I Think, Therefore I Am...Someone who Writes

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86-year-old won't be charged in concealed carry shooting, prosecutors say

     Because this is ‘Murica I know I’ll be barraged with all sorts of rhetoric about guns making us safer and freer, alongside all kinds of accusations that I want to take away everyone’s guns. I know that will happen, yet I have to write about this, because it hits way too close to home. In the town of Crestwood, IL, which is only a few miles from where I live, some 86 year old gun-nut was at a phone store when it was robbed. The first thing he did was great; he snuck out and went to the front door to make sure people would not enter the store, just in case things inside went really bad and the robber started shooting people or something. That part was courageous and awesome. The next part, not so much. You see, as he was standing out front he saw the thief run out a back door. At this point his inner George Zimmerman cop-wannabe bullshit started brewing to the top and he tried to chase the 17 year old robber. Of course, he wasn’t just chasing the kid, he had also taken out his gun and started shooting at the kid. Apparently the old man isn’t a great shot, because as he was busy playing John Wayne he almost accidentally killed one of the actual cops who was also chasing the kid.  
          There are so many things to talk about here. First of all, this is a prime example of what liberals talk about when they say “common sense gun legislation.” One piece of common sense gun legislation could be that 86 year olds shouldn’t be given concealed carry permits, and that goes double for when the 86 year old isn’t a former cop himself, clearly never having been trained as a marksman. But no, if our 86 year old crazy couldn’t walk around with a hidden gun Obama might come with his Black Panther Muslim friends and steal all his property or something. I also don’t know if there is any kind of marksmanship training you have to go through to get a concealed carry permit, but if there isn’t there needs to be, and if there is, clearly it’s too easy to pass because Mr. almost shot a cop by mistake was able to pass and get his permit. Again, just common sense stuff that does things like, you know, protect cops from accidently getting shot by old hero complex dudes, not shit about taking away your freedom.
        Beyond that, let’s talk about the culture of law and order vengeance that seems to permeate a certain type of person in our society way too deeply. Like seriously, what the fuck was this guy thinking? Teenager is robbing some smart phones so he needs to die or be crippled for life at the hand of my bullets? I repeat, What. The. Fuck?!!! You know what I would be thinking if I was in that situation? “Oh, gee, I’m so happy that robber didn’t want to hurt anyone and I came out of this situation okay.” Of course this dude thought, “oh shit this guy might get away and he deserves to die,” or at the very least, “AT&T will never get their property back if I don’t kill him,” or maybe, “the world’s thugs won’t be deterred from stealing if we don’t start killing the thieves, so I better shoot this one.” The ideas/values people like this hold clearly include…
-Property is as valuable as life
-Thieves deserve to die
-Killing thieves is the only proper deterrent against robbery
       Of course, there is also the racial aspect, which I’m not going to ignore. Now, the concealed carry nut is unidentified so it’s impossible to know his race, but you are just going to have to trust me on this, if you are from the area I’m from and you are in your 80’s, there’s over a 95% chance you are one of the old dying white folks who had once raised their families here back in the day when it was a predominately Irish/Polish Catholic area. The thief was a 17 year old black kid named Demetrius Merrill. I’m going to go out on a crazy limb and say that Demetrius Merrill isn’t the kind of 17 year old this concealed carry 86 year old remembers his neighborhood being filled with 30, 40, 50 years ago.
        This part of the south side of Chicago and the southwest suburbs used to be an all-white enclave where there were both actual laws and unwritten rules that kept it racially segregated from “the people from the other side of the Dan Ryan” until about 20 or so years ago. When first the laws, and to a lesser and more gradual extent the social attitudes changed this area became a LOT more black and brown very, very quickly. It also became a lot rougher quite quickly, but not because black and brown skinned people are morally inferior or inherently more lawless and aggressive. Rather, a lot of the younger people that have come to this area in the past few decades came from historically broken homes, shitty schools, teenage single mothers, neighborhoods with drugs, gangs, etc. A combination of old habits dying hard, and just straight up continuing racism (the kind that sees whole “black neighborhoods” have no stores and businesses, and thus forced to come shop and work in some of the “whiter” towns that are left in the area), along with a series of other complex socioeconomic developments, trends, and factors leads to young people of color being generally more likely to experience poverty and the shame and anger that comes with it. So, more often than whites they do things like rob a store for smart phones. It in no way excuses the behavior, but you have to be willing to acknowledge why the behavior is what it is, rather than do what people like this 86 year old guy undoubtedly did (blame black people for being thugs by nature). Trust me, I’m not throwing around wild speculative accusations, I live amongst the people of this area. Old white folks that lived here before the neighborhoods turned more diverse are overwhelmingly nasty and astoundingly ignorant in their blunt racism.
         So, look, I could be completely wrong. This 86 year old dude might be a black guy himself, he might be a white guy without any bit of racism in him…but I’m 99.99% sure that’s not the case knowing the area. The 99.99% odds are that watching some 17 year old like Demetrius Merrill rob some cell phones at gun point would only serve to “confirm” his prejudices, and conjure up all sorts of wild, irrational racial anger he carries beneath the surface. I’m sure that crazy ideas and values that have nothing to do with race are a big part of the reason he carries a gun everywhere, but trust me when I tell you he wouldn’t be so excited about trying to help kill and play hero-cop to get AT&T back a few smartphones if some white kid named Billy had stolen them. Just trust me on that. I know the area.
          So, there are a lot of things in play here…. the lack of common sense gun legislation, the worship of property, the macho culture of phony heroism, the vengeance/violent vigilante, death penalty-style culture of pseudo-justice, and the racist culture. It says a lot about certain types of people in our society. Generally, certain types of ideas are always tied together alongside certain others, all valued by the same set of people. This story exemplifies that reality. There is a half of our society that feels intense paranoia, worships materialism, loves old school law and order, adheres to tough, “masculine,” macho principles and isn’t too fond of those who don’t look like themselves. You can learn so much about this 86 year old guy from hearing about this incident. People are predictable. You’d be hard pressed to find a concealed carry person who doesn’t worship capitalism to the point they think it’s basically okay to kill to protect non-living stuff, or one that doesn’t demonize people of other races and cultures, or one that isn’t intensely for the death penalty, etc, etc. Learn one thing about a person and you can know a lot more about their other views without even having to ask.
        If you sit down and try to figure out who is right and wrong about various issues, or at the very least who holds more rational or persuasive arguments you can study all kinds of stats about gun violence and ownership or the death penalty, or read about the causes of minority poverty and crime, and the results of it, etc. Or you can just ask yourself which side the guy who almost accidently shot a cop in an attempt to kill a black kid for stealing smart phones is on, and then realize his side is a little off base in their assessment of a number of things.
          What’s really crazy to me is that there was no mention in the story of this guy having his concealed carry permit, let alone his guns, taken away, or even any mention of him being forced to go to safety training classes. It sounds like nothing happened to him as a result of this. Imagine for a second that the cops had been shooting at this kid as he ran away. At the very least they’d be investigated, and assuming the thief never flashed his gun at them they’d be in line to lose their badges for doing such a thing. Yet, if an untrained citizen does it, it’s just, “oh it’s okay, we know you meant well.” I repeat for the final time. WHAT THE FUCK?

