We the Underdogs: Capitalism and Democracy

I think most of America’s problems stem from two things.

Firstly, we are supposedly a capitalist country and democratic republic.  And yet, it seems as if capitalism and democracy, by their very nature, are diametrically opposed. Until the people that are supposed to represent us stop taking campaign money from business lobbyists and religious organizations, we can never hope to realize the freedoms we thought our constitution protected.

Capitalism is (supposedly/ideally) is a social system based on the principle of individual rights. Politically, it is the system of laissez-faire (freedom). Legally it is a system of objective laws (rule of law as opposed to rule of man). Economically, when such freedom is applied to the sphere of production its’ result is the free-market.(source)

Closer to the truth of the matter, yet still idealistic, may be the Wikipedia definition:

An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital assets and goods. In a capitalist economy, investors are free to buy, sell, produce, and distribute goods and services with at most limited government control, at prices determined primarily by a competition for profit in a free market. Central elements of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, and a price system.

What capitalism seems to mean in America now, though, is closer to Jafar’s idea of the golden rule:

kyECWTX

It feels like everything is crony capitalism,

I found it rather interesting (in a sad and ironic way) how Ayn Rand described capitalism.

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

That’s all swell, but we really don’t have separation of church and state either. But this will never stop until politicians are disallowed from taking campaign money from lobbyists and churches. Until that happens, politicians will always be more influenced by what their contributors want then by what the people want.  Some people debate the meaning of the “separation of church and state” mentioned in constitution.  Some people, myself included, feel that parts of the constitution are obsolete. Sacrilege!  But I do wonder, how “ironclad” can it be if it can be “amended” so much?  I think regardless of what was intended then, I think today one can not write legislation for a whole country based on one religion, and with many politicians in the church’s pocket, that’s pretty much exactly what’s happening (think about how they’re trying to jam prayer back into school and force women’s reproductive rights issues.)

Anyway, it’s my opinion…my belief…that between the capitalism that keeps the poor poor–

Attempts at eliminating minimum wage and claiming it will “help” the poor (one can only guess at the ass backwards logic behind that one).  Forcing taxpayers to subsidize their profits by footing the bill for all the Walmart employees  on welfare or food stamps as a result of their pitifully inadequate wages, and let’s not forget the government bailing out Big Business–

–and the religious conservatives bent on forcing us all to follow their rules and code of morality through legislation (lobbyists giving money to influence representatives…and here money comes into play again) the majority of America is in a stranglehold.  Basically, if we’re not CEOs of the gas companies, we’re the schmucks who pay 3.69 a gallon because we have no real recourse.  After all,  our representatives’ campaigns are probably being financed by the gas company.  This is a very simplistic generalization, but you see what I’m getting at, and I am not the only person who feels the weight of being low man on the totem…    

Let me finish up by leaving you with another Ayn Rand quote to think on:

When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.

Yup…we’re doomed.

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One Nation, 313.9 Million Opinions….

I’ve been embroiled in a pretty irritating (and endlessly ongoing) debate on social media lately, especially amid all the DOMA stuff and rampant, misinformed patriotism going on…

“One nation UNDER GOD!”  ‘Murica!

Was our nation founded on “biblical” ideas, or the idea of religious freedom?

As I research, it seems there are conflicting ideas at work even as the country was founded.  According to some sources, the country was founded by settlers fleeing the “tyranny” of the Church of England, for the purpose of being free to worship God how they felt fit.  SO in that sense, you could say the US was founded on biblical beliefs…

And yet, in OUR CONSTITUTION, it expressly states that

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; […]and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Apparently, the word “Christianity” does not appear in the constitution.  Now, I’m not sure about the word “bible.”  But when it comes to the constitution, a lot of people (conservatives…eek!)  are especially fond of quoting the part about the right to bear arms, but not so interested in upholding the “no law respecting an establishment of religion” part.

To word the initial question in a different way… was this country founded on religious freedom, or merely the “freedom” to be Christian?

