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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Powerlessness can work!

So I recently started replaying Half-Life 2 and as I was progressing through the beginnings of the game, I made quite a realization.  That being, I enjoyed the introduction of that game just as much if not more than the entire trilogy.   Why might this be?  The powerlessness you feel throughout this section of the game. 

Half-Life is an unquestioned masterpiece.  Why this adventure shines has to do greatly with parts like the beginning.  The story development is masterfully well at interweaving it as you progress.  If you have to stop, it is because a character needs to do something in real-time.  You simply aren’t frozen in time.  You’re waiting around because Gordon would have to wait around in that situation.  (looking at a schematic, getting an explanation, meeting a new contact)  Now I spoke of powerlessness.   You wake up, immediately connected to the G-man through his telepathic message, on a train in a strange place.  You are with other people who also are stunned, broken and alone.   You step off the train and the vastness and coldness of the station is immensely prevalent.  You take in the multitude and hostility of the combine troopers, the loudness and echo of Breen’s voice, the hopeless postures of the citizens, the trash strewn about.  All of these factors set a masterful mood. 
One thing you notice is that you have literally nothing.  No crowbar.  No pistol.  No nothing.   This is a great difference between where you left off in the previous game, being practically a one man army.  The game puts you on a linear path but you don’t feel like the game is forcing you.  Instead there is an already imposing presence forcing you; the combine soldiers.   You damn well better stay on the path or you will face a bash.   You feel the fear of the other internees and it quickly transfers to your persona.  You hear of missing family members, utter confusion, fears of drugged water that “makes you forget.”  The game wonderfully stages scripted dialogue and moments that don’t feel that way at all.  Everything you see and hear feels like it was already happening in this world before you got there.  What is this place you stepped into?   Is this Earth?  If so, what had happened here?
After being herded like an animal among your other fellow internees through the registration check points, you ultimately find your way outside to come across a robot immediately photographing you and see a bleak scene resembling the look of something reminiscent of East Berlin.  Military checkpoints, a lifeless and sterile town square, people milling about in their monochrome prison-like uniforms all as a giant, imposing tower looms in the distance.   As you travel, you see the scenes of people being beaten, rounded up, and taken into custody.  You wonder, “If you are already in some type of custody, where are these people being taken? What could such a broken people have done?  Who are these oppressors?  Are they human?”

You take in the utter presence of the vehicles, get glimpses of the long legged military creatures lumbering about which look straight from the mind of H. G. Wells and soldiers inside some buildings questioning and harassing residents, you included.  After a few moments you stumble into one of the nondescript tenements and make your way upstairs.  You see troopers bashing on doors and muffled yells and cries for help inside rooms out of your view.  More broken residents are inside the rooms you traverse.  You find a crying woman, people peering from the windows at police vehicles outside, as sirens and helicopters buzz in the distance. 
Suddenly, the raids you have been seeing are directed at the rooms you are in.  They are coming.  For whom?  For what?  You are raced from room to room from this impeding force.  They are here and they are everywhere.   You don’t even get a chance to take in what is happening to the people behind you that are desperately aiding you while fleeing.  You make your way scrambling from room to room, climbing stairs, jumping rooftops.  You glance to the street below to see more vehicles coming, soldiers firing up at you.  This all culminates in a maniacal awareness of them closing in.  You are done.  They have you.  Or do they?
These moments are probably some of the best demonstrations of narrative in a game.  You really feel a sensation of panic.  I have played this game countless times and I still get a rush every time.  The folks at Valve replicate this feeling through this whole franchise but I feel they do it best right here.  A great deal is due to your lack of any resources including the sense of knowing what is going on.   You are simply running for your life.  I think a game game like is truly a hallmark of masterful presentation that isn’t done nearly enough in other games in this genre.  We are so used to being unnatural models of machismo fantasy; being able to smash, kill and eviscerate anything that gets in our path with a few well places grenade rounds or laser blasts.  This is certainly not the case at this point in the game.  Granted, you get to do these things later in Half-Life 2 but here, no such luck.   Your own adrenaline and terror is all you have to fuel you.  Nothing is safe, No place is safe, and you are rapidly running out of even unsafe places to escape to.  A game such as Limbo does this.  Call of Cthulhu’s motel scene does this.  (Even the beginning of Resident Evil 4 or Left 4 Dead on increased difficulty can do this too. Although you are armed in those titles, you are so hopelessly outnumbered even your weapons can seem powerless)  We are so used to the very opposite of this.  In so many forms of media such as films, the threat of the protagonist’s death seems so far from happening, the dramatic effects of endangering the hero fall short because we never really think this practically invincible character will ever succumb to harm. 
Think of the movie “Children of Men” where the hero is put in so many dangerous situations and never gets his hands on a weapon.  This movie is possibly the best film version of something depicting the Half-Life state of storytelling.  There are weapons all over the place in the end but he never picks them up.  Why?  Is he stupid or is his personal characteristic just so that it doesn’t even register for him to arm himself.   He could pick up a gun but what difference would it make?  After all, the rebels have them and they are getting massacred by the soldiers.  Also, would it be as effective as a film if he got into a gun battle?   We are glued to those crawling steadie-cam scenes because we are literally taking his perspective dodging bullets and seeing the carnage unfold while staying alive seems nearly impossible.

So, as fun as the one-man wrecking crew concept can be, I think we can truly feel empowered by having nothing to count on but our ability to run like hell.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Collateral Damage to Children's Psyche

So anyway, if have ever heard of her. The singer and Sri Lankan born, M.I.A. (Paper Planes) recently spoke to Connect Magazine regarding the effect of violence in gaming toward younger players and questioned its merits and the long term consequences.

Here's the LINK to the interview summary.

Based on some of the responses, I'm seeing some big time ignorance and close-minded jack-assery coming from, yet again, the defenders of my beloved hobby whom (in many cases) don't appear to even have read beyond the articles title and just let their "raised with x-box live etiquette" flood of insult, misogynism and epithet spew forth. Think Family Guy: "Kevin Bacon was NOT in Footloose! hawwwwww heeeeee hawwwwww." This is very similar to the deluge of shit-talking poor Roger Ebert faced when he went so far as to express his artistic opinion that most games were not art (which to his defense, a lot of them absolutely are not)

Now, I'm not really a fan of MIA but she does make a decent point. There's a documentary called "the soundtrack of war" where soldiers interviewed literally say a lot of them were expecting the war to be like a video game. "I was expecting to just aim down the sight and shoot...It's a lot more gruesome than you think"

I mean look at the Desert Storm coverage of "Smart Weapons." We have better resolution versions of that today in games (The Specter Gunship levels in Modern Warfare) When I showed movies about the War on Terror to students of mine, they immediately were saying "wow, this is just like call of duty!" Don't get me wrong, I love war games of all types but you don't need to be a student of propaganda to see a form of desensitizing taking place, a fun and satisfying form of it nevertheless. (A hallmark of really good propaganda)

Also, the older generation of gamers needs to realize, games developed as they matured personally. We grew up on 8 and 16 bit sprites that clearly were not any accurate depiction of what murder and mayhem looks like (Duke Nukem, Doom, and Commander Keen). Now the "old ultra-violence" (to quote Alex DeLarge) is taking a much more advanced look and feel for a much younger audience. Of course we know it didn't effect us, (more suicides and real-world violence is related to games seeded in the MMORP and RPG genres) the only question is, how will this affect younger players as they age? Its like testing meds on the market, we won't know the side effects until after it is too late. There is no trial period; we are looking right at it in younger players. If the effects are visible any time you play a session of x-live and listen to some of the stuff coming out of these kids mouths. If this is a testimony to the fabric of America you would think Women's Rights, Civil Rights, Americans with Disabilities Act and the LGBT Rights movements never happened and our society simply digressed to white-supremacist neanderthals grunting expletives at each other.  Sufficed to say, there is some horrible stuff being said on these headsets that would probably make even the drafters of the first amendment question its merit.

As for violence, why are video games truly at the center of this storm? I don't see people going after the Full Metal Jackets of the world and critics and viewers alike had a splooge-fest over the Hurt Locker. (It seems all you need to do to show war and get away with it is to mask it behind "war is hell" "war is futile" "this is really anti-war but we still are gonna show how bad-ass it is" messages) However, would there have been more of an outcry if kids were taking on the persona of Private Joker and putting a round through a female sniper's dying head? Interactivity, no matter how you choose to argue it, takes precedence over viewing, listening or reading because here, you get to do all three and control how you do it and how much you do it. Part of the reason Ebert said it cannot be art because the interactivity makes it disposable. (I guess he never saw a "choose your own adventure" book)

Remember people raving over Microsoft Flight Simulator back in 95 because you felt like you were there? That is what modern hyper-real games attempt to do. Its not about fantasy conflict (ergo Mass Effect or Fallout, even Command and Conquer) but representing actual real death and destruction in army sims where you are the Spec Ops guy. GRAW, Tom Clancy, America's Army, Full Spectrum Warrior really take the "fuck yeah" approach. Do you think kids would know about the Javelin, MP-44s, SAW gunners, Blackhawks without the Sam Fishers of the world? Some parent's couldn't stand when the current president (although there was no outcry against Reagan or H.W. Bush who did the exact same thing) wanted to talk to the nation's students about the merits of staying in school and working hard but yet no distinctions are drawn between obvious super-patriot indoctrination that comes from modern FPS games. We are talking "Triumph of the Will" to some degree, maybe not that far. It's strange, it seems these games want to foster a love of all things military but the lines seem to be blurred when it comes to it being an American Military. When I play these games I never really see myself as an American killing non-Americans but more an army guy shooting other army guys.

