Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Message to Vegetarians and Vegans

This is something that's been bubbling to the surface for a while.

If you choose to be vegan or vegetarian, I will totally, one hundred percent, support you.

If you want to tell people about how healthy you feel since you went vegan or vegetarian, great!  Share your experiences and tell people all about your dietary choices if you want. That’s totally cool and I think it’s great for people to get their opinions heard.

But please, for the love of scientific integrity, DO!  NOT!  LIE!  TO!  PEOPLE!

I am so sick and tired of hearing vegan/vegetarian scare tactics and blatant misinformation.

The human body can digest meat and we are perfectly adapted to do so!

Eating meat was a crucial part in evolving the large brains we have today!  It was the intake of animal fat and protein that gave us the nutrients we needed to evolve our larger brains.  It’s what separated our ancestors from the other great apes.

"But the human digestive tract is nothing like that of other carnivores! We more closely resemble herbivores! Clearly we were meant to eat veggies, not meat!"

Human beings are OMNIVORES.  We evolved to eat both meat and plant matter. Early humans were not picky in this regard. They hunted animals, they gathered whatever vegetables, tubers, nuts, and berries were available. If they could keep it down, they probably ate it.

And during the winter months, when vegetation was scarce, our ancestors relied almost exclusively on animals for sustenance.

Our digestive system is the reason you don’t have to keep throwing up your food and re-eating it all day, or keep constantly grazing, just to get through the day like herbivores do.  You can skip a meal or two if you have to, and if you ate a particularly filling and nutrient-dense meal beforehand, you’ll be perfectly okay with this!  This is the carnivore part of your digestive system at work.

If you want to be vegan or vegetarian for moral reasons, more power to you. I think it’s admirable for you to take up the cause, and I agree that our food industry is despicable and needs a major overhaul.

If you want to be vegan or vegetarian because of your objection to society’s reliance on unhealthy foods, good for you! It’s difficult to stick to a non-traditional diet with the way we’re constantly bombarded with all sorts of unhealthy foods everyday. It’s admirable of you to take the extra effort for your health.

But for crying out loud, stop lying to people about our biological make-up. You’re only undermining your own points and pissing off potential meat-eating allies (such as myself!) in your fight for cruelty-free farming and/or healthier food options!

Friday, February 20, 2015

More Reasons to Like the Government

Got a joke for you.
How many government bureaucrats does it take to screw in a light bulb?  Two.  One to assure everyone that everything possible is being done to correct the problem, the other to screw the light bulb into the water faucet.

I've written in other notes how one of the more pernicious lies created by the conservatives is that the American government is a ham-handed fumbler that has a poor record of achievement.  Conservatives (and their puppets, the Libertarians -- more about them in another note) are constantly promoting the idea that the government is so incompetent and unsuited to actually govern that it couldn't find its own collective ass with a flashlight, a road map, and a detailed set of directions.  They've been telling this lie so often and so loudly and for so long that people who are otherwise sane and intelligent have come to believe it.

A lot of Americans have accepted this image of the American government as a collection of corrupt, incompetent, bungling clowns.  Ask most Americans and they will tell you that if you want something really screwed up, hand it over to the government.  According to a Time Magazine survey, only 4% of all Americans say that they have a lot of confidence in the government to solve problems.  Nearly 64% said "No confidence at all" or "Just a little confidence."  Three our of four called the government "Incompetent" regardless of the complexity and the difficulty of the problem involved.  Nearly 70% said that government "creates more problems than it solves."

Conservative talking head Sean Hannity once said, "The more important question isn't why government is so big, but why it fails at everything."  Another conservative, Charles Murray, said, "The reality of daily life is that the things government does tend to be ugly, rude, slovenly, and do not work."  Rush Limbaugh, on one of his radio shows, once said, "With the exception of the military, I defy you to name one government program that has worked and alleviated the problem it was created to solve."

The truth, though, is different.

Once we begin to look at the actual performance of major governmental programs, what we find is that the vast majority of them not only solved the problems they were designed to solve, but improved on them and insured that the problem would never arise again.

This of course flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it is nonetheless the truth.  The evidence is there, if anyone bothered to look.

So, can I, as Rush Limbaigh demanded, name "just one government program that's worked to alleviate the problem it was created to solve?"

Challenge accepted, Mr. Limbaugh.  I can not only name one, I can name ten.  And if I really, really felt like it, I could name thousands more.

1.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):  In the 1970s, the Federal government began to pass laws that protected consumers from shoddy and dangerous products.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission remains the primary agency that enforces these laws.  And do not think for one minute that it is no longer needed.  Consumer products still kill over 20,000 people a year, and injure over 20 million more.  If the CPSC did not recall thousands of dangerous products each year, these numbers would be far higher.  It is estimated that its actions save over $10 billion in health care bills, property damage, and other costs associated with these defective products.

2.  The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC):  Everyone takes this one for granted.  This is federal protection for our bank accounts.  In times of eonomic downturn, banks are inherently vulnerable to "runs" -- times when worried depositors all seek to take every cent they have out of the bank all at the same time.  During the Great Depression, nearly 5000 banks went bust, and millions of Americans lost everything they had, because of this practice.  During the financial crisis of 2008, there were no runs on banks, because the government was there to guarantee the safety of people's bank deposits.

3.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA):  This is another agency that the corporations, especially the pharmaceutical companies, complain about, mainly because it is doing its job.  Americans alive today have no idea how hazardous it was prior to the creation of the FDA to simply eat, or take medicine.  The FDA makes sure that the medicine millions of people take every single day actually does what it says it does.  And it makes sure our food supply is healthy and uncontaminated.  The American public is safer and healthier because of it.

