Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Clinton Dynasty

When the United States of America was founded, it was immediately after a violent revolution that expelled British colonial rule. We didn't like kings, and we certain didn't like one person and their family making decisions for everyone else. The dynastic rulers of most of Europe at the time were shocked and appalled that we would allow the people to... vote. It was seen as the greatest instability possible. To not have one vision for a nation and it's people that carried on for centuries would invite indecision and weakness and would quite possible destroy entire cultures should this sort of revolutionary idea spread. It did, of course, and they were wrong.

Dynastic rule was oppressive, unmoving and backward, and the "culture" and "tradition" they maintained were more like shackles on the people. To be rid of this and to have the general consensus of the population controlling what a nation does was unique in the world at the time and if the people who had signed the Declaration of Independence knew that for close to 40 years this nation would be ruled by just two political families... let's just say the founding fathers are probably 50 feet deeper in their graves from all the spinning.

The election in 2000 really showed the world what had been happening. It was supposed to be a smooth transition from Bill Clinton to his vice president Al Gore so they could continue what Bill ran out of time building. That whole Monica Lewinsky thing had taken up years of his time, carefully orchestrated by his political enemies to destroy his character and end his faction's political ambitions. Unfortunately for Bill, and all of the Wall Street cronies he had made promises to, it worked and they were defeated in a nail-biter by George W. Bush, not to be confused with his father George H. W. Bush who was president just 8 years before.

The outcome was viciously fought in the courts, coming down to one state where the Bush family had an ally. Brother Jeb Bush was the governor of Florida, and George Bush was soon declared the winner of that state's election, which carried him to the presidency. Seeing no use for Al Gore anymore, the wife of the president, Hillary Clinton was handed a senate seat in a state she never lived in to build up her political resume. She was originally supposed to take over for Gore in 8 years to continue the Clinton dynasty and now they had to wait those 8 years. 8 years while the previous dynasty had control again. 8 years while Bush gave away the money they had built up as a surplus, and had plans for... This was a tit-for-tat response to the damage done when Clinton had ruined the Reagan-Bush plans earlier.

After the new Reagan-Bush term was over, Hillary was positioned to take office. With a senate term under her belt and an appropriate resume to take over, the Clinton establishment was shocked when an Illinois state senator with similar credentials by the name of Barack Obama surprisingly won the nomination because he was far more likeable. She was supposed to be the first woman president and the path had been paved for an easy victory, but Obama would be the first black president. With the history of this nation, that was a far more profound victory for the people, and they voted in kind. The first woman would have to wait. The DNC, ever on her side and still run by the last Democratic president's people forced this newcomer to appoint her Secretary of State, arguably the second most powerful office in the country, so she stayed relevant. They would wait another 8 years.

Dynasties, it seems, are the way things work these days. Bill Clinton had cut off George H. W. Bush's planned 8 years and ended many of his policies in what was seen as a political coup at the time. Bush Sr., was himself a continuation of the Reagan dynasty having been his vice president for two terms, and head of the CIA even before that. During his own 4 year term, he continued Reaganomics and much of Reagan's political agenda and to be pushed aside was the beginnings of a new political family feud. This sort of politics, the back and forth swing of the pendulum with ruling families trading power and abruptly ending each others' policies, has always proven to be dangerous in America because a lot of powerful people end up losing a lot of money. Today, counting the terms of our current ruling families, they have held power in this country for close to 40 years, if not longer when you count CIA ties.

Now we're seeing the revival of the Clinton claim to the American throne again, and all of the skullduggery that the DNC is using to make it happen. It's no secret that the Trumps and the Clintons are family friends and have been for many years. In an article on Politico from a few months back it was detailed how Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump had to stop being seen in public together because of the current election. The Clintons were at several of Trump's weddings and over the years have built what can only be called a warm friendship.

It could be, that Trump is the raving, sexist dragon that's been built up for Hillary to slay on her way to becoming the first woman president, again. She's conservative which is a problem, but they've pitted a rabid dog against her so she looks liberal in comparison. Everything was tightly orchestrated to be a compelling story that the American people would eat up and HAVE to vote for, and it went off the rails when Bernie Sanders showed up, almost exactly the same as how Obama showed up 8 years ago. He would have been the first jewish president and this undermined her novelty in the same way. Without that, she's just not likeable enough to play the role set up for her, and has too much baggage to fit it.

But they're still pushing her again. Too many promises made during the Clintonian era need to be honored and a lot of banks and rich wall street people are riding on her success. The main Bush family rival, Jeb, is out and the only other Clinton aside from Bill's loser brother is Chelsea and she's not old enough to run. It must be Hillary or all is lost for those who've been waiting on a Clinton promise for close to 20 years now. If she doesn't win this time, I guarantee we'll see Chelsea or some other Clinton family friend they've been hiding in an attic somewhere running in 2020, but how could she lose? She's best friends with her opponent.

Will Trump play his part though? Or will the power, something he's always pursued, be too much of a temptation? We've got our own "Game of Thrones" happening right now.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Facebook Activism

During the Arab Spring, social networking was essential in organizing the masses that rose up and eventually toppled the governments of Egypt and Libya. People used it to track the locations of military and police forces so protesters could steer clear and to schedule the daily rally locations. It became such a threat that the governments of both countries shut down the internet entirely in a vain attempt to squash the growing protests. Cut off from the news in their homes, the average person went out into the street to have a look around and see what was going on, and would subsequently join the protests themselves. Both governments fell soon after.

But would the same thing happen in America? The ubiquitous nature of social media in this country and the cultural attention deficit of a population that's been spoonfed sensational headlines and manipulative advertising for their entire lives has made Facebook and Twitter the perfect place to receive bits of information. The average person rarely delves deeply into any subject, preferring to skim the surface reading headline after headline, and clicking "like" on images they find agreeable. Add an Anonymous mask and a black background to some trite message or quote and you'll soon get a knee-jerk flurry of likes and shares. With so much information at our fingertips, most of us just don't have the time to read entire books about a subject anymore, preferring a synopsis whether it comes from wikipedia or some article/blog post (ahem). People are considered educated if they read the news where daily events are boiled down to a headline, that if clicked, contains an article consisting of a few paragraphs that attempt to sum up events that entire novels would've covered not 50 years ago. This general "summing up" of the information we take in has made Twitter and Facebook the perfect thing to plug into so you feel connected to what's going on, without having to know much about it. But there's more to it than that.

The Arab protesters used their networks as a tool, but here social media is not just a means of communication, but rather a place for many of us to cherry-pick our reality. It's a place where someone can say things they may have trouble saying in person. It's a place where we can carefully craft our image and filter out most negativity. And it's a place where you can easily find a group of like-minded people and discuss politics, and disseminate reading material and art to a group of people that all agree with you. For the average person, standing on street corners and handing out pamphlets or taping them to electric poles and the sides of buildings would be unthinkable. They'd rather create or pass on an image over facebook where hundreds, if not thousands of people can see it instantly. It may even go viral where millions will see it. All the past ways of making a revolution a reality have been transferred to the digital world, where people get into heated discussions and get outraged reading story after story about the abuses of their own government and police force. They write comments, they share the articles, and then... they do nothing. The act of "informing the public" and "waking people up" gives them the sense that they've helped, and that they're a part of something.

The slow transfer of discussion and action from the real world to the digital one has made facebook not so much of a promoter of activism, but rather a container for it. Easily indexed and searched by governments and other nefarious entities. Easily censored and manipulated. The caf├ęs and taverns that the people of the French and American revolutions of the past would have to meet at to discuss politics could only be accessed by first, leaving your house. And if the politics got heated enough it was easy for the people to spill out into the streets together. A facebook group is a collection of random people usually all separated by miles with no chance at all of coming together and accomplishing anything real. They keep each other informed, click "like" and "share", and wonder how if everyone agrees with them, their government is still corrupt and their police are looking more and more like their military.

