrained propaganda and just look at the numbers… we prefer a just society to an unjust society. Sure, it’s human nature for the individual to want more for themselves, but when it comes to the question of how should we act as a group, as a society, we’re much more neighborly than the GOP would have you believe. We’ve known for 3,000 years now that a just society is one that shelters the homeless, that feeds the hungry, and that heals the sick.
Personally, I like being on the just side, but Mitt Romney and his VP pick Paul Ryan is pretty much as far on the other side of “just” as you can get. They’ve been pretty clear about their intentions, and they intend to put the squeeze on us while flooding more cash to the wealthy. It’s not a disputed point, he says it all the time.
If you think it’s a valid question to cut through the propaganda and re-evaluate what we really stand for in this election, please consider asking your friends how they feel. It’s a small thing to do; this question will determine the direction of our country for a long time to come, so it’s a pretty important subject to discuss.
Being a good citizen is not being afraid to be involved in the process of our own governance. The founding fathers accomplished incredible goals with the support of their fellow colonists and it grew exponentially by all of them talking to each other in their homes, churches, taverns and town squares. They weren’t afraid of having a voice and using it; they did it for themselves and their future generations. Let’s do it for ourselves and our kids, too.
Regardless of propaganda labels like “job creators”, it’s a fact that no matter how wealthy you are, you didn’t get that way by manufacturing things or providing services no one wanted or couldn’t afford. The middle class and poor fuel the engine of this nation and the more they’re squeezed (and we’re all being squeezed, nickel and dimed more and more these days), the less they have to spend which directly affect what they can buy. When products don’t sell there’s no profit, so production scales down and jobs are… cut.
We power the economy, not them.
It’s simple. Without market demand, there are no new jobs. No matter how many billions of dollars we give the wealthy and their offshore corporations in “incentives, tax breaks and subsidies”, not a single sustainable job is ever created that doesn’t produce profit for the owners. They wouldn’t stay wealthy for very long if they went around creating profit-draining “charity jobs” to thank us all for giving them billions of our tax dollars, now would they?
Here’s the truth: No Profit = No Job Created. If there is market demand, and there is a profit to be made, they’d create the job anyway.
It’s a con… they’re just trying to pull the wool over our eyes when they tell us that without “incentives, tax breaks and subsidies” those profitable jobs won’t be created.
We’re smarter than that, and we have two powerful ways to let them know we reject their power and cash grab and give ourselves a much more positive outlook for our future, financial and otherwise.
We talk to each other and we vote.
by kehote on June 8, 2012
I’m writing this prediction for you to call me on in five years: If Romney wins, income inequality in America will get much, much worse. I hope I’m wrong. I’ll hate to be right.
Here’s my reasoning.
It’s glaringly obvious that the social experiment that we’ve been subjected to for the last 12 years has produced no new jobs.
ZILCH. NADA. NONE. They even admitted it.
And it’s pretty obvious to the rest of the world.
Alan Grayson recently said:
“In 2001 there were 110 million private sector jobs in America. Today, there’s still 110 million private sector jobs in America.
Despite a population increase of more than 25 million, there’s no more private sector jobs today than when the Bush tax breaks for the rich became law. In the past 11 years, the number of Americans living in poverty has increased from 33 million to 44 million. The number of Americans receiving food stamps has risen from 18 million to 46 million. “Trickle-down” has not been a trickle down – it’s been a torrent of cash going UP.
According to the Paris School of Economics, the top 1% in America saw their share of national income increase by more than 13% from 2001 to 2010. The top 0.1% saw their share of income increase by 20%. The top 0.01% saw their share of income explode by more than 37%, from 2.4% of all of the income in America to 3.3%. The Bush tax breaks for the rich have yielded the most unequal distribution of wealth in American history, more unequal even than that of 1929, just before the Great Depression. The lurch toward inequality started decades ago; the Bush tax breaks for the rich only accelerated it.”
These cuts simply padded the bank accounts of the rich, who lobbied heavily for them. Why not? It’s a great deal:
Now that the 5-4 Conservative Supreme Court decision gave them the Citizens United ruling (that allows unlimited secret campaign donations), we’ve seen what that kind of money brings: Ad saturation in markets like Wisconsin that sway elections.
Here’s my prediction:
If Romney wins the Presidency, it’s a given he will replace the three soon-to-be retiring judges with three new conservative judges and then we can expect many, many more conservative rulings like Citizens United for the next 15-20 years.
You think there’s a problem now? You think equality in America looks lopsided now? Wait till you see what America looks like there’s nothing standing in their way.
We’ll see more Scott Walkers crushing union rights in every state, the last organized defense the American people have against conservative corporate ambitions. Once the unions are minimized or dead, conservatives will steamroll over minimum wage laws on their way to “privatizing” social security and then they’ll have almost everything they want, right in their back pocket.
The poor will have even less of a path out of poverty than ever before. Poor kids will stay even poorer and rich kids will have even more advantages to keep themselves in family money.
This prediction isn’t rocket science. It’s written on the wall. Republicans have told us what they plan to do. Money rules America, and the candidate with the most cash wins. Romney has tons of money, and boatloads more are on the way from his friends every day.