And apparently the sad truth is that some states have constitutions that forbid atheists from holding public offices.  You have to declare at least a belief in God.  This seems to be in direct contrast to the  idea of separation of church and state posed at the federal level, and while I admit a fairly rudimentary knowledge of politics, it’s been ingrained in my head since grade school that the states were not supposed to pass any laws that violated federal law.  Somehow, there are many laws today that get around that somehow.

What I don’t understand is why it’s so difficult for anybody to just leave others alone.  Still there are some people that insist this country is going to shit simply because things are not being done their way, whether that be with religion infused into everything or because gay people are allowed to marry, or…whatever!

Now, I had been requested by a close friend to “research” this further before rendering an opinion.  While I don’t have hours to go through the constitution line by line right now, I’ll admit there seems to be conflicting ideas as to what this country is founded on, depending on where you look.  But… what I am not conflicted on is the idea that people have “adapted” both the constitution and the Bible to fit more into their modern lives.  Whether it be gun laws, laws and mores governing divorce, the use of birth control, etc, there are may passages that are interpreted only “loosely” or in a way that is more palatable to the morals we’ve actually internalized.  My point is, while either or both of these texts might be good guidelines for how to live your life, as society and the human species changes, ideas need to change with it.  For instance, the ideas of continuation of species, identification of parentage , reproductive survival, etc, may have been served better at one time by the ideas of marriage as between “one man ad one woman.”  Historically speaking:

In Comanche society, married women work harder, lose sexual freedom, and do not seem to obtain any benefit from marriage. But nubile women are a source of jealousy and strife in the tribe, so they are given little choice other than to get married. “In almost all societies, access to women is institutionalized in some way so as to moderate the intensity of this competition. (wikipedia)

But now that model is not nearly as relevant, in an over-populated world where reproductive technology allows even single or infertile people to have children if they want.

Please don’t take this as an attack on religion.  While I do not personally ascribe to any, I would not deny someone else their beliefs. But for the love of God (see what I did there? ) stop trying to use it to write or keep laws for a nation that is not any one religion!  There are 313 million people in the US, and they don’t all think like you.  The real idea behind America is supposed to be that they don’t have to.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-meyerson/religious-freedom-in-americas-founding-moments-_b_1632067.html

 

EDIT: 7/18/13  This clears things up some, for me anyway.  http://inphasemag.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/separation-of-church-and-state-is-in-the-constitution/comment-page-1/

No Disrespect But…To Be Honest…

A lot of people like to think they know other people, that they’re adept at detecting deception and above being fooled.  I always cringe when people recite that drivel about how people’s eyes move “up and to the right” for the truth and “down and to the left” for a lie, or whatever they say it is.  I remember very clearly when I was in college, one of my psychology professors telling the class that this was patently false.  Directionality of gaze was not so much the issue; rather a person averting their gaze in general, or being unable to look someone else in the eyes, could signify deception.

Then again, it could signify a lot of things; distraction, feelings of inadequacy or shyness, feelings of guilt (unrelated to lying.)  Plus, anyone who’s ever been done dirty by a spouse or best friend could probably tell you it’s completely possible for a person to look you square in the eyes and lie to your face.

Of course, I’m digressing, as usual.  The point is, a lot of the so-called clues to detecting when someone is lying to you, seem, in my opinion, vague and unable to be extrapolated to the majority of people with enough accuracy to be conclusive.  That may read like a mouthful, but all I really mean is that these “tells” don’t occur with enough consistency or reliability to be useful in most situations.  There are too many variables, and unless you are the type of person who likes to take chances with your relationships, you don’t want to accuse someone you care about of lying unless you’re damn sure.

Perfect example;  I’ve seen it mentioned before that people who qualify their statements with remarks like “To tell you the truth,” “Frankly,” and “To be honest,” are actually unconsciously cuing you to the fact that they are about to lie to you.

Am I the only person, then, that regularly uses those expressions…and then proceeds to do exactly that– tell the truth?  I can’t speak for everyone, but when I use that phrase, it usually means that what I’m about to tell you will either seem A) surprising/unexpected coming from me, or B) that what I am about to say is going to be the truth, but perhaps an unpleasant truth.  