We weren't the only ones watching the Arab Spring protests. Our government was studying them intensely, learning the various ways the revolutions began and spread. Modern facial recognition and full access to all facebook data by entities like the NSA means they know exactly what's going on, and who's doing it. Far more tech-savvy than the fallen governments in the middle east, they know social media is a goldmine for data and would encourage you to get online and exercise your first amendment rights. Besides, they saw what happens if you shut it off and the last thing they want is for the container of our activism, to become the catalyst for revolution.

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CG is the Future, And the Future may be CG

Not long ago, I saw a movie called "The Running Man" starring Arnold Schwarzenneger. It was an 80s movie adapted from a Stephen King book of the same name and it's opening premise, a soldier framed for murder via government tampering with evidence couldn't be more relevant today. I'm sure at the time, it was just science fiction. A helicopter pilot ordered to fire on civilian protesters refuses, is overpowered, the civilians are killed anyway, and he is framed for the murders with advanced video manipulation showing him relishing in the carnage.

Have a look at this video and remember that the face of the woman talking isn't real.

- Lifelike "CG Emily" Animation -

Now look when it was posted. Over 6 years ago. That is a LONG time when technology is concerned. In fact, our capabilities at this point are so advanced that almost entire action movies are done with CG with only the random dialogue sequences being true filmed footage. Your average person just can't tell the difference. Before we know it, actors may never have to leave their homes to star in a film. They'd just have to license their image to a studio and you could have "Rocky 12" starring a young Stallone, or we could bring back Elvis, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe to star in the next "Back to the Future" with a young Michael J Fox.

This all sounds fun, and it would be, but remember who's hands all technology eventually falls into, if they didn't create it themselves. If movie studios can produce believable video imagery that never actually happened, what's stopping our government from doing the same? What's to stop anyone from creating sophisticated graphics and distributing them to news stations as real footage? There are virtually no means to detect this sort of thing aside from a good eye and the "Uncanny Valley".

Already, no videos of purported UFO sightings can be trusted because there are scores of amazingly realistic videos on Youtube of CG UFOs flying through, under and over clouds and weaving between skyscrapers. What else should we be wary of? Pictures in magazines have been "touched up" for decades and video wouldn't be much different. What events have we already seen.... that may never have happened at all?

The scariest part of all of this, is that my example from the Schwarzenegger movie is already possible, and being done. In this Video you can see realtime facial and speech manipulation on world leaders. They can show us anything they want, and not the people, watchdog groups, or the media would ever know the difference.

In closing, have a look at these images.

This woman is entirely computer generated.

Once again, all CG.

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American Dream - The Greatest Generation Myth

The "Greatest Generation". These were the proud Americans of the 1950s, the men and women who fought "the last good war" and toppled a dictator. They stared evil in the face and triumphed not once but twice, being one of the few, if not the only nation to ever win a war fought on two fronts. We were just that badass! Now home from war the young men and women of this nation were no longer proving their superiority on the battlefield, but on wall street, the factory floor, and the bedroom. Spawning the baby boom generation, these were the folks that owned a new car, lived in a new house, had a single income that could pay their bills AND their child's college tuition. This was America, as it should be.

And it was a myth. A myth still believed by too many people who attribute the successes of the 50s people and economy to social climate and morality rather than economical circumstance. With the vast majority of male youth volunteering or being drafted into WWII, upon their return, the GI bill gave them ALL an opportunity for free higher education, and they took it. Most of the returning soldiers came from families that had never had a college graduate in their recent history and it was an honor to be the first in their family to have a real chance at what they had all been promised for so long. The American Dream, and they were owed it.

After 4-5 years, just as 1950 rolled around, the percentage of educated Americans skyrocketed since practically all of the returning soldiers, being most of the male population of the country, now had an education. Doors opened, and you could do pretty much anything you wanted. Professionally, the sky was the limit. Add to that, the fact that America's major competition in industry, Japan and Germany, were in ruin so virtually all steel production moved here. The American automobile industry had gains like never before. Also, all of Germany's scientists defected during and after the war and now our chemistry, space, and aeronautics programs were light years ahead of the rest of the world. Things were really looking good for America, which took virtually no infrastructural damage during the war. All of Europe, the Middle East, the Soviet Union, and Asia was in shambles, but not us.

But then the world did what it always does. It rebuilt. That carpetbombing? It removed vast areas of outdated factory room, equipment... and operators. It was replaced with the shiny and new, and younger, fresh minds to operate it. By the end of the decade we were on the back foot. Russia beat us into space and the industrial output of nations that were in ruin just 15 years before rose exponentially. So we outsourced. Cheaper goods means better lives for us all right?

We all know what outsourcing does and I won't lecture on that. But needless to say, over the next 40 years we wrecked our own economy with one political blunder after another. We tried to stop the spread of communism, the force that beat us into space. The big red scary monster that was outpacing us in every way. Then the "Red Scare" happened. McCarthyism had us afraid of our own neighbors. Anyone could be a communist and we had to stamp it out NOW. First in Korea we tried to stop it's advance, but we didn't have the stomach for another war so soon after the big one. It ended in a stalemate. Then in Vietnam, we had to use the draft again and that ended in a humiliating defeat when the baby boomers who were sent to fight it had no reason to be there, unlike their fathers who had real reason to fear Germany and Japan and still held onto that fear. The protests against the war, a product of progressive views and education in general... that same education their parents paid for with their spoils of war, were seen as unamerican and amoral.. and probably communist... The "moral fabric" of the nation was tearing and it was the youth, who had no reason to fear the world, that we turned on. Fundamentalism took hold and began to ascribe what amounted to divinity to the bygone age of profit and power... but it had passed.

Fast-forward to today, and just as before WWII, hardly anyone can afford college, which was the catalyst that drove us forward, for a time, in the 50s. Now the chances of the average American becoming successful due to their own perseverance are so much lower than 60 years ago. The Dream is dead and conservatism looks back fondly on the glorious 50s as a time when the country had solid moral footing, despite jim crow laws. The "moral decay" of the present is to blame for all our troubles and politicians push this view to milk easy votes out of today's vastly uneducated populace.

The hard truth remains, if we ever want to get that same boost that made America great, it would take another world war, a full on draft, and then a similar gift to the survivors across the board again, to achieve another golden age for this nation. Or massive education subsidies.. but that'll never happen. We could educate the entire nation again as the rest of the world is still doing... but we'd rather give our money to corporations in the hopes that they might hire someone again.. some day.

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The End of the World

For the last few years, word of massive bee die-offs has hit various news sources and the internet fringe has picked the story up and run with it. These are the same people that shout so loudly and constantly about the end of the world that you'd think they're actually hoping it happens. There are images and memes being created constantly blaming everything from Monsanto's nicotine-based pesticides to the now defunct HAARP program.

But there is a small fact that nobody mentions. There are other species of insect that also can pollinate and nature has a way of filling voids. If all the bees die, the insects they were pushing out of the way to get to that sweet nectar would begin consuming it, as NO food source goes unused in nature, especially almost pure sugar. They would get covered in pollen in the process, the same as bees do now, and pass it on to the next flower. Bees happen to fill this niche because they are bigger and more aggressive than other insects that would take their place if they were no longer here. Underestimating the mechanisms that have kept this planet green and life-sustaining for millions of years seems to be the norm these days and people forget that plant life not only existed, but thrived well before the bee came onto the scene and grew with such abundance that gargantuan dinosaurs could feed constantly and never worry about depleting their food supply.

There's a lot of fear-mongering going on, and while it is distressing that bees are dying by the billion across the country, I'm not so sure it will be the end of days if they die out. Perhaps it would cause problems initially, but many plants are wind pollinated too... quite a lot of the plants we eat actually. Of course I'm not saying nothing should be done to stop the problem, but I also wouldn't let fear get in the way of rationality and judgement. I just find it odd that people are always so eager to declare that the world is ending, and that brings me to my main point.