The small donations aren’t flooding in to Obama, as people are disillusioned that he wasn’t near the socialist the Republicans accused him of being. I think that as the race gets closer to the date, a few more small donations will trickle in but it’ll be too little, too late. What everyone forgets (or chooses to ignore), is that the Republicans mobilized every ounce of strength to obstruct Democrats at every turn. They worked tirelessly to ensure that America was in as ragged a shape as possible come November 2012 to shift blame to Obama, and they’ve done an outstanding job. If only they had worked that hard to help Americans instead of helping themselves, we might be in great shape right now, but that’s not what happened.
This is the worst partisan fight I’ve seen from them, and I thought they were bad during the Bush years, when Rep. Sensenbrenner simply cut the microphones and shut off the lights on the people voicing concerns about the overreaches of the Patriot Act. That was penny ante compared to how they’ve drowned out the opposition’s voice with a flood of Citizens United money.
If the race is close, we may even see another Brooks Brothers Riot.
This nation was founded on a unique system of checks and balances designed to let the best ideas shine and the worst ones fade away, but we’re seeing the top .001 percent subvert our system while convincing millions of Americans that they’re the “job creators”, and that if we just give them another 12+ years of tax cuts and cash subsidies, they’ll “create jobs”.
When I grew up that was known as being pissed on while you’re being told it’s raining. Oh, I’m sorry… they call that “trickling down” now.
We’re living in historic times, people. We can sit back and watch or we can roll up our sleeves and pitch in. I’m doing everything I can to help re-elect President Obama because under Romney, I’m certain that my prediction of a long term top-.001%-controlled Supreme Court will come true… and that will truly be a disaster for my beloved nation and our children living in it.
by kehote on April 25, 2012
I recently received this old saw from a friend of mine, with the simple suggestion to “Think about it.”
THE TAX SYSTEM EXPLAINED IN BEER
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100…
If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this…
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7..
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that’s what they decided to do..
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20″. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men ? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.
And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving).
The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.
“I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,”but he got $10!”
“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”
“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
Well, I thought about it.
While it’s a rousing story, it’s a painstakingly crafted message designed to make your blood boil, to hate the poor beneath you – the only thing missing in it is one of the four poor men should have been an illegal immigrant. It’s an “astroturfed” whisper campaign to save the poor, unfortunate wealthy who “will refuse to work unless their taxes are lowered”.
Not only is this bullshit, it’s also bad economic reasoning.
A graduated income tax has been a part of the American system for 70 years or more. In the past, the wealthy paid a much higher percentage of their incomes as taxes yet they still seemed to continue working and accumulating wealth. Even at higher tax rates, the rich make much, much more money than the rest of us and if they suddenly stopped their juggernaught income gravy train “to take their toys and go home”, they would simply cut off their own nose to spite our face.
The idea that if you tax me too much, I’ll quit working or investing in my business is idiocy. The rich go where there’s money to be made, and they’re staying right here in the U.S. because there’s fortunes being made by them here every day, 24/7. They aren’t taking their toys and going home. They are home.
The thing with being rich is, (or so I hear) making money becomes an addiction. You thrive on making more and more and you don’t let anything get in your way, like say… the truth. The Republicans have said for years that if you lower tax rates on the rich, the resulting increase in wealth would trickle down to the rest of us. That’s the heart of Reaganomics, and it’s resulted in the greatest disparity of wealth the in the U.S. we’ve ever seen. When Reagan became President in 1981, the top marginal federal income tax rate was 70%; when he left office in 1989, the top rate was 28%.
They want you to believe that taxes are incredibly high on them and that they’re “paying for the party”, when in fact taxes are currently on the low side these days – the rich pay as little as 15% on capital gains while the rest of us pay double or more that on wages and other income. Take a look at ANY chart of American income disparity since Reaganomics began and as yourself: How much trickled down to us?
Second, the “tax” system analogy he emailed to me does nothing to explain the distribution of wealth among the participants and how it was acquired.
In this overly simplistic example, the 10th person who paid $59 for his share of the beer controls 70 dollars out of every hundred the men made together. It doesn’t mention how the poorest 4 in this microcosm work the hardest, yet are paid only one thousandth as much as the rich man for their labors. The rich man just pays his other people to manage the 70%+ he extracts from the system by virtue of having vast capital resources, access to deal-makers and a system that they design to tilt in their favor.
The bottom four combined made less than a dollar yet it says nothing about how they have to pay a large percentage of that dollar for other tiny taxes that accumulate over time: a nickel tax on using the bathroom, a few pennies for napkins and plastic forks, a dime for the soup and a dime on bar stool rental. In fact, most if not all of that one dollar is gone over the course of a day and then it’s back to another long day to earn that one dollar. When do they have time and resources to accumulate their fortune?
The house almost always wins. In many cases, one could say the tenth man made his fortune cheating the other 9.
Really though, George Carlin explains it much better than I ever could.
Now that’s a rousing story.
by kehote on March 1, 2012
by kehote on March 1, 2012
At the height of the real estate bubble in Phoenix, I bought a rental house in the summer of 2006 and the backyard was just bare dirt. The first month-to-month tenants I had were a young couple that offered to install grass in the back in exchange for a portion off the first month’s rent, as they had a friend in the business who had several rolls of BobSod from a lawn install where the customer didn’t pay. They knew all the lingo, so I believed them when they swore they had installed lawns professionally in the past, so it seemed like a fair deal.
