Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Growing Inequality and Looming Authoritarianism

The Title of this post is from an Article I read on Truthdig, and I lifted it without permission. But it sums up neatly the political and economic environment in which most of the world is living. Recently I was made to sign a six page legal agreement from my employer (a multi-national corporation — go figure!) regarding their Social Media Policy. The extent of their control over my speech includes anything I might post online on a private blog on my own time, including anything written under a pseudonym and any deleted posts. It's total control baby! So I will be very careful not to mention who my employer is, due to fear of future retaliation. However, once their control over our lives is complete — I'm a sitting duck. I now know this, and the list of places I can run to is sadly fictional — it's not like the Von Trapp family hiking over the Alps escaping the Nazis. Nowadays there is no place on this lonely blue sphere where one may escape. So it is in closing, in this very brief reintroduction to the cathartic spirit in which I blog, that I thank the Universe for the ability to think independently, skeptically and freely, and to share that with you readers — at least for a little while longer.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Shall I Be an Expatriate?

For the first time in my life I am seriously considering emigrating to another country. This will likely be hastened if Romney/Ryan are successful in lying and cheating the American public to win the White House in November. My reasoning is thus: 1. Respect for the Democratic process is sorely lacking in the modern GOP. Lying, cheating and stealing are simply a means to an end. And where unable to secure a majority, they have no issue in stonewalling the legislative process — even to the point of seriously putting the entire world economy on the brink of peril. 2. Respect for the citizenry is also gone. If one is poor, sick or elderly it is the fault of one's own. If one cannot afford a college tuition, or pay back the loans due to the fact there are simply no good jobs — well that's just tough nuts! Government owes nothing to the people that fund it. 3. Let the witch hunts begin! According to a good number of representatives and the people who would put them in power, I am a godless, communist, perverted faggot. If the modern GOP ever takes executive power, it will only be a matter of time until people like myself are scapegoated, kept in the ghettos, and eventually hauled off to the camps. 4. We can forget about Social Security and Medicare — even though we payed into it for years. Twenty years from now, that social safety net will be gone. Union Pensions and 401K's will also be at the mercy of Wall Street. Chances of me keeping a good union job until retirement are slim enough in today's economy and due to technology. A Romney win will seal the fate of Unions and collective bargaining. I could see myself in my fifties as unemployable. 5. This country as it stands has more inequality than it did 100 years ago. That will continue. The 99% will truly be at the mercy of the elite. We will be slaves to our masters. 6. The education of our citizenry will continue to decline and we will fall into a dark age of superstition. This will no longer be a place I wish to live, especially in my old age. Don't think for a minute that I am being alarmist or that I am somehow out of touch. And don't think it can't happen quickly — history shows how easily society can slide into oblivion. If you are voting God, Gays, or Guns — do your country a huge favor and stay at home watching Fox News on Election Day.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Great Video

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Celebrating 9-11

Ten years after that fateful day, we have so much to celebrate. Who could have guessed after September 11, 2001 that our President had it in him? He really showed leadership like few before him. Certainly he will go down in history as a man who forever changed the path our country was headed.

It would have been so easy for him to cave in to the special monied interests, to simply sell out our freedoms for the illusion of safety, to continue the exercise in false bubble-economies, and to further continue the disparity of wealth and privilege in this nation. But he did not do that.

First of all, our President chose not to squander the outpouring of international sympathy. His call to all nations of the world to address the shameful inequalities in wealth did not fall on deaf ears, especially when the world could see how he brought together a bipartisan commission to end poverty in his own nation. Our President made a real commitment to the U.N. in terms of financial support. He did not apologize for the atrocities made against us — instead he made it clear that a world full of inequality was a world that would continue to be at war, and that an atrocity committed against one is an atrocity committed against humanity.

Secondly, our President and the people he chose to lead his Commissions realized that Class Warfare and the monied interests had to be kept in check. But the way he did this was brilliant — he didn't demonize wealth — instead he made it clear that with great privilege comes great responsibility. How our President made revenue available quickly at the behest of Philanthropy, and the way he petitioned the wealthy was nothing short of amazing. Ending the Free Trade Era and ushering in the Fair Trade Era has brought back millions of jobs in this country as well as creating competitive markets overseas while increasing the standards of living globally. It quickly became clear that a rush to the bottom was not the way to stabilize the world. His passing of the Employee Free Choice Act in 2002 created hundreds of thousands of good Union jobs.