On Destructoid, Jim Sterling, (beyond completely misrepresenting MIA) goes further to reiterate the age-old bullshit American argument that "eh, like there wasn't violence before games, movies, etc....what about violence in the Middle East, they are violent and don't play video games" As if this is a good thing. Maybe SOME people over there are violent because they come from a completely different background, being fostered on age-old tribal and religious conflict and wracked with internal and international war up to this day. Americans are really in no position to make any comparison. In any modern sense we haven't been invaded (so don't say war of 1812), we haven't seen combat in our backyards (so don't say Civil War), we haven't seen actual threats of annihilation or faced genocide. (Unless you’re talking about the Native Indian genocide) So what is the idea here, we haven't seen these actual acts of violence to perpetuate a violent society so we manufacture virtual violence to jade our youth to the actual consequence of real violence? I dunno, slippery slope.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Truth and Consequences: Not just a town in New Mexico

We, as a people are embedded in false sense of choice. There is the illusion of possibility. But, even taking a basic observation will show a general uniformity to the options we are presented. There is a right to voice dissent or access to “alternative” information however access and empowerment are very different. The ability to speak one’s mind is allowed to a degree but there are absolute consequences that will follow. Various acts of legislation have been implemented to keep strict constraints on the ability to speak, print and assemble as well as to limit basic seemingly guaranteed fundamental and constitutional rights. These included the Smith Act, the Alien and Sedition Act, the USA Patriot Act, the USTIPS ACT, the Internal Security Act, the Subversive Activities Control Board, COINTELPRO as well as the House Un-American Activities Commission and the FISA domestic surveillance bill. Should you subvert from increasingly narrowing standards for acceptable conduct in the United States, these programs exist to make sure you are discovered, dealt with and punished accordingly.
We are run by an inescapable set of truth and consequence. The closer to uncovering the truth one is, the more one is inspired to act but there lies the path to consequence. Every choice is bathed in consequence but the American way is steeped in disregard of any consequence or recollection of previous ones. What causes this “American amnesia?” Where are these “freedoms” we are told exist? What Americans are free to do is unwittingly nod their head in approval of the actions of their government’s choices which was inevitable from the start. This is to do the bidding of their masters in the elite enclaves of our society. These elites have bought, stolen and killed their way into positions of utmost power. This false choice exists in the legislators we elect, the laws we approve, the restrictions we unwittingly impose upon our selves which is the will of the authoritarian state tightening its’ grip.
America is flooded with a false sense of patriotism and freedom unified by blurry, untrue links. Randolph Bourne called this “The Health of the State.” This meant the desire of nation-states to create a newfound, unnatural patriotism. This goes against, natural love of home or origin. It wasn’t about the love of your country but, instead, the anti-love of foreign states. These links range mainly in a structured system of mis-education that is dictated to our youth at its most impressionable age and continues into adulthood. If you follow “ABC” you will get “XYZ.” Do not divert or things will go wrong and you will be to blame. This has traditionally been the accepted mantra, even though more and more people who followed the straight and narrow are finding the “American Dream” is not coming true and their just dues are not being paid even in partial. More and more people are finding its not just hippies, addicts and people who choose to live below the standards who aren’t getting the slice of the American dream but now the working-class “everyman.” Because of this, they are confused, angry and increasingly desperate. This creates a perfect mix of emotions to, yet again, have a frantic population to manipulate as the leaders see fit. What is there that can be gained from this? A massive amount of seemingly limitless wealth coinciding with uncontrollable greed to possess it while the rest of us scramble for the leftover scraps.
Multinational corporations have been an American institution since the first notion existed of creating monopolies and trusts. Your classic fiscal libertarian will vehemently defend these concepts saying the ability to do business as one sees fit is just as American as the ability to vote, earn a living, or join the army. However, a glaring contradiction is evident when one specific thing such as a corporation’s ability to exist and thus possess limitless power, wealth and influence setting it as a power outside our elected democratic republic’s said principles which can potentially destroy millions of citizens abilities to live. Through a painstakingly controlled set of laws, jargon and technicality, they have hijacked every major part of the citizenry making it virtually impossible to live by the rules of American standard and be comfortable.
In history classes, students often hear of the fourteenth amendment as a revolutionary victory in civil rights. Being the middle of the three “slave” amendments, its main purpose (of so it is said) was to allow black people officially into American society and the legal system. However, one lesser emphasized facet is that it also gave legal autonomy and representation of corporate entities even dating back to 1868. While merely a dozen or so cases were taken to the Supreme Court in regard to guaranteeing African Americans the right to vote, get jobs, represent themselves in court or initiate civil law suits; hundreds of corporate issues were taken to the highest court in the land to set up and protect a concrete precedent in the foundation of our evolving legal and legislative systems ensuring legal protection and identity of the incorporated business sector.
Repeatedly, our nation took on paternal, neoliberal doctrines of spreading a patented and exclusive format of democracy to nations too weak or inept to enact them independently. However this obviously had ulterior motives of disassembling any specter or self-rule these “basket cases” or “banana republics” previously had while replacing them with dictatorships in the State Departments pocket through covert or overt funding. Once the modern day caudillos were in place, they were indebted and vigorously compensated American industrial and agricultural interests by opening up whole nations wide arrays of indigenous resources. The third world was thus, ripe for the plucking. Simultaneously, as the GNP’s of these nations skyrocketed (an illusion of the sacred right-leaning “invisible hand” doing what it does best because American GNP means profit so it apparently must be the same everywhere else) their quality of health dropped to horrific levels with death rates paralleling the medieval era. Since these people are (economically or forcefully, as a result of the American sponsored regime change), terrorized, in desperation, they flee to America. Ironically, many underemployed neighbors in the western hemisphere are forced to leave because American companies set up Maquiladoras (cheap extra-national factories which are set up to explicitly dodge American safety, health and environmental regulations) which employ very little domestic workers (since they tend to import guest workers) and pay them even less. They then come to America to work for these same companies within the continental U.S., usually working under the table, still below the American federally mandated standard for pay. This human economic backwater, with major aid of “conservative” and “liberal” media, thus is then targeted by the working class here as the major enemy and cause for their shrinking wages and evaporating jobs. Not only do the companies responsible get away scot-free but they receive tax cuts for employing the legal portion of these depressed immigrants. This is not happening in the third world, this is not happening in some God-less communist nation, this is happening here.
So what is our solution? Of course, the obvious one. Send troops to the U.S./Mexico border as Obama is doing (at the insistence of republican and democratic political leaders alike) to “fight” the immigration problem! Just like sending DEA agents and police to “fight” the drug problem. Just like we raped and pillaged the airline industry to “fight” the homeland security problem! And look at all the progress! Wait…drugs are still everywhere, bomb scares haven’t decreased and, seemingly, no matter how many border guards you station, the immigration problem is not going away. This is all part, again, of a systematic brainwash of the American psyche by programming us; a soldier with a gun can fix just about anything. Even though the last time that was true most of our parents weren’t even alive. The structure and dependence on the police state is another one of the long cons both sides of our government have been shoving down our throats, even though a chart I saw yesterday showed alarming statistics of over 300 botched paramilitary (SWAT) police raids over the last 20 years across America on the homes of innocent people due to false tips and bad or lazy intelligence. Even though the facts are plain as day and prove you could live on the straight and narrow all your life but still, some day, may have your door blown off and a MP-5 jammed in your face for no reason; people still are fervently in favor of supporting strong-armed divisions of our police. Remember how the Philadelphia Police handled the MOVE siege in ’85? That’s right, they burned down 65 homes in West Philly when they dropped a bomb from a helicopter on the home with no warning while the fire department watched the flames burn down building after building.
Apathy was a major goal of the elites in control of media exposure. They flood the public with horrible extraneous news to raise the appearance of danger and war to whet the masses collective appetites for bloody action while they are inundated with an uncontrollable sense of hysteria and hopelessness. In a state of hysteria, man is capable of anything sans the ability to use rationality. Buying and Destroying are very similar for in order to buy, not only does it come at the cost of destroying something for the product to come we also destroy a part of our individual self. Kinda “new agey” but I don’t care. Check out this video if you have time about how much our business masters depend on Americans thinking disposability is just as normal as innovation, creativity and fireworks on the fourth of July. From the point we recognize words, we are trained to follow orders, attend a very narrow format of education, work away our lives at menial jobs in order to make money to buy an unending list shit we don’t need. All the while, we are disregarding our families, faiths, self-worth and surroundings. Not only that, but we are conditioned to react to those who do not follow this model with at the least ridicule and at most violent hostility. This is all done because through this, we are told, we can create an image for our self. The only way this can be done is through collecting apparel in a method of buying all that we can which can exclaim our identity with certainty. Candidates in politics are exactly the same.
Those with the interest to become a person of influence or, better yet, control of person of influence needs little more than the funds necessary to achieve it. The hand of the market stops nowhere and this ranges from the top to the bottom and controls each level in that order. It was no coincidence that George Washington and his contemporaries were the absolute elite of the colonies. Washington was possibly the richest man in America. A phrase to be looked at is, “We the people,” for it is little more than rhetoric of universality to rope in everyone who was below the fathers of the nation which was almost everyone outside the doors of the Philadelphia Hall where the document which contained it was written.
The constitution did little more than set up exclusionary sets of rules to pretty much ensure that only connected, educated and rich men would be able to hold “office,” the uniquely American term for bourgeoisie or gentry class. The Bill of Rights was pretty much addendums to get the middle class behind the constitutional exclusionary principles that, under any other circumstance, they never would have supported. Anyhow, the bill of rights was being trampled on within ten years of its conception when Alexander Hamilton violated countless constitutional guidelines and tried to ferment an open rebellion secretly so he could have a reason to use the continental army against frontiersmen in western Pennsylvania as a warning of the American government’s unflinching willingness to use force under any challenge to its autonomous superiority. This case was one of the first among many which followed showing the leaders’ enthusiasm to unleash force to obtain the capital, influence, territory and obedience they desired.
The question which arises is how committed to constitutional protections are our leaders if the same judgment repeatedly gets passed down to the population that the constitution is not a war-time document? Well, we have been at war pretty much since our creation as a country so was the constitution ever valid? Especially when one considers, civil protections to our ability to own firearms, restrictions on the quartering of troops and judicial protections are all things which should come up regularly in a time of war.
There is no sector of the globe where American or American-supported influence through military force has not touched. However among the powerful who control the mainstream media and the educational systems through “standards” very little awareness is present among the citizenry. The insistence and demand for focusing on the immediate unconnected personal placement in time has grown to an insane measure. The people have no way to even know how to want anything different due to unceasing conditioning from authority figures in school, at work, in church and from Washington. You’ll live a lot more contented when you realize: There is no partisanship; it’s all the same show where the parties alternate center stage between the acts.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lost and Found: Interpretations and Insights