4.  The GI Bill:  Without this program, the middle class as we know it today simply would not exist.  At all.  The GI Bill provides governmental support that allows millions of our veterans to attent college.  On a personal level, it allowed me to become the first member of my generation to get a college degree in my family.  The people who received these benefits, starting with the veterans of World War II, changed the face of American society by drastically raising the level of education, and thus the level of productivity and social discourse, in this country.

5.  The Interstate Highway System:  The interstate highways are the backbone of this nation, and modern America could not function without it.  The hundreds of thousands of miles of highway only make up about 2% of the total roadway mileage, but every single day of every single year it carries almost 30% of all roadway traffic in this country.  The interstates have allowed millions of Americans to move away from the cities and live in more pleasant suburban and small town environments.  They are statistically more safe than more traditional roadways, saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year.  Conservative George Will once called it, "the most successful public works program in the history of the human race."  The interstate system has become a part of the lives of each and every American, and I, for one, could not imagine the United States without it.  And without the government, it would never have existed.

6.  The National Weather Service (NWS):  This agency does more than just provide a daily weather forecast.  It also helps insure the safety of planes in the air and ships at sea, and has saved countless lives with its hurricane and tornado warnings.  The science behind its actions is getting better every year, and its predictions have been getting more and more accurate as time's past.

7.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):  Businesses love to complain about OSHA and its rules.  Turns out, the people who actually work at OSHA take pride in being complained about, because they say that's how they know they're doing their jobs.  Sure, sometimes the policies have been a bit overboard, but at the same time its very clearly been effective and successful.  In 1970, the year before President Richard Nixon (a conservative Republican, remember) created OSHA, over 22 million people were injured on the job and over 14,000 died from job-related injuries.  Since 1970 and 2013, workplace deaths and injuries have decreased by 96%.  Particularly impressive has been the virtual eradication of cases of brown lung disease, which was once the leading cause of death among textile workers.

8.  Public Health Programs:  There have been a variety of programs overseen by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and state and local Public Health Departments that have greatly and dramatically improved the level of health of every single American.  Just to name a few, the scourges of polio, cholera, and smallpox have been effectively exterminated.  Vaccination programs have effectively ended the risks of a random person contracting diseases like hepatitis, measles, mumps, tetanus, rubella, and diptheria by nearly 95%.  Federal funding spent on buying and distributing these vaccines have saved countless lives and will go on to save countless more, and have saved billions of dollars that would otherwise be spent fighting these illnesses.  In addition, the CDC is what stands between the American people and potentially catastrophic epidemics imported from other countries.

9.  The Settlement of the Western United States:  Very few people realize this, but the development of the West was basically a huge government program.  It was that way from the very beginning, starting with the federally funded journey of exploration undertaken by Lewis and Clarke.  It continued with the unfortunate "Indian Removal Program" that, despite being one of the greatest crimes this country has ever committed, directly led to more settlers entering the western territories.  The government sold public land to homesteaders in Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas to encourage development, and in some cases (in Oklahoma especially) gave it away for free.  The railroads, which were the most direct cause of growth in the West, were federally subsidized projects.  And even today, farming in the west is made possible by federal water management projects, ranching is possible because of the use of federal lands for grazing by ranchers, and mining is possible by dirt cheap access to federal lands.  Cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas would dry up and blow away if it weren't for federally funded dam and canal projects that bring water to those metropoli.  Its ironic that so much of the country's anti-government sentiment is based in this area, because without the federal government, this area would be an uninhabited wasteland.

10.  Social Security and Medicare:  Without these two programs, growing old would be a living hell for most Americans.  Before these two programs, starving to death was a real possibility for millions of the elderly.  Social Security cut the rate of poverty for the elderly by half (the rate was 29% in 1966; as of 2013 the rate is 10%).  Economist Jane Bryant Quinn described Social Security as "arguably the greatest success story for the US government".  Medicare shares a similar success.  It has doubled the number of elderly people covered by health insurance so that 99% of all people over the age of 60 now enjoy that benefit.  Without this program, 15 million of our poorest citizens would be going without medical care entirely, or would be forced to choose between health care and eating.

So, there you have it, Mr. Limbaugh.  And like I said, I could have named thousands more governmental programs that worked just as planned, and did the job they were created to do.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Government Is Not the Problem

Here's the truth:  governments make mistakes sometime.

Government, like all things, is not perfect.

And when government botches things up, it generally botches things up disasterously.

Especially when the Republicans are in charge.  No, seriously, a study was done regarding events which the government completely and totally messed up on, and the Republicans lead the Democrats for incompetent management of government by a ratio of 4:1.

And of course, government is not the proper solution to all problems, and is hardly ever the entire solution to anything.

Here's more truth for you:  the government is the only entity large enough and powerful enough to handle certain issues.  It is the only entity large enough and powerful enough to stand up to, and stop, the abuses of democracy and other American ideals by those who would attempt to dominate, subjugate, and explot the interests of We the People...   In this sense, the government, especially at the federal level, is very definitely the ultimate solution.

There is a long tradition in this country of carping about the government.  And its not just this government, either.  I'm absolutely certain that somewhere, sometime, way back in Ancient Mesopotamia, somebody was complaining about Sargon the Great and how his administration was doing nothing to assuage the troubles faced by the common man.  Of course, before the rise of modern democracy, those who complained about government generally were those who had been disenfranchised somehow.  The poor and the downtrodden.  The outlaws.  The political enemies.  Because prior to democracy, the rich and the powerful loved the government.  After all, they were the government.

