Saturday, December 17, 2011

War On Christianity, War On Christmas .... yada yada yada...

Alright, we have an ongoing pissing contest in a Texas town over a nativity scene. Big deal. Happens every year, or so it seems. A nativity scene goes up on public property and some big bad atheist group wants to have it taken down. There are many times....hell, most times where I think "Who really cares?". But that is just a personal view on it. A nativity scene and religious symbols surrounding the holiday doesn't really bother me, even though I don't believe in Bible god or Jesus. It's like Santa Claus to me. Do I worry about a man coming down my chimney and invading my home? Of course's not real. The nativity scene could have baby Sponge Bob laying in the manger and it would be just as real to me as the Jesus baby. But, despite my personal opinion, there are valid reasons for not allowing a religious nativity scene on public property. 

First of all, our nation's founding fathers (most of them) believed that church and state should remain separate from one another and that the state (government) shouldn't support a religion. That is not only for the benefit of the government, but it's also a benefit for religion. Religion gets the gift of living a tax free existence, in regards to how much money it brings in. Religion is allowed to flourish, so long as it is not infringing on the rights of others in a tax payer funded place. That means public parks and government centers are off limits for religious displays. If we allow religious displays on public grounds, then perhaps we should expect churches and religious organizations to start paying taxes and have their books audited. And perhaps the government should step in and start looking at the curriculum that private schools teach in regards to religion. Maybe government officials can be on hand at every service to make sure that political candidates were not endorsed? If you want to be a part of the government by being able to display and promote your religion on tax payer funded ground, then you must expect that the public wants to know exactly what is going on inside of the churches. Maybe getting this out in the open and making religious organizations pay taxes could be a good thing. Atheists can start going into these churches and handing out literature on Sunday morning. Gonna feel a little persecuted then? 

There is no "War On Christmas". It's a fallacy. There is no "War On Christianity". It's a fallacy. There are organizations out there that want to beat back religious influence, that's for damn sure, but to believe you are being singled out for persecution because of a nativity scene being challenged is sort getting yourself worked up for no good reason. Would it be OK to start displaying symbols and depicting scenes from other religions on publicly funded ground? If it's OK for a nativity scene to go up, then it must be fine for an atheist group to place their own nativity scene right beside it, right? Or put up a big sign saying "There is no god, Jesus is a fairy tale".....down with that?  Perhaps the Muslims could start sitting outside every courthouse in America and do scenes about Muhammad catching a winged horse to heaven? Maybe Satanists could do their version of a nativity scene? Is that OK? 

The story of this small Texas town got to me and I posted on my Facebook page that I sort of thought....ehh....just leave it be, it's only for a week or so. But, I had a friend make some very good points to me about why you can't give an inch. If you give an inch here and an inch there, when does it stop? And who does it stop? We don't need anti-religion propaganda on tax payer land any more than we need the religious propaganda. And if you allow a Christian display and don't allow other displays, there is no line between church and state at that point, as Christianity would be basically endorsed by the state. What about the Muslims who may live in that town? Are they not tax payers? Do they not have the right to not feel like they live in a town where one religion was not preferred over another? Here is a snippet from the story I'm going to link from FOX News;

Pastor Lorick said it’s time to draw a line in the sand — and start standing up for the Christian faith.
“Christianity is under attack in America,” he told Fox News & Commentary. “Our country is quickly heading down a direction which the Christian faith is taking a hit — it’s quickly becoming suppressed.”
The attorney general (Greg Abbot) agreed with that sentiment.
“There has been an ongoing battle between the forces of atheism and the forces of those who are antagonistic to all things religious against those who recognize the religious heritage of this country,” Abbott said. “And by defending Nativity scenes, by defending the Ten Commandments and by defending students who try to say a prayer at a graduation ceremony, we’re trying to preserve, protect and defend what we know is perfectly legal.”

Those quotes make me cringe just a little and chuckle a little more. You can have a nativity scene at ANY church and you can leave it up year around if you like. You can have a nativity scene at any privately owned place. You just can't do it on public grounds where people who may not agree with you also go and pay taxes to use. Those comments above have no place in the discussion. You can display the Ten Commandments in school. A Christian/Jewish school. You can openly pray to a Christian god at graduation. A Christian school graduation. You can hand out Christian literature at church or in private places. You shouldn't be able to wield your influence in public places, unless you are ready to accept all that is going to come with that. That would be a bad deal for both the Christian and non-Christian. 

Let's face it. Christmas is not a religious holiday. It's pagan. That's it. Pure and simple. Many of the traditions that Christians (and everyone else) follow every year are from pagan cultures, not Christian ones. Besides Jesus, there are other "gods" who claim birth on December 25th. All of them came before Jesus. Coincidence? And let's face something else. If about 80% of Americans consider themselves Christians, what are you afraid of? How can you feel attacked with that number? How can you feel attacked when almost every political leader in our nation brings up god every time they give a speech? How can you feel attacked when "In God We Trust" is on our currency? How can you feel attacked when the pledge of allegiance has the words "one nation under god" firmly in place? How can you feel attacked when a great deal of the Christmas music played is religious in nature? It's nonsense and just a reason for Christians to kick and scream a little bit. If you are offended that a small group of people want to ruin your fun, then shouldn't you also feel concern when a large majority wants to have it's way, simply to have its' way? Try a little self awareness and try to put yourself in the shoes of someone that doesn't agree with you.   

Muslims were not allowed to buy a piece of property and build a mosque in New York City, but Christian groups feel persecuted because they can't put a nativity scene up on public ground? Ha about having your head up your ass! It's WAY up there. 

The answer is this. Find any church or private land and put up your nativity scene. I'd love to take my kids to see it. For full disclosure, if they have a live scene at a local courthouse, I'd take my children to see it if they wanted to go. But that doesn't mean it should be there. There is a can of worms that can be opened and I don't think Christians want that to happen. Once we start giving in to open season on religious displays in publicly funded places, you are not going to be happy with what ensues. You'll be begging to follow the Constitution of the United States again. Enjoy yourselves. Enjoy your religion. Enjoy talking about the birth of Christ with your friends and family. Religion is a personal venture that can have a real impact in people's lives in a very positive way. But everyone doesn't believe and that should be respected. 

