12 August 2011

"Independent" Wealth? What a Load of Crap.

Gotta love Facebook. I saw this post earlier, and it set me off:
"I think I found the solution to the US debt problem:

Salary of retired US Presidents...$180,000 for life
Salary of House/Senate...$174,000 for life
Salary of Speaker of the House...$223,500 for life
Salary of Majority/Minority Leaders...$193,400 for life
Average Salary of a teacher...$40,065 per year
Average Salary of Soldier Deployed in Afghanistan...$38,000 per year

I think we found where the cuts should be made!"

Actually, the president does get a decent percentage of his/her $400,000 salary for a pension (after running our COUNTRY, with none of the $15 million Wall Street bonuses), but most congress members don't get anywhere near their salaries for life. They DO pay into Social Security, and they ARE on the same retirement plans we were on in the postal service, except that they're required to contribute a bigger chunk of their salaries to them (per Senate website et al.).

They also have to serve at least 5 years to be eligible for a partial pension, at least 20 years to be eligible for their full pension at age 50 (same as p.o. and other fed. jobs), or they have to be at least 62 or have served at least 25 years, to collect the money they contributed from their own salaries. There are other factors, too, like military advantage and which specific plans they choose, and whether or not they invest in other savings funds. They also voted overwhelmingly in both 2010 and 2011 to not accept federally mandated cost-of-living increases.

(Lots of people continue to whine and cry for term limits, but that's just an excuse to not vote and get even lazier about it. We have always had term limits: They're called elections. If we legislate limits, even fewer people will give enough of a damn to get off their asses and vote than do now.)

Now, as far as the president's salary goes, personally, I wouldn't take less than 5x that amount for trying to guide the lazy, selfish, ignorant, hateful babies that seem to take up a greater percentage of our potentially awesome country every day. We shouldn't be at war, and teachers are dreadfully underpaid, always have been. There's no mistaking those issues. But the problem is still mostly outside of government.

Only 20% of our population make over 50% of our aggregate income, with the top 5% making over 20% of it themselves, and these aren't primarily people making a comparatively piddly $400K a year or less. These are also the people with the most tax breaks. "They made it, they should get to keep it," people like to argue. Well, who did they make it OFF of, so to speak? (Besides teachers and soldiers, for starters.) Well, if not the dime-an-hour victims of multiple American human rights violations worldwide, then likely off of the "lower" 80% of Americans who work in their factories and offices and drive their shit around the country. A whopping 80% of our people make less than half the aggregate income. 60% of our people take in around a QUARTER of our aggregate income. (This is all available on the Census site, per the 2010 census, numbers reported by people about themselves, not propagated by the mythical "liberal media.")

In other words, say you buy a car from a group of ten people for $100. Two of the people, probably the two who made the deal, take $50, half the money. Two of them take another $25 to share. The other six people have to share the last $25 of the profits, even though they're probably the ones who dragged the car home from the junk shop, fixed it up, painted it, maybe lost a couple of fingers in the whole process, inhaled some lead, that kind of thing. Well, news flash, I'm one of those six. Bigger news flash, you're probably one of those six. The other four are the ones voting consistently and the top two are the ones paying for the elections that decide your fate. They're even willing to cut your six-way-shared $25 down even further, whatever it takes to avoid parting with one more cent of their $25 apiece.

A few more numbers you need to consider... Between 1984 and 2009, the annual mean household income of the lowest-earning 20% of our good American people went from $5,436 to $11,552 (as of just 2 years ago, 20% of the people here are living - or trying to - on an average of just over $11K/year). In those same years, between 1984 and 2009, the mean income of the highest-earning 20% went from $62,121 to $170,844. The top 5% went from $93,774 to $295,388. And President Obama just wanted the top 2% to pay what they owe, without all the damn loopholes! Conservative or liberal, educated or not, it's not hard to see the formula here: the rich get richer by climbing up the backs of the poor, even while DENYING THEIR EXISTENCE and cutting the lifelines necessitated by their exploitation. And yet the ridiculously wealthy don't want to pay ALL of THEIR taxes???? OMG. I am so sick of the vitriolic rhetoric and blatant lies thrown around by that top 20% to protect their damn assets! The problem is NOT our government in practice (which is us, by the way). The problem is our GREED.