Filed under guns concealed carry robbery Chicago gun control gun legislation cops racism law and order

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Dave, I understand that it’s the income of those over 65, but it’s completely unfunded. The promise that the government made to these retirees are not being completely met. They should be getting what they put into SS plus interest. But that’s not…

Okay, that’s fine, if they categorize things that are funded directly from tax revenue as “unfunded” then SS and a ton of other things tax revenues pay for are “unfunded.” (Using that definition a lot of the benefits military vets get are “unfunded” amongst a million other things). The point though is that people like you use that word in an opportunistic way, because the average retiree hears “unfunded” and thinks that the revenue for their SS checks doesn’t exist and the checks will stop coming; they don’t think, oh that means there was no “middle man investment” in a treasury bond or 401k or whatever on the way to that payroll tax ultimately ending up in my SS checks. And the goal is to get those people to support changing the SS system in ways it doesn’t really need to be changed, which are things that would ultimately hurt a lot of working class retirees because you are ideologically opposed to the existence of things like SS in its current structure.

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Dave, I understand that it’s the income of those over 65, but it’s completely unfunded. The promise that the government made to these retirees are not being completely met. They should be getting what they put into SS plus interest. But that’s not what’s happening. Getting less than what they put…

First of all, it’s not “unfunded.” Today’s retirees are “funded” by today’s workers. Like I said, due to the baby boomer retiree situation and longer life expectancy it’s on a path to becoming “underfunded” where things like the payroll tax rate, the benefit rate, the retirement age might need to be slightly adjusted, at least until the baby boomers die off, but the sort of libertarian think tank pieces you’ve probably read that are always trying to throw up combinations of out of context data to make it seem like we need to privatize SS or it will collapse in a death spiral in the next decade or whatever are just scare tactic propaganda pieces done by people who hate the existence of successful redistributive retirement programs like SS and Medicare that people of all political leanings love if they aren’t rich.

Most retirees get far more out than what they put in plus interest. If they don’t it’s because they were either rich and put way more in than most or because they died before 65 or shortly after and never recollected that much. The rich and die-young crowd are what keep it afloat for everyone else. It’s just how it works.

The idea of individualized accounts defeats the whole purpose of SS. SS is designed to help the average person who doesn’t have retirement savings be able to survive in retirement. Working class, middle class, and poor people aren’t going to have paid in a whole lot, so to tell them at 65 that their retirement will be funded by 6.2% of their lifetime earnings plus interest is basically telling them, you better hope you die before 70 or this is going to get real ugly.

Retirees aren’t being “cheated” out of money. They are getting what they need to survive and if they are alive long enough they will “get their money back.” If they die sooner you can consider it them getting “cheated” if you want, but that’s a really bizarre way to look at things. And just so you know rich people can collect SS. Some of them simply choose not to because they realize that would just be selfish, but some of them really are just driven so much by greed that they collect it even though they are wealthy without it (which unnecessarily drains the system of more money that could have been used on others that really needed it). If you take this ruthless rich person ideology to every topic a lot of things probably look like “schemes” from public education, to Social Security, to Medicare, to public roads, etc, etc. I can promise you this though…self interest always wins, so while you are young now and have the hope of being rich you can take the Scrooge mentality and say “grrr, schemes that are stealing money from good rich folks to pay for working class retirees suck,” but when you are like 60 someday if you’ve been middle class all your life you aren’t going to be thinking, oh I don’t deserve Social Security, I’m going to reject it once I receive what I put in plus interest, and I’m going to go around supporting proposals to turn it into individual account systems. You just won’t. That’s why no matter how conservative people are they love SS and Medicare. Only so many people can be rich in a free world, and for everyone else redistribution in retirement seems like a wonderful idea. Even Republicans get this which is why when waste was cut out of Medicare they tried to frame it as “Obama stealing from Medicare to fund Obamacare,” and there were all those Tea Party signs saying “keep your government hands off my Medicare” the ignorance of which brought tears of joy to me. In any other instance of wasteful duplicate spending cuts to any other government program they would have loved it. They know how much people love their retirement socialism, they know how much people love their education socialism, they know how much people who don’t have the time and money to build their own roads love infrastructure socialism, and as long as they don’t call it “socialism” it’s all good. It’s also why they fear things like single payer so much, because it is literally Medicare for all ages instead of just retirees and the rich know once it comes to America it will be as untouchable as Medicare. Unless you become rich you’re going to wake up at some point in about a decade and realize, damn, I love that my retirement income and healthcare is guaranteed, I love that my food, energy, healthcare, etc is subsidized by rich people’s taxes, I love that my kids can go to public school even if I don’t own my own property, I love that my road gets plowed and maintained, I love that my food and water aren’t loaded with mercury poisoning, etc, etc. Because unless you think, “I couldda paid for that stuff on my own and not had to pay for everyone else to get the same thing on top of it,” it’ll seem like a good idea….and only the rich get to think that.

Filed under Social Security socialism redistribution retirment

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previewofthoughts asked: It would seriously help of their parades weren't centered around sexual displays, like walking around naked, dry humping, homoerotic displays, penis shaped lollipops, etc etc etc. that's not who they are and there are better ways of showcasing on being proud of who you are.

I agree to some extent. I’d never been to it before, until I had to go this year for my work, and I’ve got to say it wasn’t really what I was expecting. I mean, yea, look, it’s a party, so there’s a lot of alcohol and sexual stuff going on, but there were actually way more parts of the parade with floats saying things like “God loves us too,” and “we love our gay children” than I thought there’d be. The other thing is that some of it is for shock value, because so much of homophobia is based around the eww, that’s icky sentiment, so I guess it’s supposed to be like, “hey deal with it, watch us trans people making out, it’s not any less gross than two straight people making out,” and stuff like that.

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Why The Gay Pride Parade Is Needed