They laid it down and two months later they said they were getting divorced and had to move out ASAP. They paid their rent, but the lawn looked a bit wonky. I thought about making it an issue, but they were an emotional mess, so I just let them go. Unfortunately, they took the above ground hose sprinklers I had bought until I could afford an in-ground system, so while I was searching for new renters I set up another couple of sprinklers with a timer and had the place cleaned by a three lady crew. A month later another married couple named Jim and Karen needed a month-to-month deal while their new house was getting built, so I agreed. They moved in on a Saturday.
That Monday night I get an email from her husband, asking me to send over an exterminator. I called his cell, and he said he’s seen a few roaches, so I said ”sure, no problem.”. I called it in and they tell me the guy is scheduled to go the next afternoon. Wednesday morning I go by the house to drop off a welcome basket of coffee and chocolates (I was a fresh new landlord) and Karen welcomes me in. Tells me she’s glad to see me, and asks ”Did my husband tell you what happened with the roaches?”
I said, ”Umm, he mentioned he’d seen a few, so I called the exterminator. Did the guy come by yesterday?”
She shook her head. ”Yeah the guy came by, but that’s Jim. He’s always downplays everything.”
I asked her what happened.
“Well, this guy Mike came from (the exterminating company) and he was a big biker guy. Tattoos all over him. He was a little scary looking so I told him to go around to the back yard, that’s where the roaches are. I was watching from the arcadia door. He’s got this big canister he’s carrying with a long metal wand. So he starts going around the yard with this wand, spraying the top of it, when he leans over and sticks the wand into a big crack in the lawn. You know, whoever put your lawn in did a really bad job of it… anyway, he starts pumping that canister with one hand and he’s got the wand stuck in the ground up to his hand, and that thing was like two foot long so I don’t know how deep it was. So then, it was like biblical, something out of a movie… this like, FUNNEL CLOUD of roaches like, shoots out of the ground straight up in the air over his head and then flattens out like a mushroom over him. He starts screaming and spraying that wand everywhere around wild, like it’s a sword or something, and those roaches are biting him and swarming all around him. Did I tell you this guy was a huge biker? Screaming like he was on fire. I was scared too, and I was behind the arcadia door. Those roaches were flowing out of the ground in all directions, running from that poison he pumped in there, and what wasn’t after him was crawling up the walls of the block fence in sheets, and going over the sides. So he drops his wand thingie and he’s running all around the yard, freaking out trying to brush off all the roaches and he sees me through the glass. He starts running toward me and I know he wants in but NO WAY, I’m not opening the door, so I lock it real quick. He starts begging me to open the door and let him in. I yelled at him to go ’round the front but he’s not going, he’s just dancing around the patio like a crazy person hitting himself all over. He starts begging again, so I told him ok, I’m gonna open it up just enough for you to get in, but don’t let none a them bugs in with you. He says okay, and I go okay, on three, right? So I count to three and flip up the lock and he busts in and shuts it super quick. He’s still got roaches on him so I grab the little rug I keep in front of the sink and start slapping them off him. He’s beating himself, and I’m beating him with the rug ’till we got all the roaches we could see off him and on the floor. His eyes are still like, huge and then he rips his shirt off and he’s got ‘em inside… it was sooo gross. I beat those off of him too. We start stomping them and when we’re done we both kinda looked at each other and he’s all out of breath but he was just like “holy shiiiit, that was crazy!”. So he helped me clean up all the roach parts and then he got another canister out of the truck and sprayed in here, top to bottom. I’ve never seen anything like that. Why didn’t you tell us this place had roaches?”
I was stunned. I said I had no idea the place was infested – I just bought it and did a termite inspection and the exterminator never mentioned anything. I told her that was quite a story, and that it was strange her husband didn’t say anything if there was that big of a problem. I asked her if they had seen any more than the few he said he saw.
“Oh we didn’t see any in the house but a couple in the kitchen sink. It was when Jim turned on the back porch light. He called me over to look out. The whole yard was moving in waves like the ocean, from one wall to the other. We got the flashlight and shined it out there, and that’s when we saw they were roaches, like hundreds of thousands of them. That’s when he turned off the porch light and emailed you.”
I went to the arcadia door and looked out. On the side of the yard I see his abandoned equipment; the wand is bent. The lawn looked empty in the sun, just dried up sod and a big trampled spot in the middle. I unlocked the sliding door to walk out and she said, ”I’m not goin’ out there with you. I had enough yesterday.”
After her story I was a bit nervous as I walked across the yard, but since I didn’t have a bucket of pesticide to wage war with, I figured I was probably safe. The lawn was definitely different than when I saw it last, the long rows of sod were buckled up with big fissures running the whole length. Some of them did look a bit deep. I walked back, wiped my shoes on the mat and stepped into the house. I told Karen how sorry I was that she had to go through that, and that I was going to call the exterminator and make sure they were on a schedule from now on and we’d make sure to get everything taken care of. She said she appreciated it, thanked me for the basket and I left.
When I called the exterminating company and gave them my address, the guy on the phone started laughing and said ”Yeah, dude, you wanna talk to Mike. I’m sure he’ll be happy to talk to you.” He gave me his cell number, and I hung up and dialed it.
“This is Mike.”