The last time the market tanked, my wife and I scraped together a little money (literally) and bought some stocks. One of the companies I bought was Williams-Sonoma. You know why? Because I was betting that the people who shop there wouldn't feel as pinched, they'd still need their supplies, and they weren't about to start slumming and buying their base-model Teflon pans at Wal-Mart. Because I was right, our 13 shares have more than tripled in value, yep, even after this week. I wish it was enough to get us health insurance, or married in our home state. We're Americans, too, and the bullshit Tea Party version of "small government" is our worst enemy. If the other 60-80% of you were paying attention instead of just constantly whipping the ass of the rhetorical dragon to get more fire, you'd know they're your worst enemy, too.

A few credits...if you want more, find them like I did.

04 May 2011

Osama bin Laden, Party Politics, and Death By HMD

There are some things that I would think can be counted on with a "covert operation." There are some odd elements to it. There are definite curiosities about some of the details. But I don't believe for a second that if the U.S. were gloating so about this and he weren't dead, that he'd miss the opportunity to tell us himself here directly. My reasons for not wanting the "death photos" released aren't limited to their gruesomeness and the fact that not only serious, rational adults would be viewing them (although that should suffice), it's that I don't want to listen to the ongoing skepticism, and it would definitely go on, and on, and on.

The bottom line is that the only way I could be "SURE" is if I'd shot him myself. Beyond that, I have to make some choices at some point, based on thoughtful consideration and critical analysis of what information I can gather as to what's plausible, and the basic gist of the story is, to me, plenty plausible. Since I'm not deep in celebration and don't have that much invested because I have not been "living under the cloud of terrorism for 10 years," another choice I made even before the 9/11/01 news had taken its first breath, I'm also not invested in knowing the finest details of the death of this one man.

All of a sudden it makes a difference if he was unarmed? I don't believe that the dancing, cheering partiers care one bit, and if the rest of us do, perhaps it's the conditions we use to ever "justify" taking a life that are the problem. I would have infinitely preferred he be taken alive, tried, questioned, held to account, made to face his countless victims and their families, maybe even learned from...but he wasn't, and here we are. Since the bulk of the photographs I've ever seen of him as an adult, even at comparative leisure, show him not only armed, but very heavily armed, I'm not too inclined to believe reports that he, this one time, was not armed at all, at any point, and I also would never seek to jeopardize the members of the SEAL team and intelligence personnel and their families by demanding their identities and eyewitness accounts. Either way, it simply doesn't change anything about the gap in this situation between my ideal and my reality, armed or unarmed.

I don't care where the intelligence came from, because it would still never make me a proponent of torture, and I would hate, hate, hate to find myself in the president's position going into this. (A) Finally apprehend the most notorious terrorist leader of our day using information built upon information that happened to have been gained years ago by waterboarding another terrorist, when torture was a method prioritized by that administration, or (B) let him walk rather than knowingly subject yourself to even more irrational criticism. And still today they call him conceited and selfish. The truth is that he didn't even have access to a selfish option.

But what about proof? "We want proof!" Ah, yes..."proof"...surprisingly slippery little concept, as it turns out, since DNA's now apparently easier to manipulate than Photoshop. The only reason I was glad that President Obama released his long-form birth certificate is that it answered, in no uncertain terms, nothing about his only foolishly-challenged citizenship, but everything about the intent of the chronic skeptics. This lesson must not be underestimated: there are no answers, not for those "skeptics" (not the rationally critical but the ones who foam at the mouth with it).

What drives the rabid should not even be called "skepticism" but just basic "true believer" bullshit efforts to get what they really want, which may not even be identifiable separate from the faces of their designated saviors. There will be no progress for them under President Barack Obama. Their leaders have very effectively made him their "devil," like Hitler made the Jews, and, again, nobody seems to have the courage to change their course, even if they have any nagging doubts. This is not just my subjective opinion, only my acceptance of their position declared and repeated by them with their behavior: if you GET something you WANT, you're satisfied; if you're NEVER satisfied with what you GET, it is clearly NOT what you WANT.

I get it; I do not need them to tell me again. There were never any "birthers." There were only opportunists and their followers, and I will regard them accordingly from here on.

Their having made that abundantly clear, I see absolutely no reason to release pictures of a bullet-riddled body, pictures that would further dehumanize not only bin Laden but us and everyone in between, pictures that could just as easily be faked as anything else, pictures that would no doubt further antagonize the enemies that are not unlikely holed up somewhere right this second plotting en masse their retaliation. The potential "benefits" don't even come close to the potential "costs" for me, especially when the majority of the complaints and demands will just immediately shape-shift into something else. This has become, at least domestically, an all-out war, being fought with HMD - [red] Herrings of Mass Destruction - and we are clearly suffocating beneath the weight of them.

