For the Corporations, By the Corporations

Posted in Politics | No Comments » | March 3rd, 2010

So it looks like Pinocchio is slowly but surely becoming a real boy. But unlike Pinocchio, corporations don’t have tell-tale signs of lying, and most definitely don’t have a conscience, in the form of a cricket or otherwise. Instead, corporations are a carefully crafted wooden parasite, carefully winding their way through American government, changing the internal workings ever so slightly, so the rest of the public body has no idea what’s happening. But like any plan, occasional parts are forward and obvious, and this little parasite has relied on the simple lack of care of the American people… and succeeded.

Seal of the Supreme Court of the United States

Image via Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, the American Supreme Court over turned an older ruling that limited the amount that corporations could spend on political campaigns. This decision was hailed as an advance for free speech by some, and the authorization for corporations to buy elections by others. Off the bat, the reasoning for the previous ruling was over-turned is garbage. In addition to legal jargon, part of the reason given (I believe by Alito) was that the previous decision was not unanimous, thus meriting a repeal until the decision can be reviewed. If that’s valid reason to review, why hasn’t Alito reviewed other landmark cases that redefined rights, such as Dread Scott v Sandford? Do non-whites really need rights? Perhaps Plessy v. Ferguson? Bah to the fourteenth amendment! The notion that all Supreme Court cases should be unanimous is ridiculous. It undermines the very idea of America being a democracy.

Regardless of this grave injustice, America continues as if nothing has happened. Even with the background chatter of action overturn what many if not most people agree was a bad call, on both sides of the political field, there has been no movement to do so. And the longer this ruling stays in place, the closer we get to an America run openly by corporations rather then the more subtly run government we have now, through lobbies.

An interesting point here is that many people on the right, where the majority of support for this decision comes from, feel that government control is intrusive but welcome corporate control. Even if not openly, I often find that people leaning right argue with government spending/programs/etc (at least those that don’t help them directly), but have no issue with stuff like cable company monopolies, ISP limit rates, food company take overs. These things are just the invisible hand of the market interfering with our lives, thus ok. But representatives we selected making those same decisions or instating those sort of controls, and suddenly the forefathers are turning in their graves. And sadly, those on the right get screwed by the market just as much as the rest of us, but can never seem to accept it, thus leading it to repeat.

But in the end, how can anyone justify corporations being people, and having the same rights as people? I think The Daily Kos said it best, with satire: Give Corporations More Rights! Giving corporations rights as people is just a convenient way to bypass making sensible laws. After all, if corporations are people, they are obviously second class citizens. If we’re making them people, why not given them other rights? Also, why aren’t other collections of people also people? I’m trying to come up with an example, but its all so foolish, I can’t even think of one worth putting down.

Simply put: corporations are not people. There’s no good reason why they should be treated as such. When people say corporations freedom of speech is restricted by laws like the one that prevented them from spending without limit on campaigns, but I have to ask, who’s rights are limited? The people within corporations can still freely spend money. Those investing in the company can still freely spend. But instead, by granting corporations the right to spend money freely, millions of dollars earned by dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of people will be spent by a small enclave, who will only help campaigns that make sure they maintain the power. People don’t invest in medical companies to help a pro-life politician get into office; they invest in a company to either make money or because they believe in what the company does. But if that politician’s economic policies help that company avoid regulations or simply help the board stay in power, why would the board not put funds towards the campaign? Why should a board of businessmen make political decisions with other people’s money? Why is it ok for a business to interfere with politics, but wrong for government to regulate business?

In the end, this is another step along the path to corporatocracy. It is a long series of problems, rooted in the ever-growing lack of care to know the facts but desire to criticize the results. It’d be an interesting day if people started to apply the values they hold dear to outside their household. And while we should continue to strive for the rights that keep us free, we shouldn’t be so eager to sell them to the highest bidder.

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Can’t Solve What You Don’t Understand: Illegal Immigration

Posted in Immigration, Politics, Society | 2 Comments » | February 1st, 2010

I can say from personal experience that few people know anything significant about the American immigration system, and the general attitude I face very closely resembles the attitude drilled into soldiers: dehumanize your opponent to make tough decisions easier. Undocumented immigrants are painted as villainous scums, subjected to treatment and situations we reserve for murderers and child molesters. Our current immigration system, and the treatment of those in immigration court and detention, is broken at best and inhuman at worst. And every day, Americans clamor for immigration change, the vast majority of who make baseless, board accusation with little to no proof, and sit happily in their ignorance. With the giant claims of grandeur next to “ignorance is bliss”, any real American should be outraged. Immigration is not a simple issue, and solving the problem of undocumented immigrants is not as simple as “throw them out”.