For the poor, it was generally wise to keep your complaints about how the local lord was running his fiefdom to yourself unless you had a real need to discover what torture and execution felt like.  This all changed with Democracy.  First with the United States, then with France, and then slowly with the rest of the world.  Suddenly the age-old tradition of government being the plaything of the rich and powerful was completely flipped.  Democratic governments were controlled, at least theoretically, by We the People...

Unfortunately, this didn't sit well with government's former owners.  They knew that this "democracy" fad had to go, and so they came up with two basic strategies.  First, they tried to buy it back.  Politicians, judges, and public officials of all stripes were generally quite amenable to this idea, selling their time, attention, and loyalty, not to mention their honesty and integrity, to the highest bidder.  But it wasn't enough.  Try as they might, the rich and powerful couldn't ever seen to fully complete their conquest of the government and all those pesky We the People... who weren't interested in just standing back and letting the rich take over again.  So they came up with a second, complimentary strategy.  The second strategy involved dividing and conquering.  If the rich could persuade a bare majority of the really stupid poor people to go along with them, they could tighten their grip on the reins of power.

There are a lot of ways to divide.  Race and religion are the two greatest hits when it comes to causing a population to eat itself, and boy howdy were these put to good use by the rich and powerful in their efforts to divide We the People...  Concurrent with the rise of democracy, however, came a new tactic:  promoting active distrust of the government, so as to lessen its legitimacy.  It also lessened the people's sense of ownership of the government.  A disenchanted and apathetic citizenry, one that doesn't think government works, and doesn't think their vote counts, will tune out the entire subject of politics.  They will not show up at polling places, and thus not exercise their power of control over the government.  This gives a much wider opportunity for the rich and powerful to grab control with only a small percentage of the voters helping them to do it.

This tactic is pure evil.

No, seriously, it's evil.  It's evil because it intentionally risks driving the entire country into the ground.  The wisest leaders know that citizens loving and believing in their government is crucial to the strength and well-being of the entire nation.  Conservatives are willing to abuse this ancient axiom to gain political and economic power.  They rationalize it away by saying that it is they, the rich and powerful, who have always had the "divine right to rule."  But the truth is, they have no interest whatsoever in a nation "for the people, by the people, and of the people."  What they want is a return to the "good old days" when there was no democracy.

With the faith of We the People... in their government wrecked, the rich and powerul can do whatever they want.  They can slash taxes on themselves while increasing taxes on the poor and middle class.  They can deregulate their giant, predatory businesses.  They can write laws and appoint judges who will favor them.  They can loot the treasury.  They can start wars all over the globe.  They can propagate their fundamental philosophy, that "greed is good."  They become what they most crave to be:  rulers of the world.  You know that the ruination of America is not far off when such a philosophy, as utterly lacking in any sort of virtue as it is, gains the upper hand.  The less We the People... believe in their government, the weaker they are, and the better the rich and powerful like it.

The people in the lower and middle classes who support these corporate oligarchs in their take-over of the United States are those who share some of the anger and bitterness of governmental control over their "freedoms."  Again, just as with the rich and powerful, it is their "traditional values" that they believe are being threatened by the government.  These "freedoms", these "traditional values", are things like the freedom to discriminate, the freedom to be as prejudiced and hateful as they want to be.  The freedom to force other people to live as they do.  The freedom to suppress books and movies and television shows and music they don't like.  Those are the freedoms and traditional values we're talking about.  And this is why social conservatives buy into the "government is the problem" bullshit.  They see government spreading and enabling equality, liberty, justice for all, and the pursuit of happiness -- in other words, government trying to live up to its own ideals -- they see government spreading scientific knowledge rather than religious ignorance, and modernity and multi-culturalism being applied to the art of governance, and they dont like it at all.


Because all of this chips away at the advantages and privileges they have enjoyed for generations.  The actual or perceived loss of being special infuriates them.  Thus, they become willing henchmen for the siren's call of the rich and powerful:  "government bad!" which allows the oligarchs to steal the government away from We the People...

Of course, the concept that "the government is the problem" is a great big lie.

Even the most cursory glance into the history of the United States reveals this idea to be nothing more than a myth.  We the People of the United States, organized into our shared objectives in the form of the federal government, has achieved more in the last 238 years (as of this writing) than the rest of humanity has in the last thousand.  The progress that we, Americans, created has stunned, amazed, and revolutionized the world in ways that cannot be overlooked, ignored, and dismissed.  I may rail about unnecessary military adventurism, but I also have to admit that from the Continental Army all the way up to today, the American military has also been the world's policemen, and the world likes it that way.  From Lewis and Clark all the way up to the Apollo astronauts, Americans have led the world in courage, fortitude, and character when it comes to revealing new worlds of wonder.  Federally funded scientists have led the way in virtually all areas of science.  America's national parks are the envy of the world.  Our dams and bridges and interstate highway system was once one of the crowning achievements of mankind.  The American Post Office still is the benchmark by which all other such services around the world are measured.  When calamity strikes anywhere in the world, it is to the United States that people look to for aid.  Even people who just hours before were badmouthing the government cry for federal help when their world comes crashing down around them.  Oh yeah, and one more thing.

You know that internet thing that everyone talks about?  The one you're using right now?

It was invented, created, and initially funded by the US government.

And even more important than these triumphs were the times when the government was all that stood between some part of American culture and the corruption of our ideals.  When this happens, not everyone is happy with the government, especially those people who are asked -- forced sometimes -- to back down and let other people live as they want.  When a group of people takes a particular dislike to what another group of people are saying, or doing, or even just thinking, and move to actively stop them, it is the federal government whose job it is to stand in the way of the onrushing horde and say, "No.  They have a right to their freedoms just as you do, and your not liking them is no excuse."