Based on Sunday’s closing of one of the most captivating series in television history, the Lost finale is receiving some very mixed reviews hitting every shade of the positive/negative spectrum. I personally loved it but I could understand why some were left wanting more or feeling a little shortchanged. I will attempt to offer my best explanations and interpretations.
So let’s talk about the story structure and the plot devices. It used a fully circular method of ending where it started. However I feel it worked extremely well if you looked at it in the most literal way possible. The blink of an eye. This in an ingenious device in summing up everything the show talks about. Illustrating what seemed like a timeless stretch on the island where time literally has no meaning. The full circle aspect could be seen as Jack, the one who led everyone, was the one who was led to his final place in the story by everyone. He was LOST and he FOUND everyone, including most-importantly himself. Action-Reaction, Good-Evil, “To push the button or not to push the button”, these were parallels that this series thrived on. Jack is Cain, Able, the Prodigal Sun, Moses, Abraham, Buddha, Homer and Luke Skywalker all in one or even a literal Shephard as a shepherd. The epitome of hero. The parallel “sideways” timeline was a purgatory-like state (if you want to call it that). However, who is to say when this alternate time-line began or ended? Had they been living from birth in this new time-line or did it start the second we the viewers began to observe. Many of the flash-back-forward-sideways elements put us in an omnipresent role, seeing things about specific characters even before they were conscious of what was going on around them (this alludes to character connections, foreshadowing, past-lives, etc.). Jacob may have been watching, but so were we. I feel the sideways line started as soon as we saw it and perpetuated itself to serve a purpose, just as the island did. What purpose? That is relative to the needs of each specific entity. One person’s heaven could be another’s hell based on where they were coming from. So although characters (Kate, Claire, Sawyer) may have gotten off the island and died much later in life, they all returned to the perpetual state of “island self” to return to the “most important points of their lives” as Christian stated. The “connections” and “awakenings” they find in the afterlife could simply be the illuminations of their kindred spirits, their soul mates or however one chooses to describe the term. What of the light? It could be “heaven.” It could be the light in the heart of the island. They could all be going back to relive the experience. What it truly is would be up to our own unique interpretations.
Jack was the central figure, this whole series could be a biography of his character, and the other passengers/connections he made were all secondary but filled the roles to how to facilitate Jack’s personal evolution. The island was the second most important device (or even character) in the story; it contained good, evil, punishment, redemption, dharma, nirvana, everything and nothing. Seasons 1, 2, 3 where all about them being stuck on it, season 4 was jack desperately trying to get back to it, season 5 was Locke dying and facilitating the explanation behind Jack’s change of heart, 6 was explaining as many pieces to this seemingly unending puzzle as possible, many dealing with the origin of the island.
I noticed many people have been griping about “what of the island’s origin? The magic of the witch? The healing/birthing/telekinesis/supernatural/electromagnetic/time issues?” These were all mysteries of the island. Think of how many people died, where drawn there, killed, and sacrificed because of it. They never found out as first hand witnesses. So why would we? Their interpretations were as good as any of ours be it Eloise Fisher, Charles Whitmore, Alvar Hanso, Ben Linus even, to some extent, Jacob and Nemesis. Think of “the Shining.” In that film and to some extents the book, we see that there are certain people who “shine” in certain places and we generally accept it. It never goes into the origin or the cause of shining and we don’t seem to care. It’s a power that people have and that it that. This story, taking many elements of King’s work, also seems to follow that structure. Some people got it, some people don’t.
The main idea was it was a supernatural force of good and evil which completely could manipulate the laws of the world. Some, such as Whitmore, to some extent the Others, the U.S. army (the H bomb subplot), the Dharma initiative, wanted to exploit those forces. This was something that could not be, hence Jacob pulling the strings of the Others to do his bidding in exchange for them to be able to live “off the grid.” Walt was special because he already was special and the Others, who knew of the islands power, wanted to find out if it was because of the island directly or if Walt was a story in and of himself. It was the latter, apparently, because during the Room 23 issue when Walt was being tested, the Others were scared of what he was able to do there. This is a fantasy fictional world so who’s to say if there aren’t telepathics around the world already which the flashbacks illustrate is a truth… (Remember the psychic who won’t read Claire’s palm???) Hurley’s numbers were more a device for us the viewer to make easier connections to the supernatural world, almost like highlighted portions of a book. The birthing issue had something to do with the statue which was a symbol of Taweret or Isis, both Egyptian symbols of fertility. The statue was standing in the beginning but was taken down, or broken down… I’m guessing by the MIB to prevent potential candidates from being born on the island. Hence, the statue comes down, no more babies… Until the chosen candidates arrive (Sun who would have had the baby if she stayed or Claire) Ever think why the Others had so many medical professionals in their ranks or why they were so hard-up to get Juliet in their ranks even killing Edmund Burke (hit by a bus) to get her there.
Now, regarding a little more detail to the “sideways” time line. I have read repeatedly that many viewers considered it a waste of time. Not so, in my opinion. Take it from Faraday’s time continuum. There are simultaneous time-lines going on all over the place. For Christ’s sake, the Losties going back to the 70’s would mean in real-time their childhood or infant selves would be alive at the exact same time in the rest of the world. This apparently does not alter the flow, or did it? Remember the nose-bleeds. Charlotte and Daniel were the first to really react negatively. So even though they were inherently connected to the island even from young ages, maybe their extended stays or familiarity with the island were why their bodies couldn’t handle the stress of the “time storms.” Remember, Charlotte and Miles being there during the Dharma initiative as children and Daniel being possibly conceived there and even murdered by his own mother while she was pregnant with him! (Wrap your mind around that)
Eloise and Whitmore where in the know but even their perspective was limited. Although they were thinking on higher levels of consciousness, to another degree so was Lennon and Dogen, even the most knowledgeable character was still limited in their perceptions… They were just a tab further down the road than everyone else. But I’m getting tired of theorizing and I hope some of these things seem a little clearer. The whole point of the show is mystery. I know I rambled and got hung up on some details but this is fitting for a show that tended to ramble and was completely detail-centric. If you were demanding more, I don’t know how the show could have ever done that job because for the numerous questions it posed, you would literally be watching 5 hours of answers with no more new questions, and that, frankly is not at all what Lost is about. Socrates main method of teaching illuminated the philosophy by answering a question with an endless cycle of questions. Through this method, some of the greatest philosophers created explanations to the human condition that hadn’t even been touched before. Even look at all the scientists and philosophers who get name-dropped just in characterization along, Locke, Bentham, Alpert, Faraday, Burke. Lost used a system of touching on (or diving head on) into some of the best plot, philosophical, symbolic, religious and story-telling devices we know. This may be why we love it so much. It uses things we already know and love and subconsciously touches on our own personal nostalgia. I mean do you think it was coincidental that so many things clicked, when they dropped a Star Wars reference or if you noticed the copy of Sawyer reading “Watership Down” on the beach, Aldo reading “A Brief History of Time” outside room 23, Sawyer reading “The Fountainhead” in prison, or if you noticed the Dharma Stations “Pearl” and “Looking Glass” are two stories from our adolescence? There are so many “shout-outs” to things we all love, it almost impossible based on any personal taste not to get a “nod” on at least one thing you’re into.
Point is, If you left by getting something from this series, good. If you left scratching your head, better. If you left overjoyed or enraged and dying to talk to someone about it, congratulations, you got the point.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

If you hate Mario, you are a terrorist!