“Uh, hi. I’m the owner of the house with the infested back yard you sprayed yesterday. I guess it had a roach problem?”
“Oh yeah, man. It has a roach problem. More like a fuckin’ Roach Apocalypse. I ain’t never seen nothing’ like it. That shit was… you ever seen that movie ‘The Mummy’ with that guy… what’s his name…tall guy… Brendan Fraser? It was like that part when the scarabs were zoomin’ through the cave at that one guy, just a rolling carpet of them. They were everywhere, man – when I sprayed inside that crack in the sod they came up pissed, like a fire hose straight at my head. I fought ‘em as long as I could but there was too many of them. How long you let it get like that?”
“It’s only been sitting vacant for about a month. I just bought it a few months ago and had it professionally cleaned. Termite inspector didn’t say anything about roaches. I never even saw one.”
“How long has that sod been there?”
“Couple of months. The first tenants put it in on a barter deal.”
“Shit, that’s your problem right there. I asked my boss about it and he said he’d only seen it once before, and he’s been in the business for thirty years. He said the assholes that put your yard in didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t tamp it down good enough. I guess there was a space in between the sod and the ground, and you’d been watering it for a while, but then the water probably stopped. A couple of American Reds flew in and you had yourself a goddamn Adam and Eve in their own fuckin’ Garden of Eden. With all that dark space and wet sod just bakin’ in the sun, they start loving’ it up reeeaal goood and before you know it, two turned into two million. Probably only took a couple of weeks, really. They work fast. You got a big problem.”
“Wow. I thought the tenant was pulling my leg with that story, but I guess it’s true. I’m really sorry… I’ll call the shop and get you guys back out there to finish the job. How many more times do you think it’ll take before they’re all gone?”
“Beats me, man. You can call Bill but I’m not going out there again. I was in Desert Storm and saw shit I don’t like to talk about, but you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to that house. I couldn’t sleep last night.”
Spoke to Bill. Bill’s a funny guy. He suggested we dust off and nuke it from space.
by kehote on March 1, 2012
A friend of mine recently forwarded to me a political smear email that stated that every Catholic and non-Catholic alike should be gravely concerned about President Obama’s ‘Socialist’ agenda. It contained this hilarious message and link:
“The Catholic Church is a major roadblock in Obama’s quest to bring complete Socialism to the US of A. This video explains why Obama and his minions must “divide and conquer” the Catholic Church. If you are Catholic, you need to watch it. If not, you should see it anyway. Our churches need to stand united! This video is being sent out quickly with the hopes that it will get as far as it can before it is pulled by the “Powers that be.” Please watch this video as soon as you receive it, then forward it, please. It tells all. Turn on the speakers”
I can’t remember having sat through such a crazy pile of passive-aggressive, persecution-delusion-fantasy bullshit since the last time I heard Rick Santorum open his mouth, which was yesterday. I believe if the Catholics (and the Evangelicals) have anything to be worried about, it’s not President Obama, but the one thing that will bring about the demise of the Church:
That’s right. The free flow of information and rapid exchange of ideas shines a million watt spotlight into the darkest recesses of religious nutbaggery better than anything yet devised. It’s the 21st century equivalent of Martin Luther’s manifesto nailed to the church door in 1517.
Surely not, you scoff… what could possibly hurt the modern Church? She’s survived for millennia, and it won’t be one lonely American President that brings her down, that’s for sure. President Obama can’t even get favorable legislation passed in a Congress in which the Dems had a majority, much less kill the Catholic church (even if he wanted to), which is about as likely as him being the actual Anti-Christ. Remember, us Americans bomb the living shit out of countries we have an issue with, and the Vatican is her own country, as prescribed in the Vatican charter – recognized by all the world’s governments as a sovereign nation. Will President Obama bomb the Vatican? Get Fox News on the line, now that sounds like a leading story to whip up the base!
Nope, sorry… President Obama won’t be sending Predator drones to the Vatican this year. What IS happening though, is this new generation is starting to view organized religion and all its “mysteries” as so much hogwash and fairy tales, as it well should be.
Thank the Internet. I do.
Chris Hitchens said it better than I ever could have:
“Let me tell you something. For hundreds and thousands of years, this kind of discussion would have been impossible to have, or Sam (Harris) and I would have been having it at the risk of our lives. Religion now comes to us in this ‘smiley-face’ ingratiating way…. because it has had to give so much ground and because we know so much more. But you have no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong and when it really did believe that it had God on its side!”
Oh, I remember. The Church chased, tortured and killed those that dared pose any thought contrary to her dogma. The Church was… harsh.
It’s really happening, though. People are waking up all over. If religious folks in the last 40 years had just kept ensconcing themselves in their churches and respected the separation of Church and State, we wouldn’t be having THIS conversation. But, no, they felt it was their ‘moral duty’ to try to infiltrate the halls of power and legislate their brand of morality, so now they’re under the microscope (which is oddly fitting, considering their anti-intellectual hatred of science and reason), and more and more people are starting to ask the questions the Church has vehemently discouraged since its inception. Questions like, “Why? What purpose does the Church serve, besides molesting young boys and trying to outlaw contraception?”, “Why should I trust the opinion of evangelical Christians that deny evolution?” and ”Why should I give respect and authority to any religion, as I now see them for the gaggle of pious acting scam artists that they are, wildly succeeding in bilking honest, hard working folks for millennia with their tales of eternal damnation for tithing poorly?”
