Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Problem of Theft

I had a hard time believing this story when I saw it.  I thought at first it was a joke from some fake news source like The Onion or something.  Once I realized it wasn't a joke, I became completely disgusted.

KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather

The easy argument that's been rehashed a thousand times is the one about whether we should even have things like food stamps or EBT cards.  Well, I suppose it's only rehashed between people.  Between Democrats and Republicans it's whether we should increase spending on the program by 65% or 57%.  That's not really a difference.  The one party system is moving the same direction.  But to imply that there is a difference, Democrats are calling the Republican 'cuts' 'draconian'.  So, ADHD kicking in for a second and getting off topic:


[drey-koh-nee-uhn, druh-] Show IPA

of, pertaining to, or characteristic of Draco or his code of laws.
( often lowercase ) rigorous; unusually severe or cruel: Draconian forms of punishment.

Also, Draconic.

Origin: 1810–20;  < Latin Drac┼Źn-  (stem of Draco) + -ian

Dra·co·ni·an·ism, noun 

An increase of 57% is draconian?  No theatrics there at all.  Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the Democrats are completely misrepresenting the situation or just lying through their teeth.  And how can the Republicans advertise this as a 'cut'?  What a bunch of lying, push-overs. 

People argue the merits of those programs nonstop.  And while I'm against the programs, I've realized that they aren't the problem.  The problem is theft. The problem is corruption.  The problem is integrity.  That's what's missing in our system.  It's more important for the side we're affiliated with to win than to be right.  And the people who have it; and let's take two polar opposites here: Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, are attacked the hardest by everyone on both sides.

On one hand, you have a Cuban-American who's family escaped Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and is pushing hard to make the Congress about working within the confines of the Constitution as it exists at this time and he's called an extremists.  On the other, you have an admitted Socialist who believes the Constitution is an outdated document and doesn't address what the government should do on the behalf of the people.  Both have voting bases that agree with their positions and they were voted in to represents those positions and opinions.  Not mine, not the media, not the president; their constituents. 

Clearly they do not agree, yet people who aren't their constituents believe they should compromise.  Where?  If they compromise, they won't be representing the will of their people.  Unlike the rest of Congress who says one thing on the campaign trail, and do something else in office, these two are doing exactly what they said they would do.  They are at cross purposes.  At no point do I expect them to ever 'compromise' because when they do, that means they've betrayed their voters. 

Why do you think polls that say people have 8% confidence in Congress's performance come out and then the same congressmen get put in?  It's because people agree with their congressmen and not the rest of Congress.  It's not difficult to understand.

The news makes these polls out to be some reason to compromise, but the fact that we keep voting in the same assholes shows they shouldn't.  People propose term limits; I'm even back and forth on it myself, but there's a natural term limit.  It's called voting.  But, people want term limits to get other congressmen out, not theirs.  The hard leftists and hard right-wing that want term limits to get the John Boehner's and Nancy Pelosi's out only want to the rule to get rid of a statesman that they don't like.  That's implementing a law out of spite, not justice.  Laws shouldn't be used as a ideological cudgel.  That sort of internal corruption can only happen because we as a people are broken.  

As a Libertarian I could make the argument that the money being used to prop those programs up is stolen from the wallets of every American in the form of taxes, but that's really a symptom of the problem.  Thinking it's ok for person A to take money from person B and give it to person C is not a moral equivalence you reach over night.  At least in America.  It takes a long time and a lot of influence to convince people that one class should be able to tell another class how to live. 

And think of the absurdity of having people think they are fighting class division and class struggle by creating a class of bureaucrats to dictate and condescend to them; to sit on top of them and decide for them how their lives should be spent.  It's essentially a return to the old monarchy systems we left behind because they limited personal freedom, yet here we are willing to limit the freedoms of others if they disagree.  Instead of true MLK -esque equality, we are willing to rationalize allowing the government to act like Sheriff Nottingham and tax the populace into submission and redistribute our money for it's own benefit and power. 

Theft is a moral problem that goes beyond the government and reaches every single one of us.  When any person justifies theft for their own benefit, they are part of the problem.  Whether it's taking from the rich or robbing Walmart with a card that isn't your money or even something as simple as not correcting someone when cashing out if they forget to add something, it all springs from the same broken nature inside ourselves we refuse to face and deal with. 

Last week, I was mailing stuff off at the Post Office and the lady forget to ring out a box I bought.  It was $2.63.  I could've just ignored it when I caught it, but I didn't.  It would've been theft.  Years ago I was on a camping trip and we needed wood and there was a house that advertised wood for the taking and we could just donate what we thought the wood was worth.  We loaded up my car and gave them nothing.  We just took the wood.  The following year, I still felt so bad I went back and put $50 in the box. 

The reason is so fundamentally childish, but it always applies.  It's the Golden Rule.  Treat others how you want to be treated.  How does robbing Walmart fit into that?  And it's not like we don't know the Golden Rule.  We just choose to be the lesser versions of ourselves when things like this happen. 