This list is from Wikipedia and shows a timeline for every recorded end of the world prediction and it's fascinating how the end of the world was just around the corner since the beginning of recorded history.

End of the world predictions.

One of the worst examples of "End of the world" proselytizing was the story of the Millerites. William Miller headed a fairly large congregation as a lay-preacher and through some complicated, obfuscated, and entirely proprietary math, determined that the world would come to an end on April 28th, 1843 after many years of studying events and timelines in the Bible. This would later be revised to October 22nd, 1844. On that date, his congregation sold all their possessions, and stood all day on the edge of a cliff hoping to see their savior ride down from heaven on a white horse to begin a new age.

Unfortunately for them, that never happened and many were left destitute, disillusioned and quite a few lost their faith entirely. The event came to be known as The Great Disappointment and this was not the last time this exact set of events would be played out, with the antics of Harold Camping being one of the more recent examples.

So why do we have this insatiable desire for the world to end and for everything to be destroyed? Arguably one of the biggest genres in modern fiction is the "Zombie Apocalypse" with shows like "The Walking Dead" being the largest grossing television series in the history of the medium. Movies like "Deep Impact", "Armageddon", "Independence Day", "World War Z", all 50 or so living dead and zombie films, "The Road", and "I am Legend" are just a miniscule fraction of these along with book series like "Metro 2033" and "Left Behind". I'm sure you can find massive lists of apocalyptic books, TV, and movies across the net but putting an entire list of such media here would be beyond exhaustive, so I won't. There's just something about the struggle to survive that is innately compelling to the average person, almost as if there was some deep yearning for a simpler life where all vestiges of the modern world melt away. Why else would images of abandoned buildings and ghost towns be so popular as works of art?

The one thing we can be sure of, is that the world is not ending. At least not until our star goes supernova and expands to consume the planet in 5 billion years. Until then, as George Carlin put it, "The world isn't going anywhere, We are".

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Our Tax Dollar

Every year, assuming you're a citizen and you accrue some sort of monetary income, you're required by the Internal Revenue Service to complete a form called a "1040" and formally declare your earnings. Then you need to figure out exactly how much you owe the government in taxes, hunt for any legal deductions to your declared taxable income, and through your own math figure out whether you owe additional money to the government, or if you had paid too much the prior year and request a refund. Aside from the fact that we're doing the taxman's job in essentially billing ourselves, what's even stranger is that it all works on the "honor system". The government will believe you and just take your word for it 99% of the time, aside from the "random" audit where one particular individual is scrutinized and made an example of to the rest of the community. If your math is wrong, and the government finds out, you go to prison for "tax fraud" or "tax evasion".

Imagine if other organizations and businesses operated this way. Suppose you're at a supermarket and after wandering about for an hour or so, you arrive at the register with a cart full of food. The cashier looks at you and asks you "What do you owe me?". You pay what you've determined to be the value of the food and if you're lucky, you make it out the front door un-harassed. But every now and then, security singles someone out and takes a scanner to each and every product in their cart and if it doesn't match their payment receipt exactly, the police are called and you're hauled off to prison. Is that any way to run a business, nevermind a whole country?

Assuming everything goes well and your math is correct, or wrong and undiscovered, you have no control whatsoever over where your money actually goes. You're assumed to be paying for a tiny fraction of everything our local and federal governments do. That includes police and firemen, roads, parks, research grants, wars, and a global surveillance apparatus... not to mention clandestine operations, the funding of militant groups to fight the militant groups our rivals are funding, and a decades-long "War on Drugs".

And this is where the corruption begins. Because the citizens have no way of knowing exactly where their tax dollars are being spent if they don't want to pour through books and books worth of legalese to find every piece of "pork" in every bill that's brought to the floor, our elected officials can spend that money wherever they like. They can't put it in their own pockets directly of course, so they take bribes in the way of future jobs/board appointments and kickbacks from corporate lobbyists, appropriating funds for their related corporate interests. Rarely does a bill become law without a host of edits to fund various local projects like libraries, stadiums, bridges, fiber cables, research into the mating habits of moose, etc. Most of this is public and if you have no life whatsoever, or it's your job, you can do a lot of research and find out how much money is wasted every year trying to make the right people happy so a particular politician can get re-election funding and do the whole dance again.

Imagine if we could control where our tax dollars went. Every year when we're doing the taxman's job, we could also do a secondary government service and fill out another form detailing exactly what we want our particular tax payments to be spent on, be it the military, schools, health-care, NASA, roads, or even payments on the principle of our national debt instead of just the interest, with a base 10% automatically going into a discretionary account the government could use on unforeseen expenditures. We could detail exactly how much money from our own personal tax payments we wanted to go into these individual government spending accounts and the government would be unable to use the money from one account on anything other that what it was intended for. In this way the true will of the people would be expressed each year.

The real magic however, is that the corruption would end. A lobbyist could ask for money, but there would be no money to give. The war-monger might want to jump into every conflict that arises across the globe, but there might not be enough citizens who want to pay for it. We would have a properly funded education system and roads for the first time in remembrance, and things like this..... would never get funding. And yes, that's a "T" before the "illion".

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Since the end of the Civil War, there have been continuous grumblings about secession coming out of Texas. The truth is, since their own war of independence with Mexico the idea of a Texas Republic has been strong in the state. Just 16 years after annexation they wanted to leave the union, and our Civil War was their opportunity because Texas, unlike the other southern states had far more reason to leave. The "States Rights" stance of the Lincoln federal government at the time clashed not only with the southern way of life, but specifically with many of the stipulations in the Texas Treaty of Annexation. Forced back into the union after 4 years of war and fear of another Mexican invasion, and over 600,000 American deaths, the Texans of that time never truly wanted to be American. The loyalty of the average Texan was to their state first, and then to the union.

Today however, Texas has become deeply woven into our ideas of what America is. It's in the heart of the country, and much of the world that otherwise knows nothing of our culture would recognize an image of the classic American cowboy. Texas, as big as it is, actually needs the union far more than the union needs it despite the fist-pounding of local politicians and Tea Partiers. So what would happen to a new Republic of Texas?

First and foremost, articles of secession would need to be drafted and approved by a majority of the population. Should that happen, the federal government would need to recognize it and NOT intervene militarily. Considering almost all of our military bases have been in the south since the end of the Civil War as part of the occupation, it would be difficult for a Texas militia or conscripted army to win, even with the support of neighboring states or the entire south. Our military is drawn from all over the country and the individual soldier has no loyalty to the state they find themselves stationed in, and wouldn't mutiny as locally-drawn forces may have, had a successful secession happened just 75 years ago.

Assuming Texas did manage to leave peacefully or by force, all of the federal programs the citizens had become accustomed to would halt and they would immediately lose U.S. citizenship. No more Social Security. No more Medicaid. No federal highway maintenance, no PEL grants, no small business subsidies, NOTHING that has the word "federal" in it would apply to any citizen of the new Republic. This alone would alienate any infirm person who relied on medicaid and social security and would be a catastrophe for the elderly population whose only source of income and healthcare would immediately halt.

The rest of the population would no longer have FDIC insurance on their savings and would need to begin trading in a new Texan currency as the Republic would have no right to print U.S. Dollars. The ensuing run on the local banks would cause such turmoil that most of them would go belly-up almost immediately as a new currency would have little value on the international market. Anyone with any sense would try and rescue their Dollars as quickly as they could and would be reluctant to convert to the new currency.

The borders would immediately be closed, and citizens of the new Republic would need to obtain passports to enter the United States proper. New trade deals would need to be hammered out between Texas and the rest of the world, the U.S. included, and luckily for the new Republic, they have a considerable coastline. Sea trade would be possible but tariffs due upon passing through U.S. waters and crossing our borders would make it difficult to profit from any such initiatives. Closed borders would halt all products from entering or leaving Texas for a time and this would further weaken their new currency as the scarcity of numerous materials and products would lead to price gouging and terrible inflation.

