Friday, January 30, 2009

300,000,000 People With Two Voices

I've always been interested in politics but I've been marginalized by inept two party system. In this country we are led to believe that to represent three hundred million people only two schools of thought are necessary. There are so many political philosophies out there that people would be willing to vote for if only they were given a choice. In addition to the two main parties, Republican and Democrat, you have The Green Party, The Socialist Party, The Constitutionalists Party, The Reform Party, The Moderate Party, The Independence Party, and the list goes on and on. I've given up on the two party system as of this last election.

'08 Election

I was an avid supporter of Barack Obama for the last two years. Right before the election I gave up on him and voted third party. His passionate rhetoric and talk of change had me enthralled. I was absolutely psyched that someone was going to take office and fix all the problems that Bush had caused.

Obama promised to fix health care, make college more affordable, and lower crime rates. I wanted to believe him but when I looked at his stances they were just wrong.

1. His position on health care wasn't the universal single payer system of European countries or the capitalist system with price controls that's used in Japan. Instead he wants to make so everyone can buy into government funded health care while taking little notice of the fact that this approach doesn't fix the broken system of overpriced health care and crooked insurance companies.

2. He promised to make college more affordable but, once again, he intends to do this not by lowering costs but my subsidizing tuition. College costs have shot up year after year over the past few decades. He plans to increase pell grants to students but not extend them to more students. I could not get pell grants or subsidized loans because of my parents. They are helping me with tuition and living costs and I'm eternally thankful but if I wasn't blessed with such parents an education would be out of reach for me.

3. Obama intends to fight crime but introducing stricter gun legislation on legal owners of guns. Gun control sounds good but he fails to consider the fact that most gun crimes are committed by people that purchase the guns illegally and often, are not legally allowed to possess said guns. Cracking down on conceal carriers and gun enthusiasts will only alienate voters and trample the constitution.

Where I Stand Now

So after my disappointment I was left to float in a political purgatory. I've never considered myself a republican and upon closer inspection I realize that I don't belong in the in the democratic party. I'm a combination of personality traits and beliefs that will not mesh with the GOP or the Dems.

Democrats: Sexists, Apoligists, and Gun Grabbers

I'm a white male who believes that gun ownership is a right that should never be infringed upon.

The party constantly rails against men with sexist legislation like the Violence Against Women Act and the ever increasing persecution of fathers unable to pay child support. Males in the democratic party are either naive, gay, or "male feminists". Regular guys are treated as enemies to the party. They continue to tax bad habits such as drinking or smoking that are far more common in the male population than among the female population.

In order to regain and retain power the party has often relied on minority populations. They give them preferential treatment based, not on skill, but on physical characteristics. If people were given college scholarships or jobs based on their hair color or their height people would scream in outrage yet when it comes to skin color this acceptable. The congressman love the white guilt that permeates throughout liberal groups.

Last but no means least is their constant abridgements of the second ammendment. I personally do not own a gun and I'm not the biggest fan of them but I don't think any right should be infringed upon. Just as limiting first and fourth ammendment rights provokes outrage so should limiting second ammendment rights. Less guns could possilby mean less gun crime but not necessarily less violent crime. Britian for example has almost no gun crime but deadly stabbings happen on a regular basis.

Republicans: False Samaritans, Bible Beaters, and Union Busters

Republicans often talk about how you can have whatever you want as long as you work hard enough. Unfortunately for millions of Americans, even those who make good money, good health care is out of reach. When a catastrophic illness hits an American citizen they often have two choices, debt or death. The system needs to be fixed or replaced and when suggestions are made they claim that any solutions are "socialist" or "big government".

I'm an Atheist and the right wing wants nothing to do with "my kind". The godless are routinely insulted by major player in the party. Mit Romney gave a speech during the primaries in which he explained that you must have faith of in a deity to believe in freedom. George H.W. Bush said that the godless are not really Americans because after all it is "one nation under god". Three percent of this country's population is openly Atheist and about twelve percent of people are not affiliated with a religion. The party is marginalizing a growing voting block that wants a secular state.

I believe that unions give workers the right to ensure that they are paid what they are worth. They allow skilled and semi skilled to support their families by forcing employers to raise their wages on a regular basis. Republicans have always fought unions and labeled them a threat to the free market capiatlism that they are such fans of . Under the Obama administration we should see a new wave of unions.

