08-20-08 1:80  •  Harry Potter

Hermione: I can't believe you think the Harry Potter movies are better than the books! In my opinion everything J.K. Rowling does is perfect.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the books and the movies. They each have unique aspects not present in the other. But when it comes to Harry Potter, there is one aspect to whole concept that really makes no sense and I think sends a bad message.

Why on earth are the magical folk required to keep themselves secret? Early on, Hagrid makes some kind of offhand remark about how non-magical folk would be wanting magical solutions to their problems. But that's ridiculous. It's like saying that rich people should keep their wealth a secret so that they would never be asked to contribute to charities. They can always say "no," right? Or, they could find it in their hearts to use their special resources to help the less fortunate.

Here are some other reasons why it's lame:

1) Trying to keep their entire world hidden at any cost is taking way more effort than it's worth. They're always on the verge of blowing it and having to scramble madly to cover up the truth.

2) Erasing Muggle memories is unethical! What gives them the right to screw with people's heads!?

3) How do they deal with non-magical relatives, like Hermione's parents? Lie to them? Make them sign a non-disclosure agreement? How could they be sure no one would ever blab?

4) Magical folk are being made to live a lie. That's like telling gay people they have to stay in the closet. People should be what they are, openly, without having to fake a more acceptable public persona. Truth is truth and should not be covered up.

I know that Rowling was using this mainly as a plot device to create tension. But I think the "secret alternate life" idea is fundamentally dishonest and sends a message that the truth doesn't matter.

08-19-08 8:29  •  My Kensho

Knowbody: Do you have direct experience of God? Have you ever had a spiritual experience? Can you describe it?

First of all, I have had some very profound and unusual experiences. However, I was not raised with any kind of faith in a "God", so perhaps that is why they never seemed to be "divine." For example, I had a sort of "out-of-body" experience which included a direct meeting with an Other. But, this Other did not seem at all Godlike, or parent-like, or "above" me in any way. The entity that I communed with seemed to me more like a peer...an equal.

I think the most profound "spiritual" experience I have had was a kensho experience wherein I attained a higher level of consciousness. For years I had had occasional bouts of a strange obsessiveness. I would notice my thoughts, and then instead of thinking them I would focus on noticing them. Then they would stop. I couldn't keep thinking or finish any kind of thought because as soon as I noticed that I was thinking I would think about that instead.

It probably seems weird, but at one point this condition worsened until it resulted in a total mental breakdown. I couldn't read or watch TV or listen to music or do any kind of simple task because I could not get my mind off the fact that I was noticing my thoughts. I spent several weeks in a state of panic, not being able to think about anything at all, except for this.

I could barely move. It was terrifying. My brain was stuck. All my mental pathways led to this end. There was nothing I could do to make it be different, because as soon as I tried to think I would notice and go back where I started.

But, eventually it wore off. Maybe my brain got bored, I don't know. But my sweetie (aka "Swarm") had told me that a Zen Master would welcome this kind of experience, because it would give him a constant reminder every second to focus on the moment. With this in mind, and with intense practice, I discovered that I could cease all thinking, even this strange circular thinking, through deliberate effort of focus. Eventually, I learned that I could choose what I was thinking about.

What's more, in recovering from this I conceived a completely different mental identity of myself. Prior to this time, I always identified with the voice speaking in my brain. I felt that "I" was my internal voice speaking. If I thought "I need to go to the store," I naturally felt that the "real me," the center of my identity, was the voice speaking the thought.

As a result of this breakdown, however, I came to feel that the voice speaking in my brain was just a utility, and like other mental tools it did not reperesent my center, any more than the music playing in my head was "me." I came to feel that the "real me" was the aspect of my consciousness that was *listening* to the voice. My center of consciousness moved from the main "talker" in my brain to the more encompassing "listener".

The effects of this shift were immediate and profound. For one thing, almost overnight I became the artist I always wanted to be. My graphics skills and internal visioning processes just exploded. I invented several new art forms which I'm still expanding and perfecting. And, I was able to get "outside myself" and consider other people with a new empathy. My politics shifted from the conservative views I was raised with to a progressive liberal outlook almost immediately. :-)

Most of all, learning that I could deliberately choose what I'm thinking about has proved to be the most useful mental skill I've ever acquired. Worries and fears that used to tear me up, I could now consider briefly and then dismiss. I've been able to rid myself of so much of the mental agonizing and suffering that used to weigh me down. As a result, I feel that I've become a much more fully realized consciousness. I love my life, I appreciate all I've got, and I spend my time in the Now.

What does this have to do with God? Nothing, of course.

08-10-08 12:10  •  Social Programs

Ava: Republicans are not every man for them self. Many are against social programs because they don't work.

In what sense do they not work? People in America are not starving. Our elderly are being cared for. Since that is their purpose, they are working at least that much.

What is the Republican plan for social programs? Are these plans working successfully anywhere?

Ava: If you would like to believe that people in these programs are "living" you are mistaken, they are surviving.

Surviving beats the alternative.

Ava: Ideally there should be no social programs. Because people are responsible for themselves and their family members.

How do you make people be like this?

Leslie: Nobody in America is starving? Nobody?

Fewer people are starving in America than in countries without a social safety net.

Leslie: The Social Security and Disability programs are a joke. My granfather has Medicare and it's not covering everything he needs! I don't understand how you think these things are working.

Your complaint suggests that these programs are not doing enough to help people. Perhaps they need to be strengthened. However, suggesting that they need to be more helpful is the exact opposite of suggesting that we should do away with these programs altogether and expect everyone to manage entirely on their own.

Ava: You think surviving is good enough?

Not for most people. But for some, it clearly beats the alternative of not surviving. Anyone who is not content with "just" surviving is free to do more. And most people do.