The long explanation of why you treat others the way you want to be treated is because of the theft of time.  That guy cut that wood himself using hours of his life.  By taking the wood, I didn't just steal wood, I was stealing hours of his life that he will never get back.  He will never re-live those hours.  This example may get more confused as you get into corporate entities like the Post Office and the box maker, but on a mass scale, if thousands of people aren't telling the clerk that adds up to someone's salary or even raise.

Robbing from corporations normally just hurts it's employees who are spending their life-hours making those products in trade for a wage they've agreed is fair.  The same people that ridicule corporations justify to themselves that it's ok to steal from them and increase taxes on them for their benefit, but seem to completely disconnect that by taking money from that company they are just reducing profit opportunities for the workers, meaning that the workers have to work longer or harder.  Sometimes taking an extra job, maybe 2 to get by or get ahead.  It's not the corporation being punished by stealing or taxes, it's the employees because that's what a corporation is, a grouping of employees.  It's their life-hours being robbed, not the CEOs or the faceless Nike Swoosh.

Even just stealing from another person is equivalent to stealing the life-hours that they had to work to earn the money to purchase whatever is being stolen.  In every single situation, taking anything by force is robbing people of the hours of life and choosing for them how their life-hours are spent.  Mugging, taxes, inflation or financial abuse of an EBT card, it's all hours of life.

That's why I won't let people pay me back with things like food stamps or use their EBT card to get something I need if I loan them money.  That isn't their money.  I don't want them to pay me back with hours of somebody else's life.  I didn't loan them paper fiat currency, I loaned them HOURS OF MY LIFE spent earning that money.  The only equal payment I can morally accept in return is money they earned with the HOURS OF THEIR LIFE.  Not money given to them that is the life-hours of others.  That cost them nothing to give to me.

I didn't always understand that money was the life-hours spent being productive because it's sort of crazy notion.  Although it really shouldn't be.  It was easier in high-school to just embrace that currency was fiat and that it was just printed into existence from nothing.  While that's true to a degree, it doesn't mean the money is value-less.  It's value isn't based on gold or consumerism like we're so often told.  It's based on life and productiveness.  It takes hours of lives and productive work to get gold.  It takes hours of work and productiveness to get the resources, design and make products, raise cattle, ship goods and sell them, earn the money to buy those goods. 

The dollar is not just a piece of paper, it is the physical representation of the intangible: time and productiveness. So, to say money is the root of all evil is to say that life and productiveness are evil.  If you believe that, then you would have no respect for life or the lives of others.  To tell people that the dollar is their God and it rules them like it's an insult is to accuse someone that their own life and productiveness rules them.   How is that an insult? 

The people who would go into Walmart, load up carts in a bid to spend money that wasn't theirs have no respect for life.  Ironically, they are the same people who will tell you that you should respect them or that they want respect.  But you get respect by showing it.  You learn that basic rule in kindergarten.  What they did, didn't just lack respect; it was an act of all out hatred for their fellow man. 

Following the Tsunami in Japan, there were no runs on the stores there.  There were no riots or theft of any kind.  Following Katrina or any massive natural disaster here in America like Super Storm Sandy there was mass crime in the streets.  What was the difference?  I put forward that it was respect.  Integrity.  Honor. 

In the military, the Air Force in particular, we have certain standards that are drilled into our heads.  Lead by Example.  Service Before Self.  Integrity In All We Do. Admittedly, not everyone in the military follows these standards or takes them seriously, but I did.  I try to live by those standards everyday.  Sometimes I fail, most of the time I succeed.  I own my failures when they happen.  You could call me brainwashed, but I've lived the other side too.  I stole a lot in high school.  I was dishonest.  I lied.  I preached how to be 'better' to others as a vegan straightedge asshole, and then didn't live it myself.  I was typical teenager.

But that's the point.  In Japan, that is NOT what the typical teenager does.  The typical teenager in Japan is taught to respect others and their possessions, the value of hard work and what it is to be honorable.  Between the military and living in Asia, I learned the value of honor and integrity and I came back a different person.  Living abroad does that.  This isn't to say Japan is better than America, every culture has it's failures; just to point at in this particular context they are producing better results than we are.  Instead of trying to argue where their failures are, we should adopt where they are successful.

Unlike a lot of arm chair, coach potato philosopher's who've never been out in the world to see what their 'great ideas' lead to, I have been.  I went into the service a liberal, vegan, straightedge, environmentalist, progressive with ideas on how people who were too stupid to know what was best for them and the world, but somehow I knew better because I was enlightened.  Then, the military introduced me to the world and didn't sugar-coat it.  It was a brutal awakening.

While in, I was faced with a lot of realities about my beliefs in different countries and seeing where my 'great ideas' ended up in reality, not academia, and I came out of the service a conservative-leaning libertarian because I realized there is no one-size fits all answer.  In fact, most of my ideas were incredibly wrong and ultimately hurtful to so many people I thought I would help by imposing these regulations on them.  The hardest part was admitting I was wrong.  The easy part was realizing that all the stats and numbers can be angled to fit whatever anyone wants them to and that sometimes reality is more than a bunch of numbers used in an argument.  There are real faces, lives and heartache impacted out there because of programs I supported and the military brought me face-to-face with them.