And for atheists and agnostics who feel they have to battle religion at every turn. I support the fight to keep government and religion separate. But, get over the anger. Sure, I have my own anger story from my "transformation", but at some point you have to let it go and work from love and knowledge and not from disdain and anger. A dogmatic fundamentalist Christian is no less annoying to me than a spiteful, angry atheist who won't concede that religion can (and does) have a positive place in many corners of our society. 

Let's try to respect each other and not spill our anger, venom, and frustration into areas where we only cause a greater gap to emerge between one another. Love and understanding is the only way to truly bridge gaps. If every move that everyone of us made came from love, how much better of a world would we live in? If we cared more about human beings than getting people to believe or not believe, couldn't we build towards a society, a country....a WORLD, where no child goes hungry? Where no child has to fear a bomb being dropped on their home? Where a mother doesn't have to stay up at night worrying about her 19 year old son or daughter fighting in wars? Wouldn't it be a great world if every child got a meal, not just at Christmas, but every day? Aren't those the important things? Put the nativity scenes on church grounds or private places and enjoy the season. Perhaps you may draw in some non-believers and you can share your religion with them....or not. Maybe we can all enjoy the hope, joy, love, and peace that seems so promisingly close at this time of year. 

May you enjoy thinking of Christmas' past with friends and loved ones who are no longer with us. May you enjoy the presence of friends and family and appreciate the love and compassion we can show one another. May each of us share a little love and compassion with a stranger who is need of comfort.  

Happy Christmas To You All!!!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ahhhh, Hell........

well yu laugh now abot these things like its a joke god is not a joke n yu will c what happens to yu !!

This was a comment made on one of my posts about a Bible story some time ago. I welcome comments on my blogs, even negative ones. This just struck me in a strange way, especially in light of a conversation I had with a friend on the subject of some Christians who love the concept of hell. 

If there is a hell, and if everything I've heard about Christianity all my life is true, then I'm going there (hell) when I die. I accept that. Just like I accept that if I dig in the back yard, I'll eventually get to China. Or if someone scares me when I cross my eyes, I'll be stuck that way.  

I'm not going to carry on about this too long, because I've blogged on hell a couple of times before. As David Bazan says it's "the poison in the well". For any Christian to revel and actually threaten someone else with hell is a concept that I don't understand (although I have a couple of theories on why some like to bask in the glory of another person going to hell), but it's not foreign to me at all. First off....judgemental much? If you are telling someone else they are going to hell, well, who died on the cross on made you judge and jury? And if Jesus is about love and forgiveness, why does he love talking about hell so much? And why even create a hell? Satan didn't create hell to torture souls in, God did. 

The hell thing was constantly on my mind all through my childhood and it lasted clear on up until the very moment that the inner voice said to me "What are you scared of? There is no Bible god." It's as if a huge burden was lifted. I can live my life, not harming others, taking care of my responsibilities and go about my business. I don't have to carry that concrete block. It's stupid. It kept me awake at night as a you can bet your collective asses that I do not speak to my children about hell, nor will anyone else. 

Here is a link to the blog about hell I wrote a year and a half ago. I still consider it one of my more heartfelt and real posts. 

All that aside, if you are a Christian and it makes you feel better or somehow superior that you get to tell others that they will burn in hell, or even if you harbor that in your heart and mind, you should really re-evaluate what has drawn you to Christianity. I'm positive that some of you have probably read something I've written and said to yourself "Well, how hard will you laugh when you are in hell!!!??". Just like the person who wrote that message to me did. The threat of hell shouldn't cause a person to worship a god, love and need are better reasons. Just like going to prison shouldn't deter any of us from killing, and stealing or whatever. If you are a Christian because you fear hell, you are doing it wrong. How's that for a judgement?

Just a quick little anecdote and I'll get out of your hair with my bitching. When I was about 20, the brother of a friend of mine (who I also considered a friend) was killed in an accident that involved alcohol. A relative of mine, who is a fundamentalist Christian, told me, immediately after I had gotten the news during a phone call, that my friend was in hell now. Thanks for that support, love, and judgement. That has stuck with me for 20+ years. I can't think of anything more disgusting and hurtful that's ever been said to me. I say to you, if the only thing that really keeps you chained to Bible god is hell, maybe you oughta look into dropping it and living your life like this is the only one you get. No getting to say your sorry, to tell someone you love them, to give your kids a hug, or to hold grandma's hand in are taking an awful big chance putting off the love you can share now, because you think you will get to see them again in heaven. And you are putting an awfully big burden on your mind being scared that you might go to a hell that likely doesn't exist.  

Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years. 
Carl Sundberg

What Do I Want For Christmas?

I'm a man of simple pleasure. I don't need anything more than my 42" Samsung plasma television. I have an HD DVD player. I have a PS3. I have 5.1 surround sound with a Panasonic receiver that can shake the pictures off the wall. I have an IPod classic that I only keep 6 or 7 thousand songs on. Sure, I may have a Roku 2 and a Technics turntable and 300 blu ray movies. But again, I am a man that doesn't need much. Just my TV, my HD DVD player, PS3, surround sound, IPod, Roku, and my turntable. Oh, and don't forget the 300 blu ray movies. Shit....also, I like my Kindle...forgot about that. So other than all the aforementioned (and the Kindle) I'm a man of simple pleasure. So, I won't be asking for gifts of the physical nature from Kris Kringle. As a matter of fact, he can't do squat for me in 2011. You guys need to go out and shake some stuff up for me. This life is my movie and it ends when I say it amuse me!

1) For heaven's sake.....stop going to Adam Sandler movies. Please. He sucks now. Sure, he can still make the face and go "zipppiditeee dooooo", but that was funnier when he wasn't almost 50. He has become the movie star that he was making fun of with Seth Rogen in "Funny People". It's just sad. Make the man raise his game before you go plop down $8 to see his next piece of garbage....which will probably be called "Jack & Jill: Still Sucking". 