What I want and need, at the end of the day, is to be compassionate, conscious, heedful, engaged, ethical, and safe. I want the same for our military and intelligence personnel, and for our governing officials, and even for the opportunists and followers. This can be accomplished as effectively with the tools I have right now as with any pictures of dead men.

01 April 2011

God's America

Is America "Christian?" According to one woman quoted in the CNN special, "Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door," it is and was founded on the one true God our father and son the Lord Jesus Christ. (Whew...that is a mouthful.) Of course, she's wrong.

This isn't opinion; it's written all over assorted founding documents (e.g. the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution). As often as it says "In God We Trust" on anything, there seem to be an equal number of statements about escaping the religious oppression of the British, the freedom to practice as we see fit, tolerance of diverse views, etc., etc. How can that part possibly be forgotten this easily?

The arguments of the Murfreesboro mosque's opponents change with the winds, and none appear valid. First, the issue is the construction of a mosque, not the practice of Shari'a law. However, since they brought it up, every "legitimate" concern (I'm being generous) about Shari'a law is addressed in other legislation: domestic violence, kidnapping, human trafficking, terrorism, whatever. Islam IS a religion, which Joe Brandon damn well knows, despite his insistence that the negative "lawyer" stereotype is accurate. The 15,000 square feet can't be the problem when The People's Church (First Baptist, Franklin, TN) opened a campus nearly four (4) times that size in nearby Spring Hill in November.

This is nothing but hate, and it's sickening. Get out your Bill of Rights again, people. Amendment 1: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

That's what this country was founded on, not on Christianity or any other religion, and it will not serve any of us in the long-term if you get laws passed restricting this one. Get over yourselves. We are better than this crap.

21 March 2011

Death of an Experiment

Ultimately, the Brick House Democrats do welcome everyone. However, if we are to make any actual progress, we cannot allow ourselves to be sucked into the sensationalistic mire offered and apparently genuinely enjoyed by many conservatives, and particularly many who align themselves with the "Tea Party." We have more important things to do with our time. Some of us are gay and tired of being treated as second-class citizens. Some of us are straight and just not scared to death of everybody who's not. Some of us have kids who NEED to be educated so that they can hold their own when somebody tries to make them afraid of monsters that don't exist. Some of us don't have kids, or are simply no longer responsible for any, but are still invested in the future because we'll be part of it. We must hold as our compass these long-term issues, our long-term potential, but unfortunately, we also must, as responsible citizens, periodically address the aforementioned mire. We must at least keep our hand on that light switch, and flip it back on every time one of the hate-mongers runs by and swats it down. We are obligated to have that more unpleasant discussion as well, because if we do not, our long-term goals may simply disintegrate before our complacent eyes.

A conversation with devout Tea Partier who taught me that no matter how "intelligent" a person is, no matter how much he or she WANTS to be the exception, no matter how capable a person is of seeing and understanding the truth...essentially no matter how much someone squeals about how badly they want out of the barrel, if their feet are planted against the side, they're not coming out. And if you continue to pull on their outstretched hands, you'll just end up in there, too. This is where I let go:

If you're willing to lie (yes, LIE), purposely incite deep anger and misery in as many people as you can, and fixate on ANYTHING you can even distantly link to an individual against whom you have a personal grudge--to the exclusion of what would be even BETTER arguments, then your motivation is not something I'd ever be willing to support. Again, I let people tell me who they are. I don't HAVE to "make them out to be" anything, just take their word for it, not their opponents', not somebody else's, not even an endless mass of consistent media reports.

Michele Bachmann has demonstrated as clearly as she possibly can, not just with the "breast pump" circus but repeatedly throughout her tenure in government, via overwhelmingly conservative sources but ESPECIALLY since being falsely and foolishly "validated" by the Tea Party just to get butts in chairs, that her single motivating principle is to get more power for Michele Bachmann. SHE has shown (all by herself, if reviewed "critically") that she has NO respect for the truth or the bigger problem of manipulating people's emotions and "critical thought" to perceive whatever monster SHE creates for them to fear and blame.

And here we are back at the beginning. We can't even get PAST the conversation about breast pumps, because you and Michele Bachmann both blew right past what the First Lady actually said and did, just to add fuel to the make-believe fire, which consumes any possible constructive steps that may have come next. And that is NOT an accident. If you can be kept distracted by and arguing over the UNtruths, you won't notice where you're really headed. And you think THIS is EASIER?? You have no idea how wrong you are about that, and I guess won't until it's too late. It is truly tragic that as populated as human history is with instances of this exact process, found almost verbatim in at least 3 books I can see just from where I'm sitting right this second, that such an enormous group of people could be fooled into falling for it again, and yet, here we are. There are SO many smart, decent conservatives, Republicans, who even know better, who've stood up to these self-serving few, not because they're weak, but because they're the strongest of the lot, because they've bothered to LOOK UP and see what's ahead.