I learned how utterly and completely wrong all my liberal ideas were and it was crushing to see the real outcomes be so completely opposite of the intent, but it forced me to decide if I would stubbornly continue down that road knowing the consequences and just say, 'well, they didn't do it right' or pull back and try to understand what worked and what didn't.  In the end, I think the only thing that really works is what people want to make work for them.  In order to make that choice for themselves, they have to have the freedom to do so.  So, I began adopting a hands-off ideology.  I call it Libertarianism, but it's really more Austrian Economics... but that's not really an ideology exactly.  But it's what taught me one of the most important lessons I learned about how money and time are related.  It changed my entire world view once that piece clicked into place.

The Japanese impress an understanding of respect for those that earn it in their culture.  The only way you earn that is by working hard, and the Japanese are HARD workers.  They don't steal from others because they know how hard they worked to get the few possessions they have.  We talk a good game over here, but like our auto industry, Japan is actually doing it better.  And they are such wonderfully humble, patient people. Those are qualities we would benefit by adopting.  I struggle with living those standards every day on my own because I've seen their positive outcomes and I want that for myself.

Would something like trying to exploit a glitch on an EBT card happen in a culture that embraces real honor; not Hollywood honor?  We claim to be honorable in America, but we clearly don't practice it anymore because we've confused honor and respecting the hard work and effort of others with taking their money and giving it to those who aren't working hard and putting forward little effort.  That isn't an honorable system, that's 'from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs'.  It shouldn't be surprising that a system like that inspires exploitation instead of respect for a fellow human being. 

We don't impress true respect on our children anymore, just the illusion of it.  We've confused cause and effect.  In Japan, respect is based on hard-work.  Hard-work leads to being noticed and gaining respect.  Being noticed provides opportunities.  Opportunities mean being rewarded with more money.  In America, we've moved away from that and have seemingly begun to think that money = respect.  As a result, it's more important to 'get' money by any means than 'earn' it. 

But it's not real respect people show you when you're wealthy, it's the illusion of respect.  Then, when those people never get the true respect they want, they become disillusioned and as a result, they don't respect themselves after a while.  It's easy when you no longer respect yourself to just take from others through open theft or supporting others who tell you they will reach into other people's pockets on your behalf.

So completely wrong.  Maybe part of that is because people don't know where anything comes from anymore and they just think of business as massive corporate entities instead of the people they are made up of.  But that's just a shallow, cowardly excuse to justify theft.  It's not honorable.

And this isn't me rushing to defend business.  Wal-Mart's employees are just as much to blame here.  They accepted the money knowing something was wrong.  The management at those locations should be held accountable.  They agreed to allow these people to steal from their shelves so they could steal money directly from a taxpayer funded EBT card.  The problem is theft all around, not just one group or union or business or politician.

I looked around a bit and it looks like Walmart will be held accountable and have to foot the bill for this, as they should.  But, what about the people who stole all the stuff from the shelves?  Will they be held accountable for their corruption?  All things being equal, they should be.  It's not like the state doesn't have the names on the cards and the ability to look at the bills.  Those people should either be charged in full for what they bought unless they return it and have the amount refunded to the card or have their EBT completely stripped from them and told, 'you have demonstrated you are not responsible enough for the state to trust with this money, so you are no longer eligible.'  That would send a message.

Because as of right now, if Walmart is the one paying for everything taken from the shelves, those people got everything in that cart for free.  It's like Walmart just gave it to them if they aren't punished.  Justifying that Walmart has stolen from others or some other such nonsense is an act of corruption and dishonorable.  By not punishing those people as well as Walmart, we have rewarded them for their bad behavior.  And when animals are rewarded for bad behavior instead of corrected, they continue to do it.  Because I don't think of these people as human, they haven't earned that title.  They are animals.  They act like animals.  Human beings are different because they are capable of stepping beyond the instincts that drive animals and be more and these people have demonstrated they have none of that.

And while I'm a Libertarian, Liberals and Progressives should be more disgusted with this than I am because they are the ones that support these programs.  They should be the ones that are the most vocal about sending a message here to everyone else on welfare programs about proper use.  They should be the ones beating the drum the loudest right now to make sure things like this are less likely to happen later.  The fact that they aren't more pissed than I am and are choosing to ignore this because it makes their program look bad shows that for many of them, their image means more to them than the actual implementation of their ideas.  It will only make the problem worse in the future instead of helping to prevent it.

These things happen because we allow them by not acting to correct the behavior that lead to it.  By not acting, we sanction it.  This is not just the EBT holders fault or Walmart's fault, this is ours.  We have failed each other by not addressing these situations properly.  We did this.  Us.  It's easy to point fingers, it's hard to admit we are part of the problem. 