The wait is finally over, not only the Lost finale airs in an hour but Mario Galaxy 2 was released today! If anyone knew me slightly as a kid, I was a Mario freak. I could draw him in 10 seconds upside down, for God’s sake. Every time a new game came out, it was my obsession. From the first time I got to try it at my cousin’s house as a six year old, I couldn’t get enough of it. However, from my high school years, I've taken quite a big break from Nintendo but that's the magic of it. You can put it down for a decade and it will always be there waiting for you.
Mario’s latest journey was released today and based on the reviews; it’s looking to be a almost definite shoe-in for game of 2010. One thing I’m seeing is although the unanimous praise, the haters are coming out of the woodwork to take the red and blue clad plumber down as many pegs as they can. It is a baffling degree of negativity and bitter bullshit that seems really unwarranted. I just don't understand how people hate on this console wars bullshit so much. “It doesn’t display the Pixel power”, “it has no story”, blah blah. These are acceptable complaints but, if you notice, these people ironically who are bashing the “no story” argument are the same who hate on art or indie games for having too much or too complex a story. And usually these complaints would be adequate if these were people who followed the Mario story and thought this story was less or sub-par compared to the long going feud between King Koopa and the Mushroom Kingdom but usually you’ll see something comparing this game to Halo, God of War or whatever Sony-Microsoft exclusive they think should be on top. This is more about some unfounded corporate mascot loyalty taking drab, brown-drenched, color free, flat storied “hardcore” or “mature” characters overtly in favor of a pure, imaginative, happy, colorful character from our childhood who stayed strong and lasted through it all. What I love about Mario and Nintendo is their upfrontness, and their willingness to stay true to the magic that got us into games in the first place. They are unafraid to call the medium what it is, a game! Not some horse shit “playable cinematic experience” which is, when you strip away the million dollar ad campaign, the over the top violence, and the high-def production, also a toy!
Less is in fact more and the best thing about Mario's story is that he can tell it without saying a single word besides a hearty Yahoo! Man goes to a new, strange environment to conquer a looming enemy force and make things right and, once order is restored, he returns to his old or familiar world a hero. You can do this again and again and have a hit. Lord of the Rings, Neverending Story, the Goonies, Star Wars, the Odyssey, etc. As a kid, wasn't there a book or movie you remember being able to read or watch again and again? Mario epitomizes this feeling while always keeping it fresh. Furthermore, the Sony and Microsoft dicks needs to deal with the fact that Mario (along with Sonic, Alex Kidd, Bonk and Pac Man) was the pioneer of bringing video games into the mainstream. Without him and his popularity, the bland, replaceable, big, armored dudes with some various weapons wouldn't even exist. Mario/ Duck Hunt was the game included with the Nintendo console so, for almost an unanimous degree, (besides Sega kids or the super rich Neo-Geo kids) it was the first game many of us played. Nintendo was putting everything it had on their block-breaking front man and they sure did deliver flawlessly and still managed to push the envelope again and again…. Anyways, the point is, if you have a can hate on Mario, your hating on a symbol of childhood for everyone who makes all of the games you play today.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Tough day to be a History Teacher....or a student