2) Enough with the going nuts over a cell phone already. Seriously. If a phone, let's call it the "Douche Bag Talker", comes out in January and you stand in line for it, you do know that they will release the much anticipated "Douche Bag Talker 2" in April, right? And then, they'll add that second camera, so you can take a picture of yourself taking a picture, in August and you'll be in line at 4 a.m. on a Tuesday morning to buy the "Douche Bag Talker 3", which will cost twice as much because it's a limited edition Kelly Ripa model that they are only producing 33 million of. 

3) Stop supporting stupid, careless, corrupt, egotistical bloggers....ummm, politicians. Stop listening to their bullshit as if what they are saying is true. You can bet that if something they do improves your life, it was an accident. An accident they will all too eagerly accept credit for. President Obama gave us "Hope & Change". Hope isn't all that great. If you are stuck in a cave with two broken legs, you better HOPE someone finds your ass, or you're dead. That kind of hope is OK.  But to sit at home and say "I HOPE I can get a better job or I'm going to lose my house." doesn't seem to be the place we really wanted to be at as the richest country in the world. And lest I forget, thanks for the change. Now if I can get a few pieces of paper money to go with it, that'd be great. Oh, and before any of you conservatives think you're getting a pass......ha ha ha ha ha.....Newt Fucking Gingrich seems to be the candidate of choice for the Republicans. What, John McCain isn't available again? If the stable of candidates is SO bad that Newt Gingrich looks really good, maybe we should just stick with Obama, because at least we know just how fucked up he is. No sense in trying to top the last two war mongering, money grubbing bastards. 

4)  Can't we all agree that there shouldn't be a "Lady Ga Ga"? No, I still have never heard a song by her, and considering how much I love music, this should clue in the rest of the planet as to just how little we need her. I've never listened to Amy Winehouse either, but since the technology of "Frankenstein" era medicine doesn't exist, we should hope maybe Ga Ga either goes away or meets up with Amy to make a duet cover album. And by the way, Madonna should probably sue this jackal for stealing her act and taking it to a new low. 

(...and really what's wrong with this picture? A 15 year old girl, with no pants on, standing next to a character from "Alice In Wonderland" Was it pedophile day at Disney World?)

Happy Christmas, holidays, or whatever, and all that. I hope everyone remembers the less fortunate and perhaps grabs a kid off the Angel Tree or drops a few bucks in Santa's bucket. If you drop in $5, ask him to do you a favor and knock it off with the bell until you get out to your car. And remember the reason for the season; making sure that we reduce the number of unemployed by hiring temp workers, being pissed that our relatives never call until the holidays, and ensuring that mutli-billion dollar corporations make as much money as they can, as you buy happiness from them. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Growing Food In Space? NASA Is On It!

We’ve all seen the movies and television shows that portray space travel as being more than just a few days or weeks living in space, which is a far cry from reality. The media tends to show an exciting future where living in space for very long durations is possible. But, what about food in space? Currently astronauts get their nutrition from tubes or bags of specially prepared meals. But, NASA is finding out that there may be a healthier and more satisfying way for space travelers to enjoy their food. Hydroponic growing in space!

      Some day man will colonize the moon or perhaps another planet, such as Mars. There are a dizzying amount of problems to solve and one of the main trouble areas is how to maintain food supplies. It wouldn’t be very cost effective, or even practical, over time to continuously have to deliver food from the earth to other heavenly bodies. In response to this problem, NASA has begun to study what methods of growing are best suited to space travel and colonization. Hydroponics and aeroponics are two strong contenders to solve the problem of renewable food sources in space.

     Carrying soil and being able to renew nutrients in that soil would prove to be difficult in space flight. But, using lighter growing mediums or no medium at all could be the answer. Using and reusing water and a mix of nutrients would be much more suited to situations where weight and space was an issue. Imagine astronauts as self-sufficient farmers as well as being highly trained pioneers and scientists. Plant growth could produce and renew oxygen supplies and eliminate carbon dioxide from inside of a spacecraft. Presently, scientists are studying which crops are compatible to grow together in small areas, and how zero gravity affects growing plant life. Other possible problems being studied involve the amount of light some plants may need and which fruits and vegetables are more aggressive in the use of nutrients.

It will likely be essential for astronauts and space explorers to be able to produce their own food in future projects that will take years to complete. Imagine that, the current dreams of a youngster will likely be played out in reality over the next couple of decades. No longer will it be science fiction, it's going to be science fact! 


This is ground control to major Tom, you've really made the grade 
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear 
Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare 
"Space Oddity" -- David Bowie

Friday, November 25, 2011

Anyone Can Have Soul!

In the last couple of years, I've really come to appreciate soul music. The sound of 70's soul just does it for me. It feels really good to relax with music that isn't overbearing and sounds just as good loud, as it does at a soft volume. Recently, I've discovered a few albums that have wiggled their way into my consciousness and have found their way on to my IPod and garner regular listens. 

Never in my life, before a few months ago had I heard of Gil Scott-Heron. I was watching a documentary (Still Bill) about the legendary Bill Withers and Withers wife commented that she had her first date with him at a Scott-Heron show. That got me interested and I found "Pieces Of A Man", one of the 16 studio albums released by this unheralded gem. I chose "Pieces Of A Man" because it had the legendary power to the people anthem,

That pre-rap song doesn't do the rest of the album justice. Scott-Heron tapped into the minds of the poor and hopeless, as well as to his own need to find positives in a world so full of trouble for people who are living at or below the poverty level.  I have to be honest....I've listened to this and I've listened to "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye and with all due respect to the great Marvin Gay, Scott-Heron's album is better. Just listen to "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" and you will realize that this man had a talent that simply didn't get the exposure that it should have. 

Everyone knows that Al Green is a superstar soul, and r&b singer who was on fire in the 70's. But, he can still  tug at your heart and soul today though. A few years ago, Green released "Lay It Down", a new collection of soul music that harkens back to his highly successful "Let's Stay Together" album, but maintains a modern element. The song "Lay It Down" is as good as anything.....yes, anything that Green has ever released. Don't believe me....give it a click!