People on the right will castigate the people who loaded up the carts and attempted to live off the backs of hard working taxpayers like parasites.  People on the left will criticize corporate greed and the right for attempting to 'steal' 'rights' from the poor.  Neither will be honest or address the real problem because their only true interest is division and segregation at the expense of whatever group's they choose to be prejudice toward.   Their lack of integrity to discuss the real problem demonstrates exactly what I'm talking about. It's amazing that just common decency has become the counter culture in our society.

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.  But it's only something we can do as individuals.  You can't mandate or regulate it.  People have to choose to be better on their own.  We are the ones who are responsible for fixing ourselves. 

'I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man; nor ask another man to live for mine.'

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cleaning Up The Parks

 Love that people are taking the responsibility to clean up the national parks themselves.  And what better way to show vets of past wars we care than to have everyday, regular civilians who benefit from the actions of the armed forces donate their time and effort to maintaining monuments dedicated to those vets?  Why are we even paying lawn services for that to start with?  We could easily just create an online volunteer calender and let people sign up.  I'm not suggesting defunding or anything political.  Just that it would be an honor to clean something like the Washington Monument or the steps that Martin Luther King spoke from, not a burden.  The National Park Service could keep whatever they are getting for all I care.  Hell, having everyday folks cleaning the parks would actually save them money and allow them to improve facilities. 

But, what better way to introduce your children to the love of the environment and national parks than to go clean up a places like Yosemite, Glacier, Yellowstone or the Painted Desert?  It's easy to talk a good game on environmentalism and tell everyone else what to do, pay taxes and just forget about it; it's a lot harder to go out and take care of it yourself.  But it's also a lot more rewarding and certainly has a deeper psychological impact.  You're not going to be prone to something like littering if you spent an entire day picking up trash along a federal highway or cleaning a city park.  You have a vested interest in your community if you are cleaning it... if for no other reason than you don't want to have to pickup after an asshole.  And I'm not suggesting a requirement; people are doing this out of their own free-choice now.  Today.  Why not encourage that sort of spirit of actual service that can bring people together instead of the pretense of one that divides us apart?

I know my site is supposed to be Anti-Everything, but this just seems like a net positive. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Man of Steel

First of all, wow.  Just... wow.  Second of all, one of the signs of a great movie is that it is written in such a way that people can project their own beliefs and thoughts to it.

To me, that's what Man of Steel was.  I saw so much of what was happening in our world now and warnings against the path we are going down.  Warning, possible spoilers ahead. 

Start from the concept of what happened to Krypton.   Here was a culture that reached for the stars and beyond.  Then, 'for the betterment of the collective', children began being born unnaturally and 'designed' for specific roles in society.  The idea being that they would ultimately be happier that way and society would become even greater.  But the reverse happened.

The reason was because without the variable of choice; without the variable of unpredictability, new ideas stopped happening.  No matter where in society these pre-determined fatees were going to take place, their knowledge, their ideas were only based on pre-existing knowledge and there was no incentive for them to create new or better methods for anything. 

It's reflective of Aldous Huxley's - A Brave New World.  When people stop having new ideas and find happiness in slavery, society stops moving forward.  It was essentially a sci-fi version of the Soviet Union and what their problems were.

When the Kryptonians stopped reaching for the stars and began trading freedom for security, they ultimately got neither.  Just like Ben Franklin said would happen.  Since no new technologies were coming out, since they more or less disbanded their space programs, since no new resources were being discovered, resources were eventually used up.  This lead to the collapse and destruction of their entire culture.  Just like the Soviet Union.

It was essentially a functioning Fabian Socialist Republic, with genetic tinkering paving the way.  We face all of these things with the road we are currently on. 

There was a line by Russell Crowe where he talked about what if a child didn't want to be what society told him or her to be, but aspired to something greater?  Well, where are we now if that's not the case?  Between corrupted teacher's unions providing a piss-poor education and a university academics preaching concepts of victimization... teaching our kids they can't make it without help?

Is it coincidence that the giants among us don't finish the brain washing in college?  I don't think it is.  They reject the idea that they can't do something or that they shouldn't and reach for the stars.  The worst than can happen is they fail.  But our current culture teaches us to fear failure; teaches us to give up our choice and freedom for security.  Don't take risks, you might fail.  Just accept the job we think you should do.

Then, obviously, there's Superman.  He was always a very christ-like figure.  From his adopted parents names (Joseph and Mary), to a miracle birth, choosing a life of honest labor like Jesus chose carpentry, assuming the mantle of something greater only when confronted with the potential fall of mankind, ultimately volunteering to sacrifice himself to save mankind, working to set the example for mankind to follow.

There was a lot about personal integrity; essentially doing the right thing even when no one is looking, and personal responsibility; something we sorely need to get back.  They also emphasized that the individual is the most important thing, not any collective.

Zod was a collectivist, willing to do anything bad or good to protect his collective.  The ends justified the means; a Saul Alinsky reference.  He even says that no matter how great or terrible his choices or actions, they were all for the the betterment of Krypton.  Well, how can you make terrible choices and do terrible things and expect the society you uphold to not have that reflected.  We, as individuals, have to strive to be the best version of ourselves and as a result, as a collective we will be great.  It's the individual that makes the collective, not the collective that makes the individual.  Zod and Krypton had reversed the roles of what makes a culture great. 