Thirdly, our President tackled the Military Industrial Complex. This could have had the effect of ensuring a single term, but he did it in a way that was almost slight-of -hand. He made it clear that war was not an answer — the U.S. would no longer spend trillions of dollars to go to war with an invisible enemy. We closed down military bases throughout the world, while simultaneously moving military personnel close to home in security roles along with humanitarian ones. Renaming the Defense Department the Department of Peace and Homeland Security was controversial at first, but most Americans nowadays cannot imagine it any other way. Just look at Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Had we sent all our resources overseas to fight an unending War on Terror as many of our President's critics suggested, we could have lost an entire city. Instead, we made the repairs to infrastructure that we badly needed. New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were spared what could have been a horrible devastation.

Lastly, our President asked us to make real sacrifices, and we heeded his call. Americans stopped living a material existence. We put our families and communities first. Americans paid off their credit card bills and "grew up" to be responsible citizens. Working families saved billions of dollars and reinvested in their communities. After the Stock Market Speculation Bubble burst, many Banks started to look for other dubious investment schemes. The Nationalization of the Banking Industry and abolition of the Federal Reserve took back a crucial element of our Democratic Republic. Americans have seen their savings and investments grow. Trillions of dollars of real wealth have been created in this country, and by 2004 it was clear to most of us that reelection was a given.

Considering the accomplishments of the prior administration, they could have simply rested on their laurels. But it was astounding how they "amped up" their efforts to bring this country to the forefront once more and to lead as an example to the rest of the world.

Before the second Inaugural Address in 2004, the Counter-Terrorism Units had all but expunged Al-Qaeda from the surface of the Earth. Many Middle Eastern countries had already formed formidable revolutionary groups ready to embrace a democratic form of governance.

In January 2005 many Americans were unhappy about the new Gas Tax. But we had already built the economy in an unprecedented way. Unemployment was virtually nil. Working families had saved money and the dollar was King against any other currency. Wealthy Americans had been paying their fair share and government coffers had a surplus. So many people did not realize the value in such a tax — especially such a large tax. Of course Gas and Oil Companies spent millions trying to sway public opinion — to some effect. But the Gas Tax Bill passed both houses and the President signed it into Law. Gone were government subsidies to Big Oil.

In less than six months, Americans had adjusted to $6. a gallon tax in some unprecedented ways. The Big Three immediately responded by manufacturing highly efficient automobiles, including many good electric and biodiesel models, and this increased their market shares considerably. Americans started buying their food locally grown and support of the small family farms began in earnest. The Urban Farm movement began and city rooftops started sporting all kinds of food grown hydroponically. Conservation became commonplace. Yet it was the way government reinvested that tax money that has revolutionized this country. By the third quarter of 2005 the revenue collected by the Gas Tax Bill funded the U.S. High Speed Rail Project that was completed over a year ago. Just about every metropolitan area now has a high-speed train that connects it with other metropolitan areas. Inefficient and costly air travel is now a thing of the past between nearby cities. The future hold even more promises.

In 2007 the Public Transportation Bill was narrowly passed. Now in any city over 50,000 in population one can state that cheap, efficient and comfortable transit options exist. Private automobile ownership is no longer a prerequisite to the American standard of living, unless one lives in the rural outskirts. Retooling the Automobile Industry took surprisingly little time. Getting people out of their cars was a feat of marketing brilliance by middle of the second term of the administration, but the results have been miraculous. Whole city centers have now become carfree. There were now three experimental carfree cities in the United States, and there is a waiting list a mile long to gain admission. Many larger metropolitan areas have made public transit entirely free to their ridership increasing its use and efficiency of operation. American families have saved billions due to the decline of automobile ownership and reinvested in their homes, education and communities. The equality gap continues to close, and the reinvigorated communities — brought closer together due to such policies have nourished a renaissance in the arts.

By 2008 the United States economy was booming. Gas was $8 a gallon, but few cared. Americans had more money than seven years prior, and they were now disciplined enough to save and reinvest it. The Health Care Act of 2008 was a big fight in Washington D.C., but after so many successes and so much public confidence, it was clear that Big Pharma and the Health Insurance lobby were the clear losers. The single-payer system was the only system proposed, and we are so much better for it. Since health insurance was no longer based on employment, unions no longer had to negotiate their contracts with it in mind. Real wages immediately shot up. Two years afterwards and we see wages climbing over inflation. Most American workers today can afford to buy their own homes.

Congress amended the U.S. Constitution in 2008 to end term limits for the Presidency, and the President signed it into Law. Strangely, he did not seek a third term. Americans were bewildered. Instead he chose to pass on the reigns.