Once the banking catastrophe gets sorted out, and the republic begins collecting taxes that had once been going to the fed, they could begin setting up their own programs but would be unable to pay for things like Social Security. Texas and other southern states have long enjoyed an income from the federal government, with Texas taking in over $40 Billion in federal funding in 2011 alone. This money would no longer be there and estimates for starting just the most important social programs comparable to what the U.S. currently offers would top a trillion dollars. Add to this the cost of funding a military and buying it's own equipment, either from the U.S. or Russia, and the new Republic would be deficit spending for decades. They would have no credit on international markets and no one would be willing to loan the country any money at all, which, of course, would continue to devalue its currency.

Finally, there are the social ramifications. With the Texas vote gone, Democrats would dominate elections in the U.S., quickly taking over the House, Senate and the presidency, while in the new Republic of Texas, religious conservatism would take hold. Christian values would spread into government unchecked and would be codified into law with no interference from that pesky U.S. constitution and watchdog groups like the ACLU. The U.S. would begin looking far more like Canada and Texas would begin looking far more like Mexico as they'd lack the funding to secure their own border. Economically and socially isolated, we may end up with a religious state as bad as Iran on our southern border, in constant conflict with Mexican drug lords and their own increasing Latin population.

Secession would be everything Texas never wanted.

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The Christian Dollar Deception

Imagine a homeless person, bearded and wearing an old-style army jacket, probably rescued from a Salvation Army bin before the employees could collect it. He's slowly hobbling down the sidewalk, going nowhere in particular. He watches the world, as the world ignores him, purposefully averting their gaze so they don't make eye contact. So they don't have to feel guilty or acknowlege that the system doesn't work for everyone. He stops suddenly, looking down at his feet, and there, like the smallest ray of hope is a dirty and forgotten part of that society that left him behind so many years ago. It's a folded and time-worn $20 bill.

He bends over to pick it up, the slightest smile creeping across his lips, threatening to crack the dour expression he's worn longer than many have lived. Thoughts flood his mind as he imagines the many small ways he can rejoin society, if only for a fleeting moment. He's so happy as rarely does ANYTHING work out in his favor anymore. Now he'll be able to eat at least one good meal, and maybe he could even afford a few nips of strong liquor to forget about the world and his problems, at least for a little while, after the money is gone again. Then he turns the bill over....

In a world that beats down the homeless, forceably moves them from one location to another just so the rest of society doesn't have to see them... to see the other, empty side of the scale that's been tilted their way for so long with all of their own excesses, this is probably one of the most sadistic acts. To lift the spirits of someone, only to dash then to pieces again on the sidewalk. How many other people had picked up that same piece of paper and wadded it up, furious, and discarded it again so it can be picked up by the next passerby? That piece of paper, the grand idea of some Christian think-tank has become like a chain letter of misery and disappointment.

Not once in the history of the universe has a server, a homeless person, or anyone else picked up what they thought was money, discovered it was NOT money at all but rather an indictment of their lives, and been stoked about it. Some of the messages even begin with "Disappointed?" to mock you and your slavish allegiance to the dollar, when your slavish allegiance should be to the lord Jesus Christ. What I'm wondering is if these advertisements have netted them ANY new followers at all. Below are more examples of this.

Very dissappointed...

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Anon TV

Anonymous videos. We've all seen them. The crash of suspenseful music, some crazy-cool newscast-style graphics and then the familiar masked and hooded figure sitting at a desk threatening the world with a modulated voice.

But how effective are they? To be honest, I used to watch every one of them after the Snowden incident and get excited. "Oh man, they're gonna take out Capital One!" and "Holy shit! The world government is going to fall!?". "10 MILLION people showing up for a rally? I'm there, man!". But then nothing happens. That rally? The Million Mask March? Maybe 100 people showed up at the biggest location. And what about the imminent government collapses? It doesn't take long to recover from a DDOS and a defaced website can be loaded from backup in under a minute after it's spotted. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the governments of Israel, Syria, Russia, France, etc can manage to function while their websites are down. They've operated for hundreds of years without websites and email.

After almost a full year with over 100 different videos coming out threatening everything from individuals and businesses, to entire governments and often mythical entities like the Illuminati, the NWO, and even God himself... nothing happens. We all want to believe that the world can be changed by the hacker. The "keyboard cowboys" of the world will come riding to our rescue and put right what went wrong. But when your battlefield is limited to "a series of tubes" that the governments themselves maintain and operate, what can you really do?

For one, you can dig up information and spread it. You can reach millions of people online if you know how to market your information correctly, and in doing so you can cause considerable shame and embarrassment to public figures. But many of them have no shame. They've reached the positions they have by being ruthless and backed by even more powerful entities who use them for their own gain. Can you truly shame a puppet? I can't imagine piling on more shame to the most bought-and-paid-for individual would affect them at all.

So I pass over these videos now. They can be made by one person with some video editing software and don't even have to come close to representing the general consensus. I've actually seen one video directly threaten the makers of a different video before. The whole thing is just crying wolf. When you make empty threats constantly, nobody respects them, and after a while, people just ignore them. The creators of these need to understand that with each new video they put out, they are taking away just a little bit of respect for the movement.

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Technological Attenuation

So just how effective are those "hacking tools" you can find on most sites that consider themselves underground? The answer is complicated, and applies to both hacking AND security.

The biggest factor is, of course, the userbase. It's the sheer amount of people using all-purpose scanning technology that makes them almost entirely useless. I'm sure that scanning whole IP ranges will net you a misconfigured router here, and an unpatched web server there, but isn't the whole point of an attack being that it was targeted specifically? What point are you making by defacing the website of a small flower shop and some kid in Norway's football website? They were wide open, but you still didn't break the system you wanted.

I run this website from a local server and I can say with some authority that the internet is flooded with portscans and bulk exploit attacks every second of every day. So much so, that if the internet were a radio signal, they would be the "white noise" in the background. Before I even had a placeholder page up during development the log file was showing large blocks of spammy attempts to get into phpmyadmin, apache config, and a host of other generic "exploits" that haven't been effective since 2004, and each block of bad requests was branded with the name/catchphrase of the program running the scans.

Here are a few examples and note that they are only three attempts long because my server bans bad requests after three in a short period of time. Some of these attacks would continue for 10 lines or more. - - [25/Jun/2014:21:31:38 -0400] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 404 588 "" "ZmEu" - - [25/Jun/2014:21:31:38 -0400] "GET /phpMyAdmin/scripts/setup.php HTTP/1.1" 404 588 "" "ZmEu" - - [25/Jun/2014:21:31:39 -0400] "GET /phpmyadmin/scripts/setup.php HTTP/1.1" 404 588 "" "ZmEu"

This is clearly either from some scanning software named "ZmEu" or that's the name of the hacking group that coded it. It first identifies itself (why?) to the server and then proceeds to spam every known phpmyadmin setup location hoping that a site admin didn't delete the setup files. - - [28/Jun/2014:10:43:25 -0400] "GET /user/ HTTP/1.1" 404 588 "" "Morfeus Fucking Scanner"

It's pretty obvious the name of this scanner and it's looking for a file called This Article explains this exploit and it was written 6 YEARS ago. - - [26/Jun/2014:17:22:23 -0400] "GET /phpTest/zologize/axa.php HTTP/1.1" 404 588 "" "" - - [26/Jun/2014:17:22:24 -0400] "GET /phpMyAdmin/scripts/setup.php HTTP/1.1" 404 588 "" "" - - [26/Jun/2014:17:22:24 -0400] "GET /pma/scripts/setup.php HTTP/1.1" 404 588 "" ""

I call this one the "Zologize" attack and it's just another phpmyadmin probe. - - [26/Jun/2014:19:40:26 -0400] "GET /HNAP1/ HTTP/1.1" 404 588 "" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Mac_PowerPC)"

This is probably the most common exploit attempt I've seen. It's looking for a misconfiguration in a d-link router described Here and was patched at least 4 years ago.