Equality.  Justice.  Liberty for all.  The pursuit of happiness.  That's what its all about.

There are those out there who would love to thwart these ideals for other Americans, simply because they don't like the other Americans.  It is the job of the federal government to stand in the way and say, "No."

Racists don't like being told they had to treat black people and Hispanic people and other minorities like human beings.  Chauvenists don't like being told that they have to treat women as equals.  Homophobes don't like being told that they have to be forced to treat gay people as human beings.  Religious zealots don't like being told they have to tolerate people who believe differently than they do.  Polluters don't like being told they have to protect the environment.  Banks don't like being told that they can't run the economy like it was a casino.  Insurance companies don't like being told they can't deny their customers treatment or cancel their customers at will.

People even bitch about such petty things as having to wear their seatbelts or wear a motorcycle helmet.  It's always something.  There is no limit to the carping and griping and bitching that goes on about the government.

Sometimes the griping is warranted, such as the backlash against the Bush administration's utter failure to properly prepare and manage the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  For their failure to properly prepare for or react to Hurricane Katrina.  For the housing bubble, the bank bailouts, and, eventually, pretty much everything about the George W. Bush administration.  Still, its a long way from recognizing that one particular segment of the government, at one time, was really, really bad at governing to believing that all government, everywhere, is bad.

Study American history and you find that government actually works pretty well, and more virtuously, when its allowed to govern.  When it doesn't face a lot of interference from conservative business interests.  When the conservatives are in charge, they see to work to make sure their own negative prophecies regarding the "failure of government" come true.  The conservatives make the messes, the liberals then have to fight tooth and nail to clean those same messes up, while simultaneously being blamed by the conservatives for the messes they are cleaning.

So yeah.  The old saw about government being the problem is a huge lie.

Unless, of course, you're talking about a conservative-controlled government. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

There Is No Such Thing as a Free Market

Simple as that.

There is no such thing as a "free market."  Period.

There never has been, there never will be.

Its a fairy tale.

Yet another conservative myth.

The very idea is 100% bullshit.

It might be possible, theoretically at least, that a truly "free market" could exist, if we're talking about something like the public market square of a village with a hundred people or fewer in it where everyone knows and trusts each other.  But in any thing larger, like -- just to pull an example out of the air -- a nation of 300+ million people?  Forget about it.

Of course, the truth is that the very same people who so aggressively promote the idea of a "free market" are actually the last people on Earth who actually want such a thing:  the corporate conservatives and the professional politicians that the corporates have bought and paid for.  These folks don't really want a "free market."  They want a rigged market.  And the truth is, that's pretty much what they have.

Of course, they can (and do) think of ways to make it even more rigged in their favor, which is what they truly want:  a world where Big Business owns and runs the world, and where government -- the only entity with the power to counter and put controls on Big Business -- is small enough to "drown in a bathtub."  (At least when it comes to regulating business; Big Business loves it when government promotes the interests of Big Business.)

So what do Big Business corporate conservatives actually mean when they talk about a "free market?"

Glad you asked.

What they mean is that corporations should be free to do whatever they want.  They should be free to sell anything, anywhere, without any concern over whether the product is harmful, toxic, or dangerous.  What they mean is that corporations should be free to enslave their workers and not have to pay them a living wage, or pay them at all, in fact.  Corporations should be free to demand utter loyalty from their workers, while returning no loyalty whatsover to those same workers.  They believe that corporations should be free to extract, exploit, subjugate, and monopolize whenever they want to do so.  Corporations should be free from any sort of tax burden, and from government regulation, and responsibility for any damage they cause.  They believe that corporations should be free to buy and sell politicians in order to control the government.  And they believe that corporations should be free to eliminate the competition using any means necessary.

When conservatives talk about the "free market," it's simply code phrases for the Big Business concept of Heaven:  a world in which Big Business does what it wants, any time, all the time.  Of course, this would be Hell for everyone else.  And by "everyone else" I include smaller businesses, because the truth is such a world would be a killing field.  The moment a small business poked its head out of its hole, Big Business would swoop in like a hawk and devour it.  As for the workers and the consumers, the "free market" envisioned by the giant multi-national corporations would make them hardly better than slaves.  Such people would be free to accept their lot and nothing else.

You say one of their products blew up in your face and left you blind?  Prove it wasn't your own fault!

You say unsafe working conditions led to your husband getting killed?  Try sueing us.  We dare you; not only won't your "frivolous lawsuit" get anywhere in the courts, we might send some guys over to your daughter's elementary school so she can send a message back home to mommy and daddy for us about how its smarter to not make waves.

In such a world, parastic banks would run wild with speculation, buying and selling without constraint and inventiing all manner of financial "instruments" which which to dissect their customers and relieve them of money, security, and future.  The privatization of anything and everything would run rampant in the conservative wet dream of a "free market."

How about a quick game of "let's pretend".  Let's pretend such a world came about.  What, exactly, would that lead to?

First off, the goal of the corporate conservative's "free market" is to assume all the powers of government and then take those powers to the limit, including total control and exploitation of the people.  So say goodbye to freedom, democracy, the vote, and the ability to decide for yourself how your life will go from then on.  Your electricity, gas, and water wouldn't come from public utilities, but from predatory corporations who can raise the rates or cut you off whenever they feel the whim.  Toll roads and bridges would proliferate.  The court system would be privatized, with a strong profit incentive to lock as many people away in the privately run prisons as possible.  Wars would be completely privatized, with a strong profit motive to keep the fighting going as long as possible, and to use up the weapons and equipment so as to create a need for more.  Education would be privatized, with only the wealthy getting more than just the basic training.  Public schools would become indoctrination centers where children are taught to be barely literate worker bees or soldiers for the state and its corporate overlords.