Ava:Government social programs cause segregation.

What do you recommend instead? You said that "ideally" everyone would take care of themselves. But, we can't make people behave ideally. No society has ever been able to do this. So, what society is doing a better job that we can emulate?

Ava: Surviving is not good enough. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

I don't necessarily disagree with this. However, you and I don't get to decide that it would be better for another person to be dead than to be in their situation. You can only make that call for yourself.

We can't let people starve, instead of offering social programs, just because we think they would be better off dead. That's a personal choice and I think at least some of them would say they would rather eat.

Ava: Being personally responsible for yourself gives a person pride and satisfaction.

True, for most people. Sadly, not everyone.

It is an inescapable fact that in every human population, there are some people who are not able to be self-supporting. Children. The elderly. The disabled. The disturbed. And, the total losers. There are a few of them in every group.

Every effort should be made to get people to self-sufficiency. Education. Opportunities. Enfranchisement. We could be doing a lot more in that effort than we are. However, some people, a few total losers, are not motivated by this.

Social programs exist for two reasons - one, to provide the education and opportunities people need to become self-supporting, and two, to keep the failures from starving. People do not starve quietly. They tend to riot.

Ava: I have already stated what is required to better peoples lives is the involvement of their local community.

What I mean is, how do you make this be the case? What system do you put in place to manage it? What do you mandate to make sure that communities provide enough? What if some communities refuse to do this?

Ava: My plan is more realistic than yours. Striving for the Ideal is real!

So is missing the mark. Most people miss it by a little. Sadly, some miss it by a lot.

Ava: Settling is not an option.

Most people don't. A few do. Their loss. In the meantime, they can't be left to starve outside.

Ava: We already have mediocre, to horrible.

I'm really sorry you see it that way. America has a lot of very poor people, but we don't have real entrenched destitution like countries which don't offer social programs. When I was in Saudi Arabia, there were droves of Arab women and children begging, all up and down every street. They didn't have a father or brother or any man to provide for them and their community wasn't doing it either.

That's what happens when you don't take care of people. They clutter up your cities and make your country look like a third world nation. This is what I would call horrible.

I would say that in the U.S.A. our lowest level is mediocre and it gets better as you go up from there. Yay America!

Ava: I am not saying I want or would leave people to die.

That's what happens to people when you don't take care of them. Social programs are how you prevent this from happening. Countries with strong social programs have less poverty and fewer deaths from starvation and exposure.

Ava: Total " losers" as you have called some of them, are probably criminals as well.

That's quite an assumption. However in our system of jurisprudence people are innocent until proven guilty. Perhaps you are familiar with this concept.

Ava: We have a place for them it is called prison. That is were people go who can't live in society.

I can't believe you are suggesting that people should be imprisoned for the "crime" of being unable to support themselves. Besides, if you put them in prison, you still have to feed, clothe and house them, provide for their medical care, etc. How is that an improvement?

Ava: You said, what if the community doesn't do it? Why would a community not do it?

Well, you don't want to do it. Maybe the community would be made up of people like you, who feel that everyone should just take care of themselves, or who think "handouts" are a bad idea, or who would rather put people in prison before feeding them.

If it's optional, some communities will opt out. Some won't be able to afford it. And the needy in that community would be fucked. If communities just "automatically" did this, and did it well enough, we never would have needed to start federal programs in the first place.

Ava: It makes more sense then giving the Government the money to try and correct the wrongs of this nation, since the government is incapable of running anything.

Did you or did you not get mail delivered to your home today? Did you drive down a paved street with traffic lights? Have you ever visited a National Park?

Government programs may not work perfectly, but they are run by people, the same as any kind of organization. "The Government" is not somehow fundamentally different from everything else in life. I mean, I had a really long wait in line at McDonald's, but I didn't hear anyone complaining that "corporations are just incapable of running anything."

Here's web site with a long list of government social programs which have been shown to be effective. It also lists a couple of programs that don't work, like DARE. Nobody's perfect.

Ava: So we should lower are standards?

Who said we should? I think we should raise our standards, particularly in the area of education. In many countries, citizens are provided with public education throughout their lives. In the U.S. our public education stops at high school, and that's just not good enough for a complex technological society.

Ava: If you really think America does not have citizens living as if they are in a third world country you need to open your eyes. I have been in many houses were the bath tub is used as a toilet, people living with vermin, in a house that is falling down around them.

Outside the U.S., I have seen many "houses" where there is no plumbing at all, and cities where millions of people live on the streets because they don't have even a crumbling house. Even the poorest Americans usually have it a lot better than that.

But if you want to look at countries where people are the healthiest, the happiest, with the highest overall standard of living, look at countries like Denmark, Holland, Sweden, and Finland. They have far less poverty than we do. As it happens, they have far stronger government social programs. There's a connection here.

Ava: Where did I say that people would not have rights to trials? What makes them losers if not the fact that they are more then likely involved in criminal activity.

The fact that they seem to be of sound mind and body, and yet cannot get it together enough to support themselves. They may be lazy or irresponsible or down on their luck. Maybe they drink too much. Maybe they aren't too bright. None of these are crimes.

Would you see the lazy imprisoned, or starved to death, before you would see them fed with a handout? Do you think prison would be cheaper for society than the handout? Do you think people learn good societal values and the importance of being self-supporting from other prisoners in the jig?

It would be better to provide this "loser" with food and a place to live, and attempt to help him with educational opportunities, occupational therapy, job counseling, inteview training, etc. And, rather than rely on the vagaries of a volitile job market, we should probably have some system for guaranteed employment too. That is, some kind of subsistence job that absolutely anyone can get, regardless of qualifications or history.

And yet, even after all that, some very few people still can't get it together. That's still not a crime. And they still can't be allowed to starve.