I also loved that on Krypton their children were not their own, that they were society's children.  Melissa Harris Perry and Hillary Clinton could learn a thing or two about parental responsibilities from Krypton.  When you remove a parent's responsibilities and pretend that it takes a village to raise a child or that your children are not your responsibility to raise, but society's, the society becomes built on a house of cards and cannot stand. 

And again, this is me projecting onto the movie.  I'm sure everyone can project their own spin.  I'm sure environmentalists will get a 'see, we shouldn't overuse our resources' message instead of a 'we shouldn't stifle creativity and imagination' vibe from the fall of Krypton, but that's what makes it a great movie.

Edit** (06-15-13) - Case and point.  Here, in Superman's home state of Kansas, immigration activists marched on the home of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  So, first off, they invaded private property without invitation.  Then they left the shoes of 'fathers' he's deported.  So second, they defaced private property.  Third, they littered.  Fourth, they a protesting a guy for upholding both state and federal law.  Not just a guy, but the Secretary of State for Kansas.  Their protest broke 3 laws and they were protesting a government official who was following and upholding the law to break a state and federal law.

If that weren't enough, their message was, "everyone should have human rights, including food, shelter, medical care, education, and a job”; that “the common good is more important than privilege for a few".  That sounds great as a sound bite, but any person with an ounce of common sense could think those through and find they don't work.  Ayn Rand once said the easiest way to determine whether something is right or wrong was to ask one simple question.  'At cost to whom?'

So, let's dissect this with an eye to Krypton.  'Everyone should have human rights'.  Ok, but what are human rights?  Who decides what constitutes human rights? Is this a moving mark or is it a static?  Because the Founders set a static line that many progressive are now saying is a moving mark; or a 'living constitution'.  And, if you're religious, there is nothing 'living' or 'transient' about 'Though shalt not covet'.  And, if you're superman, you should be insulted because you're not human so none of these arbitrary rights would apply to you.

'... including food, shelter, medical care, education and a job.'  At cost to whom?  I mean, the purpose of a job is to supply food, shelter, medical care and an education.  So, if you have those things, what is the point of working?  What is the incentive to work?  Native Americans had no money and worked all day to find, hunt or grow their food; build and repair their shelter; there was almost no medical care and education was based on observation.

Who raises, grows, makes, packages, ships the food?  Who decides what kind of food?  Who decides what kind of shelter?  Who pays for the shelter?  Who builds it?  Who pays the teachers?  Who props up the education system?  Who pays for doctors; who were losing in droves now thanks to Obamacare?  Who decides what kind of job you're guaranteed?  What if you don't like the job they guaranteed you?

The problem with guaranteeing a job is apparent when you observe the Soviet Union and Krypton.  Everyone was guaranteed a job, but any desire to reach for more didn't exist.  You just did what you were told for the greater good, because the collective was more important than the individual.  That is not freedom.

And sure enough... '... the common good is more important than the privileged few.'  No, it's not.  The needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few.  It's a good sound bite, but another name for that is tyranny.  If your life belows to everyone and not yourself, then you are a slave.  When people aren't allowed to dream, society ceases to grow and develop.  On Krypton, they predetermined who would have what guaranteed job.  Their society collapsed.  The Soviet Union eliminated free will and freedom of thought and their society stagnated and collapsed.  Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea... and on and on.

China is the one exception because of Hong Kong.  The Chinese have learned that freedom of thought, the opportunity to aspire to more is a gift; not a curse, and they are giving their citizens incrementally more freedom and the results are amazing.  They still have labor camps.  They still kill their citizens on live TV.  The still hide information from their people.  But, it's only a matter of time before the people figure it out.

So, the answer to who the cost is burdened on when it comes to guaranteeing jobs, is you.  It's at cost to you.  A guaranteed job means no chance excel; no chance to climb the ladder; no chance to change jobs... no freedom.  A guaranteed job is another way of saying slave labor.  'But slaves didn't get paid'.  Are you? 

Slaves had their basics like housing food taken care of.  Roman slaves even got a small amount of money because Roman slave owners found that when they did this, it allowed the slaves to by themselves distractions and keep up the illusion of happiness.  What you get now is the illusion of payment. 

I say illusion because, while you earn a pay check, most of it is taken from you.  Between the first 3 months to the first 6 months of every hour you work; depending on what tax bracket you're in, goes to the federal government.  They leave you just enough to let you buy things to distract yourself and make you think you're happy.  They've even let you think you're buying a house, but do you actually own the property if you still have to pay taxes on it?  The easiest way to find out is to stop paying those taxes.  Whether you think you own that land or not, they can repossess it.  If you owned the property, how is that possible?