Think about how much money the very rich could squeeze from the lower classes with such limitless power.

Without government subsidies, price controls, and regulations, food production would become wholly predatory.  Prices would skyrocket.  Food quality and safety would plummet.  Only the rich would be able to afford clean, healthy food; the rest of us would have to settle for the cheap stuff and take our chances with every bite we eat or drop we drink.  That's assuming we could afford any food or water in the first place.  Scavenging, begging, and starving would become a way of life for billions of people.  And health care?  Sorry, but with no government assistance, no government health programs, disease would explode into pandemics.  Of course, the wealthy would protect themselves by ghettoizing the poor.  No need for them to worry, though, because even if the disease does make it to them, they have all the doctors.

The problem is that even a system where the very rich control everything and fuck the poor, it all falls apart very quickly.  Unregulated capitalism eventually eats itself.  When the poor and the middle class disappear, the profits the rich depend on also disappear.  But the corporate conservatives, who are all about instant gratification and getting the short term gain, know that trillions upon trillions of dollars are to be made by the greatest pirates the world has ever seen.  And as long as they're making tons of money now, they give fuck all about what happens tomorrow.  Not their problem, man.  They've made their fat stacks of cash, and that's all that matters.


That's the free market in a nutshell.  A truly free market is a recipe for utter disaster should it ever be imposed.  Its a beast that would tear the goose that laid the golden eggs to pieces.

Little by little over the past 30 years, the corporate conservatives have managed to nudge us further and further in the direction of their wet dream.  Since the Reagan administration, the conservative mantra has been "government is the problem, not the solution."  Its become commonly accepted wisdom among the less intelligent members of the population (almost all of whom are social conservatives).  According to this philosophy, the solution to the "government problem" is the free market.  Conservatives have been bleating this same noise for decades, and millions upon millions of people believe it.  As Joseph Goebbels correctly stated, "people will believe anything if you repeat it often enough."  This has always been the tactic of the very richest in order to gain the support of the rest of us in order to cripple the only thing powerful enough to stop them:  a government run by We the People...

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  Since Ronald Reagan, the "free market" has had 30 years to produce the results that the corporate conservatives always promise:  that great wealth will come "trickling down" to everyone.  Jobs galore will be available, and everyone will enjoy improvements to their basic standard of living.

Anyone else but me notice that this just hasn't happened?

Seriously, for three decades, taxes have been slashed for the richest Americans.  Deregulation is the rule, dramatically reducing safeguards in every sector of business.  Competent government regulators have been replaced by capitalist foxes who are supposed to be guarding the henhouse.  The "free market" ethos has been applied to an extent that would have left the people who led this country out of the Great Depression stunned in sheer disbelief.  And this same thing has happened in countries all around the world, not just the United States.

What has actually happened is the reverse of what the conservatives behind the "Reagan Revolution" promised.  Real wages and the earning power of the average American family has stalled out if not reversed.  Prices have zoomed upward to the point where decent housing, health care, and college educations are beyond the reach of over half the population.  For the first time in American history, the greater majority of people in this country face the prospect that their children will have worse lives than they led, and that their grand-children will have lives that are even worse than that.

This is what the "free market" has done to America.  Imagine how much worse it would be if the market were even more "free" than it already is.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bad Comedy: Conservatives and Small Government, Part 2

In my earlier blog, "Bad Comedy:  Conservatives and Small Government", I restricted my thoughts on conservatives and big government to the corporate conservatives, the rich and powerful among us for whom greedily grabbing up as much cash as possible from as many sources of possible is a reason to exist.

But now let me turn to the other type of conservative who, even though they aren't overly-entitled and all about business, would like to severely limit the government's ability to protect the common people just as badly as the corporates.  I'm talking about the social conservatives.

It's weird, but the truth is that the social conservatives are mostly blind to the hijinks that their corporate colleagues are up to.  It's a case of the left hand having no idea what the right hand is up to.  The social conservatives assume, for some bizarre reason, that the billionaire wing of the conservative cause is filled with fellow social conservatives who just happen to be rich.  Not true, but there's no telling them that.  You see, the social conservatives are too busy concentrating on their own idea of government to worry about what the billionaire's are up to.

The social conservatives idea of government has a name.  That name is "theocracy."

What the social conservatives want is a government so "small" that it can sneak into your house through a keyhole, then float into your living room, your bedroom, your bathroom, your hospital room, your library, or wherever free thought and freedom of action might be hiding and kill it.  The social conservatives want the government to grab you by the scruff of your neck and lay down the law to you.  They want the government to tell each and every single one of you how to live your life.

And no, we're not talking about telling you to put on a seat belt while driving, or to not drink until you're 21 or how you have to install wheelchair ramps at your business.  This is nothing so harmless or benign as the so-called "nanny state."

No, this is closer to the "ayatollah state."

This is the big stuff.

These conservatives want to force you to follow their particular brand of religion, their particular brand of patriotism, their particular political ideals, and their particular concept of conformity.  They want to tell you which books you can and cannot read.  They want to tell you which movies and television shows you can watch.  They want to tell you which music you can listen to.  They want to tell you who you can and cannot have sex with (and in some cases, they want to tell you what actions and techniques you're allowed to use while having sex, not to mention whether or not you are allowed to use birth control).