     In the past I’ve written about why it’s so important that gay couples be granted access to all the legal benefits and protections that straight couples can access. That’s really an equality issue. Legally all couples and all families ought to be treated the same, without certain types of people being treated by the law in a different and inferior way simply because the way in which they were born is something a lot of religious zealots and homophobes feel is evil or icky. Yet, there’s a whole separate issue beyond the legal equality issues like gay marriage and LGBT employment discrimination. This other issue is the moral and social aspect of the LGBT movement.
          Forget for a second everything that comes with the idea of a legal, full and equal gay marriage. Forget for a second everything dealing with things like employment, consumer, or housing zoning discrimination against LGBT people. Forget all that, and just focus on the social attitude and moral feelings society has about LGBT individuals, couples, and families. The question is whether or not society should be accepting of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. The question is whether or not there is anything wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered. In order to answer those two questions, you have to consider a simple pair of facts: that queerness is natural, and harmless to non-queer people. Today, we have the benefit of science and history. Science has shown us that homosexuality is something found all throughout the animal kingdom, something entirely naturally occurring in humans, and something that has many causes aside from “evil choices” (with all sorts of genetic, prenatal, and other factors having been shown to increase the likelihood of homosexuality). Meanwhile, experience has shown us that homosexual people throughout history, and throughout all corners of the globe today, are no more predisposed to behaving in any ways that do anything to hurt straight people as a result of their gayness. Our scientific, interconnected, historically observant world has helped show us that being gay is indeed natural and okay.
         Yet, the problem is that, even despite the great progress made in western nations over the past 5-10 years, in most corners of the world homosexuality is still viewed as a horrific evil that people choose, producing hysteria that leads to oppressive and even violent laws and social norms. Despite a quickly diminishing supply of oppressive laws against gayness in places like America, the social attitude towards gays is hardly as unanimously tolerant as one might think. Some mid-40’s odd percent of Americans say they still don’t believe in the push for legal equality for gays when it comes to things like gay marriage or non-discriminatory hiring practices. Many more are willing to give legal equality, but still feel like being gay is a nasty sinful choice, much in the way people might be legally opposed to laws against things like drugs or prostitution, but morally disturbed by their existence. More yet still routinely use homophobic language that’s been deeply ingrained into their dialect, despite their intellectually and morally supporting legal and social equality for LGBT people. The fact that there exists even amongst those who support things like gay marriage, subgroups that continue to do things like use phrases such as, “that’s so gay,” or “no homo man,” or “suck my dick,” shows there is a problem. The fact that some would try to convince their gay child to “be straight” despite supporting gay equality, demonstrates there is a problem. The fact that even people who support gay equality on a moral level still falsely believe in propaganda that says it’s unsafe for LGBT people to donate blood, or dangerous for children to be raised by a same sex couple shows there is a problem.
         Lots of things show there is still a big, big problem. Our society isn’t full of people who say “that’s so negro” whenever they are describing something they think is stupid. Our society isn’t full of people who would tell their Asian children that they should marry a white person despite being attracted to other Asian people. Our society isn’t full of people who say Jewish couples shouldn’t adopt children because Christians raise kids better. Our society would never be okay with non-discrimination laws that include everything but deliberately failed to include, say, age, as one of the things you couldn’t discriminate against. People may be more informed and more tolerant and even accepting than ever before, but make no doubt about it, LGBT people are hardly living in a sexual orientation blind society, or even a society where most people don’t routinely promote homophobic attitudes and use homophobic language.
          And let’s face it, the reason the reaction to a little kid calling someone on the playground a nigger would be so different in most places and cases than the reaction to a little kid calling someone on the playground a faggot is that we live in a very superstitious, insecure, religious world.  Religion is dogmatic and the three big monotheistic juggernauts (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are based on the belief that writings from ancient people, who were incredibly ignorant by modern standards, are inspired by some perfect deity. Thus, all kinds of historical writing and tall tales from the Bronze Age are viewed by many as dictatorial morality coming from a divine source of perfection. If the people back then had our science and history at hand they wouldn’t have written some of the homophobic things they wrote. I should also mention that given what we now know about homosexuality, we can know that when these ancient writers wrote something on this subject that was anything short of saying that gayness is natural and benign, they most certainly weren’t having their thoughts possessed by a perfect deity that I’m 99.99999999% sure doesn’t exist anyways. After all, if there is some perfect deity, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have made gayness a natural and benign thing and then “inspire” people to write about what an abomination it is.
        Unfortunately, too many people are just too stubbornly religious to accept that their magic book is wrong and gayness is actually quite cool with whatever god they believe in. Thankfully, a growing number of more educated, benevolent, and wealthy ( by “wealthy” I mean by global, not American standards of wealth) religious folks in western nations are starting to figure out ways to convince themselves that the homophobic parts of their infallible holy books “don’t count” or “are cancelled out by other higher scriptures,” or “symbolic,” or whatever. Quite frankly I’ve never understood that sort of bullshit, but I’m thankful that lots of people are able to reconcile in their minds the opposing ideas of a perfect and true book of dogma from presupposed master deity, and the actual facts of life that should take precedence in guiding our moral decisions. In other words I’m really glad people have figured out a way to still worship some god they can’t live without, while rejecting things like lines from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and accepting things like the natural and benign nature of gayness, even though on an intellectual level I have zero clue how people are able to trick themselves into such bizarre, contradictory beliefs.
           However, as we all know some people are better suited to full-on ignorance than ultimately progressive, intellectually brain dead, cognitive dissonance. With that being the case, we have quite a great many people who just can’t accept that people are born gay, and are completely harmless. When a great many people feel that way, you have institutionalized homophobia. When you have such prevalent homophobia you end up with lots of both direct oppression and allowance of oppression of LGBT people. This oppression crushes the spirit of millions of gay people around the world, and it’s something that straight folks like me don’t have to deal with.
         That is why we have a gay pride parade. Everyone deserves to feel proud of who they are, and LGBT people are stripped of that most basic of human rights by the intensely homophobic world they live in. To have a day where they can line the streets of major cities, and have a big, loud, bold party where they tell the world, “hey look at us, we are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered, and we are having an absolute fucking blast, being the queer people we are,” is actually very important. A lot of homophobes fail to understand why it’s important. The harsher ones will simply denounce it as terrible, icky, evil, immoral, or whatever. The more refined ones will say things like, “oh I support gay equality, but they don’t need to shove their gayness in my face.” The first group is simply lost from an educational and moral standpoint, but to the second type of homophobe (the type that refuses to consider themselves homophobes) you need to understand that, yes, the whole point of the pride parade is to have their gayness “shoved in your face.” That’s because the whole point is that there is nothing there to “be shoved” at you. Their being gay, acting gay, and having a big, gay party isn’t going to hurt you. You don’t have to go to the party, you don’t have to march behind some float at the party, but you can’t be upset that the party is happening. If you are upset that gay people openly identifying as gay and then acting gay at a big gay bash, then you clearly aren’t as progressive, educated, or enlightened as you think. There’s no harm in the party, and the party does the confidence of perpetually oppressed (and yes, constantly hearing people use homophobic terms on the street is a form of oppression, amongst many other forms) LGBT people a great deal of good, so it needs to happen, will happen, and you will be totally okay with it, unless you are a homophobe.
        The other thing is if the “I’m-not-a-homophobe” homophobes really fail to understand why it’s not a form of inequality that straight people don’t hold a straight pride parade, then they aren’t as socially observant as they might think themselves to be. Nobody is stopping straight people from having some huge straight pride parade. Yet, no such thing exists, precisely because straight people are already proud of who they are, because society allows us to feel comfortable with the way we were born from day one. If I grew up constantly hearing, “that’s so straight” every time something went wrong, and knowing that lots of people thought my inherent desire to see tits was an evil choice I was making that was going to send me to a fiery pit when I died, I’d probably have some confidence issues, as would all other straight people, and we’d probably need things like a straight pride parade to attempt to reclaim our human dignity. But I didn’t grow up experiencing that kind of straight discrimination and hatred both legally and socially, so my security with my sexual desires was totally solid.
         So to all those straight, “I’m-not-a-homophobe” style homophobes, you need not feel jealous of gay people being “given” things like the ability to marry, not be fired for who they find sexually attractive, because you were given all those things for free, and you’re being given them for free is why you don’t need a straight pride parade. This is life in the 21st century…fucking get over it.