These are the real adversaries of the Church. She should be quaking in her tall, goofy Pope hat because the math is dead simple.
It’s been reported that 62% of students entering college with a ‘faith commitment’, leave without a ‘faith commitment’. That’s ONE generation, and you know how fast things move these days already, right? Well, everyone has The Google and soon everyone will have an atheist friend coming out of the closet, and those atheist friends will start to talk at parties… quietly at first, and then with more and more conviction.
Disbelief will snowball, like the first kid in 2nd grade who tells another kid that Santa isn’t real. Soon the whole class is buzzing with this ‘blasphemy’ and the next thing you know, a few kids will start thinking critically about the whole “billions of gifts delivered in one night” thing and then WHAMMO! you’ve got a whole class of 3rd grade unbelievers.
It’s just that quick, and you know what? The Church knows this and since they had to stop using bone-crushing torture and slow death to cure these outbreaks, they don’t have a whole lot of viable options left to fill pews. Well, maybe free donuts and coffee.
That’s why religions make a huge point of indoctrinating their flock from birth that the worst imaginable offense to God is not to believe in Him. That to even view atheist literature even for a second is to invite destruction of your very soul. They advise that when one happens upon an atheist in the wild, one should simply turn tail and run as fast as the angels can carry them – the only people with faith strong enough to resist the vampire atheist are Vatican priests fluent in Latin and bullshit.
They don’t want the flock talking to us. They’re scared even the tiniest scratch of critical thought will develop into a full blown infection of reason.
They know that once a person starts to think critically about the whole “invisible sky father knows the position of every hair on everyone’s head all at once and chooses to help Tim Tebow rather than starving African babies” thing and then WHAMMO! you’ve got a whole generation of young, healthy, pissed off unbelievers that just wanna share the Good News about the New Atheism.
Now that’s a huge, looming problem for the Church, but they don’t really want to advertise that train of thought to the masses. Best deal with that internally, like they do for their umm… other PR problems.
It’s much easier to blame the skinny black guy. He’s a Socialist, you know.
by kehote on March 1, 2012
When we start to consider why people are drawn to different sides of the political and theological spectrum, the biological question cannot be ignored. University studies suggest that liberals are more receptive to new ideas and information while conservatives value a more bunker-like adhesion to traditional values and beliefs because of the more active, larger regions of the brain associated with these differing viewpoints.
In one article about these studies, it was posited that “We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala.” and “Our findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty.”
These studies suggest the evidence is mounting in favor of the theory that ideological battle lines are indeed drawn along the anatomical fault lines of the human psyche. It’s a wide chasm of different world views, and both sides take different approaches to dealing with it.
As their very labels suggest, Progressives want to “progress” forward, and Conservatives want to pull back to a perceived better time or “conserve” what they feel is best about America. Even the word “compromise” seems to have negative and positive connotations for the the two sides. Depending on which side of the chasm you’re standing on, “compromise” will either be a hopeful objective or a dirty word, hence attempts by the Liberals to compromise, or “bridge” this chasm are met with formidable resistance by Conservatives. They sabotage Liberals’ efforts to foster progress and Liberals become increasingly frustrated as they continue to try to get them to go against their own biological clockwork. As evidence of this position, I offer a Conservative blog post that outlines what “compromise” means to the hardline Conservative:
It’s apparent that the rhetoric from both sides highlight their own biases in the most inflammatory manner possible. The Right paints the Left as “out-of-touch, ivory tower intellectual, godless atheist heathens who are determined to subvert good, honest Christian families to communism/socialism/marxism, stealing their hard earned wages for lobster dinners for the homeless and forced abortions for all” and the Left paints the Right as “Gun-toting, anti-intellectual, warhawk rednecks who want to quash scientific and social progress and would only settle for a totalitarian, theocratic, end-time based regime if they can’t bring about total Armageddon, praise Jesus“.
It’s tough to find the truth between these harsh characterizations, but two (admittedly Liberal) artists have attempted to bridge this gap with an infographic outlining (in as non-inflammatory words as possible) the ideological differences between the Left and Right:
They used input from often heated discussions from Conservatives to make it as fair to both sides as possible. I’m not sure if the most recent version is Conservative-approved, but from my standpoint, I think they’ve done a very fair job of delineating the different world views: Left vs. Right v 1.5
Although I’ve mainly concentrated on the political ramifications of the differences of Liberal/Conservative brain structure in this post, it’s pertinent to note the theological ramifications as well. More American Conservatives identify themselves as being religious (notably Christian of varying denominations), while many Liberals hold religious views, more identify themselves as atheist “Freethinkers” than Conservatives would by far. Viewed in this context of biological differences it becomes apparent that Liberals (if the studies are true, being more well equipped “brain-wise” to manage fear and uncertainty) would be more apt to question religious dogma and reject it entirely for a more naturalistic world view. Unfortunately, this earns them the dubious title of “godless heathen intellectual” and the stigma of being viewed with fear and loathing by Conservative Christians.
So we really have two major fronts of differences, fought simultaneously. In the old adage, “Never discuss politics or religion”, our ancestors knew intimately how these two hot spots of conviction could cause brothers as well as strangers to draw blood, so it’s little wonder that there’s a simmering cauldron of hostility in America today as these twin fires are stoked by both sides, with ever increasing advertising budgets.