Hard times seem to have landed on the world of social studies educators. This can be especially evident in my part of the state for educators seasoned and green alike in finding or securing employment based on the hiring freeze and mass privatization in Philadelphia and the slashing of educational budgets in the Garden State or if you’re an educator in general based on the day-old Texas mandate which, in a nutshell, plans to literally rewrite American History text books or if you live in Arizona and want to learn about any history beyond American or European, you’re out of luck. Wow, what a laundry list of depressing stuff! Social Studies, which is often thought to be a backdoor or unimportant “filler” class, now has been the placed in the national spotlight on multiple issues the past few days. All of which are negative.
That said, I would like to speak about two specific stories; the first regarding the 9-5 Texas statewide school board decision to completely rewrite American History text books. Both of these strike major blows to not only social studies students on statewide and national levels but also are a disgrace to history as a profession and a practice and the second regarding a part of the notorious set of laws which had befallen Arizona regarding the elimination of the “Ethnic Studies” portion of their History curriculum.
I will begin by writing about the controversial Texas initiated curriculum change. As a history teacher, I already thought text books were slanted and biased by white-washing (in some cases literally) controversial issues through making them as irrelevant as ever or just not covering them period. I have noticed a pattern of leaving out a great deals of "question raising" topics like the progressive movement, reformers, anti-war activists, important African American, Native American, Latino and unconventional white male and female historical figures, unpopular wars, US "interventions" throughout the Western Hemisphere and the rest of the world, and often simply saying war "broke out" instead of actually laying out causes such as economic and political motivations for war and then refusing to show the actual human sacrifice and cost of it. Now, Texas is officially smashing the scales. Students will get to read an extra long segments about how great Jefferson Davis, Milton Friedman, Phyllis Schafly and Ronald Reagan were while inventing religious principles to founding fathers who rarely prayed (such as Washington) and actually condemned the organized church during the revolution calling it an institution of "oppressors" and "opponents to [our] liberty!" (Such as Adams and Jefferson) How about less Ronald Reagan and Jefferson Davis and more Eugene V. Debs, Malcolm X or Jane Addams? Since we are making up history, why don't we rewrite it where George Washington became a regent for life, Alexander Hamilton turned our country into a monarchy, slavery never happened, Vietnam adopted American democracy, Kennedy was never assassinated (because he lost to Nixon the first time like he should have)  and the Native Indians happily gave up the Americas and flew off in their shiny space ships? Sure is a pleasant fiction.
Don McLeroy, the former but acting chair of the school board who spearheaded many of these “revolutionary” changes stated that these were to instill history students with a working knowledge of our nation’s origins and to tout American exceptionalism. These in and of themselves sound like pretty admirable things to have in a social studies curriculum. However, once you take a glance even a few statements beyond what Mr. McLeroy is saying, you see that this self-proclaimed “conservative religious fundamentalist” or the rest of his board does little to remove their own personal motives, biases and agenda. This is exactly the opposite of what even first-year history students are instructed. This is to be absolutely objective and balanced in uncovering and delivering the truth. What the overall conservative, republican school board has done has taken an initiative to stress major hegemonic and xenophobic goals in stressing America’s founding as a solely “Christian Nation” under “Christian morals and principles.” You can see these “ideals” echoing the numerous right wing emails that spam mailboxes everywhere dressing up racism and hate in the rhetoric of the flag and the bible while still managing to bash Latinos, Muslims, and well, you know, anyone with dark skin or a vagina. The board is also steadfast on presenting opposing viewpoints which sound like a breath of fresh air but it seems completely devoted toward the viewpoints of conservatives, confederates, racists and opponents to actual liberty and civil rights while renaming them the true patriots of America. Howard Zinn really picked a year to die because, sadly, I can only picture him spinning in his grave from this travesty of history. This is a slap in the face to our actual founding fathers' principles who believed the teaching of morals belonged in a house of living or prayer, not in a classroom. Many of our founding fathers did all they could do to warn against forced religious indoctrination as many of the empires and legacies of Europe were trapped in a world of religious driven tyrants who stated they were of the direct lineage of God and therefore to oppose their monarchical viewpoints was not only illegal but was a path to damnation. Great way to keep the superstitious rabble in line, isn’t it? Strange enough that this forced fundamentalism is actually something conservatives in this country berate Muslim nations from doing under Sharia law. Don’t tell them that because, somehow, I’m sure they would turn the argument around by calling you a terrorist. Be sure to remember, the free-market not only controls all aspects of our lives but now it needs to get extra pages in our children's history books stating it is the ultimate defining force behind what it means to truly be “American.” So now history is synonymous as a fundamentalist version of God and big-business. What a winning combination, just like an evil hate-filled mix of chocolate and peanut butter.
From my experiences reading various history textbooks coming from many different parts of the political spectrum, I always have found, at the very least, a somewhat accurate mention of nearly every major event in American history. Granted, it's almost always written with "America only was trying to help and it did all it could to not have to intervene..." Yeah right.  Sure, many things would be cut out for time constraints or previous decisions of what was important or not but I have always found a pretty healthy coverage of right centered moments in our historical timelines. This includes the black conservative movement, the Moral Majority, the John Birch society, the contract with America, the wars on terror, Patriot act, Redeemer Era, Imperialist movement, Law and Order Nixon Period, Trickle-Down theory, you name it and you will see it. So why, all of a sudden, do we need to hear about these things in greater length but now with a spin that they were wonderful periods in our existence? Especially, when history teaches us, irrevocably, they were not.
Usually, this type of history is called revisionism. An example would be from some neo-confederate Civil War “experts” who have repeatedly tried to repaint the civil war as “a war of northern aggression” or a war for “the lost cause of state’s rights.” This is also echoed by people like the hack who poses as a “conservative historian,” Michael Medved whose book, The Top 10 Lies About America, is sure to point out that slavery actually wasn’t that bad and that black people would have been better off as slaves. (He also says Europeans didn’t do anything bad to the Native Americans and that workers protection and business regulation was all manufactured by communist-loving Unions) Claims such as there are usually driven by reactionary motives. But reactions from what? All this does is solidify, in my viewpoint, the tea-party ultra conservative perpetual victim complex to defend their poor wounded vision of American the beautiful and to return us to the “good old days.” Apparently the good old days when you could tie up and drag a homosexual from a car, burn black people alive, beat your wife and child and talk openly racist but be sure to go to bed early because you have church in the morning, Proper. born-again. fundamental, Protestant chruch that doesn't worry about that wussy Social Gospel or Living Wage those Pope worshipping Cathoics do. The true colors are showing more and more. Rand Paul for one showed it best when he went on record after his Republican primary victory in Kentucky by stating he didn’t agree with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And for good reason because those terrible African American religious and community leaders really should have known their places instead of mobilizing and demanding the federal government give them the ability to vote, live and work without the fear of being murdered. Remember, a little fact about Arizona, it among the last states to actually recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day because their politicians didn’t feel he did anything to merit being recognized and honored as a national icon. Go figure, preaching for peace, integration, equality, non-violence and understanding at the literal cost of your own life doesn't warrant a national holiday. They finally acknowledged the day in 1990. A little late, don’t you think? But it is Arizona so are you really that surprised? Still not as bad as Virginia and Mississippi who simultaneously honors Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J."Stonewall" Jackson or Texas who has "Treason Day"...wait, I mean, "Confederate Heroes Day" on the same day as Dr. King's holiday. Fitting to honor a civil rights icon and the political and military leaders of American sedition and defenders of oppression and enslavement.
Bringing up Arizona, I will transition into my second topic. This is another part of the already horribly racist and oppressive Arizona immigration laws entitled HR2281 signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer on May 11, which officially bans the high school course entitled “Ethnic Studies.” If anyone has any questions about Arizona’s motives regarding “Homeland Security”, “Keeping Americans safe” or whatever other Orwellian reason they may choose to employ to justify the fact that they plain just don’t like Mexicans, I hope this illuminates their true reasoning loud and clear. This is part of a systematic pattern to make the lives of Latino Arizonans so uncomfortable and to make them feel so unwelcome that they either become demoralized and take the abuse or they do what the state really wants, which is to pack their bags and leave. This is what Israel’s policy is regarding Palestinians, Britain’s on Catholic Northern Irish, Afrikaners to black South Africans, Russia to Ukrainians, etc, etc. Our country did this before by writing out or oppressing “unsavory” racial or political groups in history classes or general society before. During the Spanish American war, Spain was cast as oppressors and villains in history classes. In World War I, all aspects of German culture was wiped from textbooks and American culture even going so far as to rename frankfurters (hotdogs), sauerkraut (liberty cabbage), the banning the work of Brahms, Bach and Beethoven and, in reverse, even speaking of England (our then ally) in a negative light such as our enemy in the American Revolution could and did land teachers and writers in prison. In World War II, many things about Japan were banned and illegalized and the same followed suite in the Cold War regarding aspects of Russian culture. (Even Russian, Ukrainian and Union Halls were attacked and raided by the Justice Department and, in one case, the American Legion with loaded weapons right after World War I in 1919!)
I remember reading the immediate comments behind this story and for every rational comment, I saw about 10 stating “Duh, Go back to Mexico!” “Duh, we don’t need to know about your filthy culture!” “Duh, I’d like to see Mexico teach an American Studies course!” Well…. I don’t want to be one of those pussy, technical liberals concerned with, you know, facts…. But (A.) many Mexican Americans actually didn’t come here but lived here longer than we did (B.) How come we feel the need to learn about European History, I really don’t think it would hurt our students to learn about anything let along a culture that is infused in a great deal of our national scope and shape especially when the only way you will hear about African, Latino or Asian culture is to have a class devoted to it since “American” History barley mentions any of those topics (C.) Mexico possibly would if their government annexed a third of the U.S. and there were millions of white North Americans living there but, alas, we will never know. Just this week, 15 students were arrested for employing civil disobedience by protesting the governor’s decision to effectively whitewash the Arizona curriculum through the banning of a class which, in her words, “was a class teaching political indoctrination, radicalism, the overthrow of our government and which portrayed my [republican] party in a negative light.” Well, there’s a pretty easy way for a party that is oppressive, racist and brutal to your race to not be portrayed negatively. Can you guess what it is? It might be to NOT be oppressive, racist and brutal! Also, this class not only taught of Hispanic issues, but also dealt with Native American history as well considering Arizona has a large Native American population (the 7th largest in the nation). So, what is this law inherently doing? I may be wrong but I’m interpreting that this is telling students: if you want critical thinking (the point of history classes), you will not get it; if you want to learn about a rich and cultural heritage that out dates almost every other form of history in the world, you won’t see it; if you’re Native American or Latino, you do not matter; if you think because you are different, you are not welcome, you are right.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ben Stein's Flawed Argument

OKAY, so this was a while ago but I just wanted to reiterate a point I was making about how horrible Ben Stein is in so many ways. I received this “blame all of our problems on atheists” email a few months back and this was my response to simply debunk some of the bigger falsehoods Mr. Stein has been propogating. Let me assure you, I am a practicing Christian and I love people of all religions and this is in no way made to defend atheists or show preference toward their cause. However, I hate when a seemingly untouchable group in America decides to play victim and attack an incredibly small group of people who are simply exercising their constitutional rights.

“My Confession”, by Ben Stein:
I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.
In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.
She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbour as yourself. And we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards.
Honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

First of all, these anti-atheistic sprawls are simply ridiculous. However, do not be confused by my writing into thinking this in any case as a defense of atheists. In fact I really have no friends who even label themselves as an atheist beyond a limited few dumb-shit college mates. Mainly, they simply call themselves atheist to disguise and give a more committed appearance to what they really are, which is, bluntly, lazy, be it spiritually or otherwise. As for Stein, his automaton-driving scare speech is transparently a device to fool the mouth-breathers in the flyover states into thinking there is some kind of atheist run invasion coming to our towns, shores or whatever. Ben attempts to make a correlation that it is not those who sin and lie within elite positions of influence whether in government or the organized church, but the constitution that is behind the steadily decreasing thread count in our collective moral fiber. Here is a little statistic about moral fiber. In a survey by the national catholic reporter, 40 percent of secularists stated torture against prisoners was never justified, which was the highest percentage of any group who answered the questions. Now who answered the question that torture was often justified against prisoners? The leading responding group was Catholics with 21 percent. Now who is lacking morals? As a Catholic, this statistic is truly disheartening but pretty easy to believe.

Ben makes a point in relaying the fact that he is a Jew and doesn’t mind if anyone says “Merry Christmas” to him and, frankly, I am so glad I have his permission to do so. For that matter, I could care less if my religious holiday threatens him or not. We, as Americans, have a freedom of speech and religion guaranteed in the constitution. You know, that document Ben doesn’t like getting shoved down his throat which happens to be the quintessential document of our nation that gives us the freedoms George W. Bush claimed was the reason why the “evildoers” hate us. Hey Ben, guess what? These constitutional rights are universal so that gives him the right to his Jewish religion which gives me the same right to my Christian holidays. When someone says “Merry Christmas” to Stein, he have options: He have a right to say, “No thanks, I’m Jewish”, “Happy Hanukkah to you”, “You too” or whatever phrase tickles his fancy. Who gives a shit? I say Happy Holidays, not to be PC, but simply I am talking about New Years, Advent, Christmas Eve and Day, Russian Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the multitude of holidays that encircle late December. Ben says a manger scene doesn’t bother him as long as a menorah isn’t far away….well a manger scene shouldn’t bother him as long as it’s not on federal or state property which would be seen as a government sanctioned sponsoring of a specific religious agenda and furthermore, I kind of would rather to not see anything on a court house lawn. What do these people care so much about public offices to have religious iconography in plain sight? These are people who always bitch about big government infecting every aspect of our lives so why are they so hard up about government declaring something like Christianity to be the state religion? The last thing we need is government associating with the churches of America. Notice he only mentions references to Jewish and Christian holidays, and neglects to speak of Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims through his entire article. Funny since he’s talking about how necessary religion is but only religions he approves of apparently. As for him minding if someone puts a manger scene on their lawn, it is anyone’s right to do with their private property as they see fit. But, again, as a Jew he is entitled to display any necessary icons of his Jewish holidays on his property. If he talks about being pushed around, at the hands of liberals, atheists or secularists he is pretty off the mark because most of the violence and graffiti exerted against Jewish homes and synagogues in America are committed by right leaning hate groups, certainly not atheists.