Conclusion

I am now, and as far as I can tell, will always be a third party voter. The two parties have gotten too big, diversified too much to expand their voter base and in doing such have alienated their old bases. In the coming election cycles new leadership is desperately needed and the big parties do not have much to offer. Bush was the absolute worst the right wing had to offer and if Obama flops then he could go down as the next Jimmy Carter. If this happens maybe the rest of America will look to new parties. One can only hope.







Saturday, December 6, 2008

Punch, Poison, and Prisoners

Cult: a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious ; also : its body of adherents (Webster's)

Over the past few years I've become interested in cults. Scientology, Latter Day Saints, Jehovah's Witness, and, lately, Aum Shinrikyo. The last one was the Japanese cult that released sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway. Why they did shocks the conscience and is a textbook definition of homegrown terrorism. There actions apart from this final strike were despicable and inhumane but to understand the cult one has to look at it simply one of many.

Cults have existed in the U.S. for generations. Whether they be unorthodox yet utterly docile sects like the latter day saints or they be far out of the mainstream such as Jim Jones People's Church. Here's a list of common signs you might be in a cult.

1. The exultation of a mortal leader to god like status. Examples include David Koresh, Jim Jones, John Applewhite, Asahara Shoko, L. Ron Hubbard, etc.

2. The stifling of dissent. In any true religion you can ask questions, get clarification and discuss beliefs in an open environment. In cults if you question beliefs you are labeled an unbeliever or a spy.

3. Abuse in any form whether it be in the form of overworking, underfeeding, restraining in prison cells (Aum) or outright physical abuse. Across Christian, Buddhist or Alien cults the stories of abuse are almost always the same.

4. Isolationism. Any belief system that encourages you to cut ties with your friends and family because they are not members is more than likely a cult. Leaders will convince their members that if their family aren't members it's because they aren't "the chosen ones" (Aum) or that if they continue to talk to their family it will lead them away from the path of enlightenment (Scientology's disconnection policy).

5. Group think. Members are taught that there is a standard that all members have to live up to. Personalities or opinions that conflict with these standard must be removed. Individuality is a threat to stability within the group and must be eliminated.

6. Black/White Distinctions. Those within the group are good, those outside are bad. This seems like an overly simplistic viewpoint but it's often the standard dogma on which cults are created. Once you control the people inside and isolate them from people outside maintaining absolute control over them is assured.

(Source)

What has always shocked me about cults is that they are so misunderstood. I've discussed the topic with many people and they always seem to say to me "simple minded people buy into that stuff but I would never fall for it". The problem with this logic is that often it's not the dim people that join the cults. Aum Shinrikyo was populated with many university graduates, people well educated in the fields of medicine, physics, chemistry and engineering. Intelligence plays a part of course but more often than not people join cults out of sheer desperation. Members join for friendship, or approval, or networking, or just join because they believe that there has to be more to life. Before they know it they are trapped but they are happy because they are told they are happy. When the dust clears later they are exposed for what they really are, threats to life in their home country and, sometimes, even human existence as a whole.

Aum was easily the most vicious cult to come out of east Asia in the 20th century. The subway attacks were the crescendo in their symphony of mayhem but few people realize the crimes they committed during the years prior. They killed a critic, his wife and his baby, they killed a member who tried to leave and a 69 year old relative of a member in a micro incinerator and these are just the few murders we know about. They showed a complete disregard for human life when they released their first nerve gas attack in a neighborhood in 1994. They continued their reign of terror even after the cult was busted for the subway gassing.

Cults are a threat to humanity. I know our government likes to concentrate on fundamentalist Arabs and anti-government Aryans but cults are the real enemy. When they finally raided Aum's headquarter they were shocked by what they found. The cult had acquired Ebola from Zaire and they had to chemists required to properly cultivate the virus. Even though the virus doesn't transmit well through the air if the cult had deployed the virus in the subway instead of the gas the results would have been catastrophic. Tokyo is a city of 12.8 million people and it's chief airport, Tokyo International, average 188,000 passengers per day. If there was ever a perfect mode of transmission of a virus this would be it.