People need to understand is that most undocumented immigrants are not immoral people, and definitely not “Mexicans stealing American jobs”. They are the same as anyone else: many, if not most, are parents who want to support their families, to keep their families alive. Many are people who enter legally and due to the red tape of our immigration system, end up falling out of status. Many are enticed by the ever-present call of the “American Dream” and feel it is their last hope. So why do these people enter or stay in the country illegally? Because America is better from where they come. Americans take special pride in painting the United States as the best country in the world, but seem surprised that people will do anything necessary in order to come here. While it doesn’t justify entering or staying in the country illegally, it sounds like a five year old talking about how great their toy is, but if anyone tries to touch or play with it without their permission, they’ll tell on them. Many people who enter illegally do so because they have no other choice; they come from countries where they’ve lost their jobs or make so little they can’t support even a small family, either case in no small part thanks to multinational corporate exploitation. Those that enter illegally gather whatever they can hold, and make a dangerous trip across the border to a country they know little about, where they don’t speak the native tongue and are often if not always harassed by locals, reduced to doing arduous labor or demeaning jobs that, face it, most Americans are too pompous to do themselves. It makes us feel better to say “illegals are stealing American jobs”, but it’s been a long time since making money in America has been about hard work. These days it seems to be about suing someone for your own mistakes. But none the less, these people come over in hopes that by coming to America, they or at least their children will have a better life. They put up with little money, tiny apartments, abuse, and a myriad of other issues none of us can imagine, and each day risk that they’ll be returned to where they come from, no better if not worse off. Its the companies who exploit these workers, paying them just enough to get along, much less then an American would have to be paid (minimum wage), so they can cut corners and make a higher return. Good ol’ American capitalism: do what it takes to reduce cost and maximize profit, be it exploit workers in other countries or exploit undocumented immigrants right here at home. If the jobs weren’t available, there wouldn’t be much keeping or bringing more undocumented immigrants here. We choose to blame undocumented immigrants for taking jobs, but how often do we accost those hiring jobs?

I’m sure people are wondering, why don’t they just come over legally? First, the immigration system in the US is very convoluted. It requires a certain amount of starting capital to simply get a visa. For those who can scrounge up the money, there is the issue of time. A limited number of visas of various types are given out each year, and are granted based on where you’re coming from, your skill set, if you have a job waiting, etc. If you’re thinking that an under-skilled worker coming into the States would just be a hindrance on society, I would ask: what are we doing about all the people in the US now who are under-skilled, and more important, unwilling to work? I’d contend that an under-skilled worker who’s willing to work is better then someone capable but unwilling. Many of these immigrants also have families they need to support. Ask yourself, if you could not support your own family in your current situation, and you found you could work under the table at a factory as long as no one knew you were there, would you do it? Would you let your personal morality to stand in the way of feeding your children?

Americans can blame immigrants for our problems as much as we want, but it won’t make it any more true then saying our national debt problems are because of one political party or the other. The problem is complex and deep and won’t be solved simply by deporting people, enacting tougher punishments, or building a giant wall. Deporting immigrants will not stop new ones from coming in, and will do little more then build ill will against America. Currently, immigration holding facilities are often worse then prisons, for a crime which at best compares to a store robbery. Families are split up, people are treated terribly, and immigration court is a mockery of our system of law. We treat hardened criminals with more respect. A giant wall will not stop people from digging under, punching holes, or finding other way around it, and really, just serves as an eyesore and an environmental disaster.

With all this, mind you, I am not a supporter of open borders with the world as it is now. Countries need immigration laws to maintain populations and services, and for a balanced to exist among various countries. If borders were open, people would flock to well off countries, depriving poor countries of needed human resources, and over flooding richer countries, also bringing them down. Instead, I believe in a fair immigration system. Understanding people and connecting with them goes much further to solve a problem then an iron gauntlet. We need to control the current undocumented population, enact strict laws punishing the companies hiring them, and put smart controls on the border. If we aren’t going to grant those here amnesty, we should at least hold true to our ideals and give them an opportunity to present their case. It would help improve our image as a understanding country run by laws, not emotions. If we don’t eliminate the under-the-table jobs available here, there will always be reason for immigrants to try to enter here illegally, knowing they’ll have a better life then where they came. And as for smart controls, while I have a few ideas, I’m certain if we can spend $3 billion fighting wars we don’t need to be fighting, or at least to the level we currently are, we can find a few million to come up with something effective. At the least, we can be human.

Coming out of the Immigration Closet

Posted in Immigration, Politics, Society | No Comments » | December 24th, 2009

It’s been a while since my past post, before which there was a slow down in my rate of posting. The reasons, while bad for readership, are simple, and a topic which I think deserves some light.

Nearly two years ago, as I was about to graduate college, looking for jobs, I questioned my parents on the current status of our immigration woes. After having waited years, I was finally asking the hard questions which I should have asked so long ago. Given I had faced few difficulties concerning my immigration status, I had scant reason to question or doubt my parents previous responses, and given I was relatively comfortable in the situation as I knew it, I had little reason to research it myself. As with most things, people try to avoid answers that will change their worlds. And so finally I did ask, and finally I was told the truth: we had been in the country illegally for a number of years. Having lived in the US since I was 5, it was a life-altering shock. There were a number of reasons that played in. My dad was unable to renew his visa, and the alternatives he was pursuing kept falling through. The US government was also nice enough to inform him that his visa had expired 3 months after it had expired. But regardless of how or why, I now knew of my legal (or illegal) status three and a half years after I turned 18, now unable to do anything about it.

Now I’m 23. I came to the US when I was 5. I’ve spent over three quarters of my life in the States. I was brought here legally, and due to my parents’ mistakes, I am an undocumented immigrant. And at the end of the day, there is nothing I can do about it. The system of law/justice we think of as the American court system doesn’t apply to immigration: you don’t get a chance to argue your case, there is no jury. There is a public prosecutor and a judge. You’re not even entitled to a defense lawyer, it’s an option; you have to find and pay for one on your own, and having seen it without a lawyer around, I can tell you no lawyer just means deportation. Really, immigration is less of a law system as it is edicts from a judge.