It’s getting ugly out there, but I believe there’s hope.
No matter how daunting the current political landscape may be, as a Progressive I work for a better future for my children. With the advent of the internet and the now torrential flow of information and ideas, I believe that light dispels darkness, and that’s why love, truth, logic and reason will triumph over hatred, blind allegiance and smear campaigns. History tells us there will probably be quite a few casualties along the way, but consider the history of Progressivism:
Regulation of large monopolies, trust busting, child labor and minimum wage laws, organized labor, national parks, wildlife refugees and reclamation, social safety nets such as Social Security and now movement toward affordable health care are some of the major achievements won by Progressives. For all the media saturation and political grandstanding by the Koch brothers and Conservative pundits pushing hatred and fear on AM talk radio and Fox News, it’s more apparent every day that Progressive ideals are winning and more people are starting to embrace logic and reason over superstition and magical thinking than ever before. Neuroscience is starting to suggest some new strategies:
Of course, there will always be those that fear change and long for a rose-colored memory of previous eras, but I think that our hope and salvation as a nation and a species lie within the elastic brains of each new generation. I believe the only bridge that will ever span the chasm between our anterior cingulate cortex and our right amygdala will be the one paved with love, understanding and critical thought.
by kehote on March 1, 2012
Christopher Hitchens once spoke the following words in a debate:
“Let me tell you something. For hundreds and thousands of years, this kind of discussion would have been impossible to have, or Sam and I would have been having it at the risk of our lives. Religion now comes to us in this smiley-face ingratiating way, because it has had to give so much ground and because we know so much more. But you have no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong, and when it really did believe that it had God on its side.”
This is a very empowering thought to me.
When you really consider it, religion today is like an abusive step-father in his elder years – old and weak, half begging for company but still trying his best to run your life and control your bedroom. You kind of feel sorry for him in his weakened, needy state, but then you remember him when he was young and strong. He terrified, vilified and murdered those that opposed him, ruling kingdoms and launching wars that slaughtered people by the millions.
You dared not oppose him, as those that did paid with their lives. Religion’s reign of terror and superstition has kept us in the dark far too long.
He may be getting on in years, but he’s still dangerous: He still molests young boys in the Catholic church, still burns witches in Africa, still stones women in the Middle East and kills homosexuals in America. He still wants to live, he still wants to eat.
However, there’s hope his time is near. With the internet connecting us in ways faster than the old man can keep up with, all of us kids are now talking to one another and realizing the extent of the systemic abuse we’ve been hostage to all these years, like a world-wide abuse survivor support group. Our abuser’s time is running short, and yet so many of his children are still desperately trying to shovel donations down his throat, keep him active and exercising, but there’s a growing number of us that just wish he’d, well… go.
I wish John Lennon was alive to see what’s happening today.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
by kehote on March 1, 2012
It’s because I’m a father.
I used to go to an Evangelical Christian church, I used to believe, I used to tithe 10%+. I used to volunteer, I used to hold small groups in my home. That was all back before 2003. That was before Bush wanted a second term and my church was mobilizing to help him do it. They handed out Republican propaganda, they preached how Bush was a godly man and we should all “honor our King” (exactly as they said it).
The final straw came when they emailed our entire congregation a raft of lies about Democrats, and didn’t BCC it. I thought “What right does our pastor have to press his political opinion on all of us? We go to church to hear the word, not politics.” I saw an opportunity to speak to the congregation with a gentle voice of moderation and reason, imploring them to consider the wars and killing, the torture, the loss of civil liberties under the Patriot Act, etc. etc., so I took it. I provided links to news stories that showed the contradictions in what we were being told and I asked them to seek the truth before they made a decision about the future of our country. I realized that Kerry was a very, very poor alternative, but I thought that another 4 years of Bush was enough to weaken us to the point of no return. I tried to get that across as gently as possible.
It was a firestorm of hate.
I was cursed at by people I’d known for years, people I’d prayed with. I was told I hated the troops. I was told that waterboarding wasn’t torture, and even if it was, it was okay because America was worth it. My small group I hosted at my home was subjected to Nazi-like brownshirt investigation, with the small group pastor dropping by to “keep us on point” in our discussions.
I was invited to a private meeting with the pastor, who suggested that “politics was the true opiate of the masses” and that “for every hour of political thought, I should spend two hours praying for guidance”. I was told that government was chosen by God and that I had to honor my King (Bush). I was told that his son currently stationed in Iraq was laying his life on the line for my freedom, and that I was being “disrespectful and out of alignment with God’s word”.
People in church stopped speaking to my wife, who is possibly the sweetest woman on Earth. We were ostracized to the point that it was palpably uncomfortable to sit in service. The small group I hosted decided to “host the group closer to most of the other members’ homes”, meaning 1/2 mile closer to them.
We left, my wife hoping to find another church home. I was still shocked and angry at my treatment from these ‘godly’ folks, so I didn’t exactly make it a priority.
The second realization came when my young son began to realize what death was, and connected what he heard of hell and demons in church. He became terrified of his parents dying, and then his death, and then everlasting torture. I opened my mouth to explain the sacrifice of the Lamb, and why he’ll never see Hell if he loved Jesus and then it hit me like a freight train.