The most active cult in this country at the moment is Scientology. I ask people to call on their legislators to strike down the religious status of the cult. Aum was allowed to do what it did because the Japanese government was afraid of coming out against a religious sect and when they finally did there was a significant body count. Defectors from the cult have reported caches of automatic weapons, sex abuse within the organization, violation of child labor laws, harassment of critics and needless deaths because of their stance against modern medicine. Hundreds of people have died at flag headquarters, you can see a partial list here. This organization is a threat to governments, a threat to freedom and, a threat to its members. They rely on people's ignorance because if people knew how shady the entire cult was they wouldn't stand for it.

Religions deserve tolerance and understanding, cults deserve nothing




Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama isn't change, he's more of the same


Americans are absolutely giddy that Obama won the election because it marks a historic change in politics in this country, or at least that's want they want you to think. I thought he was a good candidate, his ideas seemed sound but now since I've looked up his programs I realize he's just another politician.

The Person

Obama is a man with an incredible back story, a real Horatio Alger one at that. He struggled with poverty much of life and was raised to be the successful politician he is today by his mother. He worked in Chicago as a community organizer and eventually entered politics by running for state senate. Once he entered the political arena he was corrupted by the will to win.

The Ascension

State Senate

He won his first campaign by challenging the signatures his opponents collected. By doing this he had everyone else disqualified from the race and he won unopposed. His means of securing his state senate seat are a classic tactic used by the right wing and have no place in politics, much less left wing campaigns, in this country (Source: PBS Frontline: The Choice). While in the state senate he passed several progressive bills to help the poor and uninsured in his district. He also demonstrated an anti second amendment bias by voting "against letting people argue self-defense in court if charged with violating local weapons bans by using a gun in their home." As well as pushing legislation to limit the amount of handguns a person can buy (Source: CBS News).

Senator Obama's voting record isn't too disturbing until you realize that he chose not to vote 129 times in the state senate. Instead of voting for or against legislation he voted "present". When you compare this to the overall number of votes it's a little over three percent (Source: Factcheck.org). It may not sound substantial but it's reasonable for constituents to expect their legislator to vote every time. He pushed for solidly liberal issues like gay rights and social justice but when it came to voting on controversial legislation such as abortion he sat on the sidelines. Representing the people that voted him in to the best of his ability may have stifled his chances to move up and onward in the politics.

A Impressive Speech

At the DNC in '04 Obama was tapped to be the key note speaker. His speech railed against partisans who claim there is no red states and blue states, he spoke about how there is only The United States of America. Everyone cheered, many cried, and commentators were quick to draw comparisons to MLK and JFK. The speech was well written and beautifully delivered by the state senator. Their is a common misconception that Barack Obama wrote that speech for that function, he did not. His staffers had heard that speech tens of times before, he used it on street corners and in churches. For the DNC he just integrated John Kerry's name into it. The public bought into it and he was catapulted to stardom (His Speech). During the following election he beat hyper conservative Alan Keyes by a forty percent margin.

The Senate

While in the senator Obama sponsored tens of bills and co-sponsored the renewal of the sexist "Violence Against Women Act". If you look at the bills that he helped to bring to a vote he seems like a good legislator but when you look at his overall record you'll notice he's not an agent of change, as his supporters claim him to be. Despite his claims that McCain would just be another third term of Bush, Obama himself voted with the president over forty percent of the time (Source: CQ Politics). On top of these votes he's also skipped almost half of all of the votes while he's been in the senate (Source: Wall Street Journal). It's common for people to miss votes when they are running for president but he has missed more than anyone else. This is not only unfair to his constituents but it's also unfair to the public who have the right to know where a candidate, now president elect, stands on an issue.

Present Day

Obama is set to take office on January 20th of 2009. If his actions so far are a fair indicator of his performance as president then we are in for turbulent times. Here's the current run down.

Rahm Emanuel

Obama's claim was that he would bring change to Washington and bring forth a new era of bipartisanship. So for his chief of staff position he chose a left wing, Clinton throwback whose allegiance to this country is so uncertain that the FBI feels it's necessary to keep an open counter intelligence file on him (source 1, 2). This decision taints Obama's administration before he even takes office. He's surrounding himself with pro-war, "blue dog" democrats and and even some people from the neo-conservative movement.