America has long prided itself as many things. One of the great prides of the US is that it is a land of opportunity, a place where people of humble origin can rise to the top, go from destitute poverty to unimaginable riches. This was once a unique truth to the United States until about three score years ago. Back at its founding, the US represented freedom, and that early jump on freedom allowed the US to be a land where history didn’t determine future. In older countries, social classes existed with prejudice. What class you were born into often indicated your opportunities and life choices. Over time, however, as the populaces of other countries saw the opportunities of America and as the aristocracies began to lose power, America slowly went from being unique to being commonplace to becoming a liar. America’s grand growth through the years has been in no small part due to immigration. The flux of new people, new ideas, and fresh mindsets helped make America a leading innovator in the world. What started as open minded acceptance of immigrants has become closed minded abuse.

Now I’m obviously a biased source… I’m hoping for change at least in part because it will help me. I’ve lived almost two years of my life in fear, without the ability to drive or travel via plane, no official ID, unable to work, etc over something I didn’t directly do and would love to correct. Everyone knows of that particular brand of freedom that comes with your driver’s license, the joy of the first paycheck, the peace of mind of realizing you pick where your life goes, for the most part. These are all denied to me. Hell, I’ve had to skip out on hanging with my friends simply because I don’t have ID to get into a club, or because I couldn’t get a ride. I sit at home, every day, with nothing to do but study, work on websites, and play video games. Let me tell you… playing video games for a year and a half takes all the fun out of video games. Unfortunately, the current solution (unless a judge finds reason to make an exception for me) is to leave for 10 years. And while I’m no supporter of open borders at this time, America’s immigration system is flawed at best and broken at worst.

Now someone, someone is reading this and thinking, “Ha! I should call INS on this dirty, job stealing Mexican.” Someone more sensible is reading that last sentence and wondering why I think that. When I first found this out, I was too ashamed to tell anyone I knew in real life… I came forward on a forum I used to be a regular on. People there knew me somewhat well, my thoughts were valued; it was a community. Though I mentioned how I’m of Indian decent, a few of the early comments were about how I’m ruining American life and how I should go back to Mexico. It was a shocker for me… someone hears illegal immigration, and the first things on their mind are stereotypes. Anyway, to anyone thinking of calling INS, I have news for you: INS doesn’t exist anymore, its ICE, and I’m in the system anyway. For those confused, INS was the acronym for Immigration and Nationalization Services, the old department in charge of immigration, and ICE is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a nice new aggressive name. I’m sure you’re hoping for my swift departure, and I forgive you. On that forum, someone mentioned how they’d never let that happen to their family. When I asked how he knew, if he had ever been in a similar situation, he simply replied no and that’s because he’d never end up there. Like with many other situations in life, you’ll never know until you’re in the situation, and for hundreds each year, they find themselves in the situation without even realizing it, with no alternative but to completely uproot their lives, be criminals, or get stuck in a system that’ll take years to decide anything.

So what now? Now, I’m deep in the system. I was fortunate: I found a lawyer who doesn’t seem to care about the money (she’s charging half per court appearance what the next cheapest lawyer did and she actually plans on doing something), and is an immigrant herself. She also was kind enough to spend time talking to us, and through a random conversation about what life back in India would mean, discovered we might qualify for asylum. We are also fortunate enough to have a judge known for being open minded. So we’re busy translating documents, and we’re here for at least a few months as the process gets underfoot. If the asylum application is accepted as valid, then we begin a process that will last at least a year (not counting appeals) in which essentially I’ll have to prove I’m so American that life in India would actually be dangerous. So I’m here for at least a few months… and if the application is accepted, probably a year and a half, then another half year for appeals. It would mean my brother gets to finish college, and if we get our EADs, we can get our passports so if we are deported, we can leave to a country other then India. I would really like to do my graduate studies in the UK, if for no other reason then it would be nice to break this monotony.

I debated a lot making this post… what was the point, should I bother… the reason is pretty simple. To a lot of people, illegal immigration is a fantastical tale of aliens who don’t speak English taking away jobs from Americans. In truth, it’s often people you couldn’t distinguish from any other American, just hoping they can find a solution to the hell they’re in, more likely then not trapped because the immigration system itself screwed them. Everyone deserves a chance; we can’t pretend America is the bastion of democracy and hope then horde it to ourselves. And we definitely have to stop pretending that some of us are more American then others. In fact, immigrants tend to know and value what it means to be American more then most of us raised here… they have to fight for it, earn it. I didn’t really understand what it meant until I found out about my situation. I tend to find that those I argue with on the topic who make these outlandish claims of authority through birth tend to be the least informed or knowledgeable about America, let alone the rest of the world. I’m sure a number of you are out there, but meh. Though uncharacteristically partisan of me, I challenge you to prove to me you have any substantial quality that makes you more American then me.