Ben tries to paint the nation as this God-hating society however I don’t think anyone thinks America is an atheist country. Based on a 2006 census department study, it revealed 50 percent of Americans absolutely would not vote for an atheistic presidential candidate even if he was very highly qualified and experienced , 40 percent of Americans don’t consider atheists to share their vision of America and the 48 percent would object to their children marrying an atheist (dwarfing African Americans, homosexuals or Muslims as the next three highest responses) so I cannot imagine this great atheist takeover Stein warns of ever occurring. It has been proven through polling that there is a healthy majority of the population who believes in God, Satan, Heaven, Hell and afterlife and other universalities of religion. (Roughly 9 out of 10 respondents) In fact, atheists make up around 3 percent of the American population. But if you look to other nations such as all of Western Europe and even Turkey with a Muslim majority, the numbers of atheists, secularists, humanists or whatever one calls them, are strikingly higher. The only reason atheists get the exposure they do in this country is for alarmists such as the pundits on networks as Fox news and their subsidiaries to convince their less than open-minded demographic that the sky is falling and, yet again, there is someone to blame other than themselves. So why do we see such negative and massive coverage of something like Michael Newdow’s law-suit for removing “in god we trust” from money, which would only be newsworthy had he won, which he didn’t. Why do we need to know some asshole is suing the government for some peanut league claim that was doomed to fail before he even took it to court? Easy. This was covered to convince viewers that there was a common ENEMY! Not the republicans, not the 1 percent who are the real thieves of our money, jobs, security and heritage, not George W Bush or his colleagues. So who is more dangerous? A president who invaded two countries and is responsible for the deaths and suffering of possibly millions, left the nation less safe, less secure and more in debt toward openly hostile nations such as the OPEC cartels, China, Russia and Dubai or some left-o opportunist who took something to trial which he lost? The so-called liberal media did all they could to have us think the former well over the latter was the answer because I remember hearing about Newdow over and over on ABC and CNN (the so-called evil god hating liberal media) since I go out of my way to not see what’s on FOXNEWS. But wait, isn’t the media supposed to be part of the Newdow way of thinking? Something to ponder is while all of this was happening in ’05, Bernie Madoff was still considered an okay guy as he was defrauding his investors in the score of billions. It’s merely the fact that our ever extending capitalist society has a far reaching for-profit legal and media system that will give a voice and exposure to anyone who has a bone to pick about anything, especially in civil court where there is a profit and media coverage to be gained.

Consider these facts regarding “Christian” America’s response to the holocaust while it was occurring:
American did little to take in Jews fleeing Europe (only accepting around 100,000 immigrants seeking political asylum out of the 7,000,000 so around 1/70th percent and the Canadians put the Jewish exiles in internment camps in backcountry swamps of Canada. The concentration camps were definitely known of by those who could have stopped them, however Hitler was highly regarded as a take-charge reformer by the business elite of America, Mussolini was praised by New York Magazine as “dewhopping the whops.” Why was this? Because they brutalized reformers and were notoriously anti-labor. Remember it took a full fledged attack on a military base in an American territory for America to declare war on JAPAN not Germany or Italy who only declared war on us in retaliation.

A less highlighted fact is that Catholics experienced persecution as well in pre and post Nazi Germany (3 million Catholic poles were killed by the Nazis for example and even more by our Russian “allies”), as well as 19th century America, Northern Ireland, England, all of the communist nations of the world and France to name a few easy ones however what kind of mass-awareness movement do we ever see regarding the plight of Catholics?

Catholics get scapegoated as old-fashioned, rapists, molesters, backward and what have you. There is little distinction between western Roman Catholics and eastern Greek Catholics who are about as similar as Lutherans and Mormons. But does anyone care that Greek Catholics have yet to have one case of alleged child abuse? Nope, Catholics are all the same to the ignorant. Does it anger me to see my religion being the butt of vicious jokes? It does but I cannot say they are without merit. And yet the hierarchy of the church has done very little publicly to deal with the accusations against it or even admit to wrongdoing. Perhaps this backward archaic way of dealing with a very real crisis is what turns people from religion or gives a money worshiping society an easy excuse to say no to morality and God.

Stein states that he sees no evidence of America being an atheistic nation. That is good because he shouldn’t because it wasn’t. However, I see no explicit evidence that America ever was a God mandated nation either as many leading founding fathers including Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin were self-proclaimed enlightened deists. (Deism being one having a sense of a higher power but as a creator and nothing more than that, not an intervener) In fact much artwork and folklore regarding George Washington being a pious and devout Christian is admittedly made-up as he rarely ever prayed. In fact the “religious” men of influence in the time of the founding fathers considered the rebellion against England “wicked” and a “sin of witchcraft” so had the true Christians had their way in the 1700s perhaps America would never even exist! John Adams stated the priesthood and the church did all it could to monopolize education and keep men slaves. Jefferson stated “wherever one looks, priests are opponents to liberty!” These men were wholeheartedly devoted to the masons and the nation, with little mention of God in their writings except to convince the highly religious New England and Middle colonies to join the “patriot” cause. Does this make me less of a Christian for talking about this? No. Does it show I am educated and admit God and America are not as linked as people popularly think? Yes. America is neither pro or anti god. That is what the constitution says. We are a SECULAR nation. However one may not know that since 7 states exclusively designed testing on faith to bar any atheists from holding public office. Our founding fathers did not proclaim a state religion because of the horrible corruption, brutality, graft and injustice perpetrated by the theocratic societies preceding America’s birth which was a tenant of the Enlightenment which, in many ways, helped create the framework of our governmental organization. France believed their king was a liaison of God, as did Spain, Russia, China and the Ottoman Empire. When god is an element of the government, this gives the opportunity of the nation’s leader to claim he/she has the blessing of god as we are seeing from the Ayatollahs in Iran today. So, what if one country says this and proceeds to fight another who says the same thing, as in the crusades? So….who’s god is right? Considering the Muslims and the Christians believe in the exact same God, one can only guess. In fact, the Muslim and Jewish interpretation of God more closely aligned old-testament “fire and brimstone” version than the modern new-testament Christian. So, if a president in a religiously aligned government could say I am president because God wanted that, then he could say you are in prison or poor or an addict because God wanted that as well. Also this opens up the rationalization that if you oppose him, you thus oppose the will of God. That is what is known as divine pre-destination using the social gospel to validate and falsely sanctify injustice. This would be quite scary in a country which prescribes to the Horatio Alger notion of self-determination which states, “You are free to accomplish anything as long as you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Not a very good thing to come from the mouth of the highest office holder in the land of the free where we, apparently are all equal. However the freedom to worship may be guaranteed, the right not to be is greatly in question dating to a very recent example in 2004 when a secularist reporter named Robert Sherman asked George W. Bush if he considered atheists Americans to which Bush retorted, "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered…citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” Atheists spearheaded a lawsuit against Chief Justice John Roberts adding “so help me God” to Obama’s inaugural oath since the constitutional instructions for the oath of office does not include that phrase in the 30 word pledge. If God is so forgotten on our society, one would have to labor very hard to find evidence of this. The ever changing American version of God did more harm to the American way that good considering though the excuse of religion, things like the revamped and false Social gospel (stating poor people were poor because god wanted them to be and unions were the work of evil godless communists) (the real social gospel states it is up to people of faith to follow the beatitudes and help those in need not the other way around), manifest destiny (stating god wanted Americans to slaughter Indians as a birthright), the proclamation of Columbus (where he read a vaguely worded religious proclamation to the Arawak Indians telling them literally to convert or die. This was read in Italian intentionally so the Indians wouldn’t even have a chance to agree to it.), the whisky rebellion (caused by a tax on rye [the biggest barter and internal trade crop in Western PA] spearheaded by pro-temperance puritans from Massachusetts) and 22nd amendment and temperance movement (spearheaded by the church and subsequently partly led to the creation of the American mafia), the KKK (big hate group), the church of Jesus Christ Christian (big Nazi hate group) and the Westboro Baptist Church (the people who protest soldiers funerals because of some convoluted gays in the military issue and parade around college campuses with giant billboards of graphically depicted dead fetuses) and the latest demand from Glenn Beck for Christians to renounce their church and faith if their reverend or priest tell them to help the poor (what???) to name a few by this standard. However, although these are hypocrisies and negatives spurned by a few bad apples, the positives greatly outweigh them. The church also does well through charity, unity, togetherness, love of neighbors and every other good and moral issue. What I am saying is that very bad things may have come from religion but very good at the same time thanks to religion. The same goes for every ethos one may think of if you properly investigate them… I stress it is not the aspect of religion in question here, but those who manipulate it to serve their purposes of perversion.