As a father, I was about to tell my terrified son the fairy tale equivalent of this: “If he didn’t want to end up locked in a dark, dank basement filled with spiders and child molesters and murderers, then he should love me with all his heart and soul, and if I truly believed he was sincere, then I wouldn’t lock him in the basement forever. I would tell him I sacrificed myself to work very hard for him, and that I was giving him this gift of a chance to live upstairs with me forever. However, if he didn’t want it, then it was out of my hands and he would have to go to the basement and be locked in there, away from the warm beacon of my love forever.”
I couldn’t tell my child this. I couldn’t tell him that invisible demons were real.
It occurred to me that if I didn’t tell him, then I was betraying God by not passing on ‘holy truth’ to him that he MUST KNOW TO AVOID THE BASEMENT, but if I couldn’t ask him to believe this, then why should I believe it… and it all fell into place for me. I had been a stooge. I had believed this idiocy my whole life, I had even held off on having kids earlier because I feared the coming Apocalypse was just around the corner. I was a fool and I was so ashamed I was numb.
I held my son and soothed him. I told him not to worry, there were no such things as demons, and we would all be alive for a very long time. I told him he had nothing to worry about, and that I and his mommy loved him very much. Slowly his sobs subsided, his tears dried, and he looked up and smiled at me, hugged me tight and said, “I love you, Daddy.”
He fell asleep as I rocked him in my arms on the couch. I gritted my teeth and wept. I’ve never been to church since, and I never will. I now raise my children to be critical thinkers and to resoundingly reject magical thinking.
I’m now comfortable with the words “I reject Christ”, because it holds no more power over me than if I was saying, “I reject the Flintstones”.
Some follow-up and bit more background:
I’ve been asked several times if this story is true. It is. I wish I was a good enough writer to make up a story like this. I know the church-speak because I lived it – I’m sharing my story with you because it was time. I needed to share.
I’ll admit, even though I’m totally comfortable now with the phrase, “I’ve rejected Christ”, it was a bit spooky saying it out loud at first – like walking into an abandoned “haunted” house and loudly daring ghosts to rip your face off. Sure it can be done, but the first few times you’ll need a shot of tequila to get started. ; )
As for my wife and how she took my epiphany, I’ll tell you this: never has a man been luckier in marriage than I. She’s about 12 shades of wonderful and loves me despite my many and oddly varied faults.
Let me give you a bit of background…
She was raised Catholic in a large family but we never had issues between religious flavors. I hadn’t attended regular service since I stopped going as a teenager, and while I maintained my faith more or less, I tried to follow Christ’s teachings. Mostly. I think it’s because there was wine involved.
I guess I wasn’t as ‘committed’ a Christian as some.
Anyway, after we’d been married a few years we talked about going back now that we were going to start a family, so we followed our programming, found a nice Evangelical non-denominational church home and settled in around 1999.
I tried my best, but church seemed different now. It was more militant, more “Armor of God”, more frenetic. There was a serious end-of-days vibe. When we started hosting the small group in our home, we had many good conversations over passages and how they related to our current society, but it was becoming obvious to us that war and killing was not as high on everyones list of “bad things” as was abortion and gay rights.
My wife and I commiserated about our differences with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but we continued to make the best of it until ‘the email incident’. She knew it’d take some time for me to feel comfortable in a church environment again, so she didn’t push it.
So, when I came to her after I had come to my new conclusions, she wasn’t as taken aback as I thought she’d be. We discussed it at length, I started reading Dawkins and Hitchens (felt like I was slow-dancing with the devil), and I continued to think about it. She stood by me as I worked through it, and listened and agreed with me on some things, others… not so much. We were simpatico politically and and in many other ways, so we could weather this. It wasn’t a source of tension, as we’d already been kicked out of church for my un-churchy ways.
It was just us again.
She still had her Catholic faith (and her mom is very religious) but she’d been ruminating on my assertions about the meaning of faith, war and the role of religion throughout the ages, as I learned more and shared. We have a daughter as well, and they had gotten used to not going to church anymore, but my daughter had one friend from church that keeps trying to “save” her. We’ve talked to the kids about my doubts, and that Mom still has her faith, but we don’t dwell on it. There’s too many other things in our life to occupy us with school, work, friends, etc.
Then, a couple of years ago my wife picks up Sam Harris’ “End of Faith” for herself. She reads it almost every night for a week, and when I ask her what she thinks, she says, “I’m still reading it.” Poker face. I go back to my book.
A few days later, one morning after we get the kids off to school and we’re talking over coffee at the kitchen table… she’s got a twinkle in her eye and she seems to have a secret, but then she says she gets it. She understands what I’ve been talking about and we talk for hours. It was great.
She still occasionally speaks of “being blessed” and thanks God before half-stopping herself, but then she gives me that sweet “who me?” smile of hers and a twinkly eye. I’m not saying anything. That early training will always be a part of us, but it no longer guides us. I’m thankful for that.
by kehote on March 1, 2012
Let me preface this by saying that when I refer to the “Left” and Right”, I don’t necessarily mean Republicans and Democrats. To my definition, the “Right” are any number of individuals in places of power pushing for more war, more fear and less civil liberties. The “Left” are individuals in places of power pushing for less war, less fear and more civil liberties. There are Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, Independents, Libertarians and others that are actively pursuing either side of these idealogical platforms. You may, or may not agree with my definition, so here’s the Wiki definition so we all share some common ground:
So let’s get on with it.