Naturally, doing this sort of dogmatic control over society requires a very big government.

Theocratic America would, effectively, be a police state.  And this is fitting, seeing how much social conservatives absolutely love a huge military, plus lots of police officers, sheriff's deputies, marshals, border guards, FBI agents, and even Texas Rangers.  They think that its never a bad idea to have a posse waiting just off-stage, ready to chase down a n'er-do-well at a moment's notice.  After all, you never know when some of those godless non-conformists might get uppity.  Which is why most social conservatives support the Patriot Act, which allows spying on American citizens without a warrant, and holding suspects for months without charge (and if they are "terror suspects", holding suspects indefinitely not only without charge, but without aid of counsel, either).  These civil rights violations are all perfectly legitimate in the minds of social conservatives.

Similarly, social conservatives are really huge when it comes to the idea of punishment.  They are almost hoping you do something that breaks the code of conformity so they can call down the full force of law on you and force you back into the tiny little mold they have prepared for you.  These conservatives want the government to poke and pry and intervene in the most private aspects of your life, and then lower the boom if they find anything that even hints at you not following their rules.

They believe that their morality should be the state morality.  They believe that they -- and only they -- should have the power to determine whether it is legal or illegal for you to enter the country, stay in the country, get a job, vote, build a church (if you follow the same religion as they do, okay; if you don't, forget it), wear a head scarf, smoke pot, learn about science (especially evolution), make the art you're inspired to create, allow your brain-dead family member to die with peace and dignity, allow yourself to die with peace and dignity in the face of a painful and terminal illness, have an abortion, or get married.

And if you do anything they deem illegal, you're dragged to the courthouse where a judge sits in front of a huge representation of the Ten Commandments will oversee your case.  If you're a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, a Shinto, an aboriginal or tribal, an agnostic, or worst of all an atheist, you shouldn't hold your breath when it comes to getting a fair and impartial trial in this theocratic police state.

That is the wet dream of the social conservatives.  And it would be impossible without big government.  The wars waged by social conservatives on immigration, women' rights in general and specific, abortion, science, civil rights for minorities, the LGBT community, the atheist community, artists, actors, writers, musicians, video game manufacturers, and anyone else they don't like are the most visible symptoms of what kind of big government the social conservatives want to impose.

They want big government to put big restrictions on all of these, and they want those restrictions written into law.  Preferably, they want them written into the US Constitution and forever after enforced by the great big theocratic police state.

Let me tell you a story that reveals, in my opinion, a perfect insight into the true agenda of the social conservatives.  It is a stunning portrayal of the social conservative's notions of "small government" in action.  This is the story of Michael Schiavo and his wife, Terri.

Terri Schiavo collapsed with a heart attack on February 25th, 1990, while she was in her Saint Petersberg, Florida, home.  She was not discovered immediately, and unfortunately suffered massive brain damage due to lack of oxygen to her brain.  She spent two and a half months in a coma, and was then diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.  The doctors did everything they could to rehabilitate Mrs. Schiavo, but were unable to change her condition.

In 1998, Michael Schiavo, her husband, petitioned the Sixth Circuit Court of Florida to remove Terri's feeding tube persuant to Florida law, allowing the body of his wife to pass away rather than linger as it was.  He was opposed by Terri Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, who argued that Mrs. Schiavo was actually conscious and responsive (despite doctors' statements to the contrary).  The court determined that Terri Schiavo had left instructions saying that she would not want to continue living under such circumstances, and her feeding tube was removed on April 24, 2001.

But then in swooped the conservatives, led by professional shit-stirrer Randal Terry.

Terry's hand-picked "experts" argued that Mrs. Schiavo's case might not be so helpless.  They insisted that they had a right to butt into this most painful and intimate family decision on behalf of Mrs. Schiavo's parents.  They talked about how Michael Schiavo had "betrayed" Terri by moving on with his life, and thus had no right to make such decisions (despite the fact that, under the law, he was the only person empowered to make such decisions).

The conservative-controlled Florida legislature quickly passed the so-called "Terri's Law," that allowed then-Governor Jeb Bush (younger brother of then-President George W. Bush) to intervene directly in the case.  He ordered Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted and sent state troopers to remove Terri Schiavo from her husband's guardianship.

A judge quickly struck down "Terri's Law" as unconstitutional.  The conservatives appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, where once again it was struck down.  Conservatives around the United States were absolutely outraged.  Not at this blatant case of big government interfering in the private life of a family, but by "activist judges" who wouldn't let the conservatives butt in.

(These activist judges were, by the way, just following the law.)

The affair went up the conservative chain of command, all the way to the Republican-controlled Congress and then-President George W. Bush.  Both Michael Schiavo and his wife, the persistently vegetative Terri Schiavo, were subpoenaed to testify before Congress!  Republican congressmen and senators had a grandstand-a-palooza, demanding the ability -- no, not the ability, the right -- to take control of the case out of the hands of the State of Florida and into their own.

So much for states rights, which is usually a standard fallback position for social conservatives when they can't get their way nationally, all the way back to when they refused to give up their ownership of slaves.  Congress passed a bill usurping Florida's jurisdiction, and George W. Bush flew back from vacation just to sign it.  So this was twice in this single case that social conservatives changed or created brand new laws giving them unprecedented power in order to pursue their need to impose their own sense of morality and justice on other people.