Critical thinking based on fiction? That's not actually a very good idea, and even if it were, "critical thinking" demands an analysis of faults and merits, which would require....facts! It also requires aim at your own side, not just the other, and does not involve a knee-jerk "well, they do it, too!" as a response. Do you really think it's more intelligent to just write off every single source of fact obtainable in the civilized, literate world (not just the "mainstream media" to which I have NEVER limited my research, detailed in my posts and yet a fact you also completely disregard).

And if it were "easier" to just look at Bachmann as a big meany, I wouldn't have bothered to look up the WI death threats. I would have just thought about it "critically," replied "well, both sides do it," pointed out how gullible it is to just blindly believe what you hear, and expected that to clear it all up.

18 January 2011

Words, Responsibility, Hypocrisy

On January 16, 2011, in the “Communities” section of The Washington Times online, which seems somewhat deceptive, Amanda Read berated “liberal media” (and some other odds and ends that apparently made good distractions) for their insensitive and irrational criticism of Sarah Palin. If the piece is representative, I am disappointed to find another purportedly educated person delusional or simply as given to shamelessly fueling the fear-mongering bandwagon as those she seeks to defend. She criticizes criticism, mocks those who dare mock, interprets misinterpretations, judges the judges, spins the spin...all while apparently seeing her point of view as...different, smarter, right. By Read’s own report, President Obama seemed to follow the Tucson shootings with invitations to take better care of each other, while Sarah Palin took the opportunity to whine about being picked on, again pretending that she doesn’t (or forgetting she does) say about half of the ugly, negative crap she does.

Am I criticizing Amanda Read? You bet I am. Is it unfair? Let’s see...she wrote an “article” intended for public consumption, purposely sought this stage, and in doing so declared herself a credible source, a voice worth listening to, in order to manipulate people’s opinions, the heinous sin with which she is charging others. In other words, much like with Sarah Palin, it’s not only fair, but it would be downright irresponsible of me not to respond in just this fashion, and far be it from me to shirk my “individual responsibility” as an American, as directed by the late President Reagan, a man for whom I actually had great admiration and respect.

For the most part, I simply shook my head as I read the “Not Your Average Read” (conjured, no doubt, in a fit of marketing genius), but there are a few points to which I was compelled to respond as follows:

“As Loughner’s incoherent ramblings and love of conspiracy spiraled downward to senseless bloodshed, King Solomon’s warning proved true - ‘the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness’ (Ecclesiastes 10:12-13).”

So this is what we have to look forward to from Glenn Beck?

“In response to the tragedy, President Obama’s January 12th speech in Tucson was a bit better than I expected.”

What? You expected President Obama to fail? No! Really? To provide more fodder for your criticism? But you’re not part of the problem, right? Here’s the thing...on the rare occasion that I purposely listen to anything Sarah Palin says, it’s in the hope and full expectation that she will show a little more humanity, that she will have abandoned her mission of giving her audience somebody new to hate or fear every single time she opens her mouth, that just once, she’ll either say something nice, or not say anything at all. For real, I expect that; I look for it. Thank you for clearing up for me what exactly you and others like you are spending your energy looking for. It does shed some light, at least on your initial motivation, although it does further cloud how you can possibly find so much fault with whatever truly liberal journalists you could find for leaping so allegedly unfairly on Sarah Palin’s pleas of innocence. (Side note: as though this time were actually about her.)

“Why is it that some in the media find it so hard to blame the murderer alone for murder?”

Because he is not alone in the production. He alone is guilty of shooting those people. But it is not as though his craziness was a secret kept hidden until that day or as though he showed up out of the blue and killed people with his bare hands.

“‘We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.’”

Damn straight, each and every individual. Every individual who insists that the 2nd amendment guarantees his/her right to tote around a Glock like it’s a pack of gum; every individual who runs for public office (or has a cable tv reality show) and makes a platform of turning people against each other, making somebody afraid of somebody else every time she speaks, and crying when she’s called on it; every "journalist" who wants to insist on individual responsibility while disregarding both individual and collective influence.

“(By the way, Palin is now receiving an unprecedented number of death threats. Will the media tell us which group of people is to blame for that?)”

Well, then, I guess she and the president have finally found something in common. Do I smell a beer summit? Surely death threats are not only a bad thing now that Sarah Palin’s getting more of them? Surely you’re not suggesting now that there’s a correlation between rhetoric and death threats...because if there wasn’t before, it certainly would seem to undermine your position to claim that there is now just because a new target’s been added.