I've got a 600k log file just from today of hundreds of script-clickers hitting my server in their much larger IP range sweeps for vulnerabilities. The fact that there are so many, means any exploits they attempt to use get patched immediately because people like me notice them right away, clogging up the logs with errors. Continued probes make admins even more paranoid, we institute flood controls, and that my friends, is the real problem. This situation is unavoidable with most scanning suites since you have zero control over how they run, how quickly they send requests, and how many people before you hit those same servers with that same script. Their overuse makes it so that by the time you hear the name of a hacking tool, it's already too late to use it to any real effect.

This concept works against security as well, however. Apple has long touted its operating system as superior to Windows because it "doesn't get viruses" and for now, it's not really worth the effort to develop a virus or worm to infect macs. Most businesses, banks, governments and anything else worth breaking into, including the majority of all home computers are running some flavor of Windows, but as any security expert will say, as Apple's market share increases, they WILL attract the attention of hackers and there will be a serious lack of anti-virus technology to stop them once it begins.

Whatever operating system you use though, if you're using any major anti-virus suite like McAfee, Norton, AVG, or Avast, you're not safe because, once again, too many people use them. Most viruses and exploits are written to disable the top scanning software by default before they even begin their attack. It's the users of any piece of software alone that render it useless in the long run which means that to continue to be viable on the internet, for good or for evil, you sadly have to abandon things as they become popular. I call it "Hipster Security".

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Lying to Children

Several years back the public was subjected to what's become the most famous nipple slip, or "wardrobe malfunction", in the history of broadcast television when Justin Timberlake ripped a crucial piece from Janet Jackson's costume during the NFL Superbowl halftime show. Out tumbled the most vile and evil of all things to the media and conservative population, human skin.

The excuse used to fine the network and keep cameras rolling on pundits for weeks after the nipple holocaust was the possibility that some children may have seen it and gotten the strange idea that women may actually have breasts. The horror. Imagine what would happen if children knew the truth about the world.

At the root of the issue, as is always the case with such events, is the "innocence" of children. That wide-eyed look, complete trust, and insatiable appetite for knowledge and exploration that we find such a joy to experience with them is under constant threat from television, film, music, news, and any other entertainment outlet. But where exactly does it come from? Adults actively shelter children from sex, violence, and even science if it conflicts with the ideology they're pushing and almost all regulations on the aforementioned industries are based, in part, on keeping racy material away from immature viewers.

These kids aren't naturally this fragile, however, as is evidenced throughout much of history. As much as parents don't want to admit it, they're keeping their children artificially "innocent" (ignorant) for their own amusement. The immaturity associated with being a child comes entirely from having no life experience. It's just cute to us how kids have no clue about the real world and say hilariously dumb things based on the ignorance they're left in because they're never allowed to view reality. Shows like "Kids say the darndest things" with Bill Cosby had a huge following of fawning adults who find this mental state endearing and lovable.

We tell them lies about The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the stork, and giggle at their amazement when you insist magic is, in fact, real and is embodied by various entities that all want to bring them presents, candy, and kid brothers and sisters. Rather than tell them the truth, that their parents love them and enjoy giving them gifts, they prefer to maintain delusions that almost always end in heartbreak when the stories inevitably break down under any sort of scrutiny by their little minds.

Should a child make any attempt at growing up at their own pace rather than the plodding pace laid out by their parents, they're severely reprimanded. Part of the reason so many adults today are so damaged sexually is because the first time they ever attempted to explore, they saw the look of horror on their parents' faces and immediately associated their own bodies as "bad" and "dirty". They're made to look away when the bad people on TV are having sex, suffer nervous short responses if they ever ask about it, and quickly form a variety of opinions on the subject that all amount to "sex = a terrible thing that one should never investigate, see, or do." Add religion into the mix and the psychosis can become even more severe... all because the cute little doll their parents have been dressing up and playing with is showing signs of actually being human.

It's no wonder that by the time they become teenagers, kids have a natural distrust of authority and crippling self-esteem issues. Ignorance isn't cute anymore and they've been living a lie, carefully crafted for them for over a decade, and everyone around them from their parents to their teachers were in on it.

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The Militarization of our Police

Andy Taylor was a popular TV character in the 60s. He was a local sheriff in the small town of Mayberry, had one bumbling deputy, and never really ran into too much trouble. In fact, during the entire 249-episode run of "The Andy Griffith Show" I don't recall him drawing his service weapon more than twice, if he carried one at all. He was loved and respected by the community, and he kept them safe with a mix of stern compassion, and discretionary enforcement.

This was the image of the "Good Cop" that became popular in America in the last century. In stories and in media the police were always the good guys and more often than not, the "beat cop" would walk up and down neighborhood and city streets armed with little more than a nightstick, the law, and his wit. He made friends with local businesses who felt safe having him always just a few blocks away and his presence on the street allowed the public to see and get to know the man who they could call on for help, should they ever need it. The people trusted their local policeman. Now ask yourself, would Andy Taylor have ever driven a vehicle like this?

Note the machine-gun mount at the top and the desert brown paint, in an area that's clearly not a desert. This is obviously a military hand-me-down and as you'll see below, the uniform of these officers is a military-style camouflage.

Who are they trying to hide from with that forest camo pattern? Are they hunting? Or are they just trying to look more like the army they've become? Does law enforcement really require military vehicles, uniforms, and weapons these days? There were gangs during prohibition in the 30s as well and the police never needed anything like this. You'd think these vehicles were practically tanks, but they're not by definition. They're armored personnel carriers. They do have actual tanks though...

If you're wondering who they're gearing up to fight, it's you. These weapons are meant to be used against our own people should they get out of line. There was a time, however, when the police weren't an army and it was 1997. The North Hollywood Shootout scared alot of important people at the time and for good reason. Two bank robbers, dressed head to toe in body armor and carrying assault weapons robbed a Bank of America branch. Unable to escape in time they met with police and overpowered the officers, injuring 11 while being practically impervious to the 9mm rounds the police were firing back. So outgunned, the police had to resort to commandeering bigger weapons from a local gun store and eventually after hours two police snipers managed to hit their mark in their only unarmored location, their heads.

Ever since this incident, police have been arming themselves so their authority is never undermined again. It was embarrassing, to say the least, that our police were so easily outmatched by just two gunmen. The sentiment at the time was to re-train and re-arm, and re-arm they did. S.W.A.T. teams began training with military special forces, and precincts across the country started to acquire armored vehicles.

And with all of this firepower, they were still afraid. They began to hide and devote more time to undercover operations with all the paranoia and skulduggery of organizations like the CIA with none of the training or experience. Instead of being visible and present to prevent crime, they instead would lie in wait to respond to crime, allowing it to happen so they could then punish the criminal. Military-style raids much like the one that killed Osama Bin Laden were being carried out in the homes of citizens who were merely suspected of selling an illegal plant. The extra money from tickets and fines that came in when you allowed a crime to happen instead of preventing it, was incentive to abandon the visible "beat cop" altogether in most jurisdictions. They now rode exclusively in cars, conspicuous, yet unseen. You know it's a police vehicle, but you can no longer see the officer's face until he's in yours.

As they ramped up their "War" on drugs, they began to see all citizens as potential enemy combatants, retraining for caution over all else. The safety of the officer became far more important than the safety of the citizens they were detaining and they began to look far more like a military fighting an actual war. If the vehicle above didn't say "SWAT" could you tell if the man in uniform was a police officer or a U.S. Army soldier?

When our police become an army, we are living under martial law.

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Deification and the Exaggeration of History

In 323 BCE, one of the most powerful men in recorded history died of fever in Babylon. It's been argued that he was poisoned, drank himself to death, or was abducted by aliens but this is the official story agreed upon by most academics and for our purposes here, it's the one we're going with. But even before the body of Alexander the Great went cold his generals began carving up his vast empire, the largest that the world had ever seen. In fact, to many, it WAS the world. Ptolemy took Egypt and a long line of "Ptolemaic" Pharaohs would follow, Cleopatra included, while Seleucus took the eastern lands (present day Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) founding the Seleucid Empire. The rest of the known world was split between 3 other generals, all 5 of them Macedonian rulers.