Some other r&b or soul artists I really enjoy is the aforementioned Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers as well as The Isley Brothers, Sam Cooke, Kool & The Gang, and Otis Redding. Oh, and I would be remiss if I did not mention Beck. Yeah.....Beck. Who knew?

This is a GREAT home made video of Beck's solid soul tune "Debra"....

"I met you, at JC Penny"
"Step inside my Hyundai"
"I wanna get with you, and your sista, I think her name is Debra"

Only Beck can make those words work the way they do!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lay Down, Perch, and Pray Like An All-American!

Yes, I realize this picture has nothing to do with what I'm getting read to lay down, but it's funny. And it's my blog.

Dammit, I love some good old fashioned stupidity as much as the next guy. I've been involved in some low brow, immature shenanigans in my life. I'm good for a laugh, right? Hell, I used to walk around the Jefferson Mall with my buddy Larry, hiding a box inside my jacket that laughed. I pushed the button and it laughed and we walked behind people, keeping straight faces. We would also use the slick floors as a spot to slide headfirst with one or the other of us being the umpire. I was safe more than I was out! So, as you can see, I'm not immune to stupidity. But, I put those things behind me. I told Larry last week that it was my final time sliding in the food court. I've grown. Matured. 

So, I suppose by now, you wanna know just what the hell I'm grinding on about. Well, I'll tell ya. This stupid bullshit..........



and Tebowing

Planking? Cheese O'Reilly, are you kidding? In case you are not versed in "plankdom", planking is lying flat in an awkward space. Yeah, you read that shit right. Lying flat. Lying down. You are lyying the fuck down. No effort. No sweating. Just awkward embarrassment when a normal human being walks in and catches you. Of course, there should be a person there taking your picture, because we have just about run outta shit to look at on the internet I guess. Personally, I have never seen planking in action. I'm going to take that away as a positive if I can make it until death without ever having viewed some talentless, humorless, attention whore lying flat on a "WELCOME" sign in front of a McDonalds. 

Just look at this guy. Seriously, this is on the interwebs. It's harrowing, yet the first thing that came to mind was how good it would be to pitch a boiling pot of water on him. 

Alright. Planking. Even "The Office" had a show where the folks at Dunder-Mifflin were exchanging planks in unacceptable ways. So, I'll just leave it alone. But it won't leave me alone. Owling. Owling. Oh, yes, my dear.....owling. I'm sorry I have to just write these words....but it helps me clear my mind and look at it in a way that makes me believe maybe it's not stupid. But guess doesn't work. I'm sure that most of you are aware that many a young man out in the world are involved in "douchebaggery", but did you know that there are many a young (and old) person involved in "owlbaggery"? Owling is when you sit like an owl in an odd location. Again, usually someone is there to capture the "event" for future generations to look at. Can't you hear it now;

Hey, Carl, look at this picture I found from 2011.

What is that person doing?

It looks as though he is sitting like one of those extinct flying animals. They used to call them "owls". 

Things must have been really awesome and going great in the world back then if they could occupy their time by paying homage to the owl and preserving it for us to appreciate.

Yep, the fuckin' planet is going to hell in Kim Kardasian's change purse and we are out there fighting the man, by perching our over sized asses everywhere like Gollum taking a dump over a bottomless pit. 

OK, owling is it, right? Has to be played out. What is there to do but move on in life and maybe go rake the yard, donate an hour of your time to the local food bank, or goof off with the kids? Oh.....glad you didn't ask, but I'm telling you anyhow. Tebowing. Yes. Tebowing. As in Tim Tebow, current quarterback of the NFL's Denver Broncos. Apparently, Tebow prays a lot. And apparently, it's so much that people who don't even know who the hell Tim Tebow is are doing it. Not familiar? simply go down on one knee and rest your head on your fist as if you are talking to the almighty. I really do wish I was kidding. Hooray for humanity. Tebow is now a verb and will likely get a spot in Websters next edition. There are roughly 37,000 suicides in the United States each year. That's not enough. 

Yes, young and old alike are in on the Tebow. Looks like a lot of fun. Maybe that can be a new pose for my meditation sessions. By the way, if Tebow really is praying that much, he isn't getting much of a return on his investment, at least so far as his NFL career goes. But, I'm positive it will help him hit pay dirt at the pearly gates. 

Oh, and here is a picture of the rare "owlingplanker". Enjoy and be amazed!

PS.....I have to add this, for full disclosure;

The owling is hilarious. I can't help it. I want to hate it with all my heart. As Clayton Bigsby would say; "Open up your heart and let that hate out." I just can't help but laughing at it. It's so ridiculous. Or maybe I'm just smokin' some really good shit.   :-)

And honestly, how pissed off can this planking business make me? In the end, we all wind up planking.

Occupy Wall Street

Last year saw political upheaval, and civil unrest in many countries in the middle east and Europe. Now, it seems that those events have started to inspire folks, here in the USA, to start fighting back against the status quo and powers that be. It seems that this movement (along with the Tea Party gatherings) polarizes the opinions of those who are not directly involved. People either support the cause or they do not. Sure, there are segments of the population who don't care, but those people don't care about anything except the new season of American Idol. 

Where do I stand on it? I support grass roots movements that are started and maintained by people who want to effect change in how their world operates. So, the OWS movement is alright with me. I also supported the Tea Party deal until it got overrun by the right wingers in the Republican party. They basically booted Ron Paul (a constitution serving politician) and sucked up to Sarah Palin (a self serving politician, celebrity, social commentator or whatever she is calling herself these days). The OWS, to this point, is not organizing in a manner that is allowing too much infiltration by political components. And with that said, I don't know how long it will stay that way. There is always the urge to compromise, especially when you believe you can gain greater exposure by succumbing to being "sponsored". So long as the OWS movement stays away from direct relation to a political party, donors, or corporate organization, I'll probably agree with their direction, even if it's not specific as it could be. 