To the rest of you, I’m not gonna say push or vote for immigration reform. I’m not here to tell you what to think, or to make your minds for you. I will ask you to research it for yourself. I chose this title because much like the LGBT community in America, undocumented immigrants are fighting to be accepted in a country that seems to think them less then human. I am biased, but if anyone wants to know what I’ve been through in more detail, I’ll let you know. Check out Dream Activist and read a bit as well. The DREAM Act is a law that’s been tossed around for nearly a decade now that would allow for someone who’s in the US illegally under the age of 16 and completes two years of high school in America to apply to stay in the US temporarily, and should they complete two years of military service or two years of college, the chance to apply for a more permanent residency. It gives kids who had no choice in their coming here a chance to stay, rather then to be ripped away from their homes. Of course, it does nothing to solve the issue of tearing families apart, but debatably, one step at a time. There are also mailing lists out there who, if nothing else, combat the lies and venom spread by supposedly “true blooded Americans”.

It’s a hell. For me, the end is no where in sight, and right now, all paths are bleak. As time progresses, things may change. And even if I’m deported, something has to change. So many people talk of change, and revolution, and taking America back. Maybe it’s about time we learn where America actually came from, and actually take it back.

Site problems and downtime

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments » | April 15th, 2009

I want to apologize to anyone who’s visited the site recently and had problems. Unfortunately, it appears that either my account or my host was hacked and some malicious lines of code were added to my sites. I hope no one suffered any serious problems from it. It also accounted for the downtime, as I had to wait for my host to clean up on their side before I could get back up and running. Unfortunately I’ve lost a few of the posts that were up/supposed to go up, so hopefully I’ll have some interesting reading for you guys in a few days.

No more letters of marque

Posted in Society | No Comments » | March 28th, 2009

As early as the sixteenth century, countries were turning pirates to their cause by retitling them in exchange for not attacking the nation’s ships. By granting letters of marque, pirates were made privateers. In exchange for not attacking ships flying the colors of that nation, these pirates would not be attacked by the warships of that nation, but would have to give a portion of the spoils for attacking other ships. I think many pirate vessels found this to be an acceptable compromise; they didn’t have to give up their ways, but got some measure of safety out of it. From the nations point of view, they didn’t have to expend resources protecting their own ships from these pirates, but also got a kickback from it. They adapted to the situation at hand rather then trying to fight tooth and nail, a fight that would have cost them elsewhere if it was successful at all.

The Pirate Bay logo

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I ran across an article on TorrentFreak talking about the death of the music industry. As many of you who follow such news have heard, the creators of The Pirate Bay, a torrent sharing site, are being held on trial (with the prosecution failing from what I’ve read). What I find more interesting, barely anyone who doesn’t follow this kind of news knows of this upcoming trial, showing how little the sharing of music and videos actually matters to the public at large. The general public doesn’t care about file sharing… they’ll be upset when musicians become responsible and don’t make up tabloid headlines with drug problems and who’s dating who. But I digress.

Personally, I think the music industry missed out on a golden ticket. Most of what I say from here on out is speculation, but I would guess that most people who illegally download music, movies, and games do it for convenience. I’m sure that the big companies could make an easy coin if they accepted new technologies instead of fighting them. Why did iTunes do so well? If people could get movies and music for free, why is it that they still buy music online? iTunes does some specific things correctly:

  • Cheap music
  • The ability to download what you want instead of paying for material you might not want
  • Simple, straight forward service and interface
Image representing hulu as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via Crunchbase

Now, iTunes has its problems too, such as DRM. But services like NetFlix, allowing people to rent movies for periods of times they choose, plus having online options, gave people incentives to sign up with them. Websites such as Hulu allow people to watch popular TV shows when they want, as they want, with little delay and few problems.

What I see is this: if the large companies, instead of suing grandmas and single parents, offered their music and movies through their own services are reasonable prices with reasonable features, they’d continue rolling in the dough (that I really don’t think they deserve). But they’re fighting technology. This has worked for years, when we had a relatively isolated society, where communication even city to city was either a phone call or mail that took a few days. The companies had the power, in that they controlled information, and they controlled the material. We live in a new age today, where the next city is equivalent to the next country. They no longer control the information, and rather then adapt to their situation, they fought it.

We’ve living in an age of information, and more importantly, we’ve living in an age of openness. The internet allows everyone access to information they may have never been able to access before. The internet allows people to communicate with people they never knew existed before. The internet allows people to publish their own information in ways they couldn’t do before. And the internet pushed these fat cats over. More and more, people refuse to simply be told what to do… options are opening up, thinking is on the rise. But this doesn’t mean people are rampant criminals. People will do whats right more often then not. Unlike the old days though, you won’t be able to make privateers of these pirates. What you can do is convince more pirates to give up their ways, and it won’t be by threatening the noose.

So here’s my thoughts or solution. First, music, movie, and game producers need to stop treating customers like renters and thieves. Limited activations and DRMs (like the infamous Spore release) make people on the edge want to give in to their less legal impulses. Yes, you’re going to lose money on resales, but when you’re putting out shitty material, why would I want to keep it? And when your customer support sucks and I’m out of activations, I’ve paid for a very shiny coaster. When you stop treating us like we did something wrong by giving you money, you’ll find more people are likely to give you money.

Join the 21st century and start providing reasonable web services. You can outdo iTunes if you try. People don’t want full albums, usually they only want a few songs. Let people listen to an album a time or two, then let them pick out the music they want to keep, and don’t start charging ridiculus prices for these services. Start offering services to watch TV shows and movies online. Use commercials to pay for the TV shows and charge rates to watch the movies. They’re your material, you should get the money for them. Make the services useable, and let people access older content. Too many TV corporations offer their shows on their site, but with nearly unuseable interfaces, only a handful of episodes, and the shows going online days after the show� aired. If you don’t want to bother setting up your own, work out a system with other sites.