Filed under LGBT gay rights LGBT discrimination pride parade gay pride

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Is This Real Life?

Thad Cochran, the long-time Republican Senator from Mississippi is facing one of those nut job Tea Party challengers. All indications are that in tomorrow’s runoff Cochran is going to lose. Thus, Cochran’s team has decided to take a desperate 11th hour approach. The strategy? Go get a bunch of black people (who are almost all Democrats in Mississippi) to cross over and vote for Cochran since he’s at least politically competent and relatively speaking, moderate compared to the Mississippi Tea Party (seriously, the sound of Mississippi Tea Party should pretty much make any level headed non race-baiting person from 2014 shudder). It’s kind of deceptive, because the pitch is, hey this is Mississippi, a Republican will win the general for sure, so vote for Thad since your options are limited to him or a nutjob. That’s deceptive because it’s not entirely true. Even though it’s Mississippi, the signs are that Cochran’s opponent is crazy enough to be another one of those Todd Akin type implosion candidates in a statewide election, so having a Democrat run against him is probably actually a way to give the center-left a chance of winning in the deep south. However, this deception isn’t nearly as bad as what the Tea Party side is doing.  In response to Cochran’s sudden appeal to black Democrats to vote for him in the primary, the Tea Party is deploying the strategy of citing an out of context, erroneous interpretation of a law that will make it sound like it’s illegal for a Democrat to vote for a Republican in a Mississippi primary. They are training “poll watchers” to be around polling places tomorrow to tell any black voters they see heading for the polls that they will end up going to jail if they vote for Thad Cochran. I know, seriously, this is fucking happening. The Tea Party has literally reached the point where it’s trying to tell black people they are going to go to jail if they vote against the Tea Party guy. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Filed under Thad Cochran Mississippi primary election runoff poll watchers Republicans Democrats race voter intimidation Tea Party

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If the only motive was to help people who could not afford education, advocates of government involvement would have simply proposed tuition subsidies.
Milton Freidman (1912 –  2006) American Economist (via philosophicalconservatism)

I’d support tuition subsidies. Give them to poor kids and then they can either go to good private schools, or end up paying the out of district fees to go to a good public school in a better neighborhood.

(via previewofthoughts)

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Science Meets SCOTUS…What Today’s Scalia Opinion Means for Society