Anyway, I’m definitely not disputing that there are often physiological and physical signs present when a person is lying.  However, I think these signs need to be taken in context.  The fact that lie detector tests are not considered reliable or accurate enough to be used in court should be at least some indication that many of these signs of deception are not consistent enough between subjects to be 100% reliable.  I would guess that some indicators are also more accurate than others.  For instance, involuntary reactions like pupil dilation and micro-expressions would likely be a more reliable indicator of deception than a turn of phrase, such as “To tell the truth,” the use of which is subjective depending on the speaker.  (For instance, perhaps that phrase was used frequently throughout the speaker’s childhood by his mother, and thus is a learned mannerism and has no bearing on deception.)

I’m sure there are people out there like Dr. Cal Lightman in Lie to Me* (I think they’re called poker players)and I have great admiration for people with that skill set.  But I doubt there are many of us regular Joes that can do what Cal does.  I’d wager that individually, how effective each of us is as a human lie detector will depend, in one part, on how much we know our subject, and in another part, how observant and aware we are of other people in general.

1786-1

Tangential to that topic, I’ve heard it said that people who preface their opinions with “No offense intended,” “No disrespect,” or some similar sentiment, are in fact, about to insult you.

This is another blanket statement with which I disagree.  It may be true that a lot of people use this phrase as a passive aggressive way to take a jab at someone, but–and again, I’ll only speak for myself here– when I say “No disrespect,” it is often when I know my opinion is directly contradictory to the other persons’s, or when there seems to be no way to stand behind my point without seeming combative.  It’s been my experience that some people become almost automatically defensive and even hostile when confronted with an opinion that is very different from their own.  Some people take it as a personal affront.  If you don’t believe me, scroll through your Facebook wall.  I’m sure you’ll eventually find at least one ridiculously hostile argument over politics, religion, sports, or something even less significant.

Anyway, as usual, I’ve sort of taken a short post and gotten way too analytical about it.  Thanks for bearing with me and my rambling.

And if  you don’t like it, No disrespect, But to be Honest...fuck you.  (Just kidding…sort of.)

Service to Animals, Service to People

So today I took the first concrete step towards my future.  Hubs and I invested in my future, and put a down payment on my continued education.  Only it has little to do with the degrees I already have.  But it is for something I’ve always enjoyed, and that is working with animals.  As soon as the enrollment process is completed, I’ll be starting coursework with the Animal Behavior College to become a certified dog trainer.  But I don’t want to work at the local Pet Smart teaching people’s ill-mannered pets to behave (though no disrespect if that’s your passion!)  I’d eventually like to work with animals that help people– chiefly service dogs or police dogs.

police-dog-training

Service animals are no longer just seeing eye dogs.  Animals of all species are now being utilized for all types of disabilities, both physical and mental.  Cats, dogs, monkeys, ferrets, goats, and even pigs are being used as companions to physically disabled people, people with agoraphobia and other anxiety disorders, and even bipolar disorder.  To me this exemplifies a more holistic and harmonious turn in the treatment of many severe and often debilitating health problems.  Simply put, I love how animals and the bonds they forge with their humans can help surmount even the toughest challenges and just make people happier.  

Then there are the police dogs, the bomb sniffing dogs, the cadaver sniffing dogs, the war dogs…   These dogs truly are service dogs, and they are heroes!

And I definitely want to be a part of this.  I love animals…   People, meh…  I don’t care for people as a whole, although I do generally like being around people on a more individual level.  I have a lot of interests in my life– art, writing, music, forensics, sports, horseback riding, my family…  It’s hard to give time to everything in my life that I enjoy, and even harder– for me– to settle on a career path, but I think this is something that can make me happy…

Which in the end is more important to me at the end of the day than any other considerations like money or prestige.

orlando-police-dog-training

i-service-dog-sharif

Methos-neko?

Most of you are probably familiar with “basket cat,” AKA the most relaxed cat in the world, or zen cat…   Shironeko (neko means cat(s) in Japanese)is known for not only being an extremely tolerant cat, allowing his owners to stack almost anything on his head and feet and take pix, but also have a goofy, happy,and completely relaxed look while doing it. I love Shiro.  Seeing his sweet “smile” never fails to lift my spirits.