So, a compassionate society shrugs and faces reality and gives the lazy guy food for another week. That will shut him up and keep him out of trouble so that the vast majority of the group can go on to live productive, happy lives, knowing that we have cared for the least of us.

Ava: All of the rehabilitation that you speak of can be provided by private organizations. Funded by donations.

If this is true you should be able to back it up. Can you name a place that is actually using this system to care for the needy? How well does it work there? Is everyone taken care of?

Ava: Americans are generous compassionate people. It is ludacris to believe that they would not contribute.

The problem with totally voluntary assistance is that it doesn't provide enough, and it puts all the burden on the few who take that up as their particular cause.

Sure, Americans are generous. But a lot of Americans make their charitable contributions to fund college endowments, or to save the whales, or to prevent tropical deforestation, or to the Audubon Society, or to fund a political campaign, or to their local Girl Scout troop, or to breast cancer research, or to the Humane Society, or to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, or to Adopt-A-Retired-Greyhound. Etc. There are a million good causes out there. Anyone who works for a charitable foundation will tell you that voluntary donations are far from reliable.

Ava: Our Government misuses the money that we already give them. They have not significantly improved the lives with this money.

Did you completely fail to read the list of successful social programs I posted? People are learning to read, overcoming addiction, getting job training, completing their education, avoiding criminal behavior, and rising from poverty to join the working class. I'm not making this up, this was shown with studies. Does this fail to meet your criteria for improved lives?

Ava: You claim that people in the third world don't have plumbling, but we do? In the houses I've seen, the plumbing has been removed and hocked for money - how is that different from having no plumbing at all?!?!?!?!

Give me a break. That is very different from a tent slum where millions of people are living in dwellings they made themselves from garbage, and there was never any running water or plumbing or sewage system to begin with. Do you seriously think that this compares with conditions in the U.S.?

slum01.png - 353151 Bytes
Bangalore, India

slum02.png - 402665 Bytes
Kibera, Nairobi

slum03.png - 342183 Bytes
Dharavi Slum, Mumbai

Just for comparison, I also did a search for pictures of American slums.

slum04.png - 173268 Bytes
The only ones I could find were like this picture of a New York City slum; that is, photos that were taken circa 1900...before we implemented social programs.

American slums exist today, and undoubtedly they are not pretty. But America is not the equivalent of a third world country. Social programs are one important reason why.

Ava: If you want to see private donations at work, look at programs at any local church or the many private food banks located around the country.

Sorry, you can't use the U.S. as an example of a place that provides for the needy without social programs. We do have social programs.

Ava: And yes I have been in several homes that are no better the pictures you have posted.

Sorry, even "several" homes with broken plumbing are not equivalent to a tent slum.

Ava: You posted Government run agencies critiques of themselves.

Sorry, no. The statistics were obtained by randomized controlled trials.

Ava: What do you mean, I can't use the US? You asked for examples of private organizations.

Wrong. I asked you to name a place. You said that all of the "rehabilitation" needs of the poor could be met by private organizations, funded with donations, and we do not need social programs. Surely if such a system was workable, some country on Earth would be managing their society this way. It's not the U.S. - we have social programs. So who? What country is meeting all of the needs of their poor with private organizations funded by donations?

Ava: I said "several homes" because I have not been in every home in the US.

Now you are just being silly. If there was a tent slum in the U.S. you would be able to see if from the outside.

Leslie: No tent slums in America, huh? What about this?

hooverville.png - 160382 Bytes
Yes, I am familiar with Hoovervilles. This was before we began using social programs to help the needy.

Leslie: What about this picture of the Dignity Village in Seattle?

lawnf.png - 290859 Bytes
Wow! Nice lawn furniture.

Ava: Open your eyes, Los Angelas and New Orleans has slums. Because someone occupies a abandoned or condemable building means they are better off then other countries?

Yes, they are at least a little better off. They are getting some help. In a lot of countries they would not be getting any help. That's not better, that's worse.

If we weren't wasting trillions of dollars in Iraq, we could do a lot more to help people get by and get the skills they need to manage on their own. Then they would be much better off.

Ava: What excuse do you have for our social programs before the war?

Before what war? Our country is always at war, or preparing for war, or in a Cold War, or fighting a War on Drugs, etc. Our government is always wasting money on wars.

Maybe our wars should be handled by private organizations, funded by donations. Private entities consistently are more efficient and beneficial, after all. :-)

Ava: Our governments primary function is to protect our nation from outside intruders. Not to provide our basic needs.

No other country is trying to "intrude" into our country, least of all Iraq. They don't have the means. But that's a debate for another thread.

I think that money spent on killing people is wasted. You think that money spent on helping people is wasted. I think we are just going to have to agree to disagree. :-)

08-09-08 12:10  •  The Berlinski Challenge

Josh: A secular Jew, David Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community’s cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions:

Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
Not even close.

Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Not even close.

Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Not even close.

Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
Close enough.

Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Not close enough.

Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Not even close to being close.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
Close enough.

Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
Not even ballpark.

Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Dead on.

I don't see what makes these questions in particular, or this guy's particular answers to them, daring, biting, or actually significant in any way. I certainly don't see how they provide evidence of anything. Let's examine them one by one:

• Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?

You can't prove a negative.

On the other hand, has anyone provided proof of God's existence? NOT A SHRED. And you *should* be able to provide evidence of a positive. If "God" was anything then that shred would be around, and it isn't.

• Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?

Since when is it supposed to explain why? And anyway, "quantum" understanding hasn't been around that long...are people annoyed that we don't have all the answers yesterday?

On the contrary, does religion explain the emergence of the universe or why? Only if "God did it" counts as a reason and frankly, it doesn't. You may as well say, "Fod bib it." What does it mean?

• Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?

Science doesn't answer any "why" questions, and it isn't meant to. That is not a shortcoming of science. Often, there is no "why," things just are. "Why" is a linguistic exercise. Only beings who can reason have a "why" for anything.

As for "seems to be fine-tuned," first of all this is how it is and where life arose so of course it _seems_ that way, who knows what kind of life would have arisen in a universe "tuned" differently?

Second of all, religion provides NO answer of how a sentient god-being could have arranged for the universe to be "fine-tuned" like this. Where did that sentience arise and gain the ability to fine-tune anything? What were the conditions that that sentience arose in and how did *those* conditions get "fine-tuned" to allow *that* being to arise?

• Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?

No. They don't have to "believe" anything. This is a lame characterization that shows only the author's bias. If they were "willing to believe anything" there would not be peer review, and scientific "findings" would not be found to be inaccurate on further investigation. There would be twenty valid theories for everything. Scientists must accept whatever can be shown with good evidence over and over. That's far from "anything but religious."

• Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?

Sure it has. Our understanding of what is moral is evolving and rationalism is helping. We conceived democracy, outlawed slavery, didn't we? We gave women rights, outlawed child labor, right? Only since the advent of rationalism.

Is this guy saying that humans have NO understanding of what is good, right and moral? Our entire legal system, while it has its shortcomings, is based on ideas like good, right and moral. Stealing is immoral and it is illegal. Same with murder, etc. Homosexuality is not immoral and what do you know, it is no longer illegal. (The big place where the law still fails is in the idea that drug use is immoral.) Over time, rationalism is doing pretty good for figuring this stuff out.

In contrast, religion provides really shitty answers to what is good, what is right and what is moral. Religion has absolutely NO moral authority - unless you like stoning. Only religiously motivated assholes think homosexuality is immoral when it clearly isn't. Etc.

• Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?

So, we change from science to "secularism" for this question. "Secularism" hasn't been a "force" for anything at all, except maybe religious tolerance. But science certainly has. Curing diseases and figuring out computers are pretty strong "goods".

• Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?

What happened to "willing to believe anything"?

Anyone is free to break this wide open with EVIDENCE that the prevailing thought and opinion is wrong. Scientific thinking has been turned on its head and forced to accept new ideas whenever the new ideas had sufficient evidential support.

• Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?

That's not science's job, but irrational beliefs are irrational because they are not rational on their own, not because of "science." Belief in stuff for NO REASON is not rational. There it is.

• Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?

Intellectual contempt for ideas that are contemptible seems okay to me. This question is at once loaded and meaningless.

• [The great physical theories] do nothing to answer the questions that religion asks...

Religion does nothing to answer the questions that religion asks! "God did it! Because God said so! Because that's what God wants!" These are supposed to be answers?

• ...they fail to offer a coherent description of the cosmos or the methods by which it might be investigated.

Stupid. Science offers a far more coherent - and accurate - description of the cosmos than religion. (Which religious description is he considering accurate, by the way?) And if the scientific description has shortcomings, hey, we've only been at it for about a century, what do you want? The greatest thing science does offer *is* the methods by which the cosmos can be investigated. What answer does religion provide? What answer does religion provide to anything!? What is the religious prescription for getting answers?

Only the stupidest of answers like "The Lord works in mysterious ways" are provided by religion. What "method" of investigating the cosmos does religion provide!?

• ...the ultimate touchstone....

Maybe there is no "ultimate" touchstone, or if there is, maybe science isn't it, but religion sure as hell isn't, religion explains NOTHING.

Turned around.............

Has religion provided a proof of God’s existence?
Not even close.

Has religion explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Not even close.

Has religion explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Not even close.

Are the religious willing to believe in anything stated by religious authority?
Close enough.

Has religion provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Not close enough.

Has religion in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Not even close to being close.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within religion?
Close enough.

Does anything in religion justify the claim that science is irrational?
Not even [in the] ballpark.

Is religion a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Dead on.

08-09-08 10:11  •  School Supplies

Artful: When I was a kid we all had to bring our own school supplies. Nowadays they give you a list and you are not supposed to label ANY of it becuase they just put it all together. You have to buy like 5 boxes of crayons, 16 glue sticks etc.

So i asked the school WHY i had to buy my kid so many boxes of crayons. THE RESPONSE WAS: to make up for the poor kids that can not afford the stuff..........ok this is going to sound harsh.....but........HOW IS THAT MY PROBLEM AND RESPONSIBLITY?!?!?!?!?!

This is your child's classmates. Do you want your kid to spend all day in a classroom where the poor kids don't get to color?

Artful: But, the churches take up donations and such for poorer people.

Charities obviously aren't enough.

Artful: But if they didn't ask for so much then everyone would be able to affford the school supplies.

There is nothing that everyone can afford.

Artful: if you only had to buy one or two sets of each thing it would not be as damn expensive...

And if children didn't break crayons so fast you wouldn't have to buy so many either. But they do.

Artful: Well, I can see buying more later on in the school year for your OWN child. It's not as big a deal as buying 1/2 dozen at the beginning of the year.

Every year there are kids at our school who show up without any of the stuff they are supposed to have. It's usually not because they are "too poor" to afford crayons. It's because their mom just doesn't give a shit. She didn't take them shopping, or she barely glanced at the list, and couldn't be bothered to make sure they got the right stuff.

A kid like that has enough problems with a mom who doesn't care about him. If I can supply a few extra crayons and make that unfortunate kid's trip through first grade a little easier then I am happy to do it.

Lil Missy: Listen, Artful, if I were you, I would only buy for my child, label the supplies, and make it very clear to the teacher that these are MY child's supplies and they need to stay HIS.

Jeez, a kid can only use one crayon at a time. Are crayons tools, or booty that must be hoarded?