      Today SCOTUS handed down its ruling in the Utility Air Regulatory Group v EPA case. If you don’t follow politics, environmental legal battles, or climate change news, hearing of today’s ruling may leave you with more questions than answers, since our society’s mainstream headlines inexplicably presuppose that all its readers intimately follow whatever topic they are sounding off on, however niche and wonky it may be. So, first let’s talk about what today’s ruling was not about. It was not about the EPA’s legal right to regulate carbon emissions. SCOTUS ruled in Massachusetts v EPA, back in 2007, that the EPA did indeed have a right to regulate carbon emissions.
        That case has actually produced a common misconception amongst the public that there is such a thing as “carbon pollution.” In a legal sense, Massachusetts v EPA determined that CO2 was a “pollutant” since rising amounts of it in our atmosphere due to human activities are ultimately detrimental to human health (much like a true pollutant is) since such causes global warming, which produces climate change, which produces certain climatic results which are hazardous to human health and prosperity. CO2 is technically a naturally occurring gas, something that is in our air without humans putting it there. Traditionally, pollution of the air or water refers to the human placement of things in the air and water which wouldn’t have otherwise been there, a sort of “impurity,” which would more often than not be harmful to us, since our bodies are designed to healthily breathe in air and drink water containing certain things, but not those things which are not meant to be there. However, CO2, despite naturally being a part of the air we breathe, is being artificially made a larger part of the air due to human activities, and thus that extra non-naturally placed CO2 is legally considered a “pollutant,” although scientifically that might not be the most appropriate term. The best analogy would be to think about alcohol vs. water. Alcohol doesn’t belong in our body; it’s a poison to us, so it’s like a true pollutant. Water is good for us and meant to be inside us….but if you chug way too much of it you can die of water intoxication. Think of the climatic conditions on which a thriving human civilization relies as being killed off by “CO2 intoxication” that the frat guys at big coal and king oil are forcing the planet to take on as part of a cruel hazing ritual.
         Yet, for all the scientific terminology vs. legal terminology ignorance Massachusetts v EPA has created, it’s far more important historical legacy is that it allows the government to put regulations on carbon emissions coming from power plants, factories, refineries, and the likes. That crucial legal allowance has been challenged by the fossil fuel lobby, but SCOTUS declined to take the case. In a lot of ways that’s the best news of all, as it demonstrates that either one of two things are happening. It’s possible that conservative SCOTUS judges actually understand the importance of fighting climate change, and do not want to have to publicly choose between abandoning their right wing ideology by ruling to uphold Massachusetts v EPA, or turning themselves into a villain of history by ruling to overturn it. The other possibility is that while they might personally still be climate change deniers, they might view the societal pendulum as finally having swung, and fear being mocked and ridiculed for holding archaic and ignorant worldviews about climate science, so they don’t want to take the case and rule against the EPA, much as even the most hardened of racists would no longer, in 2014, want to take a case challenging, say, Brown v Board of Education.
              What today was actually about was the permit authority of the EPA. Power plants, factories, and refineries need to get permits from the EPA in order to operate, much like you need to get a driver’s license to legally operate a car. The question today was whether or not the EPA could base its handing out of permits on greenhouse gas emissions. Really, it was a matter of two questions. The first was whether the EPA could refuse to administer or take away a previously administered permit based on greenhouse gas pollution alone (GHG’s include CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor). The second was whether the EPA was allowed to consider GHG pollution as part of the permit evaluation process for plants, factories, and refineries that were already emitting other forms of air pollution. The second question was far more important, as about 97% of the places that emit greenhouse gases also emit some other form of non-GHG air pollution. Today, SCOTUS ruled 5-4, along ideological lines, that the EPA does not have the right to consider GHG’s as part of the permit process if no other pollutants are already being emitted, but for those that do spew other forms of air pollution, GHG’s can remain a part of the permit evaluation process. In other words, for that 97% of the power plants, factories, refineries, and other stationary carbon polluting facilities, the EPA retained the right to consider carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions as part of the permit process, but for those other rare places that don’t emit forms of traditional air pollution, GHG emissions cannot be considered.
                  Many are actually quite surprised both about SCOTUS’s refusal to take on cases against Massachusetts v EPA, as well as their decision to continue to allow the vast majority of stationary greenhouse gas emitters to have their GHG emissions be considered as part of any permit evaluation process with the EPA, per today’s Utility Air Regulatory Group v EPA ruling. As stated earlier, some of it might have to do with the private understanding of climate science amongst SCOTUS justices differing from their public persona, some of it might have to do with shifting in the public’s acceptance of the science of the issue, but more likely a lot of it probably can be attributed to a high court’s ruling last year that upheld Massachusetts v EPA. SCOTUS probably sees the legal, social, and scientific writing on the wall, leading them to desire an avoidance of a truly significant weighing in on this fight.
       Make no mistake; this is going to be a fight. While much of the past six years have been spent talking about healthcare and the recovery from The Great Recession, the next century is going to be dominated by climate and energy debates. If you think an economic downturn that caused unemployment to rise by a few percent and an attempt to subsidize health insurance plans for working class people has caused a bunch of political hysteria, wait until you see what the truly defining issue of the 21st century does with the political landscape. We’re talking about fossil fuels, the single thing that allowed the quality of life on earth to literally skyrocket over the past century. On the surface you might think that they’ve allowed us to develop electricity and cars, but it’s so much more than that. The 20th century saw us develop the cars, planes, and trucks that ship things from far, far away to your local communities for you to buy, sell, and use. Most important amongst these shipped goods is food. Do you live in Chicago and just had a banana and coffee with your breakfast? Well, you don’t exactly see bananas and coffee beans growing around the Chicagoland area, do you? Prior to the rise of 20th century fossil fuel transportation things found as far away as things like bananas and coffee beans are to a place like Chicago either didn’t arrive in Chicago, or if they did it was rare and ridiculously expensive. Then consider that with fossil fuel energy has come the ability of farmers to use motorized machinery and fertilizers on their farms, vastly improving agricultural productivity, as they can do infinitely more work now than in the days of muscle and animal power. Then consider what electricity has done. It’s not just about having electric lights instead of candles. Now we have things like refrigerators, which allow us to store more food, not to mention ship more refrigerated food that previously would have spoiled (most especially on a weeks-long boat or horse carriage ride, let alone an hours-long plane or truck ride). Let’s not forget what cars have done to reshape how employment and residency looks. Long gone are the days where everyone had to work within a few miles of their home, either working their own land as a farmer, or somewhere within a closely packed city. Cars have allowed people to work in cities, get their food from farms, all while living in residential suburbs sitting somewhere in between the two.