The nation, we Americans, live in was founded by groups of people who were fed up with having their futures decided for them by the powerful politicians, laws that were unfair, and exclusionary corporate growth. A group called The Sons of Liberty was formed in the mid 1770's to rebel against the rule of the British. The hard work of the colonists was being taken advantage of by the powers in England, who had little to do with the colonies flourishing. A quick check of a good history book or Wikipedia will tell you that the British government defeated France in the "French / Indian War" and then decided they would build offices and bases to house thousands of soldiers and this would all be done using money collected from the British colonists. If the colonists had representation in the British Parliament, perhaps there would not have been the wide spread anger and resentment that led to anti-government groups springing up. The most powerful and influential being The Sons of Liberty. The SoL idea was birthed in Massachusetts and soon started spreading to other cities in the colonies (sound familiar?). These people were fed up in not having a say about what was going on where they lived. These people were fed up with being ordered to pay taxes for something that was forced upon them. They were fed up with having to give money to a government that they didn't have any representation or stake in. (sound familiar?)

Today, we have situations happening, not just in our country, but all over the world. The "haves" are taking advantage of the systems that should ensure that everyone has an equal ability to make good. I'm going to stick with the United States when discussing this, although OWS type groups are springing up in many of the world's major cities. 

Our currency is in the control of the Federal Reserve Bank. OK, you say, right? Big deal, right? Well, sort of. The Fed isn't a part of the government. They are not your representative. It's a private banking entity which controls much of the policy in regards to United States currency. They set interest rates. They control when money is printed. They are partly, if not greatly, responsible for the devaluing of every dollar you earn. They also are in control of large loans which they collect interest on. Your money is not yours. It's not even truly the property of the is in the hands of a group of bankers called the Federal Reserve Bank. And it's about as federal as Fed Ex shipping. The Fed is not beholden to you, me, or anyone else, but themselves. You can't vote out those in control. The Federal Reserve Bank was signed into being by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. I don't have the knowledge, time, or space to go into it much more. You should research the Fed and decide for yourself it's been good for us and if it should continue. Obviously, the OWS folks are against letting policy be decided by the unelected. They want the power to go back to the people. 

Another problem that the OWS people are protesting against, are the major, multi-national corporations who have sold out the middle class. They have lined the pockets of politicians to get favorable laws, including tax and trade agreements which actually reward them with lower taxes for sending jobs to other countries that will provide cheaper labor and less restrictions on how their business can be run. There are companies who have taken jobs overseas and actually received federal government tax rebates for doing so. What does that do? It drives down wages in the USA, as competition for jobs increase. Driving down wages leads to a lower standard of living and increased debt for the middle and lower classes. We have allowed small stores and restaurants all over the country to be wiped out and dissolved by selling ourselves out to these corporations. Now, that was easy to do. When people need to cut corners, they can't go to "Joe's Grocery Market" and pay $3.00 for a gallon of milk. Why? Because they can get it for $2.00 at a big chain store. That's competition of the market and I get that, but it is a false competition. When people have less money, they have less choices. Once the smaller companies are swallowed up, the larger companies are free to manipulate prices and to extend jobs that are low paying, have few benefits, and are geared towards the less educated. 

Our politicians have allowed this to happen. Greed, corruption, and a simple lack of care seems to be what every politician is about these days. Major corporations give major contributions to politicians and parties and they don't do it to support the system, they do it to exploit the system. And our leadership is all too willing to accept this money in exchange for favorable legislation. The lawmakers make laws which are geared to support their own self interest and the interests of those who contribute to keeping them in office. Don't think you are going to get support from a political party, they are all a part of the problem and it's obvious that they do not care about the middle class and average tax payer. If they pass legislation that happens to help out, well, that's just a bonus for us. But never believe that what they do is for the common people. It's about maintaining the state of things as they are. The power and wealth in the hands of the few. We are all their servants and if you have gotten any sense of what I believe from past blogs, we can only control this if we never get on the ride. Once you start in on the process of living, without giving thought to what you really want out of life, it's tough to go back. 

Finally, the media is another huge problem. Most of the media is in the hands of a few companies and those few companies are conglomerates with all sorts of interests that are in direct contradiction with what it means to have a free, investigative, and truth seeking press. We were sold a war in Iraq in 2002/2003, with very little investigative journalism. FOX, CNN, and MSNBC, as well as the networks were all too happy to show us what our weapons looked like, what they could do, and how much they cost. It was like seeing what may be available as a prize on The Price Is Right. They helped our government rattle the war sabers and rallied us around a false sense of nationalization and revenge. And even if you lay those sorts of things aside, look at how they feed us the news. It's cloaked on channels devoted to news, but really, it's 80% or more news analysis. They tell you what they think and how you should think about what is going on. And, they don't even bother to cover anything that will directly impact the advertising support they get from large corporations or the government. An example; the Obama Administration didn't like the way FOX was covering them in the early days of  his presidency, so he sought to keep them from having access to him. Even if FOX was unfair, they are a news organization and a large one. I'm not defending FOX at all, they are a part of the problem too....just showing that those in power seek control. Once the media is controlled by money it ceases to be about truth and it becomes a propaganda machine for those who have power and the wallets to feed the machine. 

Alright, so I really haven't addressed OWS in connection with these things. But I shouldn't have to. You can do that. You can see that, even though you may be doing quite well personally, others are not. We all know that the system is screwed, but most of us are right smack in the middle of it and doing OK. But how many times do we stop and think about those who are outside of the system? Those who are young and trying to break into the job market that has seen decreases in numbers and compensation, probably feel cheated. Cheated by the promise of a system that doesn't work the way they were told it would. Get a college education and you can succeed. Sure......some people can. But not everyone. The opportunity is not there. These kids are told to get an education, take out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal student loans at about 6-9% interest and then come out to a world of opportunity. The reality is, the kids take out the loans and come out to a job market that is depressed and then they are told by people like us to get a job at McDonald's. The powers that be have destroyed the American dream. It is the "haves" versus the "have nots" in every sense. These young people should be angry. They should demand change. Didn't we all think we were going to get massive change with Obama? How'd that work out? Most of the Bush policies were continued (whether you agreed with them or not) and are still going strong. Change? Despite the Dems having total control, nothing, no change. No recovery. During much of the 00's, the Republicans had total control....and where did that get us? Into two wars, at the cost of a trillion dollars a year, as we cut taxes, underfunded education, and passed legislation that rewarded companies for taking advantage of trade agreements that saw cheap goods come into America, while good jobs went out. 