Kids should be taught to share crayons. I was taught that sharing with others was important. It didn't matter if the kid next to you could "afford" crayons or not. If he said, "Can I please have the blue?" you just handed it to him and he colored with it.

If you don't teach kids to share at this age when are you going to get around to it?

Lil Missy: It's not one parent's responsibility to provide for every single child in the class!

This is pretend. We went from the real situation, where everyone is asked to provide a little extra, to complaining about a pretend situation where one person is asked to provide for everyone else. Why not complain about something real instead of a pretend thing which is not really happening? No one parent is being asked to provide for "every single child in the class" while all the other parents do nothing. Get real.

TexasRDA: It's not our responsibility to take care of other people. There are families that are considered "low income" and I think they spend money on unnecessary things, instead of what their kids need.

That's not the kid's fault. Should the kid sit on his hands in class when everyone else is coloring just because his parents are stupid?

TexasRDA: Don't you realize what you are doing?

Helping. Sharing. If you think that is wrong then you are the one with the problem.

TexasRDA: Ha! You are encouraging some of these parents to not give a shit.

No. There have always been selfish people and caring people. The caring always have to make up the slack for the selfish. So the question is, which side would you rather be on?

I'd rather be the parent who does give a shit, about my own children and about all the children.

TexasRDA: How about this, instead of forcing us, why shouldn't the school or teachers just ASK parents if they will give a little extra...

Are you kidding? Is the school holding a gun to your head, or threatening to flunk your kid if you don't provide? Asking is exactly what they are doing.

You don't have to help, and you don't want to help. So, don't help. Other people will pick up the slack for you, voluntarily.

TexasRDA: By just going along with it, and buying extra supplies for other kids to use, we are enabling. What purpose does that serve?

It serves the purpose of the kids having enough crayons.

TexasRDA: But then, why would any parents buy their kids supplies?

The same reason buy supplies for your own kids. Because it's the right thing to do. Do you really think no one is capable of figuring this out?

Most people are okay. Most people are trying to do the right thing. But there are always just a few who don't. We didn't create that few by "enabling" and we can't make that few go away by ignoring them.

So, if we care, we do what we can so those few kids aren't left out.

TexasRDA: Which side would I rather be on? I would rather be the person, parent, woman, tax payer, who says ENOUGH IS FREAKING ENOUGH.

So, do it. Other people who care more will step up where you bow out.

08-09-08 8:09  •  Obama Fucks Up

Here is my original Obama essay.

I was a very enthusiastic Obama supporter for quite awhile. The charges that he was a racist, or a radical, or that he secretly wanted to turn us over to the Muslims, I found to be without merit. I enjoyed his sharp intelligence, his well-spoken manners and his nice-guy image. I read through Obama's policy papers, and I thought his plans for dealing with the issues were fairly sound. I don't believe that he "hates America" or that his patriotism (as measured in flag displays) is lacking.

However I am gravely disappointed by his vote last month on the FISA legislation. Obama voted along with the majority to grant civil immunity to the telecom industry for their role in Bush's illegal wiretapping. At first Obama voted for an amendment to have the telecom immunity stripped from the bill. But when that measure failed, he went ahead and passed the legislation with the telecom immunity intact.

This is just wrong.

I'm still planning to vote for him. Republican ideologies of agressive war-making, rapacious free-marketeering and every-man-for-himself-ism are completely lacking in human compassion. And, they do not work particularly well either. I can't support four more years of this.

But I'm disappointed that Obama could not stand on principle and uphold the Fourth Amendment. Just who actually wants telecom immunity, anyway? Who is he pandering to? The telecom industry lobby? That I find pathetic. I am really disappointed in this turn of events.

08-08-08 8:08  •  Visualization

Orange: People keep acting like The Secret is some kind of big scam. That's closed-minded! Have you actually tried any of the things the 'Secret' people suggest?

When I was a teen, my mom (who had never shown a trace of religiosity before) suddenly went through a phase of Shirley MacLaine-style New Ageism. Wearing crystals, contemplating possible past lives, etc.

One of the cornerstones of this philosophy was Creative Visualization, another name for what The Secret calls "The Law of Attraction" - basically the idea that you can get what you want in life by intensely visualizing yourself having it.

Believe me, as a teen and young adult this idea appealed to me very much! I read many books about it and ardently practiced the techniques on a daily basis, from cloud-busting to golden-glow healing to visions of actualization. There were times when it seemed to have a bit of success...IF I was willing to stretch the scope of my visualization broad enough so that it could encompass whatever ended up actually happening.

However, despite several years of practice and effort, the big payoffs never arrived. I was not able to use the power of my thoughts to avoid bad traffic and get the parking space I wanted. The stuff I was visualizing was not being attracted to me...the big scholarship I visualized fell through, the big raise I visualized went to someone else, I could not afford the payments on that car I was visualizing, etc. It just didn't work.

Over time I came to see that I had much better success getting what I wanted by *doing* more about it instead of thinking more about it.

Orange: I'm considering making the $100,000 bill just as an experiment.

If that really worked this would be a very different world.

Jason: It works on a certain level. It's true that very few successful, happy people are that way despite never having visualized the life they want.

Everyone visualizes the life they want. I mean, really, who doesn't? But that doesn't exactly pan out into everyone getting the life they want, does it?

Jason: But, negativity and low self-image really do lead to self-sabbotaging behaviors.

The Secret, so far as I can tell, is not about helping people with their self-esteem or behaviors. It literally states that the energy of your thoughts is radiating outward from your head and released into the world like an electromagnetic force. It's not about your thoughts affecting *your* behavior, it's about your thoughts literally affecting the behavior of others, and of material objects, just from the action of you thinking about it.