          The ways fossil fuel energy reshaped human civilization could go on all day. The point though, is that anything which requires electricity, transportation, or industrial processing is affected, and everything from our heating, to our air conditioning, to our refrigerators, to our ability to live in suburbs eating cheap food and using high tech plastic products from all around the world, while making our money tens of miles away from that home, is the result of the electricity, transportation, and industrial processing that was made possible by fossil fuel energy. Therefore, now that we’ve discovered that burning fossil fuels is actually changing our climate in ways that is going to rapidly and severely destroy the future prosperity of human beings, we’ve got a BIG, BIG situation on our hands. We have to rapidly figure out a way to produce as much electricity, transportation fuels, and do as much industrial processing, all from non-fossil fuel sources of energy, and we have to do it in a way where that alternative energy is just as affordable for people as fossil fuel energy always has been. If we can’t figure that out we’re going to end up either having to surrender our post-20th century quality of life, or continue with it until we allow climate change to destroy it. Neither is a good option, so you can see the urgency of the situation.
         Of course, that’s not all, because there are three other huge monkey wrenches in the situation. First, for a long time it was just the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe burning fossil fuels, but in the past 10-15 years much of the rest of the world has begun to rapidly develop (most significantly India and China’s mega populations). So, the remaining supply of fossil fuels will both begin to fall exponentially faster, and the climate change it produces is going to worsen much quicker. Second, as alluded to just above, fossil fuels are finite resources. There’s only so much oil, gas, and coal on earth, even if climate change weren’t an issue. As more and more of the world modernizes we will have less and less fossil fuels left to use, causing prices to rise, both due to supply and demand, and also because an increasingly large portion of what will remain will be hidden deeper down, and in further away remote corners of earth, making it increasingly dangerous, time-intensive, labor-intensive, and energy-intensive to extract, which obviously raises the financial costs. Third, the fossil fuel industry is literally the most lucrative industry in the history of mankind. Since oil and coal in particular are so tied to our transportation and electricity, which are essentially tied to everything from a 20th-21st century world, the oil and coal industries (and also the natural gas industry) are insanely rich and have further mega fortunes to make by burning the rest of the fossil fuels on earth.
          So, to recap, the product (fossil fuels) that changed the state of human civilization, which has produced the most profitable industry in the history of mankind (coal, oil, gas industry) is creating problem that will severely harm the future of human civilization (climate change). Meanwhile, that product is literally becoming increasingly expensive because it’s a finite resource that we are using up at an alarmingly fast rate, as the rest of the old third world rapidly develops. In order to solve this problem we would have to overcome the public’s fears of abandoning fossil fuel energy, as well as the most powerful industry on earth’s attempt to remain as insanely profitable as ever, and then create a massive amount of sustainable, non-fossil fuel energy, and figure out a way to make it affordable for people all around the world. All along the way ideologues who fear and hate government will do much fighting against such an energy transition, because they will refuse to acknowledge that we must either interfere with the markets to streamline cheap low-carbon energy to the front, and heavily subsidize research that will help it’s true cost plummet faster, or watch us and our untouched free markets succumb to a post climate catastrophe world. Like I said, if you thought Obamacare created a lot of heated yelling and screaming, this is going to be like nothing we’ve ever seen.
           Don’t think you aren’t already seeing it. Virtually every topic in the news, and everything going on in your life, and every major event you’ve witnessed over the past few decades is somehow tied to climate change and energy even if you don’t think it is. The fact that the price at the pump suddenly went from under a dollar to like 4 bucks a gallon in a matter of a decade? There’s just not as much cheap, easy oil left anymore, and it will only get worse from here. The fact we had a war in Iraq, and now are screaming to go back in because it destabilized again? Iraq and Iran are the two largest oil producing countries left the west’s big energy companies don’t  have major access to, which is precisely what “American interests” means whenever you hear that phrase when talks of Middle Eastern holy wars and dictatorships arise. Remember Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, or the record Phillipeans typhoon? Those are the kind of “once in a generation” storms that are already happening within the same decade, and are well on their way to becoming yearly occurrences, not to mention that the storm surge from Sandy went further inland due to what sea level rise we have already produced, causing an extra 45,000 people and their homes to be affected. You know how Texas has been in a “Biblical drought” for several years now? Yea, that’s pretty much going to be the new norm, which, along with some other breadbaskets around the world drying up is a big reason why food prices are shooting up. Speaking of other food baskets, you know how Putin went into Crimea? Control of food is a big deal. You know how the entire state of California is literally in drought conditions right now with “thousand year fires” burning? That too is becoming more and more the norm. You know how there was that whole Somolian pirate thing that spawned the movie Captain Phillips? Yea, the oceans are becoming more acidic and economies that rely on fisheries are becoming increasingly desperate. You know all this fighting about the Keystone Pipeline? Yea, that’s some a fight about whether the US should allow a Canadian company to send a bunch of 11th hour style tar sands oil, which is even dirtier, more dangerous, and worse for climate than traditional oil, through the US, to the Gulf, to be shipped to Europe. This list could also go on all day.
          The Obama administration using the EPA to cut power plant emissions 30% by 2030, along with everything else going on right now is just the tip of the iceberg. Today’s ruling means that 83%, rather than 86% of American carbon emissions are still capable of being considered for permit evaluations on the part of the EPA (another 14% or so of human carbon emissions in this nation deal with agricultural practices). It’s a very minor detail, within the context of the challenge of our generation. This is the second global breaking point our society has faced. The last generation avoided nuclear exchanges during the height of the Cold War. Will ours be up to the task of avoiding a self-inflicted climatic and environmental breakdown? Honestly, I don’t know, but I do know that as this complex, multifaceted, interdisciplinary, wide reaching, most crucial of 21st century topics moves more and more into the singular, central, global spotlight things are going to get very, very interesting. And now you know.