It's a shell game, designed to be too complicated to understand for the average person, and to keep them too busy from giving it the proper thought it deserves.  If these protesters got their way, it would open the door to mandatory work to pay for your 'benefits'.  Human rights would be equivalent to no rights other than to work.  Nothing to look forward to but to work for your fellow man and never yourself, because the person in the most need would be the most entitled under a system that promotes 'from each according to their needs from each according to their abilities.'  Because your life would not belong to you because '...the common good is more important...'

These ideas sound good when they have no logic or thought applied to them, but just remember Krypton.  Remember the Soviet Union. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Time To Kick Cable to the Curb

If you haven't ditched cable yet, now is the time.  It's overpriced and filled with crap that you don't watch.  And what is that, a Che Gueverra reference?  Why do you support that?  You don't?  Well, you're paying them to keep it on.  It's like that couch you picked up in college from the swap meet downtown.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but once in the house, you didn't feel entirely safe sitting on it because... well... what the hell was that smell?

You may watch a few games and have a couple TV shows you like, but is it really worth dealing with cable?  Is it worth all the commercials?  And think about this; all those channels you don't like, your money pays for them.  In addition to the commercials.  Cable started as a way to escape commercials, which is why you paid for it.  Over time, they have become just as bad.  So, if you're not paying to escape commercials, what the hell ARE you paying for?  Choices?  Well, if you can choose between seing your favorite show for $100 a month or $10, is the show any better or worse?

The cable company takes your money every month and splits it up among a shit ton (scientific calculation) of awful channels.  Al Jazerra News, Russia Today, MSNBC, Current TV... even if you only watch the History Channel or the Sci Fi channel, you are paying to keep that other garbage on.  That's why your bill is so high.  They are forcing you to pay for things you may not agree with; at minimum don't watch, instead of getting the channels or shows you want.  In other words, your money... your time spent working to earn that money... the hours of your life that you will never get back... are being used to prop up garbage you don't support. 

For example, let's say someone in the house watches baseball, football, hockey, Walking Dead, Heroes and Game of Thrones.  Let's say someone else watches Grey's Anatomy, One Tree Hill, Dexter, all the CSI's and Law & Order.  How much is that every month?  $100?  $200?  $300?  Depending on your package.  A MONTH.  That's $1200 - $3600 a year.  Before adding internet on top of that.

Why?  Most of the shows you watch are available in digital format for so much less.  Netflix is $7 to $10 a month, Hulu is $9 to $10 a month (free on the computer), Blockbuster is about $10 a month.  Between those 3, you should be able to get all of your shows plus movies.  That's $30 a month in comparison.  But, in reality, you probably only need 1 of those, not all 3.  That's $120 - $360 a year.  That's a 90% savings. 

For sports, why mess around with the middle man?  Just go straight to the source.  The MLB, NHL and others all have channels.  MLB TV and NHL Gamecenter are awesome and run something like $100 - $130 (depending on if you want pre/post season games) a season for access to ALL the games.  That breaks down to $8-$10 a month each.  So, let's say you get both and Netflix, Hulu and Blockbuster.  That's $50 a month.  That's still half of the cheaper cable packages, and you only get what you want to see.   

To be fair, the frustrations of the local blackouts on home team games that plagues cable will still apply to the internet unless you know where to go.  But for the purpose of simplicity, the people who don't get to see home games with cable will still experience the same frustration with IPTV.  It's the fault of the teams and leagues not issuing rights to try and increase ticket sales.  The same sources that carry local games are still accessible with or without cable.  For example, here in St. Louis, with or without cable, you would watch the local games on local channels.  That wouldn't change.  You will still pick up the same standard local HD channels without cable.  But, with NHL or MLB, you can get all of the away games for you favorite team... unless you are a St. Louis fan that lives in Oakland... then you can just watch all the games. 

The major catch is that the NFL has major contracts with cable providers right now and it's very difficult to get football without a cable package of some kid right now.  They are only doing that though because you haven't jumped ship.  Until people jump ship and tell the NFL to expand their NFL Ticket and NFL Redzone to an app or internet based resource, there's very limited options there. 

Cable isn't stupid.  They are going to maintain a strangle hold on the NFL for as long as possible, but it's inevitable.  Personalized radio stations like iHeartRadio, Pandora, LastFm, and YouTube have given customers a taste of personalized channel options... it's only a matter of time until people bring this A La Carte mentality to cable.  It's all about the viewer; you, with this new mentality... not the cable companies.  When that happens, cable giants are going to either shrink and adapt, or come crashing down. 

AND, with all of the above (excpet obviously NFL based stuff), you get the same shows, movies and games on all of your devices from TV to XBOX to your Tablet to your phone.  I personally use my XBOX, and the stuff is amazing.  I don't have cable but I don't miss out on any shows I want to watch.  I'm a Doctor Who guy, but I don't have Hulu or Netflix or Blockbuster.  I went a different route, I just go to the XBOX marketplace and pay the $2 for the new episode when it comes out.  I get to watch it, without commercials, in HD for a whopping $8 a month... except I own them forever.