Clearly the support of the previous President was enough to usher in our current President. In 2009 it was clear that Big Oil's days were over. The Resource Preservation Act was handily passed. Regulation was clearly needed, as it was discovered that deep-sea oil drilling was in dangerous uncharted territory. A quick end to it ensued, and eminent disaster was averted. A gallon of gas at the end of 2009 soared past $10 a gallon, but most vehicles by this time were using little if any of it. The Solar Energy Industry was already taking a huge bite out of electric needs. Wind, Sea and Tidal Power Plants sprung up overnight. Half of this nation's electricity now comes from renewable energy sources only two years after this policy was put into effect. Many people voluntarily started leaving Suburbia by 2002, and much of the land was reclaimed for independent farms or returned to its natural state. Some suburban areas have been transformed to carfree cities. Who could have predicted such a transformative time in American history?

By 2010 the wealth of this country, and the world was at a peak. Rather than capitulating to fear and superstition, we had invested heavily in Science both in terms of research and education. The breakthroughs have all but dissipated the Dark Ages. America and the world have become decidedly Secular Humanist, because we saw what worked. We are no longer beholden to our narrow, tribal notions. We are witnessing a global era of peace and prosperity. In 2010 the United States did something that a decade prior would have been considered an impossibility. The Education Act of 2010 made all schools and Universities free based upon admission as long as a student showed desire and ability — and regardless of their national origin. This has created a Renaissance of learning based upon competition and desire and it has made this country a seat of culture like none other.

September 11, 2011. We have cause to celebrate, and reason to be hopeful that the future will bring more health and prosperity to our nation and the world.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Prom Dates and Career Choices

You often hear it said there's no use in crying over spilled milk. Perhaps this is true. But ruminating over it and imagining ways to prevent it from spilling in the future may be valuable.

Just recently there have been a series of stories of gay youth and their respective prom dates. The gist of these stories in my opinion is not about the remaining discrimination and ignorance that gays face — instead, it is about how damn far we've come. Youth today by and large do not discriminate. Gays are accepted by their peers. That's a long, long way from a quarter of a century ago when I was in high school.

I hated school. My hatred of my scholastic career began at the tender age of thirteen in the sixth grade. I look back now and realize I was robbed. My future was stolen. I resist playing the victim card, but I have to say that the amount of bullying and torment I was subjected to at that early age played a decisive role in the person that I have become and the possibilities I've been afforded. It could have been far worse. I could have simply committed suicide. There were many times I considered it. And my sexuality played the biggest role.

Funny thing, I was a good student. I was above average intelligence, creative and inquisitive about the world. Yet I was stifled due to the lack of acceptance of a fundamental part of who I was and who I am. My parents were supportive, although their religious views did not embrace the idea of a gay child. I was moved out of the hateful middle school I attended, and I was placed in a more supportive school during the eighth grade. It made a huge difference in my life in terms of finding friendship and support — regardless of the fact it was a religious school. But by high school I had given up. The damage was done.

Little did I know that University would likely have provided me so many means of coming to terms with myself and developing as an individual. I just figured it would be an extension of high school — and I was not having that! Unfortunately my parents did not have the foresight, since they had no direct experience of college themselves. So I ended up following my Dad in the family business — a business that I was able to develop a good amount of skill and knowledge in — yet a business that I was not passionate about. I enjoyed making decent money, but even in that regard I lacked a fundamental education and found myself at the end of two decades without anything to show for all my work and dedication. I found myself in a dead-end clerical job where I have worked essentially as an indentured servant for the past six years. I'd say that the benefits are good, but it is nothing less than velvet handcuffs. Had the benefits not been there I may have been forced to find something more fitting to my level of experience. Nonetheless, this is the metaphorical "spilled milk".

But I wonder how my life would have been different if the world I grew up in had accepted me for who I was. In such a parallel world, who would Geoffrey have become? What career(s) would I have chosen? What level of scholarship would I have attained? What kind of husband and family would I now have? Where might I have traveled? How might I have been involved in and/or recognized in my community?

I think I can rightly answer that my life would have been far better and with many more opportunities. I think I would have made more intelligent decisions about the people I chose to love, the places I decided to go, the ways I could have invested my money and the things I did for a living. But you can never know for certain. And since it's all hindsight, this is the life I have lived, and there's no point in regretting it — what's the point anyhow?

The point is: We don't let these injustices continue! We stop killing the creative spark in our children! We abandon our ridiculous and barbaric superstitious beliefs! We allow each other to develop fully! That's the whole fucking point to this rant. Am I bitter? You'd better goddamn believe it.

But good for these kids nowadays! I take some solace in the fact that two high school boys can each be dates at their prom, in a small town, in the south of all places — and their classmates cheer them on! At least there is hope for the future.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Where's the Baby?