Lastly, stop going after people. You’re no longer the big dogs, and thieving is easier with the internet around. You can’t control the internet, and the day you start trying, you’ll find a bigger fight then you’ll want to handle. Yes, you’re making less money then you were before, but I’ve heard nothing of losing so much money that suddenly you’re in trouble, except for your bloated numbers. I’m not saying you’re not entitled to your earnings, I just think its about time you learn you don’t need a golden toilet. You might think you’re protecting your rights to your property (although I’m positive that’s not the reasoning), but all you’re doing is making more enemies and pushing moderates away. Take advantage of your power, and capitulate to the people a bit. You’ll end up being their heroes.

Social-schism

Posted in Politics, Society | No Comments » | March 3rd, 2009

USSR IconographySince Obama came into office, it seems like all we hear from members of the right is that he is leading us to Socialism. And each time I hear it, the first things that pop into my mind are, is that a bad thing, and that’s different from now, how? For some reason, socialism is equated to communism, both seen as pure evil, and I think we have the cold war to blame for that.

I think its important to note what communism is. As posted in the Wikipedia article on communism, “Communism is a socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general.” Of course, the reason the US had so much trouble with the idea of communism is that our economy had become based on the idea of capitalism. We believe that those who can make money make it, and if you can’t, too bad; they believed no one should be left behind. But in truth, communism is not socialism. Communism believes that no one should own sources of income, and that it be run communally; socialism advocates that the government should oversee sources of income, and help lead these groups. Communism is politics; it distributes resources and goods to that which needs it. Socialism is economics; it places everyone on equal footing, to succeed or fail based on their own merits.

And this is where I see a large dose of hypocrisy. First of all, Americans need to get it out of our heads that we’re in some progressive, socially advanced nation. Regan once referred to America as a “shining city on a hill”, probably from John Winthrop, believing that America was a beacon of hope for the world, in terms of our resolve, strength, and ideals; that’s no longer the case. If you compare the US to countries like China or Saudi Arabia, I’d argue yes, we are socially advanced. If you compare the US to countries like the UK or Germany, we’re very conservative. In my research, I spoke to a number of people from various countries in Europe, and they all agreed to the following: our liberals are like their conservatives. Some people I spoke to said that if their politicians even said “God” in any public statements, they’d never get reelected, if they avoided the incoming impeachments. We can’t elect a man who isn’t a “true” believer. The idea that we’re advanced because we’re rich is also a fallacy. America has been holding on to stagnant ideas for decades, enveloped in this idea that we’ve continued to progress. In fact, America was the start of the fall of the global economy, started by sheer arrogance.

Another dose of hypocrisy goes straight to the members of the right claiming Obama is leading America to socialism. I wonder how many of them supported the first bailout of Wall Street. I wonder how many of them would have supported the bailout if it was their company or a company that financed them. A government bailout is as socialist as it gets. Not to mention all the other programs the government fiances such as welfare, medicare, and unemployment that are social programs. America already has socialist elements, but they are mere shadows of competent programs. America has dipped its feet in the pool of socialism, but doesn’t have the nerve to jump in, but is now too comfortable to step out.

In contrast, we see European countries, not founded on principles of freedom, equal rights, and religious independence being the more socially advanced. While Americans complain about “high taxes” and constantly demand cuts, many Europeans have higher taxes then we do, and in exchange, have much better welfare programs, higher literacy rates, and more then a few face lower unemployment rates. They have state funded or mandated medical programs, meaning everyone has access to the basic medical care everyone should have the right to. They have programs so when you lose your job, you aren’t wondering if tomorrow you and your family will be on the streets. In effect, the policies give everyone a chance to be someone, and don’t fault them for situations beyond their control. Is it your fault if your bank makes some stupid decisions and you lose money? Is it your fault if your company decides to go for profit and randomly cuts you from the line? Is it your fault if your apartment catches on fire because the person living below you decides that lighting a fire indoors is a good idea, and your insurance won’t cover it?

America tends to be a very solitary society, while providing this false notion of comradery. We talk all about the American future, and how we need to work together to overcome the world’s evil, yet we can’t come together as a country to solve what should be important issues like healthcare, homelessness, the energy crisis. I’m not saying they’re easy to solve, but they should be at the top of our list. Socialism isn’t the enemy… in truth, a lot of American ideals and moralities are socialist in nature. A path to socialism will make our country stronger, if we can control socialist ideas to work for our nation. We’ll never be socialists… America is too deep rooted in the idea of personal freedom to be very socialist, but we can finally adhere to the ideas the “Christian” ideals the right always talks about: helping our neighbors, helping the most downtrodden of us, giving everyone a chance. Socialism is the true “no one left behind”, the real “everyone’s equal”. We can truly be the “shining city on the hill”; we can be the beacon for the advancement of the world, socially, culturally, and economically. Though honestly, it’ll take more then socialism for that… but that’s a discussion for another day.

The Perfect Book?

Posted in Religion | 1 Comment » | February 24th, 2009

Of course, the book I’m referring to is the Bible. I could also be referring to the Torah or Qur’an, but as the US is made mostly of Protestant Christians, I’m going to use the Bible for this discussion, which is to explore the reasoning behind why these books are taken so literally.