Jason: Perhaps it's more like, there's a correlation between negativity and repulsion.

I think the worst fallout from our family trip into delusion was the way it gave my mom a real fear of "negativity" and "negative thoughts".

Just as an example, Shirley MacLaine was claiming at the time that the dramatic rise in breast cancer rates was due to the practice of breast self-exams. Get this - SM claimed that women were examining their breasts *looking* to find cancer, and their expectations - their visualizations of lumps and tumors - was actually responsible for lumps and tumors occurring. Shirley recommended that when women examine our breasts we need to focus on "looking only for healthy tissue" instead of lumps, to prevent cancer. And so on.

Unfortunately, my mom really took this to heart, and it stuck with her even after the crystal-wearing wore off. For years afterwards she would frantically try to never have "negative thoughts" because she thought they would bring negative consequences. To this day she fears the landscape of her own mind because it might create something "negative" which would then be more likely to "come true." It doesn't appear to be a very comfortable way to live.

In the Secret, they claim that visualizing bad traffic and being late is what causes people to be stuck in bad traffic and late...that the thinker is actually attracting negative traffic conditions with their mind. I don't think this is really a healthy way to view the ups and downs of our own thoughts.

08-05-08 8:21  •  Income Inequality

I think there is a fundamental problem with capitalism, and it is the idea that people can earn billions of dollars. They can get it, but did they actually earn it? Why is a year worth of Bill Gates' work worth 6 billion dollars and a year of my work is only work $50K? Is he really working a hundred and twenty thousand times harder than I am?

It's clear that some work is worth more and some less. But the massive span between the highest and lowest paid members of our work force is criminal. One person can "earn" enough money in a year to support forty thousand families. How is that fair? Or reasonable? Or practical?

Of particular concern is the fact that once money amasses in such huge quantities, it is no longer spent. Money in billions is mainly used in financial schemes to aquire still more money, and also to amass political power. The force to shape our lives becomes concentrated in the hands of a tiny few, whose every action are calculated only for more profit and power consolidation.

Income inequality is the biggest problem facing our technological economy. A handful of people are jet setting around the world's seven-star hotels, while billions don't have access to clean water. A tiny cadre of greedy unscrupulous fucks is making all the decisions while everyone else drifts in their wake with virtually no power at all over their own destiny. It's not fair. And it's not working.

The question is, what should we do about it?

Ava: How is it not working?

Billions of people in poverty. Stupid geopolitical decisions.

Lola: It's not fair? Well see that's the thing, life isn't fair. Bill Gates struggled for years while coming up with his invention. He EARNED his money. In this country everyone has the potential to become a multi-billionaire.

No, not true. Bill Gates came from a rich family, he was already rich. He did not invent anything, he bought MS-DOS from someone else and just marketed it.

But even if he had invented it, he still isn't worth a billion other human beings. He's still just one guy.

Lola: Is it fair that some have so much, while others have so little ? No, its not. That's life.

Well, life isn't fair. But we didn't invent life, and we can't make it be fair. We did invent the economy and we certainly could make it more fair than it is. We could make it work better for more people.

Lola: Hard work , and having a dream, made these people into millionaires, billionaires.

Two of the guys on the Richest Ten list are casino magnates. What did they invent, or create? They have become billionaires by swindling poor people, nothing more.

However in most cases billions are not derived from personal income. They are inherited or financed.

Phage: i just wanted to say that most of the people who have more money than they know what to do with have it because we as a society are willing to pay the price for the items that they are selling....

Dont hate the player, hate the game....we make them this rich...

I think you are very right about this.

Lola: It takes people to buy their products. Without that, they have nothing.

That's very true, and I think that presents an obvious avenue towards a solution.

Lola: I will never understand why football players and the like make as much as they do.

Football players and other brief celebreties are not the real decision makers in our economy. Their millions don't mean much in the true circles of power.

Lola: We demand all of this high tech stuff then bitch because we aren't the ones who made it.

As it happens, my husband is acquainted with Bill Gates. He is familiar with his career and takes a very dim view of the unethical business practices and scams that Microsoft has perpetrated over the years to gain a stranglehold on market dominence.

But, he doesn't complain, and then buy into it. He runs his computer on Linux.

That is certainly part of the solution. Insane wealth often accumulates because people have some kind of link to an influx of consumer dollars. Opting out of the consumer economy where possible is an obvious direction.

Lola: It's great that your hubby runs on Linux, but what about the millions who don't? That's where Bill Gates got his money. What I don't understand though, is why people buy into it because Microsoft is crap.

It's because Microsoft is using unfair business practices. They have a monopoly and there isn't really anyplace else to go. The very specialized software I run for my work is not available on Linux so I am stuck with Windows too.

When you see billions, look for monopolies and other unethical systems.

A solution for better income equality would be to enforce against unethical business practices. This is not done much now. Large businesses have no ethics and will rape anything in search of profit.

Phage: Casino owners do not swindle anyone out of anything . If someone choose to gamble, and throw their money away, that is their decision. I don't see any casino owners holding guns to their heads!

People throw their money away at casinos because they want to get more money. They have been taught that money is important, that they can find happiness through acquisition.

Breaking free of that illusion is a step to addressing income inequality.

Shoppper: My father always said "instead of bitching about how someone has it so much better than you, do whatever it takes to rise one step above their level."

That, I feel, is feeding into the system in the wrong direction. Doing "whatever it takes" to get ahead is unethical.

A better strategy is to realize that money is not important.

Shoppper: I wish that could be my strategy. Unfortunately it is required to pay my bills and to get by in this world. But I know what you mean and I agree with your post/replies.

But, there are those who have no common sense whatsoever, and there is no hope in instilling any kind of sense in them. What about them?