This, of course, would be a problem. The legitimacy of Alexander's reign was won at the point of a spear, and while these new rulers were his generals, they were not Alexander. To many, even to the man himself, Alexander was a god. He survived campaign after campaign, throwing himself into the midst of battle and he always came out the victor. After he defeated Darius to become the ruler of Persia he was formally declared a god and given all such honors back in Greece. He was invincible, but now he was dead, and his generals were foreigners ruling over broken empires and peoples. Had it not been for the sheer magnitude of the personality and accomplishments of the man who won the lands they now bickered over, they would have been deposed immediately... but these were the Generals of Alexander.

In the years after his death, the "Cult of Alexander" persisted and the concept of the Hellenistic Ruler Cult, connecting kings to the gods began to flourish much as it had in Egypt. Ptolemy, being the General of a god, found it fairly easy to become Pharaoh of Egypt, thus becoming a god himself, as did the other rulers. This idea of a ruler cult continued far into the medieval period, with the kings of Europe speaking not only for their people but often for God himself.

And so it is, that from time to time throughout history we find individuals who've become so accomplished and loved in life that the stories told about them years after they've died become legends, myths, and then, sometimes, religions as is the case with Alexander. There are even stories of Roman emperors secretly worshiping him as one of their pantheon of gods hundreds of years later.

With deification so prevalent in the ancient world, it makes you wonder about all the other characters that were worshiped and how they became gods. Not the myths, but the real stories behind the names of Zeus, Apollo, Ra, and Horus. Was Odin such a powerful norse warrior-king in prehistory, such a beast on the battlefield, that he became a god to his people after he left this world? Was Hercules such a strong man that history will forever remember his feats of strength, exaggerated as they've become over time? Were the tales of dragons found all around the world the imaginings of people who discovered dinosaur bones and had no real concept of the vastness of time? Were the ancient stories of ogres the distant memories of a people who once lived alongside the neanderthal, many times stronger than a man and a dangerous animal to cross?

The obvious exaggerations of history can be found everywhere and to someone well-versed in the subject it can be hard to completely write off the various myths and legends we find as pure fiction when so many of them can be traced back far enough where you can see the stories becoming more and more mundane with each previous telling. You see, the people who record histories and sagas are rarely liars, but often bullshitters, and there's a clear difference. A liar will knowingly tell you an untruth, while a bullshitter will inadvertently tell you one because it sounds plausible and helps to fill in a gap in their knowledge of a subject or story. Sometimes we even find that entire lines and stanzas are added to bardic songs and poems to complete a rhyme or to properly fill in the timings of the musical accompaniment.

Imagine if our only source of information on Julius Caesar was from Shakespeare's play by the same name. Quite a few liberties were taken with the real history for dramatic effect, brevity in some cases, and verbosity in others. The bardic songs and stories that were passed from generation to generation before the advent of writing codified them and ended their evolution some 7000 years ago could be FAR older than we realize. For all we know, the only truth about the man named "Thor" that remains in the stories told about him was that he carried a hammer. He's a god and a comic book character now, but perhaps in the year 11,000BCE he was the chief of a powerful tribe of raiders and conquerors and after he died, his legend began. 4-6000 years later his story was committed to stone for the first time and if you've ever played "telephone" as a child, you know that's far too long for much fact to remain in what's become a fictional story about a real man.

Now ask yourself this. Keeping with the questions posed above, could a middle-aged nazarene carpenter by the name of Yeshua ben Yosef have been able to break down Hebrew society and morality with nothing but his own words and a few followers, and become such a threat to the priests and their monopoly on thought and culture that they had him tried and executed? Could a cult have formed around him and his followers much the same as Alexander?

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The Banking Racket

It's long been a joke on the comedic circuit that banking is a backward business. If you have money, they give you more money in the form of interest. If you don't have enough, they take money from you in the form of overdraft and "insufficient funds" fees. Basically, money is funneled from the bottom to the top, taken from the poorest people and dumped into the accounts of the richest. It's the cornerstone of modern banking. They pay the rich for the privilege of using their money to gamble on the stock market.

It wasn't always this way, however. In the middle ages, and earlier, it was considered a sin to charge interest on a loan. This isn't just a random bible verse or two either. It is EVERYWHERE in the text, so much so that there can be no doubt that the authors of the book could never be mistaken on this issue.

Leviticus 25:35-37

“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit."

Luke 6:34-35

"And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil."

Deuteronomy 23:19-20

“You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it."

Exodus 22:25

“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him."

If I listed them all, it would be rather exhaustive, so I won't. There are plenty more verses on interest and moneylending that can be found here.

In the middle ages, and arguably the centuries before and after as well, the bible was the highest law in the land. These verses presented a problem for the christian who wanted to make a career out of money manipulation because the practice was outlawed, outright. There was another group, however, that didn't follow these rules or apply them as literally as the catholic church, and they were the Jews of Europe.

Hated, discriminated against, and subjected to countless purges and vicious rumors which continued this cycle of hate and murder, most Jews in Europe couldn't own property, and couldn't be hired as labor by the christian populace. This meant that they couldn't operate a proper business, and couldn't work for someone else's either so they had to find a niche that the predominately christian populace needed filled, and couldn't do themselves. Money-lending fit this bill perfectly. The reason alot of bankers to this day are Jewish is the fault of christian bigotry, rather than an indictment of Jewish culture. Of course the charging of interest was considered obscene, even if it was done by non-christians, and this was used as an excuse for even further purges and mock trials that had many christian debtors testifying against their Jewish lenders as a means of vacating their debt. You can't pay back a pile of ashes in the town square...

Another group, the Knights Templar, attempted to compete with the Jewish moneylenders and found a loophole in the whole business of interest by calling it "rent" instead. They had amassed so much wealth charging christian visitors for protection along the roads to the holy land, and through the spoils of war brought back from multiple crusades that they just couldn't find enough things to do with it. They decided to bankroll the extravagant lifestyles of the European aristocracy, some monarchs becoming so deeply indebted and owing so many favors to the Knights that they could never repay their "rent" on the loans they had taken. Eventually King Philip IV of France decided he was done making payments and convinced the Pope to disband the order which had become so rich and powerful that they threatened to bankrupt and topple entire governments. The Knights were rounded up, vicious rumors and allegations were hurled at them, and they were tortured and burned at the stake. It would seem that money-lending has always been a dangerous occupation.

The bankers in Iceland found this out just recently when, unlike America which bailed their banks out with public money when they spent too much of their own at the Wall Street slot machine, they rounded up the CEOs of all their major banks and arrested them. Most are still in prison to this day, and this so scared the banking establishment in America that there was a virtual media blackout and this event was never covered by our major news outlets, most of whom have their own bank debts and bank sponsors.

The problem is, of course, interest, and it always has been. When you look at what a bank actually does, compared to what it should do, you can see why. Banks should be a place where you can safely store your money. Before the advent of these institutions, if you had an abundance of cash, you either reinvested it in property, or you locked it up in a chest, hid that chest, and hired guards to defend it and hoped those guards didn't pinch any coins for themselves. Holding onto cash was a dangerous proposition and invited treachery.

If banks were run as a true business and weren't allowed to gamble with their clients' money investing in stocks, property of their own, and all manner of other moneymaking schemes they'd have no income and would have to charge for the services they actually provide to their customers... protecting their money. Instead of paying their clients for the privilege of using their money to make more, a fee of $1 for each $100 stored in the bank per month would keep most bankers rich and if the wealthy money-holders didn't want to pay the fees, there's always a mattress they could stuff it into and they could take their chances. Your average American would pay almost nothing for this protection, maybe $5-$10 a month, while the rich would be paying $10,000 a month for each million they had in storage doing absolutely nothing for the economy. Capitalism fails when money becomes stagnant and hoarded and this would actually encourage market fluidity and loans could be given at no interest at all which would further benefit the market and help new businesses get started, encouraging the competition that true capitalism relies on. All the while, the banks would still make plenty of money.