Filed under SCOTUS climate change climate science global warming EPA Utility Air Regulatory Group v EPA Massachusetts v EPA carbon emissions CO2 oil coal gas power plants factories refineries politics legal rulings air pollution enviornment fossil fuels clean energy

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This Isn’t a Religious or Political Fight; It’s a Fight to Allow All Partnerships Equal Opportunities for Success in a Plethora of Areas

The reason it’s so important that gays be allowed to marry and be recognized as married couples in all 50 states, as well by the federal government, is because marriage is far more than a religious concept. Sure, some religions, including the major western religions so popular in America (all forms of Christianity and Judaism) have a religious institution they call marriage, where two people who are in love, and generally sexually active with one another, commit to a lifetime of monogamous love and friendship. We have freedom of religion in this country, so every individual religion and every church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship is allowed to make their own rules about what pairs of people they will or will not allow to take part in these religious union ceremonies. That’s not the issue. The issue is that marriage is also a legal agreement that comes with rights and responsibilities. Pairs of loving, generally sexually active best friends who are not genetically related, but would like to become legal family, and legally committed to spending the rest of their sexually exclusive lives with one another can get a legal marriage. Since most people in this society are religious, they tend to do both, having a big ceremony through their religious community, but also less flamboyantly heading to the county clerk’s office to get their marriage licenses. While religious people certainly feel the spiritual responsibilities and benefits of a religiously confirmed marriage are quite important, on the pragmatic, earthly front the far more important of the two ends of the marriage arrangement is the legal end. Once legally married your federal, state, and local government will provide you with certain legal rights and protections that sexually active, committed friends who are not legally married don’t receive. Beyond that, countless businesses, industries, and the likes will provide different sorts of offers to legally married couples, and families headed by legally married couples than the types of offers they give non legally married people and families not headed by a legally married couple.
          Some of the legal benefits of marriage include being able to collect Social Security benefits for a deceased spouse, collecting veteran’s benefits from your military spouse, being provided immigration benefits if you have an American spouse, collecting benefits of federal employees if your spouse is one, holding an exemption from inheritances taxes, holding tax exemptions on your spouse’s health benefits, being able to file joint tax returns, having family visitation rights in hospitals, being able to take bereavement leave if your spouse dies, taking time away from work to care for a sick spouse, being able to make financial and medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse, being able to share business income with your spouse listed as a family member, being able to get leases or mortgages on houses and apartments that are zoned off for couples or families, the right to automatic lease renewal of a deceased spouse who signed a lease, being offered family rates for homeowner’s, property, life, and health insurance, getting spousal tuition discount offers at various schools, the ability to sue a third party for the wrongful death of your family member your spouse, family visitation rights in prisons, having the marriage communications confidentiality clause in court, etc, etc, etc. The list could go on all day. 
      The thing is that a lot of people who are very religious, and take the religious end of marriage super seriously, feel like gay people getting married is some kind of spiritual and societal disgrace of epic proportions, which will doom their society and weaken the strength of the marriages they believe their deity allows. Generally, religious people have a lot of faith, which means they have the ability to purposefully suspend their reasoning and critical thinking skills in order to believe in things that evidence can’t demonstrate to be possible, let alone likely or blanetly obvious and true. This also ends up meaning that they can’t think reasonably about morality, as well as being unable to think reasonably about what their holy books really are. If you aren’t blinded by some kind of silly faith that softens the blow that is your realization of your own mortality and your insignificance in the cosmic picture, then you can think out your own morality. You can look at something like homosexuality and ask yourself, hmm, does people being gay, falling in love with each other, having sex with other, marrying each other, and all that jazz hurt me or anyone else? Gee, I guess it doesn’t. Furthermore, you can ask yourself hmm, is homosexuality a natural occurrence, or something evil people who have strayed from some perfect deity I believe in pretend to be? Oh, look, it’s totally natural on top of being completely harmless to me. Sweet, then let’s let gays do everything we straight people do and say that such is good. Moral introspection on this subject complete…. However, if you are religious you will think that some sort of book full of semi-plagiarized spin-off mythology stories from antiquity, mixed in with some pieced together exaggerated historical accounts is actually the inspired word of some perfect deity you assume exists for some silly reason. And the problem is the writings in books like the Bible, Koran, or Torah were written a long, long time ago by very ignorant and bigoted people. Thus, all the books are pretty clear that homosexuality is icky and evil, and that allowing it to exist and be viewed as equal to heterosexuality is going to weaken you, doom your society, and send people to some fiery afterlife pit. Whether your aim is to protect yourself, preserve your society, or prevent others from ending up in some afterlife underworld, if you can’t realize that holy books are just the views of a bunch of mere mortals who lived a long time ago when we were socially, scientifically, and in every other way in our intellectual infancy as a civilized species, then you won’t be able to accept gayness as the natural thing it is, and its presence as the completely harmless thing it is.
          So, the thing is, no matter how much anyone tries to tell you that their opposition to gay marriage is purely religious, and not homophobic, you have to remember that what these religious zealots are really worried about is the acceptance of homosexuality as natural and benign. They aren’t trying to preserve some sort of religious freedom to be a bigot, they’re just worried people are going to start realizing that it’s okay to be gay, since they are truly convinced it isn’t, per their thinking the opinions of a bunch of Bronze Age writers is actually reflective of the views of a perfect deity. Also, don’t ever let anyone tell you that the marriage fight is not about being anti-equality, because it most certainly is. Before gay marriage began to be rapidly accepted by state after state there wasn’t any kind of anti-legal marriage movement amongst libertarians who felt that the legal benefits of marriage were some sort of nasty thing that nobody should have. If you want to have some bizarre political debate where you demand that things like veteran’s benefits and social security be abolished, go ahead and have that weird debate totally separate from talk of marriage. Some fringe people might actually feel that way, but your average religious conservative does not. They love things like Social Security, veteran’s benefits, and joint tax returns as much as anyone else. Their issue is simply that gay people who have committed to lifelong, sexually monogamous best friendships could be considered legally equal to them. They find it gross, icky, and morally intolerable that gay couples be given the same opportunities as straight couples. They find it disgusting that the lifelong partner of some postal worker could receive federal spouse benefits even if the pair were both men. They find it gross that the spouse of a veteran could receive VA benefits even though they are a lesbian couple. They think America will be doomed from above if a gay widow can receive the same Social Security benefits a straight widow can. They think the spiritual strength of their marriage will be weakened if a lesbian can get family health insurance through her partner’s benefits at work. Etc, etc. These are real, tangible economic opportunities that are being afforded to one type of American, but not another. We’re saying, hey couple A and couple B have both been committed to each other for the past 25 years, but couple A qualifies for family partnership tax benefits on the business they started together, but couple B does not, because couple B is gay. We’re saying, a person from relationship A can go to the same public university for less money than a person from equal relationship B because that person from couple B is a lesbian.     
          Religious conservatives get all offended when my generation says LGBT people are our generation’s black people; oppressed, treated unequally, and held down by an unfair society. They get offended not because they want to deny the oppression, unequal treatment, and holding down…no, they are rather proud of that; instead they get offended because they’ve feel as though while darker skin pigmentation is benign, having a sexual preference for the same sex is not (because the magic book of Bronze Age rules tells them so). They think this sort of oppression is warranted, and helpful to the “good” people in our society. It’s not. It’s not good. It’s just as wrong and evil as the oppression of black and brown skin. And it’s not just social stuff. If this were really just about very mean, but still less than socioeconomic life-altering things like hospital visitation rights, we’d still fight for them, but it wouldn’t be as dire a situation. However, this is about the holding back of a group of people from equal economic opportunities. Just as we once as a society kept equally qualified blacks away from certain homes, business loans, and schools, we are currently literally making it more difficult for gay retirees to financially survive, for gay widows to stay afloat, for gay students to afford an education, for gay family-run businesses to get the same tax breaks, for foreign gays not as fortunate to be born in the US to get their citizenship, for gays to get health benefits, etc. Gay couples literally don’t have the same economic, health, property, tax, educational, retirement, immigration, and military benefits as straight couples. People who are equally skilled, equally hard working, and striving for the same thing are being made unequal in very profound socioeconomic ways simply because they weren’t able to marry a person of the opposite sex being that they weren’t attracted to the opposite sex. This is wrong.
          All these straight folks that are complaining that they are just mad that the government “requires” they get married in order to receive all sorts of government benefits aren’t complaining that they can receive them in their straight marriages. If they hate them that much they can just not get legally married, and gasp, not be served all kinds of legal rights, benefits, and protections from the government they hate so much. Again, a small few on the political fringe might actually agree to that, but for most this isn’t about hating the idea that you have to be married in the eyes of the government to get government marriage benefits, or the idea that such benefits exist overall. Rather, for them this is about wanting gays to be treated as second class citizens. This is about wanting some sort of watered down set of rights, protections, and benefits called something other than the sacred m-word which doubles as a religious sacrament to be given to gays in place of an equal legal marriage (like a civil union), if even that. It’s about holding gays down, hoping they end up poorer, less happy, more stressed, and more punished than straight people. It’s about thinking that accepting gayness is opening the lid to some Pandora’s box of superstitious evil. It’s silly, it’s ignorant, it’s mean, and it’s wrong.
       Dream equal. Dream equal.