As for the entire “In god we trust” and “under God” arguments within our country, the people should be informed to know these very carefully chosen phrases were used less as religious promotion but more as anti-communist propaganda. In god we trust was added in 1957 and under god added in 1954 so I would like to know how the two major religious addendum within popular government knowledge were spearheaded by our founding fathers….roughly 150 years after their deaths. In fact it was only because of Russia dictated an anti-religious stance that we decided to respond as more an anti-Soviet move than a pro-religious one. This was about the intentional furthering of hysteria, prosecution, war and fear mongering not to make an already religious society think God blessed the one dollar bill.

Stein says how bad celebrities are but isn’t he one of those celebrities? I saw him on three separate commercials and two television shows in the last two years alone. You are certainly on television more than Jesus. We don’t worship celebrities; we worship the television and media outlets. This is the root. Wasn’t it Ben Stein’s money that we were offered to win on his game show? I admit there is a God. I am glad, God and Jesus are not on the television at the rate hacks and phonies like Ashton Kutchner and Angelina Jolie are. Television and money cheapens everything it touches. What do you think about for-profit Super Churches, where one can shop while they worship? That disgusts me far more than the shines of ego-mania and self-worship that are twitter and facebook, although twitter and facebook are not behind in my overall disgust. The exchanging of money in the temple was the only case of Jesus being angry in the bible! Even look at Michael Jackson’s death. The coverage this man is receiving in passing is far greater than I ever remember Pope John Paul the second’s or Mother Theresa’s. Does that say anything to you? Do you think the aging Dalai Llama will receive this kind of coverage when he passes and the brutally repressive Chinese government effectively will attempt to dominate the Buddhist religion by naming his reincarnation over the choice of the Buddhist clergy which is possibly the greatest sacrilege one can commit in that religion? I can confidently guess, probably not.

As for reverend Graham, Billy Graham is someone Ben should really love since his declassified voice on Nixon tapes has him quoted in warning Nixon of the Jewish stranglehold on the American media and put into action through his distanced position on furthering any progress the Middle East peace process. Isn’t Ben Stein a Jewish voice in the media and a Nixon speech writer? He also suggested that AIDS was a direct form of God’s retribution. He retracted both statements will “deeply saddened apologies” possibly due to his celebrity statue with every president since Nixon. I don’t know, how bout you. SO since God can’t answer our prayers… he CAN be there for smiting deviant sinners. Such as the people in New Orleans whose only crime was being of black ancestry in the south and poor which in the 9th ward is like a permanent ticket to hell to begin with. I’d like to know what some 90 year old nursing home patient or some emaciated 2 year old dead on a highway overpass did to be owed such a healthy dose of holy retribution. If you want your child to pray in school, good news! Again, we live in a Free-Market economy where one may have the right to attend a private, charter or GASP parochial school!!!! Where you can learn about God all you want! This has been an option really since before this nation was established as the first schools were created by Puritans and missionaries. So, according to Graham’s daughter, God gently backed out by being a spiteful prick and let those, mainly religious, Baptist, black people starve and drown. What of the 47 churches severely damaged or destroyed from Katrina? So, God stood back and watched because people don’t pray in school? I guess praying in church does not count. Only a really screwed up mind would think that. Especially one who professes themselves to be so pious and a believer would believe something so hateful about god. I would rather have no god, than the god that exists in Billy Graham’s daughter’s mind who didn’t think that because she honestly thought about god, she thought that because that’s what she HOPED would happen to the African Americans in Louisiana. Other evangelicals like Falwell said similar things about God wanting to punish us when 9-11 happened. I think his reason was 9-11 was a punishment for allowing women in the workforce and upholding roe v wade. Pat Robertson said the Katrina flood was sent by god to kill the gays and lesbians of the Gulf of Mexico. What of the self-proclaimed neo-con Christian zealots who were lightening quick to profess their faith and force its moral definition upon all in their congressional district who went on record to say things like “God did in one day what we couldn’t in cleaning up the schools, poor neighborhoods, housing and crime what we couldn’t do in ten years” and did all they could to sell as much public city property to the lowest corporate bidder and destroying every city, state, school and public union the Gulf Region had. Now, THERE are some Christians of quality for you.

As for Mr. Stein’s reference to Madeline O’Hare, we are led to think random violence did not occur in our society until she had the Supreme Court rule forced prayer in school was unconstitutional. Also, had her argument be baseless or without worth, the Supreme Court (and a conservative one at that) would not have agreed with her. She was then labeled the “most hated woman in America” by Time Magazine and received countless death threats along with her family. As for her murder, did it happen to her as a reprisal like the recent murder of George Tiller at the hands of a religious pro-lifer because he performed abortions to save the dying mothers? Bill O’Reilly may have got his wish by repeating the phrase “baby-killer” over and over which was the main motivation for the man to commit the murder. (O’Reilly also told a 14 year old boy, it was his fault that his father died in the WTC because he played video games and wanted a bike for his birthday) Isn’t that really good Christian thinking? The answer is “No” for it was a member of her activist group who was living a double life with sociopath tendencies who murdered her, her son and grandson. As for teaching people not to kill each other, I think simply a decent parent or even a developed cognitive thought process could inhibit anyone other than a psychopath from knowing that killing is wrong. Why is it the schools job to teach people not to murder??? I don’t recall that lesson in my 21 years of school ever. Isn’t that the parents’ job? As for O’Hare’s lawsuit, she only enacted it because there was repeated violence directed against her son because he as an atheist did not pray during services while the administration and teachers condoned if not encouraged the violence. I’ve seen the same thing happen to Jehovah’s witnesses for not saluting that flag so I guess the flag and the bible are one in the same in the unending ignorance of the nation. So the right to practice religion is okay but the right not to isn’t? Aren’t Stein and the church in school crowd a part of that group of so-called "Freedom lovers" who simultaniously think the government interrupts and intervenes in our lives too much already? They don’t want the government telling us what to spend our money on BUT they want it to force us to pray.

Dr Benjamin Spock was a great man, a pacifist and a close friend and contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr. who stood his ground and was arrested and brutalized numerous times to put an end to the war in Vietnam, put oversight and controls of unchecked nuclear proliferation and threats for war, expand civil rights, social reform and educational systems of America, worked to aid the suffering of the indigent of the world and because a tragedy like his son committing suicide happened, it is used by Ben Stein as an excuse for blame because he did not believe in hitting his son??? Well one may not want to blame anyone because both of his sons are alive!!!! And the one who committed suicide was his schizophrenic grandson. Who wants to listen to a premiere mind who developed personally numerous child rearing techniques still used today? I sure as hell know I don’t. You don’t need to beat the life out of your kids, just don’t buy them so much crap and bow to their whims. That is what screws up children by creating and repeatedly validating a materialistic ravenous sense of unbridled entitlement. Then again, Spock’s biggest critic was the corrupt underling to one of the most soulless presidents in American history, Spiro Agnew who blamed the entire hippy and (anti-war? movement on Spock’s tactic of permissiveness in child rearing. Strange how permissiveness causes people to have the balls and say no to a government that murdered 5 million people in southeast Asia.) By the way, that was real classy using a suicide of somebody’s son as evidence for your case and not even taking the time to see if what you said is even true. Ben Stein is so smart, I cannot believe it. I guess just because you dress like you have class, doesn’t make it true. No matter how hard you try, you cannot shine a piece of garbage.

As for forced religion or theology education in school, I have to mention in spite of the fact that 40 percent of American students cannot point of their own state or 75 cannot point out where Iraq or Afghanistan are, I think the bible and its messages would really stick in their shrinking brains especially since their parents simultaneously weren’t taking them to church or praying with them at home. But this is not about the parents being at fault. Ben never mentions parental responsibility. Better take it easy Ben, your sounding like a god-hating liberal with your easy treatment of parents and your dependence on state and government run school system to remedy society’s ills. It’s like the pledge, I see kids saying the pledge and they neither know what it means nor caring at all, however they are brainwashed into doing it. Just see if I tried to have them not say the pledge…I would be on the front page of tomorrow’s paper as an America hating commie. We don’t know or care what it means but you better make us do it. Exactly the same thing would happen if prayer was forced in school. I think Ben stein is talking about a half minute prayer only because to actually include theology or religion classes in school would require a shit-load of public funds to pay for it and Stein and those like him want to cut everything from schools not add anything.