His Fiscal Policy

If Obama does indeed follow through with his ideas to cut middle class taxes and revamp the health care system we will continue to be locked into deficit spending. Over the past decades no president has eliminated the deficit (including Clinton). If Obama wants to be the candidate for change he must control spending and balance the budget. If he causes wages to rise for the American people but overspends, racking up debt in the process, then inflation will negate whatever benefits those wages would brought (Source: Washington Post). His plan to cure us of our deficit spending is to boost productivity by implementing programs funded by more deficit spending (Source: Washington Independent). He's planning on continueing with the Bush mindset that no matter what you want to do there will always be money flowing in from Japan, China and the middle east to back you.

Conclusion

The debt, the deficit, and the federal reserve are not an issue, they are the issue. If Obama runs his administration in the red the same way all of his predacessors did then he'll just prove the right wingers right that his "change" rhetoric was hollow. His soical policies are admirable but they are a distraction from the big, often boring, but always important major issues like fiscal dicipline, foreign policy, and learning how to make peace with our enemies instead of preemptively attacking them. I fear that his administration will be much like the last eight years but with a different vocabulary. Replace religious right with progressive left, pro-life for pro-choice and, I think it's likely, replace war with Iraq to war with Iran.

Obama is not change and neither was McCain. We are locked into this terrible two party system where one side is off to the right in all ways and the other side is moderately off to right except on trivial social issues. Three hundred million people cannot be accurately represented by two schools of thought yet we've accepted this as fact. After four years America will realize that Obama isn't change, he's just more of the same.

-Neon




Thursday, May 8, 2008

I'm Mad as Hell and I'm Not Going to Take This Anymore!





The clip above is from the exceptional movie "Network". It's been quoted by various musicians in their songs and the audio from the movie itself has been integrated into tracks by electronic artists. It really is a slogan to rally people to change this fucked up conglomeration of companies that we perceive to be a democracy. The movie claimed that the world was bullshit in the 70s and now, in a new century, it's even worse. The difference is that the world has become apathetic. Where are the revolutionaries that used to dominate the papers? In response to this movie I decided to write a tirade against today's society.

Our news isn't news but clumsily disguised diatribes that claims to be informative. It's full of logical fallacies and outright lies. The networks hurt the American public with their daily insulting shows. Mainstream news networks use a vocabulary based on a sixth grade education, Fox news probably fourth. They no longer inform they simply entertain with attention grabbing music and flashy graphics.

We are selling this country, plain and simple. Our debt to other countries now tops 10,000,000,000,000 US dollars. Our lifestyle simply isn't sustainable. We have five percent of the world population but we consume over twenty five percent of the worlds resources. We are an empire in decline. The political infighting and constant propaganda wars between the parties is reminiscent of the infighting that dominated Rome during it's drawn out downfall.

"There is no America, there is no democracy, there is only IBM, ITT and AT&T and Dupont, Dow, Union Carbine and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. "

Democracy, for the most part, is dead. We have an oligarchy led by congress and the ruling classes. We have a higher retention rate in our national congress than Soviet Russian had before their collapse. But the government tells us that our vote counts and it's our country. Don't believe their double speak bullshit. "Campaign contributions" are bribes, soft money does influence the congressman's opinion and their only concern with their own district is that they get re-elected. Some of these ignorant people that call themselves legislators have been in Washington for over twenty years. New blood is desperately needed to change the failing system. Though I fear it might be too late.

We are slowly selling this country to the Chinese and the oil rich middle eastern states. We send them billions upon billion so we can maintain our cheap lifestyle. A full ten percent of the Chinese goods that flood this market go to Wal*Mart stores. We pay artificially low prices for food, gas, clothing and all other consumable goods. Manufacturers can't be honest about their horrible labor practices. Who would buy their kids clothing if the display said something like "clothing made for kids, by kids!". We don't want to know the human cost of our lifestyle and companies are more than happy to bury the truth. No one seems to care.

"Indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death, all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy."

The quote above is from network. It was an explanation of television by one of the main characters but I find it fits this current situation. We are, as a society, narcissistic and self absorbed. We follow Paris and her ilk as if they were the second coming and every week more Americans spend more time in stores than in places of worship. We buy useless shit we don't need to try and fill some manufactured need. People know about the horrors that prop up our current consumer system but nobody seems to care. In Asian sweatshops workers are subjected to mandatory overtime, pregnancy tests, denial of health care, starvation wages and are denied access to bathrooms. This doesn't seem wrong to anyone else. Where's the anger, where are the people standing up for human rights?

I don't really know how to end this. So below is the movie sans the last fifteen minutes.