My XBOX subscription is $60 a year, that's $5 a month.  So, for me, I pay around $200 a year for XBOX live, Doctor Who, Walking Dead, & ESPN 3 (which is free on XBOX and carries Rugby, Kayaking, Archery, Lacrosse, Soccer and Eating Competitions that I like to watch).  I also watch Angry Video Game Nerd, Epic Rap Battles of History, and some other YouTube channels... which is also free. 

I also have a Vudu account, which is free, and I just found out that I can go to WalMart and make 'back-ups' on Vudu in the form of digital copies for $2 a disc.  Then, all my physcial movies and tv shows are available on my Vudu XBOX app, my Vudu Android app and the movies and TV shows are upgradeable to HD from standard definition DVDs if I want to do that as well.  But, I'm in control of it, there's no monthly contract and I'm paying 1/6th to 1/18th of what cable subscribers pay... for better service.

Some providers are wising up and allowing viewers to personalize their 'package' to be only the channels or shows that they watch.  It's being pushed by this sort of A La Carte movement where people want cable to create packages that set up privatized packages like pizza toppings.  If you want Disney, HBO, Animal Planet, Cartoon Network and CNN... that package would be $35 or $30 a month and it's all you get.  I've heard of two companies that do this, but they aren't available here in the midwest yet.  The future of entertainment is all about you, so why are you allowing cable to continue to pretend it's all about them? 

Kick that shit to the curb. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scratch Beginnings

So, in college, I had this Marxist professor (I know, surprise, right?) and he made us use that book that advocated Popular Democracy (Europe's model for government) over what we are currently supposed to have, a Democratic Republic.  I say 'supposed' because we haven't been that for a long time, but no one is admitting it. 

In simplified terms, a Popular Democracy is a government that, when a party wins, they just vote everything in with no real debate because massive changes only require slightly more than half of the people to tell the other half how they're gonna live, and a country experiences massive changes in a hurry, and usually it all ends badly.  Massive debt, broken medical systems, shady business practices, etc...

The US is there now too, but it took us a long time to reach that because we're a Democratic Republic.  A Democratic Republic requires massive conversations for everyting because there is no such thing as a simple majority rule.  Big changes require super majorities to pass anything.  On the bad side for most modern thinkers, there is no such thing as 'immediate government' help because the parties will not agree or compromise.  I often hear people get upset that they just won't compromise.  Compromise for what though? 

Set aside that they are not there to compromise.  They get sent there to represent their voters views.  People have different views.  It should not be surprising that people from Illinois will see the world differently and want their representative to act differently than people from Idaho.  If the representatives 'compromise' they are representing none of their voters wishes in the name of doing 'what's best for everyone'.  But they aren't there for everyone.  They are there for their voters.  So compromising is a betrayal of their constituents. 

Every time they DO compromise, it leaves us in a worse place.  You want to speed up that process?  Think about it.  One group doesn't want to change anything, another group wants to change everything.  So they compromise.  They change a little.  Now expand that over 100 years.  Little by little, each compromise scored by the people who want to move away from the Constitution is a victory.  The people who wanted to keep the Constitution in place didn't get anything out of that compromise, they just lost a little bit more of their freedom every time. 

That's all that compromise has gotten us.  No more compromise.  Instead of looking for people who want to compromise, we should be looking for people who will fight tooth and nail for what we believe.  No compromise. 

In the book, they talk about how no one in the lower classes can get out now; that everyone was doomed to die in the class structure they were born into.  Which is also a lie.  And ignores that by proposing a Popular Democracy is a form of class segregation by supporting a class of people who get to dictate to others.  That was a problem in Feudal times when Robber Barrens owned all the land and all the fields, but in our society, we jump up and down quickly through 'classes'... I even hate the division implied by classes... the fact that we move up and down that ladder so fast totally makes the idea of 'class structure' irrelevant.  Why would I be supportive of implementing a class structure where one group gets to make all the rules and give themselves benefits and live at my expense?  It's just self-imposed segregation by a bunch of people who want you to believe that they are against segregation. 

Our ability to own property changed everything.  It made us answerable to NO ONE.  Our ability to own a gun made us dependent on NO ONE.  But, through compromise we are losing our rights to be self-reliant to groups of parasites that want to live off the hard work and labor of those of us trying to do things the right way.

It also talked about a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called 'Nickel and Dimed'.  The book (I read it) was essentially a 'whoa is me' tale by a journalist who made the accusation that no one can ever escape poverty because we don't have enough government programs.  That's right, the thousands of government programs costing us TRILLIONS of dollars a year aren't enough to fix poverty.

First, duh.  The reason poor people are poor is largely because they spend more money than they make.  Whereas rich people tend to make more money than they spend.  Sure, some are there by chance, everyone has a story, but most cases result in people who simply are bad at budgeting their finances vs people who offer something people are willing to pay for.  It's not fucking rocket science. 