I have a feeling that Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, James Madison and many other "Founding Fathers" would be appalled at what has happened to this nation. I also think they may well be pleased with the uprising of the people against this tyranny, accumulation of consolidated wealth, unconstitutional monetary policy, and marriage of politics and the press. I can't be sure, but if you look at the history of our country, read the constitution, and take heed of the words that our nations founders spoke, it's hard to get the feeling that they would not be in support of the people, the rank and file citizen, taking action against a system that is geared towards enslavement of the middle class by the very few....the very rich....the very powerful. If civil unrest is what it has to come to for us to change the way things are, so be it. That's a tough pill to swallow, especially having young children. But, blood, tears, sweat, and tough times were the foundation of our country. The Boston Tea Party would be looked at as terrorism and vandalism by many Americans today. We are distracted by consumer goods and a media that is about anything other than what is substantial and real. OWS has yet to rise to the level of the SoL. Our founding "terrorists" and "scumbags" destroyed the property of their oppressors. They burned buildings. They destroyed tax stamps that were issued by the British authorities. They wore masks. Their aim was to overthrow British rule, which they saw as unfair, oppressive, and against the rights of a person to live free. (sound familiar?) We may very well be witness to the birth of the next great uprising in our worlds history. Two hundred years from now, these OWS protesters may be seen as hero's and game changers. They may be seen as people who decided to make a difference. 

A frog sitting in a pot of water on a stove will sit there and boil to death. If you pitch a frog into boiling water, he will jump out, or at least try to jump out. What do I mean? Those of us who are sitting comfortably among all of our possessions, our car, our house, our big TV's, our IPods, all paid for by decent paying jobs, may be the frog sitting in the water. How can we know what it's like to feel the pain if we just sit and let it happen in such small doses we don't notice it until it's too late? The young people (and I'm not talking about those who are just going out there to be in some trouble...I'm talking about these OWS'ers that are genuinely afraid and upset about their nation and world and the direction it is taking) may be the frogs who are tossed into the boiling water. They don't want it. They are going to fight it. I think they should. They are the only ones who really can, because they are the ones that truly understand what it's like to see their futures hijacked and the American dream ripped out of their capable hands. 

I'll leave you with some words from the past that were uttered by men who wanted to live in a free society where everyone had the same opportunity to succeed. Success is never guaranteed.....even to those who work hard. But, if everyone is given equal footing in as many situations as possible, then that's about as fair as it can get. 

"This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember it or overthrow it." Abraham Lincoln

"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of Liberty." Thomas Jefferson

"Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety."Benjamin Franklin

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government."
Patrick Henry

"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God."  Thomas Jefferson

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." Abraham Lincoln

"If taxes are laid upon us without our having a legal representation where they are laid, we are reduced from the character of free subjects to the state of tributary slaves."  Samuel Adams

"A rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive." Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guy Ritchie's "Revolver" & Our Ego

Wow. I only found about this movie about six weeks ago, and already, I've watched it five times. It took me three times to really settle in to what I was watching. The first time seeing it, I couldn't decide if I was watching a revenge film or an action flick. It's neither, although that's how it was marketed, from all I can find out about "Revolver". This film is about the individual self defeating the false ego. 

We are all born lacking self awareness. That usually doesn't begin until around 18 months or so. At that point we start becoming more conscious of ourselves and surroundings. We can react to specific events and catalog them away for future use by our brains. And that is also what begins to happen on a larger and larger scale as we age. We begin to develop a personality and trains of thought based on what we experience and learn. We start to build up a protective self, the ego. As we age, we nurture it and protect it. We believe we are protecting ourselves and in a physical sense perhaps we are. But mentally, we are simply doing what the voice in our heads tells us to do. We develop automatic reactions and thoughts. Our ego, or false self, is that voice in your head that says "I hope you hit a telephone pole." when someone cuts you off in traffic. It's that voice who returns any type of negativity with negativity. It's what we do. If we feel attacked or wronged, we believe we must react to defend ourselves. But why? Is responding to a negative with a negative helping us mature as human beings? Will doing so lead to a happier self? Are negative responses leading to positive feelings and situations later down the road? In my life, I've found the answer those questions to be no. 

In "Revolver", the main character, Jake Green (Jason Statham), is imprisoned and then released after seven years. The responsible party seems to be Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta, in a more than solid effort). Macha has everything a person could want. Wealth, power, material possessions, and a life of total leisure. Except for the underlying feeling that it all hangs by a thread, that his happiness is thrown out the window for the perception of power and superiority. As Green leaves prison, he makes attempts to strike back at Macha, through mind techniques he learned in prison. But as he begins to get his pound of flesh out of Macha, he finds that he has only a short time to live, but two con men, Avi and Zach (played by Andre Benjamin & Vincent Pastore) tell Green they can save him if he does exactly what they say. Green reluctantly agrees and the film carries on from there; Green trying to save himself by letting go and letting someone else make his decisions. 

If you plan on seeing the film, and don't want spoilers, I don't intend to give you any. A couple have and will slip out, but the movie won't be ruined by knowing anything. It's not a film you can really get in touch with unless you have dove into it a time or three. 

The ego is powerful in most everyone. Director Guy Ritchie shoves that down the throat of the viewer, even if the viewer can't see the forest for the trees. The character Macha, has everything anyone could ever want. But, you never see him enjoy anything. He is in a constant battle to keep up appearances, to avenge humiliation, and to protect himself from enemies that may only be the manifestation of his own fear, and uncertainty....both of which flutter just below the surface of the character. The character is all ego. All action and reaction is done to save face, avoid ridicule, and to seem in control. It's something I can relate to when I stop and examine how I've lived my life and how I've reacted to every major situation in my life. And yeah, day to day, I can see my ego defending itself in the smallest of experiences. By becoming mindful of the present, I've started being able to slap the ego back and respond to each moment of my life in a way that benefits me and anyone involved in the most positive way. Even if that means seemingly giving up power, seeming weak to others, or allowing myself to be humbled. For you Bible folks.....that would be the very heart of "turning the other cheek" and part of "do unto others...."  A negative reaction to a negative situation never brings conclusion. It can only lead to more negativity, even if it isn't immediately apparent. React with love rather than defending the ego.