“But for some nonreason her words can't just mean that - nothing that Palin says can possibly be taken rationally. There must be something perverse, something apocalyptic - something potentially devastating to humanity - in every slightest gesture Palin makes.”

First of all, who exactly is it, if not Sarah Palin herself, that has worked to ensure that her every word and gesture is? She’s built a career, hell, an identity, out of her own rhetoric (or at least what’s written for her). She alone is soliciting credibility based on what she produces for the public. If Jared Loughner is to be held solely responsible for his actions (and this presumably means absent even mitigating circumstances), then surely Sarah Palin should be held equally responsible for the role in which she has begged to be cast.

Second, if you want the things you say to be “taken rationally,” you should develop the habit of saying rational things, not charging people $500 each (pure profit--news flash, people, the “Tea Party” is not a “party,” just a bunch of people shopping for political offices) to listen to her read from her hand about things she can’t talk about otherwise. I could be wrong, but it seems like if you do understand something and you can talk about it, you would. Right? And it definitely can’t be a none-of-your-beeswax thing if you’re portraying yourself as serious political (leadership) potential.

“‘Because fighting and warfare are the most routine of political metaphors.’”

It is completely absurd to even try to make the case that violent metaphors have identical weight and meaning coming from both sides of the gun rights debate. If I threaten to shoot you, I will bet my ass that you’ll feel a whole lot more uncomfortable with it if I’m holding a gun than if I’m not. These are factors you cannot ignore in this conversation, at least if you hope to make a valid point to anyone but your usual audience, and if that’s all you’re aiming for, you’re just sucking up.

“As Charles Krauthammer masterfully explained:” ... “The likes of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann...”

Charles Krauthammer? Michele Bachmann? Really?? This is the company you offer for Sarah Palin in her defense?

Charles Krauthammer has never “masterfully” explained anything that I’ve ever heard. In fact, let’s just shut down his justification of torture right here: A. If you’re that sure that by torturing one, you’ll be able to save many, you must already have enough information to act on something. Get it? Again, if you’re that sure of what information that man can provide to you, then you should have no reason to torture him. B. It’s never okay unless it’d be okay to do it to you.

Now, Michele Bachmann??? Do you really not understand that criticism of her need have nothing whatsoever to do with rhetoric or “battle imagery?” My favorite Michele Bachmann quote, from a 2009 interview with a Minnesota radio station: “And the real concern is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward....” For crying out loud, President Obama is not going to put our young people into re-education camps. That is not “rhetorical,” much less harmless. That is nothing but self-serving, irresponsible pandering to the most ignorant, paranoid, conservative-conditioned people she could possibly get to listen and then, of course, be afraid enough to run out and vote for her. There is nothing mistakable, or defensible, about those words, and they are typical of her, and of Sarah Palin. Individual responsibility, indeed. Please see your own Ecclesiastes quote above.

“What would be good to see less of is thoroughly nasty and disrespectful hate spewings that don't deserve to be called rhetoric.”

Ya think??!!

“Opponents of the Tea Party and conservative leaders would do well to focus on looking for facts instead of reading into rhetoric messages that just aren't there.”

Aren’t there??? MY WIFE received a piece of mail at our home from now-Governor Bill Haslam’s campaign vowing to “protect the traditional family.” It was addressed TO HER FAMILY, not “our neighbor,” not “current occupant,” but to “The Farr Household.”

First, “protect?” Again with this need to “protect” the "traditional" family? Seriously? The only time something needs “protecting” is if it’s being threatened, if it is in danger. This is not my biased, petty, liberal little opinion; these are the meanings of words agreed upon long before I ever used them.

Second, WE -- “The Farr Household” -- are not one of the “traditional” families you’re vowing to protect. By process of elimination, we must then be one of the non-traditional families from whom the traditional families need to be protected.

How dare anyone suggest that we have read anything into that “rhetoric message” that was not there? It’s there in bold freaking print, and how dare anyone talk about individual responsibility without being either willing or able to recognize where all it’s lacking?

“Remember, a fear of subliminal conspiracy in words is part of what drove Jared Loughner insane.”

Maybe...just maybe...that’s the point.

One person was crazy and violent that morning in Tucson. One person directly caused the deaths of several innocent people and devastated the lives of so many more. But there is more than enough laziness, ignorance, arrogance, self-absorption, unaccountability, and yes, blame, to go around, a few times; and Loughner’s own responsibility does not absolve anyone else of theirs. Look around. We're all still here together.