You've heard the proverb, "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water". As an Episcopalian, I have heard it used in reference to other Protestant denominations. Episcopalians retained the Liturgy and many other cults of the Catholic Church. Some of which is undeniably "bath water". Now, I say I am an Episcopalian in order to identify with a particular Christian heritage, which has helped mold me into the person I am presently. Prior to the age of sixteen, my Christian upbringing was decidedly more Evangelical. Regardless of the fact that Evangelical belief left an indelible mark on me, I stopped identifying with such a very long time ago.

And that leads me to the thoughts I've been struggling with since my public declaration of my atheism over a year ago. I've been pouring out an awful lot of stinky bath water, and wondering if indeed there is any baby lurking within it at all! Thrice I have attended an Episcopal service since my declaration — twice during Advent and just yesterday on Easter morning. On every occasion I was entranced with the homiletics. On one occasion I attended an Anglo-Catholic parish where I felt the level of "worship" was palpable — it even brought me to tears. Of course, any good production can do that. But each time I walk away, I walk away as a skeptic, but somehow thankful for my church. I still identify with it, and it still speaks to me in some mysterious way.

Surprisingly to some, I believe most atheists/agnostics struggle with "spirituality". We have many tools at our disposal. There is a sense of "community". We can meet and philosophize. Yet we don't have this ancient structure behind us — no awe-inspiring edifice — no Liturgy — imbued with the divine music of Johann Sebastian Bach! I wonder if such a community of skeptics could ever be built. And I wonder if it would inspire people the way religions have. What is it that religion offers? Where is the Baby?

The message I hear emanating behind the pulpits of the mainstream protestant denominations is one that most intelligent, and reasoning individuals can identify with. Yet mainstream protestantism seems to be losing steam. Instead, the Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Fundamentalist Christians are not only gaining huge strides, but their beliefs are becoming more entrenched and intolerant. I'm afraid that the mere existence of moderate, tolerant and liberal Christians only lends credence to these "fringe" groups. I say "fringe", but frankly it is rapidly becoming the accepted view of Christianity among believers and non-believers alike.

When I listen to the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and all the other self-declared spokespeople for his Divine Majesty, I cannot help but feel we pertain to entirely different religions. Such Christianity to me is unrecognizable. I suppose a literal reading of scripture, ignorance of scientific progress over the last several centuries, and profound lack of historical knowledge compounded with a complete disregard for comparative religious study might indeed lead one to such a radical view. However, even so, it is blatantly obvious that the literal interpretations of scripture have been carefully chosen so as not to offend some groups and to oppress others. Specifically, gay people are targeted in a horrific way. Yet divorcees are allowed. Women can be preachers. The membership is not required to keep Kosher. I could go on, but it's pointless. There is no arguing with these people.

Yet I know there is a Baby. And as a matter of fact, much of my secular humanism and my political egalitarianism is based upon the recognition of that Baby. I believe we are all equal under the law. I believe the face of the Divine is in each of us. I believe an injustice committed against one is an injustice against all. I believe human life is sacred (I am also in favor of a woman's right over her body). I believe we are still in an evolutionary process, and our faculties of reason and science and technology should be used to better all of humanity and the marvelous sphere we live upon. So I continue to believe in the Incarnation, albeit in an extremely metaphorical sense. I also believe in the Resurrection in the same way. Life goes on. New life can begin. This is a message of hope.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

What's not Conservative about Conservation?

I haven't been paying much attention to the likes of Sarah Palin and her ilk, the Teabaggers. However, it's next to impossible to ignore them. Thanks in particular to the "lamestream" media they purport to disdain. In my estimation they consist largely of a group of ill-informed, semi-literate, paranoid-delusional types, which unfortunately make up a significant minority in this country. I'd throw the words racist and xenophobic in the mix as well, but I'll suffice to say paranoid-delusional covers such attributes. Logic is obviously not one of their strong suits, so any attempt at dialogue is in vain.

But supposing for a moment it were possible to have an elucidative conversation with one of them, there is one question on my mind that I'd love to ask. "What's not conservative about conservation"?

I keep hearing how these folks won't give up their S.U.V.'s. They brag outright about how "big" their carbon footprints are, as if they were high school jocks in a locker room comparing dick sizes! They claim that climate change is a hoax, regardless of the profusion of scientific evidence that proves it. Regardless of their fear of "foreigners", they continue to support Big Oil. Do they not know where most petroleum is drilled? It's enough to make one cry out of irrational exhaustion.

What part of conservation do they not get? Do they not understand how this benefits them? Save your money, do not be wasteful. Keep the environment pristine. Theses ARE conservative values! It's just insane!