So I make the following three assumptions:

  • God is perfect
  • Man is imperfect
  • The Bible is the word of God and meant to enlighten the flock as well as bring non-believers into the light

If any of these predication aren’t true, please comment and tell me why.

So to examine why the Bible is taken so literally, we have to look into how it came to be. The first I was going to talk about was basically the idea that God wrote the Bible Himself, but I decided against it, as even the most devout Christians don’t believe that is the case. Anyone who does believe the Bible was written by God has no hope of seeing any other viewpoint, and so it would be a moot point. Besides, supposedly, God doesn’t directly interfere with the world, except for his wrath.

The generally accepted explanation is that the books of the Bible are written by people. This is vague, because depending on who you ask, you get a different response as to who the authors are. To religious scholars, the books are written (dictated) by Biblically significant authors, by the influence of God.� Because its believed these authors were touched by God, the words are taken to be intrinsically holy, and are so free from the burden of proof. And so I have to ask, if the words are holy, if they are the word of God, are they perfect? I don’t think its a stretch to say if someone believes the Bible is literal, then the words are perfect. If the words aren’t perfect, how can it be literally true? If the words are prefect, and we accept the truth of the Bible is/has been written/copied down the years by man, and man is imperfect, how does the Bible maintain its perfection? Does the act of writing/copying the Bible make man infallible during the process? If not, are the people who wrote/copy the Bible touched by God while doing so?

Eastern Orthodox icon depicting the First Coun...

Image via Wikipedia

All this is to question, why should you believe the Bible as a literal tale of the world? As a non-believer, if I started to copy the Bible, word for word, would I be granted this degree of holiness while writing it? If not, is it still holy? I realize this seems like a pointless endeavor, but my point is this. From where does the Bible gain its literal value? As with the questions before, man is fallible, and man copies the Bible. Prior to the printing press (and actual availability of the Bible to anyone besides clergy and the rich), the Bible was copied by man, by hand. It was the biggest game of telephone ever played. And I can tell you, when I play telephone with 20 people, we get all sorts of crazy results. Telephone over centuries?

Most secular historians believe that the Bible was written years after Biblically claimed. The Council of Nicaea picked and chose what books and gospels were appropriate for a uniform Bible. Granted, it wasn’t some simple vote, but it was a choice. If this is God’s word, how can mere men decide what belongs? I know someone will argue that they were also touched by God, but again I wonder this: how can the Bible hold any literal value? The Bible outlines slavery and the rules associated as early as Exodus 21. It calls for stoning for various offenses through the entire thing. It disallows any followers from eating shellfish. If the Bible is so literal, why do Christians not follow these edicts today?

At the end, I think the Bible holds a lot of value. I think it provides some great ideas, and professes some wonderful ethics. And the key there is some. The Bible is supposed to be your holy book. You can’t choose to believe some of it and not others by claiming “That’s the Old Testament” or “That was for that age”. Your God is supposed to be unchanging. He’s beyond time and space. Even if you’re Christian and think the Old Testament is for the followers for Judas, and that the words of Jesus are the path to salvation, that doesn’t negate that your God said those things in the Old Testament. If you want to believe the Bible is the word of God, but not literal, as lessons for life, good for you. If you think that some parts are meant to be transcendental and others are meant to be left behind, great. It won’t be the end of your world. You won’t lose your beloved “christian ethics” (which are a different story if you’re a hard-core, the Bible is the end all, Christian); ethics are generated by the integration of multiple societies and religions.

Society has grown and advanced by dropping ideas that no longer make sense, and moving to ideas that do. We’ve dropped customs that seem barbaric and immoral today, such as primae noctis, slavery, and gender roles (to some extent). Laws are added and dropped as they fit into the culture we define. And culture has changed as we’ve expanded our horizons beyond the local cultural and religious norm. You can claim that today’s scientific discoveries were already in the Bible, but you can’t simultaneously claim the Bible is meant to be taken literally. I’ll be able to take you much more seriously when you can accept that you should learn from history, but you shouldn’t live in the past.


As a quick edit of sorts, I was pointed to this YouTube video, which explains my points in a different way, maybe more nicely. The entire set is very interesting, and I would love to hear a Creationist’s or at least a Christian’s view on it.

Being Male is Chauvanist?

Posted in Philosophy, Society | No Comments » | February 7th, 2009

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while… honestly, I thought no one was reading this, and also, sometimes life sucks. But I notice people have been commenting, so I figured I’d get back at it, hopefully consistently.


Something I learned relatively quickly in college was this: apparently my Y chromosomes is apparently an offense to (some) women. Now, I’m not trying to paint a wide stroke here, but lets take some background. First, I was raised in a relatively religious household, and a large part of Jainism is the idea to treat everyone the same and to treat everyone kindly. Like most other old religions, Jainism does cast females in a lower light then males, but in all reality, I find females more religious then males, so specially in modern context, the history doesn’t matter. So for me as a kid, I didn’t see any point in differentiating the sexes, but the idea of chivalry seemed to fit right in with my Jain upbringing. I like to treat everyone with respect, even those who have done me wrong. I tend to be nice even to people who’ve hurt me. It doesn’t mean I’ve never been mean to those people too… I’m no saint. But the important part is how this developed my view on women. I’m that guy who’ll rush ahead a bit to open a door for a woman. I do it for anyone, but I might not rush for a guy. I pretty much always at least to try to pay for dinner when I go out with a female friend, specially if its someone I’m interested in. I don’t think they can’t pay, and if they really insist on it, I always give in. I might not have been the best boyfriend, but I don’t think either of the two girls I’ve been in a relationship with up to now can deny I tried to treat them right.