Shironeko

Shironeko

Today, Hubby and J* were playing with Methos…and the Duplos.  You see where I’m going with this?  Well, after taking the first pic or two, this gave me a brilliant idea.

Methos is tolerant…but he sure doesn’t look zen yet.

Methos and Duplos

Methos and Duplos

Methos and the Pelican

Methos and the Pelican

IMG_3049

Methos and the alphabet blocks

Methos and the alphabet blocks

"Hello Methos"

“Hello Methos”

Methos and the plastic tub turtle

Methos and the plastic tub turtle

So, yeah… I guess he’s a work in progress.  One day he’ll let us take the pix without that I’m going to kill you in your sleep look on his face.

Happy Friday!

*all pix of Methos belong to alienredqueen; please do not use without permission/credit

You Have the Right to Shut the F*ck Up

I think this is the last I’ll say on this topic (and that includes responses to any irate gun owners.)

Do I think rights are important?  Yes.

Do I think they are guaranteed or owed?  No

Do rights really exist?  One would think a right is something that can’t be taken away or given.  Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, bearing arms… all can be taken away.  They are not guaranteed.

Unfortunately, there is little in this world that can not be taken away.  Most of the “rights” we have are “rights” that were given to us, either by law or religion.

We are born into this world naked.  We don’t come from our mothers equipped with a full set of rights.

According to Wikipedia and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, rights are defined as follows:

Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory.

To me, the key word in this passage is entitlement.  I see a fair amount of abuse directed at Americans online, especially by non-Americans.  We’re “bullies,” we’re ignorant, we’re arrogant.

While I do largely agree with that assessment, it still rankles me to see an entire nation discriminated against based on the actions of a few, namely the government.

But, America does have a problem, and I think it comes largely from a sense of entitlement.  I honestly think our problem with violence in this country largely stems from that feeling of entitlement.  And we got that sense of entitlement from our own government and judicial system.  Our country was founded on some “fundamental rights”enacted by Congress.  Fast forward a couple hundred years to the land of frivolous lawsuits, some of which are actually won.

Between laws set forth and court rulings (judgments) on criminal cases and civil suits, our country has set a dangerous precedence.  They have given a lot of people in this country the mentality of a three year old, that being, “I deserve to be happy, I deserve to get my way, and if I don’t, I’m going to have a temper tantrum sue.”

I am sick to fucking death of seeing all the people who have been proselytizing about their “right to bear arms” in the wake of Newtown.  Between the gun rights advocates and the gun control advocates, it seems there can be no middle ground either.  You would think some of the gun control laws being proposed or already in place are common sense.  But lately it feels like people are immune to common sense, or even facts and statistics.

You’re pissed about your “right to bear arms?”  Well, guess what.  Those 20 dead little kids should have had a right to go to school without fear of gruesome death!  I’ve  got news for you; most of the rights you have were given to you by the government, and thus, can be taken away by the government.

Some people would argue our “rights” are what separate us from less civilized people and places.  I agree that rights are important, but what I am trying to get across is that people are letting their perceived rights make them arrogant and ambivalent to the plights of others.  Believe it or not, I actually support the right to bear arms.  That said, I do not think that right should be without restrictions.  My problem is with the people placing their “right to bear” over the safety of our children, with lame arguments that “guns don’t kill people,” and opposition to even statistical data that supports the fact that easy access to weapons means the weapons get used more often in crimes of violence (case in point, the statistics on victims of lethal domestic violence and gun ownership.)**Someone the other day argued with me that by this logic, since his whole family owned guns, I was insinuating that one of them must be an abuser.  Such ignorant misinterpretation of the facts is a symptom of the arrogance I mentioned.  This person simply did not want to acknowledge any factual data that ran counter to his own desire to “keep his guns.”**  What this basically boils down to is, in the case of domestic violence, if a gun is around to be used, there is a higher chance it will be used.  I realize most gun owners are not abusers, but I’m going to extrapolate to violent crime in general and say if a person has easy access to a gun (whether it’s their own or a family member’s or friend’s), they are more likely to use said gun.