When I was in basic training and technical training in the military, we all got paid the same.  But some of us, over time, magically had more money than others.  Strangely, those of us with more money didn't spend as much as those who were perpetually broke.  By modern reasoning, even though we all got paid the same, I would have to give up my savings to those who spent more than me to 'even the playing field'.  How in the hell is that fair to me?

The reality that people to like to acknowledge is that some people are like funnels.  You can poor money in them and it might last a little while, but they are always draining.  Some drain faster than you can poor money on them if given the chance.  It won't matter how much money you give them until they've been taught to plug the drain and manage their budget.  People think throwing money at them will fix the problem, but if there is going to be safety nets, there should be strings attached.  One of those strings should be a person or a computer program that monitors their spending and suggests or requires them to make changes.  Hell, Mint does that for free online right now.  Just require them to get a damn Mint account and adopt the suggested changes in spending.

Second, if the trillions we spend isn't enough, than what the fuck is?  Her point is that we need to do more, but last time I checked we're fucking broke.  There's nothing else to give.  The welfare state has broken us AS IT CURRENTLY IS, so where in the fuck does she propose we get more money to be 'enough'?  Sometimes, you can't fix broken people.  It's a shitty reality, but people, at SOME point, have to be responsible for themselves.  At some point, people have to take an interest in their own life and take the steps necessary to fix their own problems.  And even more depressing, there are some people who cannot be fixed and will always be broken.  I'm not suggesting we abandon them, but giving them a free ride is not encouraging them to fix whatever is wrong in their life.

Suffice to say, I disagreed heavily with her pronouncment.  If you read it, you got the impression she assumed she would fail; or even intended to fail.  She had a narrative she wanted to write about and she made it happen.  But, using that same logic, thankfully, I came acrossed a guy who felt the same way I did.  He didn't just disagree, he proved she was wrong.  He went out with his name, $25, the clothes on his back and didn't use any of his previous life like his education and previous work experience, and lived as a homeless person and worked his way out in 1 year. 

Adam Shepard, 'Scratch Beginnings'.  It's awesome.  Definitely a must read for anyone who's ever been afraid of losing everything. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Stevie Wonder + Guns = Awesome

So, celebrities are coming out to tell us how to live our lives again and what is best for us.  Stevie Wonder is just one of them, but this is so great that I had to post the video.

It's more safer to set aside the very bad grammer.  Set aside that he claims to have seen... anything... unless he's admitting to not actually being blind.  While I giggled at those, what I laughed hardest at was his big 'plan' to show how ridiculous American gun laws are.  Apparently there is a mass epidemic of blind folks shooting people that I was unaware of.  Equally funny, his solution to a problem that doesn't exist is to just not allow the blind to buy guns.  So, in case anyone that's blind wants to buy a gun, just premptively treat them like sub-citizens and suppress their rights... just in case.  It's for their own good after all, and who knows what's good for others like a celebrity who's been living with private security in the lap of luxury the majority of their adult life.  Those are opinions you can depend on. 

This, right after saying Obama defends the rights of people... except the rights like the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of RIGHTS apparently.  He's suggesting making a law that prevents law abiding citizens... LAW ABIDING CITIZENS... from practicing their rights.  We don't ban blind people from crossing the street because they can't see oncoming cars.  Why?  Because they're law abiding citizens.  I know he thinks he's being clever, but what he's talking about is the suppression of individual rights for people who've broken no laws... ie - criminalizing the innocent.  And wouldn't the ADA sue anyone who tried to treat the blind differently or limit their rights without just cause? 

Now, I realize he thinks his nifty idea is going to prove a point about the 'lax' gun sales laws in our country, but it's clear he hasn't thought about the other implications.  He's suggesting that we should just start thinking up any really unlikely set of circumstances and ban them without any reason... but last time I checked, the blind aren't making runs on guns.  So, hypothetically, if mute people want to buy a cellphone, we should just ban that preemptively.  They don't need that shit.  Get out of my phone store you damned mute.  Or, if people work at the post office want to buy a gun, we should just not-allow it because that one time, at band camp, a postal worker 'went postal'.  Or, if a def person wants to buy headphones, that crap just cannot stand.  When Dre made Beats headphones, they weren't for you def-bo.  Ban those pieces of crap right away.  Or I kill a whole town.

I could make arguments about the Army who trains to shoot in the dark and that there are actually blind people who own guns and have trained through processes I don't understand for gun defense in their homes, but I'm not because I imagine those people will make their voices heard if he actually makes his comedy film about buying a gun.  Course, now that I'm thinking about it... blind folks might be pretty damn sharp shooters in the dark during a break in.  Burglars would be dependent on sight, and the blind clearly aren't... hmmm... It's mostly a non-issue though, because you're suppose to announce you have a gun.  Pumping a shotgun sounds the same whether a blind person or not.

I also love how he believes 'there's a solution to every problem.'  The implication being that guns are a problem.  Not that murder is the problem and that there is already a law on the books in regards to murder, but guns are.  Not that murderers are the problem, but guns.  I mean, after all, the same people trying to ban guns to prevent murder are trying to give the right to vote back to murderers in prison.  So hilariously awesome.