My alma mater used to consist of five main colleges, one of which was Douglass College, a prominent women’s-only college in the US. Over the last 3 years, there’s been a lot of restructuring at the University, merging the five colleges into one consolidated university. This was met with a lot of reluctance, specially from Douglass College. Now, all five of the colleges have a very rich heritage; Rutgers College was one of the first colleges in America. But of all five, Douglass students argued the loudest. Douglass College used to be a separate organization, but due to funding, ease, and I’m sure a hundred other reasons, it joined the State University of New Jersey, with the goals to lead and empower women, admirable goals for sure. But a group within the college, whom I can only describe as feminists, were completely against the idea of a consolidation. They insisted that if a consolidation was to take place, the other four colleges should merge, and Douglass remain independent. Now mind you, the role Douglass plays both for its goals and its politics was important to the University, and all attempts would be (and have be) made to preserve the history, goals, and programs provided. These girls just wouldn’t see it. I was all in support of their wanting to protect their school… had someone told me the School of Engineering would be merged (and in some cases, it seemed to come close), I would have been as fervent at it. I think popular feminism is as extreme as the religious right, but its a choice someone makes, and I was in support of their main goals, albeit being one of the students involved in the merger. My support vanished very quickly though when one day I was heading to support one of their rallies, and upon arriving, girls started shouting at me, with words like, “chauvinist”, “jerk”, and you can imagine they got worse. I pretty much decided there that I really didn’t find the cause worth supporting. In the next few months, I continued to push the merger, and the University continued to protect the goals and programs of Douglass, but it was merged in. I didn’t really care if they stayed separate anymore.

What’s the point of this long-winded story you ask? Just upset that some girls called me a “chauvinist”? Nah. In fact, I understand why they were upset. But here is my view on female rights, at least from what I’ve seen. And I fully expect to be chastised for some of this… girls I know have stopped talking to me over it. Males and females are definitely not equal in the US, let alone in the world, but I honestly think what holds them back now is not “the man” but themselves. Sure, I’m again talking about a lot of women who don’t fall into the category, but I see it just like different religions or cultures. You can’t have a small radical group you do nothing about then complain that they’re the ones who are at fault. It seems that feminists want to be proudly different but the same. Now note, I didn’t say “equal” because they don’t seem to paint a picture of equality. Equality implies to me that two groups are at the same level. Feminists feel so oppressed that simply my genetic structure is enough to offend them.

Take for example, the ongoing argument about women in the workplace. I’m far from being the ideal guy to talk about this; I have conflicting feelings about gender roles in situations like a marriage, work, etc. When I get married, I have no issue with my wife working, but I think if we have kids, one of us will have to leave our job. I’m a workaholic, so I can’t imagine leaving my job, but if my wife doesn’t really doesn’t want to, I’ll do it. The issue I have is women who will have a kid then head back to work in a few weeks, leaving kids to nanny’s, artificial milk, etc. No matter how equal men and women get, men and women will never be equal. Biologically, its impossible. No matter what you do, there are simple differences in genetics, biology, and hormones. Hormonally, women are better suited to be nurturing. Its not that guys don’t care, its not how we’re structured. Same way, males tend to be more aggressive then females. Now, someone could argue that this is all just excuses, and in a way it is. We are more then our animal instincts, but end of the day my point is this:

We’re not the same, get over it.

Use your differences for you. Dressing in masculine clothes doesn’t get you further in a job. Proving you can do anything a guy can do doesn’t make you equal. Using your differences, not flaunting them, pulls you ahead. I told my girlfriend this at one point, I’ll treat you like a princess or an equal. I can’t treat you special and treat you no differently then anyone else. As an Indian, I either get to be treated as a minority, or I get to be treated as an equal. Any time I’ve made it clear I’m separate, I’ve earned jeering looks and hostility from others. Fine, males and females aren’t equal yet. Most guys will agree, specially guys who wish it weren’t the case. But every time you try to step over us in the name of gender equality, I really don’t care how hard you get trampled.

Black Friday: Greed Kills

Posted in Society | No Comments » | November 30th, 2008

What the hell is wrong with our society?!?! We pick one day out of the year for beyond belief, phenomenal shopping deals, and in our desire for yet more material goods, we lose our humanity? At least three people were killed on Black Friday 2008, two from a shooting in a Toys-R-Us, and one from a trampling. Yes, one man was trampled to death as people ran over him to find their deals at Wal-Mart. The police that tried to save him were also beat around. One woman, eight months pregnant, was nearly driven to miscarriage. What the hell was so important that these people were literally willing to walk all over someone else? We dare to call ourselves intelligent, evolved, educated humans? And sure, most of the people reading this will be thinking, I’d never do that, I’m much more sensible, these were a few idiots. Well first, this few is dozens. A few people walking over a person isn’t likely to kill someone; it was dozens of people running over this poor man so they could buy something. I’ve never been so embarrassed to be human, to be American.