It was at this juncture that a private yet amazingly explosive memo was leaked to the press in which the leadership of the Republican party suggested that the Schiavo case offered "a great political issue" and that the Republican party could use it to "stick it to" the Florida Democrats.  Suddenly sympathy for those on the side of keeping the brain-dead Mrs. Schiavo alive seemed to fall off.  After "Terri's Law" was struck down and the US Supreme Court quite intelligently refused to get involved in the whole mess (unlike when they decided unilaterally who won the 2000 presidential election), again Jeb Bush ordered Florida state troopers to take Mrs. Schiavo from her husband's custody with the intention of spiriting her out of state.

No one has ever actually revealed where they were planning on kidnapping her to, but personally I suspect that she would have surfaced somewhere in Texas, a state where the Bush family has a metric fuck-ton of political power.

The Florida Supreme Court instructed the state police to stand down and ordered Governor Bush to shut up or be held in contempt.  Bush reluctantly, and with much gnashing of teeth, complied, though there was enormous pressure from conservatives in the state and elsewhere on him to just defy the law already and damn the consequences.

Shortly thereafter, Terri Schiavo was mercifully allowed to die, and the whole sordid affair came to a conclusion.

An autopsy later revealed that Terri Schiavo's brain was way too damaged and atrophied for any possible consciousness to have ever existed.  She really had been in a vegetative state all along.  The whole hullaballoo had been unnecessary and cruel.  And not only had the conservatives been shown to be wrong -- again -- they revealed precisely the lengths they would go to in order to stick their faces into other people's very personal, very private affairs.  They pulled every nasty trick in the book, hurriedly writing and passing new law and plucking the highest strings of government, from the president to the Supreme Court, in order to impose their very small version of morality upon a single innocent family.

This example should flash a warning to anyone who believes that social conservatives really want a "small government."  Because it is clear that their compulsion to govern the most private and personal aspects of our lives shows up in their beliefs concerning abortion, gay and lesbian rights, religious freedoms, science and art, and many other facets of our lives.  And the irony is that apparently social conservatives can't see how contradictory their own belief system is.

Recall that these same people are the ones who chirp the loudest about freedom and the rights of the individual and self-determination when it comes to their own affairs.  When its them, they want Big Government to keep its damned hands off.  But that goes out the window when they find out someone else isn't conforming to their narrow-minded views regarding proper behavior.  When that happens, they want Big Government to step in and shut that shit down.

Hypocrisy writ large.  Its sort of crazy, when you think of it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jumping on the Bandwagon

So I've been watching the continual, ongoing manufactured outrage over Women Against Feminism.  If you don't know what this group is, its just what it says:  a group of women (of all ages, walks of life, backgrounds, ethnicities, and so on) who have basically said "I've had enough of the Feminist Movement's bullshit" and are making public statements to that effect.

For those who are unfamiliar, these women regularly produce selfies where they are holding up signs that declare that they don't need Feminism, followed by a variable-length list of reasons why.  (One of the most popular reasons being "Because I think both genders are worthy of respect, not just the one that has all the uteruses".)

The signs have all been polite, and have stated these women's public disagreement with the accepted dogma of modern feminism (that is, the don't believe all men are rapists, they don't believe we live in a rape culture, and they don't believe that not getting your way all the time equates to being oppressed).

The reactions from feminists has really tweaked my appreciation for irony.


The fury displayed at the thought that there might be some woman, somewhere, who thinks Feminism might be a bad thing has been hilarious to watch.  These women have been called whores, traitors, and brain-washed self-hating misogynists.  They've been threatened with death, and even more amusingly, threatened with rape by feminists who otherwise are busily accusing every man who even looks at a woman funny as being a rapist.

What's truly remarkable, though, is that, amid the the cat-calls and insults and rape threats and the statements that these poor deluded women who are committing the crime of not marching in lockstep with the Feminism Sisterhood just do not understand what Feminism really means and thus need to educate themselves, there has been an upswelling of support from older, more established, professional women who apparently have been harboring bad-feelings about "the movement" and how its been actively and intentionally hurting men for years, but who have never had the courage to say anything in support of men's issues before now.

I find it very, very interesting that it took a bunch of women vocally rebelling against the usual Feminist ideology to get prominent (and not so prominent) Feminists all over the world to finally start paying attention -- if only for a moment -- to the very same issues that men in the Humanist community have been talking about for decades now.  Apparently when these issues were brought up by men, they weren't actually worthy of consideration.  Men who complained about the problems with modern Feminism and how it is hurting both men and women were brushed off and ignored, or worse yet slapped with the insidious "Misogynist" label simply because they were men.  Feminism was thus able to refuse to engage in any sort of meaningful debate with men about these problems.  But now that it is women making these comments, its a bit harder to dismiss men's issues as the product of misogyny.  No one is buying the idea that the women making the comments are all brainwashed.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Modern Feminism.

Not that the Feminists aren't trying.  The utter outright bloodthirsty rage displayed at these women who have broken with the official party line by Feminists is, in a word, disgusting.  These women, whose only crime is to hold a dissenting opinion, are treated as air-headed bimbos, know-nothing uneducated, stupid, brain-washed, sluts who are only disagreeing with Feminism because they desperately seek a man who will take control of their lives and return them to the status of chattel.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  Most of the women involved in #WomenAgainstFeminism are highly-educated college graduates who've simply made decisions based on the evidence provided.

If I could be excused for a moment, I'd like to "mansplain" something to all those Feminists who go into a red-eyed rage over these women, because they are clearly missing the point.  Over and over and over in the Feminist-generated critiques of these young women, I kept reading accusation after accusation of how these women apparently did not understand what Feminism was "all about".  I saw dozens of complaints that these young women simply "did not get it."  Feminism wasn't about the things these women were complaining about, whatever that happened to be, it was about EQUALITY.  These feminist critics would quote the dictionary definition of the word "Feminism".  They'd quote great feminist minds of the past.  They'd cite actions done back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s that led women to the positions and rights they now enjoy.