These kind of people have always existed and always will. I think we must acknowledge this. There should be a legitimate place for losers in our society...some kind of bottom rung for people who don't care. Not much, but at least, something slightly higher than prison or out in the street.

That said, most people would not be content to stay there. If only our economy really rewarded hard work as much as connections, investment schemes and monopolies! If people were really earning something that had any meaning to the amount of work and thought they were putting in, this would be a very different world.

Lola: Actually, money is very important. Without money, you don't have anything.

You don't need much.

Lola: Money isn't everything but it comes close these days.

I'm sorry you feel that way.

Phage: doing whatever it takes is good work ethic.

Doing "whatever it takes" is cheating, robbing, and crushing those who get in your way. Now, if you mean, "whatever it takes as long as it's fair and ethical" then I might be more inclined to agree that it was a good work ethic.

Phage: you basically need money to breath anymore.

You do not need much money to breathe.

Tysonlady: with out money then i suppose you would be OK, being the panhandler, or the food stamp recipient who is not aloud to buy their children candy, or the person on section 8 ( renter) were people want you only in a particular part of the town,

people who act as if money is not important is only fooling themselves or justifying their own short coming..."

Ridiculous. I am not a panhandler, or a food stamp recipient, or a section 8 renter.

However, I am a learned person and I have learned that the avenue to massive wealth accumulation is closed to all but a few. I have learned that spending your time trying to get more leaves you less time to be more.

I have learned that money is the bait for the trap that keeps people slaving and profits soaring.

I have learned to get by with very few things. As a result, my husband and my kids and I live very happily on very modest means.

Shoppper: Well, the business world isnt fair. thats just common knowledge.

"The business world" isn't some alien thing imposed on us from another planet. It is a system invented by humans. If it's not fair, humans can work to correct it.

Shoppper: so if money isn't anything and means nothing to you than why do you care that someone else has so much.

Because it is coming off the backs of the impoverished.

Lola: It's too hot to entertain kids without money. I don't want them to be miserable all summer! Why am I so wrong for wanting better for my kids?

Better than what? All the kids I know are having a great summer, and money is not part of why.

Shoppper: Kids need more than fun in summer. They have to have lessons, to make them better people. That takes money.

It doesn't take much money.

Shoppper: youre not arguing about the amount of money avcivities take. youre saying money isnt important.

I'm saying that you can have enough money to get by, and give your family a happy life, and then be happy with that. For example, I could work outside the home and instantly double our income. Think of all that great money! But...why should I?

We are getting by, and I have something more far more valuable than money, which is my time at home raising my own kids. The lure of becoming "richer" has no effect, and financial ups and downs have less emotional impact, if you don't value "money" in and of itself.

I would say our society sends an endless message that "more money is better". I'm saying that when your needs are met more money is not important.

Shoppper: That's not what you said before.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

Phage: If you feel money is not important, than why are two of your OPs about money ? You seem preoccupied by something that isn't "important" to you.

Interesting question. I understand your confusion.

I am interested in power. Not acquiring it - studying how it is acquired and weilded. I am interested in the subject of money because it is a system for transferring power.

This does not equate into wishing to have lots of money. In fact a certain detachment from the subject allows me to observe it more readily as a social force.

Shoppper: what do u suggest? communism?

Ethical capitalism. That would be a start.

Shoppper:There is no such thing.

It's worth a try.

Phage: I think you are more envious of the rich than you suggest.

What do they have that I could possibly want?

Mary Lee: So if one person makes $10 per hour at McDonald's and the next person makes $10 as a doctor the next makes $10 per hour doing backbreaking labor why would anyone strive to better themselves?

Who is suggesting this?

Mary Lee: I don't care who you are, unless you are the single richest person in the world-there is always going to be someone that has something you want and I think that makes us all strive to work harder and better ourselves.

Striving to acquire more money is not equivalent to bettering ourselves.

Mary Lee: Then why did you start this post? In the OP you are bitching about how much more money Bill Gates has than you.

I didn't say no one should make more money than anyone else. I'm saying that the super-wealthy are not billions of times more valuable than the ordinary. The income inequality is exaggerated far beyond any societal motivation for self-betterment. It's in the range of pure, unethical greed.

Bill Gates owes his fortune far more to unethcial business practices than to hard work or good ideas. It's not right that he should get away with it. However the super-rich are beyond question.

Mary Lee: But if he hadn't of developed the Windows Operating Systerm, he wouldn't of HAD the fortune to begin with.

Bill Gates came from a very wealthy family. His dad is one of the world's richest guys too, and it's not from anything Bill did.

Mary Lee: But, he actually did the work to get to where he is.

Bill never invented or created anything. Bill had the money to buy MS-DOS and later the graphical user interface and make sure that no competitor survived.

Mary Lee: Well then, the world is waiting for anyone willing to do the work to create a better operating system.

There have been several that are better, but in a monopoly marketplace, when the product is a basic part of public infrastructure, no one can really hope to compete.

That is why the big steel and rail companies were broken up in the days of the robber barons, because monopolies on infrastructure are unethical.

Mary Lee: What about motivation? What if someone inherits a million - should they sit around on their asses and not strive to make a billion?

Do you really think they should try to make a billion? To what end?

Mary Lee: um, because maybe that is what they want...

If someone has a million dollars, and they are not satisfied with that and could only be happy with a billion instead, then that person has no concept of what is really important in life. That person has their priorities seriously fucked up. But, that's their wasted life.

Mary Lee: So why do I care the amount of money someone strives to make?

Because if it is unethical it comes at the expense of others.

Phage: one person might deifne success by their wealth. another might define success by how many people they help in a lifetime, while another might define sucess by the children she raises. and one is not more right or wrong than the other.

I disagree. In our society a person's worth is almost entirely determined by his financial worth. This is a shame because it really misses the boat on valuing what is really good about people.