Most of "Revolver" is metaphor. You need to watch the movie as if you are seeing parts of the lead characters minds working. The film has very little sense of time period or place. It's depressingly brilliant in its' look and feel. The bright lights and glitter seem too overbearing to be real and the dullness of the streets reflect misery and/or unhappiness. It's only when Green is talking with his new "friends" over a game of chess that the surroundings seem to be settled and normal. So, in a sense, when he is figuring out who he is and starting to learn that he has an enemy, but the enemy is inside his mind, that's when he is the most in touch with himself and almost pleased. If you go into the movie trying to watch it, as pure entertainment, that is exactly what it shows you, (examples, "Oceans 11" or "Armageddon") you will be severely disappointed. You have to allow your mind to consider that each part of the film is showing you something that is familiar, but you just have not figured out how to see it yet. That's why the film works so well on repeated viewings. There is one scene that is all about the Biblical story of the children of Israel and the Egyptians. Watching the movie with the commentary on is very enlightening, but I don't suggest that if you really want to tackle the film on your own and try to make sense and meaning on your terms. Draw your own conclusions before giving in to the commentary.

The film only gets a 16% from critics on and that's about right, given the things that are criticized about the film. Most of the critics were watching the movie, not experiencing the film. Why? Because they can't understand what it means. They are not open to the metaphors in the film that refer to the mind. They have no frame of reference for exploring the false sense of self. Again, it's not that they are stupid or bad film's that (notice how I word it, this isn't a put down) they CAN'T understand it. After all I have explained to this point, it can be made no more obvious than in how Roger Ebert chose to talk about the film. In his words, it's obvious that he has no understanding that the film is not "Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels" or "Snatch". He is looking at it for immediate sensory satisfaction, not as a piece of art to be poured over, thought about, and then discussed. is what Ebert said;

The plot. What is the plot? Jason Statham has spent seven years in jail, between a con man in the cell on one side and a chess master on the other. Back on the street, he walks into a casino run by his old enemy Ray Liotta and wins a fortune at the table. Did he cheat, or what? I dunno. Liotta sics some hit men on him. Then two mysterious strangers (Vincent Pastore and Andre Benjamin) materialize in Statham's life at just such moments when they are in a position to save it. Who, oh who, could these two men, one of whom plays chess, possibly be?

I find it unbelievable that Ebert missed it all so badly. He's a major league film critic who wrote a review without trying to find out what the film was about. That's a very unprofessional rant. He asks what the plot is, but fails to address it in a learned manner. It's all one dimensional to his eye. Oh, well, on with the show.....

Our egos control most of us and most of what we do. That systematic building of responses and actions that happen in an instant without us even giving a thought, are part of that ego. It can be changed. The ego is part of what gives us confidence and tries to see to our "well being" at all times. While there seems to be nothing wrong with that, is it how you really want to live? Is it how you want to feel? Frankly, I'm tired of uncertainty, fear, arrogance, and anger determining my responses to what life offers me. Those things have held me back and continue to do so. If I didn't stop and be mindful of my life and the fact that I am going to die, there is no way I would have made the personal strides I have made. Some may not believe they are positive, but in my skin, most of what I have let go of has made me a much happier human being. I'm wiggling free of the ego. Hell, I just quit my job of 15 years. Odd thing is, other than the "voice" telling me that I was an idiot and I should just stick with the safeness and stability of where I am, my mother has been the only other person to have a negative view of what I've done. Is it a coincidence that the false self, the protecting of the self by my ego happens to agree with my mom? The person who raised me and without a doubt was responsible for some of the negative traits in my personality as well as the positive? Not knocking mom. Just saying that we all have influences and stimulus. They have shaped who we are. But, if those things shaped us, then are we who we think we are? We didn't make conscious decisions to become the people we are. It was all built by learning or being taught how others behave. 

I urge anyone who is even mildly interested in this stuff to do some soul searching. Think about how you react to the world every single moment of your life. Is it all negative? Are you constantly kicking others (even if just in your head) to make sure you feel safe and superior? If a person who made your hamburger forgets the pickle, do you need to ask them how smart they have to be to make a burger or do you simply ask them to take care of the mistake? If your kid spills milk on the floor, do you need to scream and overreact or could you just help him/her clean up the mess and assure them that the world isn't ending? Which reaction in those scenarios creates the best result for everyone involved? Which reactions will likely allow the event to be inconsequential and which could spiral into more negativity, even going beyond the parties involved?

The end of "Revolver" involves a sort of show down between Green and Macha. It is the finale'....the "high noon" shootout. Green confronts Macha, his fear of elevators, and his fear of humiliation all within a five minute period that is brilliantly acted by Statham and Liotta. Liotta's "Macha" and Statham's "Jake Green" make their decisions and the results are obvious. Choose to be a slave of the ego or choose to be in control of your every moment. The film came down to that in a very powerful way. Again, Liotta is great in this scene.

So, I've kind of half assed gave you a lecture on ego and sort of given you some help on how to watch Guy Ritchie's "Revolver". What's it worth? About the same thing the rest of my blogs are worth. I hope any of you who read this and are truly wanting to move towards a way of thinking that allows you to be released from caring how others perceive you and/or want to prioritize how you feel about yourself, study up on ego, mindfulness, and consciousness. If I died tomorrow, I will die knowing that pushing back against my self-serving ego saved my life. 

I know so many people who think they can do it alone
They isolate their heads and stay in their safety zones

Now what can you tell them
And what can you say that won't make them defensive

Hang on to your ego
Hang on, but I know that you're gonna lose the fight

Brian Wilson----The Beach Boys

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The War Of Terror...oops...War ON Terror: Can We Win?

I fully realize I am going into enemy territory by writing what I'm going to write. But, I don't care. Who the hell reads this anyhow? Is it anti-American to point out what you believe to be bad policy? Is it anti-American to criticize failed policy that continues? Maybe to some. But I don't think so. 