This kind of banking, honest banking, wouldn't penalize the poor for having no money, but rather the rich, for having too much and doing nothing with it. As it is now, the entire system is backward and it's pretty obvious that short of what Iceland has done, the money will continue to flow from the bottom, to the top, and we will continue having depressions, recessions, and "market corrections" as long as they're allowed to use your money to gamble on the stock market.

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Creating culture

There's an old story out there and a brief Google expedition didn't turn up much about it's source, aside from numerous retellings. Apparently, it's based on some research done in 1967 by one Dr. Stephenson (cited in Galef, 1976), and it's used quite often in business seminars and training. The message however, is important whether it actually happened or not, and it goes a little something like this. (ahem)

Researchers placed 5 gorillas in a room, and in that room was a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling by a rope with stairs leading up to them. It didn't take long for one of the gorillas to investigate and begin to climb the stairs, at which point all of the apes were doused by ice cold water from the sprinkler system in the ceiling. The inquisitive one quickly descended the stairs and rejoined the group. After a few minutes and some time spent drying up, another one of the group decided he'd have better luck with those bananas and began to climb the stairs, when all of the apes were doused, again, with ice cold water. Gorillas learn quickly, and none of them ever tried for the fruit again.

After a few hours one of the apes was led out and he was replaced by a new individual who quickly took interest in the bananas. The other apes saw his interest and when he tried to climb the stairs they lunged at him and beat him mercilessly. Not knowing what just happened, he quickly moved away from the stairs to lick his wounds. Not soon after, another one of the original apes was taken from the room and another new individual was introduced. This one took immediate interest in the fruit just like the the new guy before him and when he went for the stairs, the group jumped on him and beat him as well, gleefully joined by the ape who was beaten, himself, only half an hour before.

This behavior continued as each of the remaining original apes were removed until the room contained 5 individuals who all knew NEVER to climb the stairs, even though none of them knew why, or what would happen if you did. To them, it was just "the way it's always been done" and what the researchers had actually done, was to create a small bit of culture in this grouping of apes. "We never go up the stairs".

Being closely related to these animals, humans tend to show similar behaviors, if less (or more) exaggerated and this reminds me of how many of our own cultures are steeped in "tradition" and religious laws with no reason given as to why we follow them aside from "it's god's will". As a non-believer this answer has never sat well with me for obvious reasons and as science has advanced a bit since these books were written, explanations are more readily apparent.

The parasite that causes Trichinosis

When Leviticus says that pigs are unclean and those who eat them are committing a sin, as someone with a modern view, it's fairly easy to see how this got codified into law. Undercooked pork in developing countries often carries Trichinosis which can kill a person who eats it in pretty nasty ways. Should this same fate happen to two or more people in any particular village a primitive culture could quickly make the connection between eating pork and a nasty death.

With no knowledge of the species of roundworm that caused the affliction, it would be only logical that "God doesn't want you to eat pork". Laws are then created with the true benevolent purpose of preventing people from dying, they work, and are passed down to the following generations. The same goes for shellfish, and most of the other banned foods in the bible. They all have a higher-than-normal potential for being infected with parasites, poisons, and various bacteria, all completely unknown to ancient science.

This same logical conclusion could have been reached with many of the other banned acts such as homosexuality. Lacking today's methods of sanitation, protection, and medical treatment, anal sex can come with some pretty bad consequences and if enough men dropped dead from diseases originating from their sexual organs, it would only be obvious that "God doesn't want two men having sex". Laws are then created and passed down, again, with the honest intention of saving lives.

Of course these conclusions would be silly today, but with a limited knowledge-base even an intelligent person could make these logical leaps of faith. The problem is, that too many people today read these old conclusions in an ancient text and choose not to rethink cause and effect, but to hold on to ideas like "God doesn't want you to eat pork" and "Homosexuality is a sin". It's tradition, it's culture, and it's just the way it's always been done...

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The Argument Against Taxing Churches (From an Atheist)

Ever since John Oliver's piece on evangelists, and the satirical founding of his church "Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption", a new debate has begun to boil over, long simmering in the melting pot of America. Now with renewed pressure on the IRS to tax religious institutions after decades of ignoring violations, I'm torn on this new debate in a way that might surprise the two people who read this blog. The problem is, simply put, if you tax them you invite them into politics.

Taxing an entity means they're paying for the operations of the government, and by law need to be represented in that government. We actually fought a revolution over that point, "taxation without representation" back in 1776. It's why we exist as a country and aren't still British colonies. If you tax churches, they must be represented, officially, and that's a problem.

"Separation of Church and State" has long been a hallmark of our secular culture, though it's never been strictly enforced. The original wording that Thomas Jefferson used when explaining the government position to Baptists was:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

Basically, there would never be a national church, and no laws could be passed, including tax laws, that would interfere with people's right to worship as long as opinion does not become action, political or otherwise. "You stay out of government, and we won't opress you with taxes or legislation because you will have no representation in government". Obviously the modern world would laugh at that with all the evangelicals in office writing bills with a religious slant, but the wisdom of the founders of this country was long-reaching.

The argument to tax these institutions now is that "They're already in politics". This is valid and sure, there are some breaches of "separation", but it was the THREAT of taxes and government interference that kept the churches (mostly) at bay and taking roundabout routes to influence politics, lest they be seen as political organizations rather than religious ones. Should we levy taxes on these religious institutions, we'll pierce that veil and any semblance of separation left will vanish. Imagine what churches and religions will do once given the greenlight to legally raise funds for candidates, and order their congregations to vote in a certain way since they would no longer have to qualify for and keep to the rules that would grant religious exemption. The tax would become the price for admission to the political arena, and they would gladly pay it to incorporate and function as for-profit organizations or political action committees. If you remember Prop 8 in california, you'd remember the effect the LDS church had in getting gay marriage banned after they instructed all of their members how to vote and bussed them in from around the state. In the end, they managed to get their way in the most liberal, gayest state in the union. If they can do that there, just ONE sect of christianity, imagine what they could do on the national stage.

We pierced the corporate veil as well not too long ago, officially allowing corporations to donate as much money as they want. They already did anyway, but took roundabout routes and jumped through legal hoops to get their money in the hands of a politician. Not all of them did this, and not to the extent that they do now that it's completely legal. The same will happen with churches, but worse. Businesses and corporations don't own the souls of their members, and they have to pay them. Churches take their money, having an unusual power over the income and actions of their members, and this should scare a secular society, should they become political. Those who wish to end the special status of churches and tax them, are not taking into account the influence, REAL influence, over the governments of the world that religion has had all throughout history. There was a reason the people who wrote the constitution wanted to keep government entirely separate from religion. Should they intermingle too much, they can never be separated. And living in the 1770s, they knew firsthand the power religion had in Europe. I don't think we want or need a high priest overshadowing a puppet government like they have in modern theocracies like Iran.

Lastly, and what could turn out to be the most dangerous problem with taxing churches, is that all across the south there are ALOT and I mean ALOT of small churches. One on every block, sometimes directly across the street from another one. Little white buildings with a congregation of 20 or so, who all donate enough weekly to keep the pastor eating and living just above the poverty line. Tax them, and these smaller churches won't be able to support their pastors and they will close, leaving HUGE, for-profit entities that suddenly get a massive influx of new members, refugees of the smaller churches who couldn't afford the taxes. Their power would become absolute.

I stand with John Oliver when he says evangelists are money-grubbing, victimizing entities, but we shouldn't OFFICIALLY allow that into politics. The dam may be leaking, but let's not dynamite it because we're getting a little wet.