Except not everybody is buying what the feminist critics are selling, and apparently that's not only angering feminists, its enraging them.

I'm not going to lie to you.  Among the small community of people who give a damn about men's issues, there's quite a bit of gloating and sarcastic laughter going on about how Feminism is now being devoured from within over this.  A lot of us predicted this sort of thing, and damned if we weren't proven right.  But we're not really gloating.  We're just basking in our collective vindication.

The reason why Women Against Feminism is truly getting under the skin of Feminists about all this is because while Feminism is a political ideology, in a lot of ways its become very similar to a religious cult.  Sure, the inner circle, the great minds, have been preaching equality and tolerance and balance and all that good stuff.  But in the mean time, the more aggressive, antagonistic, utterly misandrist wing of the Feminist movement has effectively become the public face of it.  The public image of Feminism has been tarnished by women whose agenda isn't "equality" but really, truly is "hurt the men because they're men."

Not all feminists are like that?  Conceded.  So the fuck what?  When the loudest and most politically active feminists are like that, I don't care what you say, they are the ones driving the bus.  Let me be blunt for a second:  what has happened to the Feminist movement is the same thing that has happened to the Republican party at the hands of the Tea Party.  In an effort to appease the loudest voices and to maintain the appearance of unity, the Feminist movement has allowed those loudest voices, the ones belonging to the real man-haters out there, to dictate the direction in which the entire movement would move forward.

Or at least that's how it looks like, and perception is everything.

There's a reason why less than half of all adult women in America now identify themselves as Feminists.  Its because Feminism has become so associated with man-hate that even those Feminists who want no part of that particular kind of poison end up painted with it.  And even worse, three decades of systematically demonizing men and masculinity has managed to drive nearly all men away from the banner of organized Feminism.  There was a time when I would have proudly declared myself as a Feminist, because I believed (and still believe) in equality for all.  But I believe in full equality, which means that you have to take the good with the bad:  if women want to enjoy all the benefits of society that men do, then they have to allow men to enjoy all the benefits of society that women do.  That means we have to end the practice of giving women lesser criminal sentences for the same crime; we have to give men an equal footing with women in family courts; we have to give equal respect to male victims of sexual violence; we have to spend just as much time and money researching men's health issues as women's health issues, and so on

You know... all those "imaginary" men's issues that most Feminists brush off with a casual dismissal, when they acknowledge they exist at all, because the Feminists don't see them as unimportant.

Yeah, well, they're important to me, and to a lot of other people.  Which is why we don't want anything to do with Feminism.

Since the 80s, individual Feminists and organized Feminist organizations have made it quite clear that they don't want men along for their ride.  After all, we were the problem, and as the problem we could not be part of the solution.  The more men tried to not be part of the problem, the more men were demonized for merely being men.  Whether they intended to do this or not, organized Feminism, as a movement, became associated with the callous disregard of all things masculine, and with a deep disrespect for men in general.

And let me tell you, it has grown so bad that men cannot get together in a public forum and discuss issues like the epidemic of male homelessness (over 80% of all homeless people are men), or male suicide (over 75% of all suicides are men), or work place deaths (over 90% of all victims of workplace deaths are men) without having Feminists organize protests, make death threats and bomb threats, and threaten boycotts against the venue that dared let these meeting happen within their halls.

I mean, think about it.  Apparently, the very idea of men getting having the temerity, the utter gall, to get together to discuss male health issues was seen by organized Feminists as some sort of attack on women, and thus organized Feminists decided right then and there that such a meeting had to be stopped by any means necessary.

And by "any means" I mean death threats against the organizers, bomb threats against the venue, false reports to the police regarding criminal activity, physically blocking the entrances of the conference (and physically attacking anyone, male or female, who tried to run this blockade), and other criminal and border-line criminal means to disrupt the conference.

All because someone decided that a discussion regarding men's health issues, and how they are basically ignored in the United States, was necessary.  Classy behavior on the part of Feminism, don't you think?

You know, once upon a time, men were a lot more supportive of Feminism than most of us are today; but what did that support buy us?  Accusations that we're oppressors.  Taunts based on our perceived status as "privileged" that utterly ignored the disadvantages we suffer.  We were made the butt of jokes and casually hateful attitudes so often and so pervasively that these days many of these jokes have become common wisdom.  No effort was spared to heap shame and guilt on our gender merely for existing.  We supported the quest for reproductive freedom and the right of women to own their own bodies, and in return we were painted as closet rapists that needed constant supervision lest we suddenly attack someone.   Feminists savage so-called "male feminists" with particular delight because despite being supportive, they still insist on being male.

And when we realized that there was absolutely nothing we could do, when there was absolutely nothing we could say, that would show Feminists that we weren't the monsters they were accusing us of being, when we realized that there was no use in trying to make Feminists happy with us, and threw the towel in and stopped trying to appease them, we were labeled "misogynist".  So we left the table in disgust.  We're no longer interested in jumping through Feminism's hoops, because there's always one more hoop to jump through with no reward for it at the end.

It is no longer in the best interests of men to support Feminism at all.

Congratulations, ladies.  You've turned a population of willing supporters into people who are indifferent, or even hostile, to your political ideology.  Not because they hate women, but because they are tired of being your punching bags.

Like with the Republicans and the Tea Party, you played to your base and alienated the mainstream.  You have treated men like shit for decades, and some of us take it personally.  A lot of us carry scars from our treatment at the hands of Feminists.

And we're tired of it.