Phage: It's like if you really studied, and then someone else got the "A". i sure as hell dont want to work my ass off and be obligated to take care of those with no ambition or drive who didnt do the same.

For example, as you demonstrate, "ambition" and "drive" are the only values that society cares about. Unfortunately, unlike grades, money is not handed out by virtue of actual merit. Money goes most readily, not to the best, but to the greediest.

Tysonlady: So are you saying making money makes you greedy?

I'm saying the hoarding of unimaginable wealth is a symptom of greed, yes. What else could it be? Why else would someone exert their effort in the accumulation of massive wealth? Especially when the best things in life are free? :-)

As for money making you greedy, I would say that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and really big money is a form of power. Money can serve as a corrupting influence, and often does.

Phage: I don't "buy" this thread. I get the feeling, you have wants, that you would like to have, just like the rest of us , empty, consumer driven, women.

Such as?

Phage: I bet you have a lot of interest in a new washer!

No, none. But even if I did I would not have to accumulate massive wealth at the expense of others to get one.

Lola: I think one of the best things in life is sitting with my entire family at the half moon resort in jamaica making memories. and its not free.

If you think you have to be sitting in a resort in Jamaica to make good family memories then you are missing out on what is happening where you are.

Mary Lee: Again, WHO gets to draw the line...YOU?

I don't think anyone suggested that there should be a maximum cap on accumulation. That would be "drawing a line." But I do know a few things:

1) We need to realize that people who are truly wealthy are not "earning" it through hard work. There isn't a billion dollars worth of work that any one person could accomplish in a year. That kind of money accumulates through manipulation and greed and we can certainly call it what it is.

2) You may have heard, "From those to whom much is given, much is expected." The fabulously wealthy would not be where they are today without the infrastructure and resources of our entire society. They should pay high taxes, and not shelter their money in overseas accounts as a tax loophole, etc.

3) Massive wealth should not be accumulated through unethical practices.

Phage: The OP stated that she "only" makes $50K in a year...

If you read the thread, you would see that I actually make nothing in a year these days. My husband and I gave up an obvious avenue for money accumulation - my career - so that my kids could have the beyond priceless experience of being raised at home by their mom. If we cared about money that is the first thing that would be different.

Phage: ...so, is she a wealthy snob who should stop hurting all the little people with the way in which she made her money? Should she give away the vast majority or her fortune to the poor?

When I am working, I don't have a problem paying my share of the taxes. My husband pays his share. We don't complain about how it all goes to ungrateful bums who won't work as hard as we do. We don't vote for people who promote the view that taxes are an unfair intrustion.

Phage: If you know of Bill Gates unethical business practices, why don't you expose him?

The practices of Microsoft are well known. Haven't you seen all of the anti-trust legislation against them in the lower courts over the years? However, when it gets up to the Supreme Court they usually get a wrist slap.

However I understand MS recently lost a pretty big court decision on patent infrigement. So perhaps there is justice in the world - we'll see where it goes.

Lola: Well then, what's with the crack about "cleaning rooms and serving drinks"? If you had ever travelled you would know that resorts are not just in place to watch maids and bartenders.

The point is, you don't have to have the money to get to a resort in Jamaica to teach your children the important lessons of life.

Phage: ahhh, but it sure is nice.

Only if you care about money. There are many things which are nice which do not take a lot of money and that's certainly the lesson I want my children to learn. I don't want them to evaluate their self-worth on the basis of their income, or have their happiness tied up in the vicissitudes of a turbulent economy.

Peace and happiness come from within.

07-25-08 8:21  •  Arguing

When I got together with my husband about ten years ago, one of the things I noticed right away is that he would not argue with me. At all. If I raise my voice or lose my cool and the discussion starts to become an argument, he's done. He will not continue exchanging dialog with me until I get myself together.

This was very difficult for me. I was raised to think that arguments are a natural part of relationships, and necessary for working things out. But Jay said, "Once people start yelling, nothing can be solved." And it's so true! When people are arguing they say so many things they regret! It's so easy to be hurtful during an argument.

Arguing is one of the worst things to have in your life. Everyone I know who had a shitty childhood remembers endless arguments around the house as one of the worst things about it. When arguments happen people say horrible things to each other that cause tremendous pain and echo around in your head for days, weeks, years afterwards. The children remember their childhood as filled with yelling. It's not worth it!

Relationships are difficult and not all are built to last forever. But even a divorce or break up could be a neutral occurance if it was done without argument. It's the fights that make relationships - or breakups - traumatic.

What do you think? Could you have a relationship without arguing?

Julie: I wish I could. Sounds like you and your hubby have got a good thing. We fight all the time. Can't seem to find a way to talk anymore without getting angry and yelling at one another. Once you get into the cycle, it's very difficult to pull yourself out.

MaryAnn: I argue. Not often. Most days, it is just minor annoyances we get over within a few minutes. But we generally build and build until we both just go at each other all day and then finally blow up. this takes many months, and lasts for about a week. I think we are actually getting due for one.

Can you tell us how you manage this "no yelling" relationship?

There are two main aspects. First of all, in our everyday interactions, we treat each other kindly. We don't spark up small disagreements over little things the way a lot of couples do. I know couples who constantly give each other a hard time, over nothing, and then claim they're just "joking around." But it's not funny. It makes the time you spend together miserable.

Second of all, we don't discuss issues when we're mad. Hardly anything is worth raising a temper over, but when it does happen, we wait. If we can't be together without arguing, we separate.

The last time this happened, a couple of years ago, I just went to a movie. It's a place you can go any time, even alone, and hang out for a couple of hours. By the time I got home a lot of the air had cleared and we were able to discuss the problem quietly.

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