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History on Repeat

As we look back on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, year after year, we're confronted with our past in a very uncomfortable way. The vicious dogs, the fire-hoses, the lynchings, the angry white faces frozen in hate as they scream into black faces. They're all there for us to see, dutifully documented by newspapers, and photographers. Everywhere we see pictures of who we were, to remind us of who we could become again if we aren't vigilant.

Unfortunately, the general attitude of today is that something like that could never happen again in this country, not without a fight. Recent events, however, are showing how easily we give up the rights that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans have fought and died for. The Acts of Sedition and The Patriot Act alone have made our entire revolution moot, and now we're beginning to see the real psychology of Americans in that we tend to fight hard FOR rights, and then allow them to be taken again with hardly a whimper. All it takes is a little fear.

It's a story as old as history itself, really. The most violent antisemitism, homophobia, and racism in general happens after a major economic downturn. In Germany it was after their defeat in WWI, that the Treaty of Versailles was signed and the value of the German currency tanked. This laid the path for the National Socialist party to take power. Even today in Greece there is an actual Nazi party called "Golden Dawn" that took over 30% of their parliament seats after the country's economy crashed. Their symbolism couldn't be closer to the swastika and their platform is similar to early 1930s National Socialism. And us? We've just had a major housing crisis that wrecked our economy for years, and here come the racists and fearmongers, right on schedule.

The need for an oppressed and downtrodden people to have a target for their aggression is well known to rulers and government officials, and has been for millennia. They wouldn't want the people to begin blaming THEM for their problems, so in comes a bit of misdirection. Who's spreading the plague across Europe? The Jews! Who's threatening the safety of our pilgrims? The Muslims! Who's slowing our progress west? The indians! Who's taking our jobs? The Irish! There's always a group to point to that the general public, given enough hardship and desperation, will blame and punish. All they need is a nudge in the right direction. Machiavelli said this in his book "The Prince" in 1532 and even recently we have this example:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

Once it starts, the people are almost always powerless to stop it. The rush of anger and fear from a swelling mass of people following a charismatic person who knows EXACTLY who is threatening their safety, their property, and their daughters is as quick as it is powerful. Think of a mob of pitchfork-wielding peasants with torches and then imagine that on the scale of an entire nation. Simply not wanting to be a part of such a movement, becomes a silent fear of that movement all too quickly as the window where you could actually fight it comes and goes before most people even realize what's going on.

Today, similarly, we have a man running for president who knows exactly who our enemies are. Who's taking our jobs? The Mexicans. Who's threatening our safety? The Muslims. His open racism, sexism, fascism, and a slew of other -isms would've been unheard of in politics not 10 years ago. Back then, the smallest indiscretion or mistake could do great harm to a campaign with Rick Perry losing all of his support when he drew a blank on a word, and Howard Dean doing the same after he got a little too excited at a rally.

Nobody knows why, but it could be eight years of a black president bringing up old ideas in the people who oppose him politically and just can't seem to beat him. They lose debate after debate with him, and eventually they run out of talking points and start hurling insults. In an era where everyone has an anonymity online that shelters them from real social judgement for the things they say, especially when ridicule of the president (the oldest of American pastimes) is acceptable, their attacks may not be entirely political, if at all. Compounded over 8 years time, and you see unapologetic racism because it's never been checked. The normal methods of shaming are no longer working because you can't shame a person who doesn't care what you think, at all, because they've never had to worry about what you think.

The "left", liberals, democrats, whatever you want to call his only political enemies seem powerless to do much of anything. For the last few years they've had this compulsion to single out individuals and destroy them over "microagressions" and publicly humiliate people who use a wrong word or have a momentary lapse in their political correctness. This is how the left fights political battles in the modern world. They'll take their attacks to the extreme of getting someone fired and ruining their lives, but the sad thing is, most of the people this happens to are good people who AREN'T racist, homophobic, or misogynist. They're just easy targets and taking them down makes people feel righteous and like they're enacting change.

When faced with the real deal, however, the left's "public shaming" has no teeth. The only people who care about being shamed, are people who care what you think about them. We've been eating ourselves and crying about being victims of words, thoughts, "rape culture" and all manner of things like that, all the while a man like Trump is unaffected by what destroys the innocent. You see, your real enemy doesn't care that you don't like him, and when you call everyone "racist", "homophobic", "misogynist", and "sexist" over minor transgressions, the words lose the punch they once had. That scientist who wore a shirt adorned with women in bikinis was "sexist", and so is Donald Trump, and so the title no longer matters.

So what are we to do? It could be too late already. The window to halt this movement, like others before it, is closing rapidly, and maybe THIS is what it felt like in 1938 as the people plotted "Kristallnacht".

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Pledges and Allegiance - The Brainwashing of our Youth

I took Business Law back in high school, and by "took" I mean I slept through the class if I showed up at all. Now that's not supposed to paint me as some sort of tough guy rebel, but rather the class as exceedingly boring. I don't remember much except for what pertained to me at the time but one of the things that managed to stick was contract law. For some reason I felt like I'd need to know how to weasel my way out of a contract in the future. I had far crazier ideas at that age, so let's just move on.

One of the things I do remember was contract law as it pertains to minors. Children can enter contracts for their own protection only and can't be held to one themselves until they're 18 because the government doesn't recognize them as reasoning adults and they can't be trusted to make informed decisions. Children are gullible, their opinions are easily swayed, and there is the constant threat that someone with far more life experience could take advantage of their naivete. So they're protected from the repercussions of bad decisions... even murder. In fact, a store with a huge "NO RETURNS" sign must legally take an unopened item back if it was sold to a minor because a sale is just another form of contract. The only legal liability is on the part of the merchant in that sale. That's why you see "Must be 18 or older" on any major purchases and pay services. You thought that was to protect the sensibilities of innocent little children? Not hardly. It's actually there to protect the merchant because a minor can "dis-affirm" any contract at any time. The government so strongly believes minors can't make informed decisions about smoking, drinking, voting, military service and contracting that their disdain for the mental faculties of children has been codified into law.

Yet every morning across America young children recite a pledge of allegiance to a nation whose politics and history they can't even begin to understand in state-funded schools. The government takes advantage of that same mental pliability the law claims to protect them from with a curriculum full of historical myth and in some states, even religion. Our schools have them so indoctrinated by the time they're in the 1st grade that the children, some of whom can't even tie their shoes yet, know the pledge by heart. Ask a 6 year old some time the lyrics of their favorite song and nine times out of ten, it won't even be close but this certain grouping of words they know perfectly and to a cadence. Have you ever heard a class of bored, disinterested children reciting the pledge in the morning? Do they even know what "indivisible" and "republic" mean, as they slowly drone out the words in unison?

What I find interesting about the situation is the similarity between our pledge, our colored-in history, and our leader worship to the indoctrination process of all of our greatest enemies throughout history. They all fed children a steady diet of their political ideals. It was terrible, to us, how Hitler taught national socialist values to the youth of his country.. terrible how Stalin's school system forced communist propaganda onto every child. It's terrible how the madrassas in Iran teach fundamentalist Islam to their kids, and how kids in North Korea are taught their leaders are gods. But it's OK when we teach children religion, American Exceptionalism, historical fiction, and then set them loose after 13 years of training to live in a carefully constructed fairy-tale that feeds off the rest of the world just to continue functioning.

The official molding of our children into a cheap and viable workforce starts at just five years old. In fact the first two things young children are taught in preschool or kindergarten is how to stand in line and how to be quiet. They're taught that truth comes from authority, that there is no questioning that authority, and that as they get older if they don't do well on their standardized testing they'll never get a job or into college to get a better job. School is, for all intents and purposes, training to work for someone else. Ingenuity and innovation aren't cultivated so much as obediance and recital so your average student couldn't even imagine starting their own business anymore because they simply don't have the tools and skills required. They're pushed from the beginning to be a cog in the capitalist machine. A worker who generates income for those above themselves. Work to make money, and spend that money on things that promise happiness. Still not happy? Work harder, make more money and buy bigger things that promise even more happiness. Still not happy? You must be un-American.

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