After a decade of wondering with sick amazement when and how America became the land of the insane when viewed in the light of its loudest Right Wing media pundits, I think I finally have the answer.
It’s a simple psychological sales tool called the “Door-In-The-Face” technique, also known as a ‘sequential request’ or ‘rejection-then-retreat’. It’s been modified slightly by the Right to work on larger groups over time.
It’s a simple trick. First make a request of the other person that’s way over the top, which they’ll most likely refuse. Act dejected, but then make a request that’s more reasonable; the other person will be much more likely to accept the second proposal. It’s just negotiation 101 – start your bar in the stratosphere so you can end up merely at skyscraper level.
Honey, can I spend $3,000 on a week-long trip to Vegas with my friends? (NO! Are you out of your mind?)
I see… Ok, how about $300 for a 3 day weekend fishing trip with my buddies?
Can you help me edit this entire book? (Ummm… I don’t have time to do all that…)
Well… can you help me with just this chapter?
All the years of watching, mouth agape, as every top GOP media pundit worked overtime to out-crazy each other, making ever more outrageous statements on a daily basis always left me wondering if they actually were crazy.
Sure they are… crazy like a Fox (News).
It’s all about moving the middle knot on the tug-of-war rope inch by inch, as far to the Right as possible. Think back on the most outrageous “opinion grenades” lobbed over the wall by Rush, Coulter, Hannity, Beck and others in the GOP lineup. By employing such stellar punditry of over-the-top individuals not afraid to throw their personal credibility under the bus for a larger cause (and a much larger paycheck), the Right has consistently, over time, caused us to accept things as normal that we as a nation would have NEVER accepted 30 years ago. Endless trillion dollar wars, torture, billions to Wall Street, near total erosion of the middle class, tax cuts for the wealthiest .01% etc., etc.
The Left (and the American people in general) have been completely routed by this technique. The Left stands there dumbfounded, barely able to illicit a response, most of which has been “Did… did you just hear what they said?! They’re crazy! Please listen to us, we’re sensible and it’s obvious we’re the saner choice. It’ll all be fine, nobody is stupid enough to consider their ideas as workable.”
They missed the point.
It was supposed to sound totally crazy to make “just-moderately-crazy” sound almost reasonable. It works like a charm. Glenn Beck even wrote a book called “The Overton Window”, which, in its most basic form, is a political theory (not originated by Beck) that states that at any given moment, a “window” of ideas can move or expand, accordingly become more or less politically acceptable. The degrees of acceptance of public ideas can be described roughly as:
It’s a con job, a Three-Card Monty and the Left doesn’t seem to understand how the game is being played. They think, “ignore their insane bluster, it only makes us look better…’reasonable and prudent’ is self-revealing, and therefore will be chosen by reasonable and prudent people as a matter of self-preservation”, but that’s not how the Door-In-The-Face Technique works. It does an end-run around your rational, all-things-being-equal mind. The very, very rich are running the con, this media onslaught, and we’re the transfixed mark, being nudged farther and farther toward the extreme Right.
Just look at what’s happened of late with the debt ceiling negotiations of 2011. By starting off from the 100% furthest point on the right, and even though they aren’t technically the party in power at this moment, the Right has unequivocally declared a stance of “No Compromise”, and if the Left wanted to negotiate, they’d have to start at 95% on the right, just to get them to sit down at the table.
Obama complied with nary a whimper. Just scooted right over and begged for compromise. He got crumbs. Both sides declared victory, except that the Left was woefully delusional if they call that a victory. People on the Left all over America looked at other and wondered, “How did we get here?”
The answer has been right in front of us the entire time. It’s the Door-In-The-Face Technique, in full effect.
Winking at us, Glenn Beck coyly revealed his true job description when he constantly referred to himself as a ‘rodeo clown’, distracting the stupid bull, taking heat on the front line to let the matadors (the .01%) do their job safely.
He inferred that the bull was “the Left”, but his main audience was never the Left. It was the legions of poor and middle class that tuned into his show to hear “their side” and get all fired up with every tear-stained patriotic diatribe. Enraged, actually. Some listeners were enraged to the point that they picked up weapons and used them against abortion doctors, or like the Glenn Beck devotee that ran into the police on the freeway with a bulletproof vest and a vehicle loaded with an arsenal of guns and ammo. He was on his way to the Tides Foundation after Beck targeted them as the ‘Progressive Front Line’. He was going to kill as many of them as possible to kick off a ‘revolution’.
Personally, though, I think Beck was just a few degrees shy of the true metaphor at work here. I think it’s less like a rodeo and more like a spanish bullfight. There’s still a bull involved.
We, the American people, are the bull, pushed into this frothing, political, Right vs.Left rage, primarily by this one, single sales technique performed by the matadors, the top .01% of the wealthiest movers and shakers in the nation. Sure it’s effective – one side is certainly moving the flag on the rope, but at what cost to us as a nation?
Unless this bull learns to look past the red cape and concentrate on the matador, this bullfight has only one outcome.
The bull dies at the end.