I believe it to be high time that we rethink our strategy in regards to combating terrorism. We all know that there is no "winning" the war on terror. No matter how badly we want to think that we can smash anti-Americanism into the ground, we all know deep down that it's not possible through military action and causing chaos wherever we send our military. Now, I'm not going to sit here and claim to know anything more than anyone else. It's just an opinion, but an opinion born over a period of 10+ years of sitting on the fence as well as having been on both sides. It's been a huge cycle of emotion for me, this war on terror that we (the USA) have waged. 

We got hit and hit hard on September 11, 2001. Some spoke of it as a wake up call. I say it was a wake up beating. Our wake up call should have been years earlier when these smaller incidents were taking place. The USS Cole, the first WTC attack, the hostages taken in Iran, the US base and embassy bombings in Beirut, the embassy bombing in Kuwait, and numerous hi-jackings that took place against American interests. These events were taking place in the 80's and 90's and for some reason, we never put them all together and said "You know....I think we have a problem with militant Islam." No, we just went about our business, because that stuff wasn't happening on our soil (for the most part). Our leaderships refusal to see what was happening was neglectful enough to allow the killing of thousands of civilians in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. in 2001. We paid the price for thinking it wouldn't happen here. 

Not that we were unaware that something could happen on our turf. There were enough clues, that were never shared between security agencies, that should have led to more widespread investigation into various terror threats. Hell, we actually funded or indirectly supported many of the "bogeymen" that we have been whacking over the past decade or so (Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Mohmar Gaddafi). Build 'em up, then tear them down. But enough about "woulda, shoulda, coulda" for now. There is enough blame to go around, from Jimmy Carter, straight on through to Barack Obama. But this isn't about blame. It's about taking a look at what we are doing and thinking about if we can do things differently to get a different result. 

There isn't anyone reading this, who should think I'm being critical of our armed services or the men and women who serve in them, directly. It's our policy that I'm concerned with. The hi-jackings on September 11th had nothing to do with Iraq, yet we have terrorized that country by, crippling their infrastructure and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians (directly or indirectly). Our embargo of goods to Iraq after the first Gulf War was responsible for the death of several hundred thousand children. Madeline Albright thought it was an acceptable situation and said so on "60 Minutes".

Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.

--60 Minutes (5/12/96)

Well, I don't think the price was worth it. And the second war in Iraq wasn't worth it either. The attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan was justified in my opinion, as they were responsible for training and funneling money into terror groups like Al-Queda. But, after putting them on the run, we focused on Iraq (and building a billion dollar base, err embassy) and now the Muslim extremists are enjoying a resurgence. We are going to leave Afghanistan defeated, just like the Soviet Union did. The price is going to be tremendous as it is going to further embolden militant Islam in its' fight against the United States and our interests around the world. 

I suggest that maybe we put some of these smart people in DC to work, figuring out ways to come to terms with our own imperialistic ways. Our military and our nation deserve better. Enough of killing as a way to stop killing. It's not working. Shouldn't we try to understand our enemy? What makes them hate us? If it's because we like to eat at McDonald's and listen to IPods, well, fuck 'em. But, maybe it's because we involve ourselves in their politics. We push to choose their leadership. We threaten their way of life, many times, because it's not OUR way of life. Education, knowledge, and understanding is the ONLY way that we are going to solve this huge problem. And it's not our problem. It's the world's problem. We ALL need to start seeing each other as part of the same humanity. And yeah, negotiating is part of that. If we are not willing to listen to and talk with any leadership of any nation on this planet, we are part of the problem and not a part of the solution. When we sacrifice the lives of the innocent to maintain our interests (ie, protecting oil fields in Iraq while the ammunition caches were left open or having our soldiers protecting poppy fields 24/7, while we spend billions of dollars fighting drug use and smuggling) we are the problem. 

I blame our leadership for being at the beck and call of the "Military Industrial Complex" that Eisenhower warned us about. But, we, the common citizen have to take some blame. We buy into the false nationalism. We buy into the thought pattern that is sold to us, that we are just over here minding our own business and they hate us because we eat deep fried Twinkies. Bullshit. We have been using Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, and Iraq for decades as temporary bases or fly over areas so we can launch attacks on other Muslim nations. We cozy up to foreign governments in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, while their people are treated like animals and impoverished. We have bullied and coerced our way into sucking up their resources on the cheap.

The USA is better than this garbage.......or at least, we, the people are. Stop listening to the politicians and the news media and start researching and thinking for yourself. Read some interviews with anti-American Muslim leadership. Listen to Osama Bin Laden.....I don't condone the killing of people to make political points, but after reading this, there is no way you can come away feeling like there would never be a reaction to our actions;

Osama Bin Laden:
(d) You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of you international influence and military threats. This theft is indeed the biggest theft ever witnessed by mankind in the history of the world.
(e) Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctity, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures.
(f) You have starved the Muslims of Iraq, where children die every day. It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million Iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet when 3000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not yet sat down.

Oh, I know some of you are gonna be pissed for me putting that in here. But all I'm doing is trying to get you to see that there is another side to the war. They have an entirely different way of life and we have used our power to infiltrate it. How many of you bitch about China owning so much of our country? What if Iran put a base in the Gulf of Mexico? What if South Korea put a military base in Canada? Do you think we'd feel threatened? What if Russia led an embargo of oil to the United States? Would any of that make you feel threatened and angry? 
I'm closing with this; I am in NO WAY saying we deserve anything that has happened. But, we saw the warning signs and our leadership ignored them. Now, we are paying the price. I'll get into your head a little more......what if our leadership WANTS us to be scared and threatened? Isn't it easier to get a hold on resources and make decisions if you don't have to worry about the reactions of a scared population? Recently we have been hearing about cuts to military spending and operations will hurt the economy even further. Wow...really, so now we have to continue bad policy, continue to put our young men and women at risk, and threaten the lives of civilians around the world, so our economy will remain "stable"? And I think to myself....what a wonderful world.
I won't ask you to agree. But I will ask you to think.