Maybe it seems like I’m picking on the “gun people.”  It’s only because the news and social media sites have been flooded with knee-jerk speeches about gun rights and gun control since the Newtown tragedy.  But the basic idea applies to everyone.

Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think if you take the idea of entitlement one step further, you are on your way to understanding the cause of a lot of violence too.

“I want something, you can’t keep me from having it, I have a right to have it, I’m going to take it. “

It seems to be pretty obvious that all the media coverage on mass killings like this seem to encourage other unstable people to air their grievances in a similar manner.  People who are dissatisfied, feel “wronged,” are unhappy with their lot in life, now feel entitled  to be noticed, to force their pain on others.

Anyway, though I digressed (at length) and maybe vented a bit, everyone is entitled to their opinion…and that’s about the only “right” you have that can’t be taken away.

*** Like I said, everyone is entitled to their opinions (the above is my opinion,) and you are welcome to share yours as long as it’s respectful.  Just please don’t expect a response from me regarding “gun rights,” because I think I’ve said all I have to say.  

 

People to Obama: Do Something NOW…But not THAT!

My intention is that this will be a short post, where I make an important point concisely, as it really should be self-evident.  But…we all know how I seem to be be practically incapable of not pontificating or at the very least, indulging in tangent streams of thought as they occur to me.   See?  There I go again…

But the main thrust of this post is this; I find it amusing, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, that people are clamoring for the President to “do something” about the violence in our schools (and in the country in general,) some doubtlessly even going so far as to blame him for it, but the minute he makes a proposal, everyone is bitching about infringement of their rights.  I’m not saying I am either for or against President Obama’s proposal.  What annoys me in the reaction of an ungrateful country who shout a call to action, usually with no practical (or accurate) idea of what it takes to actually achieve success.

Rep. Paul Gosar’s statement on Obama’s proposal was the following:

I will actively fight any attempt by this Administration to undermine our Constitution and infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. With the attack on personal gun-ownership, the Second Amendment, and our God-given rights, the Obama-Biden Administration has been relentless in their pursuit of taking guns away from law-abiding Americans. (source)

Some of these “free thinkers” even go so far as to compare Obama to Hitler.

hitler-300x216

liberals-gun-control-hitler-liberals-political-poster-1272169673

Let me explain something to you…people of questionable intellect.  Hitler’s tyranny was born out of a society in disarray.  At first, Hitler offered an ideal that the people wanted to believe.  An article from the Scientific American Mind describes tyranny as the result of a group processes, not one individual person’s pathology.  And yes, our society is in disarray, but that is due as much to the idea of entitlement that has been sewn into the fabric of our society.  Now, everyone thinks they’re owed something, and that they have the right to make waves to get whatever that something is.  A lot of greed,  useless righteous indignation, and not enough consequences for poor behavior is what is ruining our society… not ONE man.

Groups… are ultimately about collective self-realization. They use social power to make an existence in the image of their shared beliefs and values. But when groups cannot produce such a
working order, their members become more willing to accept other social structures—even if these new systems violate their existing way of life.

In specific reference to Nazi Germany:

Moreover, when the collapse of a system wreaks such havoc that a regular and predictable social life becomes impossible,
the promise of a rigid and hierarchical order becomes more alluring. Thus, the chaotic failure of the democratic Weimar led to the rise of Nazism.

See? I have already written more than I intended, but forgive me, because it is all to support my point.

AT first glance maybe it seems like I am actually inferring that I agree with the conservative view of the President’s plan.  Actually, what I am saying is that:

a) It takes more than one man to create a tyranny and

b) the very people that are criticizing the President’s every move are still looking to him to give them an answer, a solution, and berate him if it is not the answer they were hoping for.

Basically, I liken this to the smaller scale example of the society/ laws that restrict parental rights and decision-making (corporal punishment, health care and vaccinations, etc) but then blame the parent when the kid gets loosed on society as a disrespectful, anti-social mess.

You can’t have it both ways!  You can’t expect someone to perform miracles with their hands tied behind their backs (or in bureaucratic red tape.)

Just sayin’.