Filed under LGBT gay rights gay marriage marriage equality dream equal

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Capitalist 99%ers Fear Atheism Because they Think Morality Is Unnatural

      Earlier this week I was thinking about how Eric Cantor was the last Jewish Republican in Congress, meaning every single Republican in the federal government is now Christian. What was most striking about this was not that Cantor was the last conservative Jew, but rather that in the absence of Jews it was a no-brainer to correctly assume everyone else was a Christian. What I’m getting at is that in order to run for political office in the United States the most important, non-negotiable qualifying trait you must possess is not wealth, a penis, a particular skin color, or an attraction towards the opposite gender (rare as it is, we do elect people of color, women, 99%ers, and LGBT folks now and then), nor is it anything that might actually matter, such as an understanding of the issues, a love of politics, good communication skills, economic literacy, or anything of the sort. No, the absolute first thing that you MUST have, no matter what, is some kind of belief in some sort of bullshit fairy tale that people use to pretend their life has meaning, good and evil are real and really get judged someday, and there is some happily ever after eternal afterlife. It doesn’t matter what kind of bullshit you believe in (just so long as you aren’t Muslim because we have to be afraid of all of them and assume them to be America hating terrorists until they prove otherwise…gag me), just so long as you believe in something. Without professing some sort of deliberate suspension of critical thinking (I mean religious faith), you cannot be trusted, because you are probably an evil, angry person who hates the totally real (because my holy book tells me so) deity everyone else believes in. It doesn’t matter if you actually know anything about that religion, or if you truly follow that religion’s rules, but so long as you call yourself a Catholic, a Baptist, a Mormon, a Jew, a Lutheran, or any of the other Judeo-Christian faiths, then you can move on to step two in the “I want to be a politician” game, sponsored by the big guy upstairs.
           I consider myself an atheist, but I hate what that word means. I don’t enjoy considering myself an atheist, probably because society has conditioned me to think that atheism is some self-centered asshole dogma that  is founded on a hatred of some clearly real deity, which selfish pricks who don’t want to follow that deities’ gloriously perfect moral rules of the universe will subscribe to out of sociopathic defiance. Of course, that’s not what the word atheism means. Atheism simply means a-theistic, or non-theistic. It’s when you don’t buy into some theology. In order words, you don’t blindly believe a bunch of Bronze Age dogmatic superstition about how the world works, why we are here, and how we got here. Meanwhile, there’s this trend that the devoutly religious have been taking part in, where they classify atheism as a religion, as though that’s somehow something they think is insulting, even though it’s been thrown out in defense of their religious beliefs. They say nobody can be sure there isn’t a deity, so to say you know that to be the case is arrogant speculation. Okay, cool, so I’m not 100% sure there is no god because I didn’t literally sit here for the last 13.7 billion years and watch the history of the universe unfold without it being guided by some magical creator; I’m still 99.9999999999999999999% sure there’s no god.
         Then people say, well you are an agnostic, and I’d say, yes, we all are, now aren’t we? After all agnostic means a-gnostic, or non-gnostic, as in “without knowledge of god.”  Unless you believe a bunch of stories about multi-century old people talking to burning bushes and guys walking around on water and rising from the dead zombie style, the truth is if there is some deity out there it hasn’t given humanity knowledge of it, so we are all agnostic. If we are all agnostic, we should also all be atheist, as everyone being without knowledge of some god for which there is no reason to believe in the existence of should logically lead people to not subscribe to some theology. Your agnosticism should lead to your being an atheist, just as your lack of knowledge about the existence of the Loch Ness Monster should lead to your not belonging to some belief system that worships it, even though, hey, we cannot know if the Loch Ness Monster really exists and there’s just always been zero discovered evidence for it, or if we can’t find evidence for the Loch Ness Monster because it’s impossible to disprove a negative. Anything you can imagine up like deities or the Loch Ness Monster can be said to be something you technically cannot disprove, since we can’t disprove negatives.
        So, I’m a simultaneous agnostic-atheist (and yes that makes perfect sense, read above again if you don’t get it yet), and because of that, if I, or anyone like me ever wanted to be a politician, we’d have to either take the Barney Frank route (not be out of the atheist closet until after our political career was over), or accept the fact we’d be completely unelectable. Why is this? This is a question I’ve thought a lot about, but earlier this week, I believe I thought of (I’m sure thousands of others have thought of it before me as well) a very strong theory that might explain this. The reason Americans fear atheism so much is because they worship the mantra of capitalism so much. Capitalism is the economic theory that says greed is good. If you just act out of your own self interest, the world will become a richer, happier, more peaceful place. To some extent, at least in the economic realm this is true. In reality, the advent of private property, and free trade is really more so what has enriched people. (if you couldn’t own your own property and couldn’t freely trade goods and services, and instead simply were forced to work the land of those higher on some hierarchy you wouldn’t end up as rich or happy) Still, acting out of one’s self interest, does in theory help grow the economy, which is something you need to do, at least up to a certain point, so that enough wealth can be created for everyone to have a good life (however, if we grow and grow forever what ends up happening is that we start to run out of finite resources, the rich keep getting richer, and we end up with a Dickensian society with a destroyed environment). So, economically, we have been taught that basically being a selfish prick is actually your righteous duty in order to help others have a better life.
         When we believe in that economic dogma, we start to assume that in all other areas we are going to be inherently selfish pricks, and that scares people. While the invention of religion serves many purposes, one of them is that it is the 99%’s way of controlling the elite, before they get way out of hand, bullying everyone else further and further into a hole. Marx called it the opiate of the masses, but I prefer to think of it as the sword of the masses. Religion is one of only two weapons the masses have, the other being their collective unity.  If you can convince the billionaires of the world that there is an eternal hell to pay for not being benevolent towards commoners, and you can convince them some perfect, post-human rule maker demands for reasons beyond our comprehension that the powerful play nice with the weak, you can build a far more peaceful, equal, cooperative society. Given that our economic mantra is one of “greed is good,” it becomes especially important to the 99% within a capitalist society that religion be something that is accepted by the rich and powerful. The powerful are the rule makers and enforcers, in addition to the rich, so politicians most definitely fall into that category.
        This is why atheism scares Americans so much. They think if they elect an atheist they are electing someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of some perfect rule maker, or the list of  invented rules from said invented rule maker. Since they also believe wholeheartedly that greed is good…except when God says it isn’t… they will end up thinking that atheist politicians, when left to rationalize what the rules should be, without considering the prescribed morality of religious books, will prescribe laws that are very greedy, and favor only the powerful, or those who can help the politician him or herself. The problem here is that Americans, and really all westerners, have been trained to think that religious morality is counter-logical, and thus only something people will accept and prescribe if they accept the existence of God and the authority of religious texts. In reality, the only thing that is illogical about western religion is the idea of God and/or Jesus and the authority of the Bible or Torah. The morality found in much of it that people enjoy following is actually quite inherently logical. What is good for others is probably good for you, so be nice and your life will be better. It seems so counterintuitive when you’ve irrationally accepted the economic dogma of capitalism that says selfishness is the key to a happy life, but it’s true. Acting out of benevolence, rather than self-interest, is actually, ironically in one’s self interest. If you recognize that, you’ll probably reject the dogma of capitalism, but despite also rejecting the dogma of Judeo-Christian belief systems, you will end up being the kind of person who accepts such belief systems’ core morality.
              In a lot of ways, this is probably why people are so stunned when they observe that most non-believers are actually “some of the most moral people.” Believe it or not, when you simply subscribe to moral relativism, the vast, vast majority of people will end up finding, using nothing more than their intellect and life experience, that they actually believe in the morality of most major religions. Religious people find this shocking, because they’ve always been taught that religious morality is counterintuitive but you have to follow it because somehow there is a magic man who knows better than you. That’s not the case at all. There’s no magic man and what the supposed deity is telling you to do is anything but illogical or running counter to our instinctual impulses as a species. We are a collectivist, benevolent, empathetic species. Capitalism, with its individualist, ruthless, asshole, greed is good dogma is the unnatural entity that one has to buy into; the one that doesn’t come naturally. Capitalist anti-morality is taught, instinctual morality is inherent, and you don’t need to believe in a silly story about a deity to follow it.
            I really think the less a society buys into capitalism as the silver bullet against poverty, the more it starts to think the only way to keep the peace is to buy into religious fairy tales. I could be wrong, but I think it makes some pretty good sense.

Filed under morality religion atheism politics moral relativism capitalism

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Iraq: When the west wants your oil, so they throw out your dictator, and as soon as they leave you decide to start slaughtering each other over a bunch of fairy tales (I mean religion).

1.) We (as in developed white western nations) drew Middle Eastern borders so maybe it’s time they drew their own fucking borders. If that means Iraq turns into three states (Shiite, Sunni, Kurds) so be it (same goes for Syria…or anywhere else for that matter…I’m looking at you Israelis/Palestinians).

2.) When people live in abject poverty the world has nothing to offer them, so the imaginative world of religion is their fallback. Unlike in the developed world where people are religious because they can’t deal with making their own moral evaluations and fear the idea of death and a purposeless life too much, people in the third world become religious and then try to make their life meaningful by engaging on holy war crusades, since it’s not like they can get a job and stable family the way we can. Pretending that anything except the Middle East becoming a wealthy, capitalist, democratically run region would stop all this crap is just lying to yourself. And they clearly aren’t ready and willing to try and run their own free societies, so maybe we should stop trying to use our military to unsuccessfully bully them in that direction.

3.) Basically Al-Queda’s more extreme sibling (the ISIS Sunni group) is fighting Iran (the Shiites). If we seriously didn’t learn from the USSR-Afghanistan ordeal that arming or aiding one side in a conflict between two looney ass places that hate western civilization is a bad idea, then we are more intellectually fucked than I already believe our society to be.

4.) Religions are always killing each other, and this is for Islam what the 16th century was for Christianity. Sometimes you just have to let them have at it and get it out of their system.

5.) Stop pretending we care about these people, because we don’t. Whenever you hear “American interests,” it means, “damn it, if they don’t have a democracy or a friendly dictatorship in place western companies won’t be able to get at their oil.” That’s the only reason we want a nation like Iraq to be both stable, and run by a dictator, religious or secular, Shiite or Sunni, extremist or moderate, who allows the oil fields to be opened up to the global ,market.

6.) If we had never gone into Iraq in 2003, the people of Iraq would have been better off. We were pissed that Saddam, a moderate Sunni dictator, had refused to denationalize much of Iraq’s oil, so we moved in under a number of guises including that this was for the people, or that somehow Saddam had WMD’s he was going to use against the US or Isreal, or that he was in bed with Al Queda, etc. None of them were true. We were just hoping to kick him out and set up a tank-forced democracy that would privatize the oil fields. It didn’t work, and as soon as we left this huge power vaccum existed, which has led to extremist Sunnis running around slaughtering Shiites. Oh, and btw, we didn’t get the oil fields privatized after all this. Oops.

Filed under Iraq ISIS religion Islam Muslims poverty religious extremism western imperialism terrorism oil