So you want people sending vulgar jokes about God? Because I love getting scripture in my inbox, let alone my mailbox. Just as I’m sure all you God-pushers would be thrilled to get verses of the Koran, the Torah, the teachings of Krishna, Buddha or Vedic shamanism sent to your emails. And I believe in neither newspapers nor the bible which I take neither literally and if you take the bible literally, you are a moron who probably would take a superman comic just as literally because essentially the Old Testament is pretty much a very long comic book with a moral basis.  Moreso a eyewitness account of the historiographical occurances of the events of the early centuries.  Anyone who cheapens God's word through chain-mail shouldn't be looked to as any type of religious authority anyway.

This "God is the same as America" claim needs to stop. God could care less about what happens to America. So since America is a mix of people from everywhere, God didn’t love their ancestors until they arrived in America? Their homelands were wrong? It was great when the press asked Muhammad Ali “what he thought about the fact that he shared the religion of the 9-11 hijackers?” and he snapped back “how do you feel about Hitler sharing yours?”

Ben States:
Pass it on if you think it has merit.
If not, then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

Maybe the shape of the world is so bad because the elites of this nation and those they control have no problem using religion or their claim that there is a lack of it as the reason for the world’s woes. Not the real reason which is completely based on their soulless greed and nonexistent sense of compassion.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The DE-volution of "Health Care Reform"

Written 6 months ago…

(The update written today is around the middle)

One thing I don't get is, 12 Percent of the workforce is unemployed, a fifth of those employed are underemployed, a third works at service sector jobs that offer no insurance, and a quarter of those employed still make less than enough to transcend the poverty line...how is 75 percent of the population happy with their insurance plan??? So where are these “I’m happy with my plan” polls coming from? Is this sometype of underhanded polling counting temporary insurance plans? Medicaid? Free Clinics? By this standard that would mean more than everyone with a medical care option likes it, which they don’t. Also, isn’t medicaid, medicare, clinics, temp plans are all part of the commie, liberal, public option so shouldn’t that be taken off the stats for pro-insurance, pro-status quo option? I’m asthmatic, I have no insurance. In college I worked a variety of service sector jobs. One of which offered an insurance plan, which was cut from me after one quarter of coverage because I was .6 hours less than I needed for full time status and was quoted in a paycheck as Negative 450.00 to cover the coverage I thought I had but was taken away from me literally a week before the next quarterly review period0. Obviously I cut that plan and had the balance set to zero BUT that meant I took 50 to 100.00 pay cuts to cover my health care plan, (which I didn’t even need to use while I had it) for every pay check which I never got back. So at this point, I still need check ups, out of pocket, and inhalers (which range from 80.00 to 250.00) I opt for cheap-o generics which still need a script, hence an office visit every time. This is for basic care. I literally have two cruddy contacts left, which I can’t get again since my mom’s vision plan ran out for me 4 years ago and my two year plan I stretch to now ran out. Even as a full time educator, because I work 2 less hours at a specialized education plan, I have no benefits. My last job intentionally cut every employees hours to an hour less than part time to prevent unemployment claims and any form of benefits, (which they cut vision and hearing from even the management staff) They did this by offering financial incentives to the MOD staff if they kept us all “undertime.” They blamed it on “time-and-a-half” issues but for someone like me, after tax that meant they’d pay me 2.50 instead of 1.25, remember, after tax. I’ve worked at seven restaurants and none offered health care plans except one, these are mostly staffed by adults and young adults, who have families, who make enough to pay their bills and little more. What are these people supposed to do? They work hard, they do necessary jobs, they work all day. This isn’t some lazy group looking for a handout. There are hundreds of thousands of people like this. Don’t even try the “they should have studied harder” argument. Hell, quite a few were trying to pay for college so they could study harder! And regardless of how one studied, you mean to say you want these people cooking your food, washing dishes and waiting tables while they are sick? So this group, and I only bring them up because I was a part of it, and I assure you there are many others, needs to exist to serve you but they shouldn’t be provided or at least offered a way to keep themselves heatlhy? Eh, they make less than me, they do physical labor, so they are expendable, right? Hell, the message you get when hired at this glorious 2.83 hr job is that you are expendable, don’t get sick because you need written medical proof you are sick so that 200 bucks you made over the last couple of days needs to be spent on going to the doctor to get him or her to sign your form to testify to the obvious fact you have strep throat or influenza. Because a stupid, liar of a restaurant worker is incapable of being able to know if he/she has a cold. What’s the message here? Its practically extortion or else come into a food service location with your contagum and infect god knows who with god knows what. Is that what we think and/or prefer? What about the 500,000 people, laid off just this month alone? It wasn’t their fault unbridled greed and self-serving corporate masters sold this country out. What of the legions of state workers put out of work who lost their benefit packages. What of severed retirment health care packages and pensions that were gutted in favor of kickbacks and pay-offs for gag-orders, hush-money, illegal campaign contributions to help elect the same people who are allowing these mass layoffs within their home states, etc.? The myth of the welfare state which was coined by the political spindoctors of the Reagan/Montdale elections as it was then is clearly fictitious. There was a massive GOP smear campaign to stigmatize and associate the word welfare with ghetto, black, criminal. It was calculatingly used to draw on racial fear, bigotry and intolerance. However the military spending surge and outsourced defense contracts to fund some of the biggest terrorist states of the twentieth century were signed sealed and delivered which made a few rich and everyone else out on their asses got the ball rolling, Hell, a quarter of this DOD money could have taken care of the welfare state and got it on the right track. The smear campaign worked. By the election time polls indicated although 80 percent of people thought “social improvement spending was necessary and they were willing to pay taxes to do this”, 70 percent were not willing to spend on “welfare” which was the exact same thing however the latter was what the Reaganites officially renamed it. The faltering party of unrestricted free capital is at it again, repainting a revolutionary reform program as a communist conspiracy which, in all actuality, was from the brain trust of Richard Nixon. The whole "our taxes are going to go up" is baseless considering if the DHHS becomes a major purchaser and provider of care, treatment and rx's, the new competitive angle will drive the skyrocketing prices down so the money you pay in taxes will drastically reduce the premiums you pay.


THAT argument was penned six months ago, Since then (actually a week ago) The monumental Health Care Bill passed against a tidal wave of resistance heralded by ignorance, racism and lies. The democrats got their way in their usual spine-less, under the table, passive aggressive demeanor through undoubtedly a campaign of threats, brides and extortion to get a dozen or so “undecideds” to change their mind on the 11th hour before the voting took place after a half dozen congressional lawmakers officially announced they were not seeking re-election completely out of the blue (considering their power is finally completely in power after 8 terrible years)

The bill was a complete watered down shame of legislation in the guise of “health-care” reform when it was essentially Bureaucrat driven insurance regulation and expansion. I really am skeptical considering this is in no shape or form what I was arguing for months ago or what Obama promised when he was campaigning so fervently a year and a half ago.

I see this as new regulations against the poor, being anti-small business owner and worker. Forcing business to provide insurance or fire workers and forcing people to either purchase coverage they cannot afford or expand their already shitty insurance programs. The tax burden will go up regardless of what we were told and the insurance companies simply cannot be as big of an asshole that they have been but, trust me, I’m sure they will find a way around it.

People confuse Health Insurance with Quality Health Care which they will quickly find will not be synonymous. Preventive Medicine will still be put on the back burner. The overcrowding and shoddy performance of hospitals will expand from the ER to the Office and O.Rs. If our health care staffs were already overworked, they will be even more exhausted. If this happens, quality of care will go down and law suits will get even more out of control. This is merely an expansion of the already proven horrible HMO program. Maybe I am wrong but Maria and I very much doubt it.

Now here is how the Universal Health Care system could have literally fixed everything. I may be incorrect but based on what I know about economics, this is what I think could happen.

If a universal program was implemented, the insurance industry would actually have a good program to compete with. They would have to lessen prices and expand coverage. Through these provisions, the cost of pharmaceuticals would go down. Cheaper prices would leave more capitol to pay health care staff and better quality of care. Better quality would reduce accidents and law suits which would lower the cost of malpractice coverage. Now considering your average family spends around 60 percent of their disposable income on health care this would be drastically reduced, hence opening up their purchasing power to the extended markets. If the power of a dollar was that expanded, business would be able to sell more and require more workers. From the business stand point, if they could cover employees much cheaper, their overhead would greatly reduce and open them up to hire more workers and not send jobs overseas. (A big reason they do this is to get around health care provisions and requirements) More hiring would end under and un-employment. Much of the mark-up we face in this country on everything from food to cars to computers comes from businesses having to provide health-care plans and health care costs (retirement plans, pensions, etc). An easy example would be that a car made in this country is 5,000 dollars more as opposed to one produced in Canada. See the difference? So… If things are cheaper to produce, companies were able to hire AND save money, purchasing power went up and people went back to work, would that completely end Stagflation and end the Recession????

This isn’t some socialist conspiracy, this is totally sound economics that would equate to capitalism made right…. But, unfortunately, one single industry was able to infect the minds of everyone from the workers to the leaders that this is not only bad but is a dangerous threat to our way of life… Get real.