This isn’t just a simple problem of a some crazy people. As the years progress, we’ve seen Black Friday stores open earlier and earlier, deals getting more insane, and people following suit. Our mentality that you need stuff to be happy is fine in moderation, but its gone overboard. We’ve dropped to base, animal instinct. It’s wild creatures that fight over food, water, mates, and we’re supposed to be advanced, above animals. We have to get away from this needy mentality, where our possessions define us. When shopping kills, it may be time to reevaluate our own beliefs. Yah, I know this was a rant, no real substance, but think of the rage of it.

Faith and Politics

Posted in Politics, Religion | 1 Comment » | November 21st, 2008

Sometimes when I watch some YouTube videos on religion, I just get depressed. Our most recent election brought religious fury to the foreground, bringing doubt of our political leader’s religion, for no other reason then to bring doubt to the politician himself. Now mind you, I have a lot to say about religious “arguments” on YouTube in general, but I really do wanna talk about faith, politics and public policy, and how they meet.

I’m gonna preface this by saying, to be clear, I am not an atheist. I don’t dislike religion. In fact, I believe in the power and use of religion. If there were ever to be a debate on whether religions should be discontinued or not, I would be on the site advocating for their continuation. What I can’t abide by are some of the uses of religion as an inconsistent moral compass, whether it can be taken apart and subjected to individual whim to fit the view you think (on purpose or not) as the most advantageous for yourself. Religion has its purposes; I don’t believe it has a direct role in public welfare.

I Stumble a lot. I don’t know what people did to find websites before Stumble. I guess viral was really the only way. Anyway, I happened to stumble across a YouTube video where then Senator Obama spoke about his views on religion mixing with public policy. I found this rather interesting, as the views were sort of in line with how I see faith and politics. More importantly, after watching it, I watched some of the related videos, including one by a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Christian (sorry, can’t pinpoint his accent) who first thanks a Muslim for bringing out the “truth” on Obama, then attacks passages from the Qaran, one where Dr. Dobson talks about how Obama is just distorting the Bible, and Ann Coulter “puts down” Obama on this particular speech.

I am deeply disturbed by the religious elements of this past election, namely the attacks on Obama. I have never seen attacks on a candidates religion like this before. Clearly a Christian, Obama was accused of being a Muslim (as if that in itself made him a threat), he was attacked for his pastor, he was attacked for his view points on Christianity. Even now as President elect, he seems to be portrayed as the most dangerous thing to ever happen to America. This from many of the same people who denounce anyone who speaks out against President Bush. A friend of mine made an interesting comment a little earlier: “It’s funny that the most prudish, moralistic people are also the ones most likely to breach basic ethics for the sake of their agenda.”

Any attack on Obama having possibly been Muslim at some point in his childhood is pointless. To say he’s “secretly” a Muslim while pretending to be a Christian is just insulting to anyone who can think on their own. Most Christian denominations pride themselves on the fact that once someone is “converted”, they are saved. Obama faithfully attended a church for at least 20 years, and for all accounts and purposes, has shown himself to be a true Christian, much more then many today. Graduating from a prestigious law school, instead of taking up a big salary job, he gave back to his community. He appears to be a faithful husband and father. He supports the unity of all mankind with minimum violence. Now given, this also sounds like what Islam teaches as well… but we’ll ignore that because apparently, Islam is “evil”. Anyway, these attacks are no more then the grown up versions of the childhood insults like “He’s gay!”, given when a bully doesn’t like one kid, with of course no evidence or even logical reasons. Dr. Dobsen even attacked Obama’s interpretation of the Bible. What makes Dobsen more correct then Obama? Does Dobsen know something about the Bible that the rest of the world doesn’t? Honestly, I think people like Dobsen are the ones with a distorted version of the Bible. I always wonder about this… the Bible is the word of God, who is perfect, but written by men, who are imperfect, yet the Bible maintains it’s holy level of perfection. Does this means that the people who transcribe the bible are infallible? Or that they are touched by God? If I choose to copy the bible, word for word, what would that mean for me?

The Codex Gigas from the 13th century, held at...

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In general, the attacks on his views on Christianity seem to only come from the super conservatives who think they and their followers are the only true Christians. Lets take a look at some of what Obama said. First and foremost, he advocates for the separation of religion and policy. He talks about the diversity of religion, and the diversity of Christianity itself. He talks about not taking the Bible literally, quoting lines from the Bible that no sensible person today would implement. He asks that religion be translated into universal reasoning in cases of public policy. He says he’ll use logic before religion. Most importantly, he makes the audacious claim that people want to use religion to bridge, not divide! (That’s me being sarcastic in case it’s not obvious).

Now, I’ve never been a big follower of people like Ann Coulter. I didn’t know much about her before this. I’m not sure how someone like her actually becomes popular. It scares me to think ideas like her are common-place enough to have multiple books authored. I don’t think every Christian out there was scared that Obama was Muslim (or Arab, as if those are connected), but I do know a lot were, as evident from one of McCain’s supporter’s misconceptions. It does scare me to think that people could be brought to such levels of fear by a religion that teaches the value of every human life. The truth is Obama has one of the best religious-political views I’ve ever heard. He doesn’t denounce religion, nor reduce his support of it, but he uses it as a guiding factor of morality. Anyone who can attack him for being moral without bringing religion directly into fray while spouting on and on about Christianity and the values of this great nation needs to reexamine both accounts and truly look within themselves. I’m no Christian, but I believe in the value of the good Book rather then select one of its hundreds of interpretations to cherry-pick my religious beliefs. I figure its better to believe in the whole of one religion rather then the pieces of a dozen.