Monday, July 14, 2014

Coping with Shitheads: Divine Judgment

I've caught myself often repeating a specific phrase lately: "I hate this world."  I suppose it is a symptom of my growing cynicism.  Last night, after seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (damn, that's a mouthful, but at least it was a good movie) as my friend and I were walking to my car, we heard some local band playing covers of some fairly terrible 90's pop.  It wasn't the fact that these bros were playing that bothered me, but rather that the people at the bar were actually digging it.

"I hate this world," I bitterly uttered.  The funny thing is that this surprised me because I recognized the intellectual fact that the situation wasn't really all that egregious, but it still bothered me enough to curse all of existence.  The people cheering on the crappy cover band reminded me of how limited and imperceptive we humans can be, and that's why the world is so terrible.

The world sucks because it's filled with shitheads.

What is a shithead you might ask?  Well, the great thing about that title is that it applies to an incredibly wide range of humans with specific attitudes, personalities, and preferred modes of interaction.  The people at the bar: shitheads.  Women who thrive on Alice-in-Wonderland (read: completely fucking absurd) type drama: shitheads.  Men who think it's a good idea to get multiple women pregnant without any intention of taking care of their offspring: shitheads.  Terrorists: shitheads.  Politicians: shitheads.

No matter who you are, it is exhausting to ruminate on the staggering number of different ways that this world totally blows.  Over the years, I have arrived at a philosophical conclusion that helps me cope with all the shitheads of the world, but I can't help but wonder: how do the idiots and the shitheads cope with all the shitheads of the world?

It should should not shock anyone to hear that most people in the world are too stupid to understand even the simplest ideas of philosophy, so there is only one logical conclusion as to why there are not mass suicides: religion.  Well, to be more specific, we're talking about divine judgment.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do the evil prosper from the blood and sweat of the pious?  Well, the obvious answer is that most of the bad shit that happens to us is completely random, unless you believe that God is a sadistic asshole who enjoys torturing his most fervent believers; and that he's a giant douche who rewards the vile sociopaths of humanity.  Even though it's not hard to conclude that an Omni-Omni Being (OOB) would possess such asinine qualities, that still doesn't provide much comfort.

So, to make ourselves feel better, we invented the notion of divine judgment.  Divine judgment provides humanity with a false sense of eternal reward for the pious and damnation for the vile.  When the greedy fat cats on Wallstreet or in the government get away with stealing right from our pockets, we tell ourselves that they will get theirs in the next life.  When tragedy after horrifying tragedy befalls us, we sooth our weary minds with thoughts of ethereal paradise.

We convince ourselves that our suffering will bring us justice in the end, and the greater our suffering, the greater our reward.  It makes it a lot easier to cope with horror, because the only thing worse than enduring suffering is to do so without hope.  Hopeless suffering is the worst brand of misery a human can experience, and we avoid it at all costs, even if it means believing in an idea that we would normally dismiss as fantastical superstition.

One must recognize that the notion of an afterlife, and religion itself, is an invention of man.  It's humanity's way of coping with meaningless suffering brought on by the shitheads of the world.  For a moment, suspend your belief in the notion of divine truth and examine the psychology of religion.  Religion fulfills the same psychological needs as philosophy, but religion only requires blind faith in the existence of imperceptible things rather than understanding complex ideas about the nature of all things.

So a question for my readers: does humanity truly benefit from the notion of divine judgment, or would we be better off without it?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

May your beers be cold and your barbecues be hot!  Enjoy this day and celebrate the highest ideals we have for ourselves as humans!

Because if we're not free to openly admire the beauty of the female form, then
what's the point of being free?!
Happy Independence Day!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thoughts on Bergdahl: Yes, One Man Is Worth It

As an admitted student of Machiavelli, I fully understand that most of the time, life presents humanity with impossible decisions. Would that there is always a clear "right" or "wrong" answer for every situation, but as the Joker says in The Dark Knight, "[people] are only as good as the world allows them to be." Given the infinite combinations of no-win situations humans are faced with on a daily basis, it's little wonder that many of us abandon the notion of the ideal for the more practical application of sound decision-making of the "Greater Good."

Lately, the media circus has focused on one particular no-win situation, that of U.S. Army Sgt. Bergdahl who was recently released from 5 years of Al-Qaeda captivity. It would be nice if we could simply sit back in joy and relief that one of our own has been saved from the enemy, but as life would have it, nothing is ever quite that simple.

Did Bergdahl desert his post? Was he just taking a leisurely stroll while on watch (which would still amount to abandoning his post)? I don't have the answers to these questions, and until an investigation is completed, neither will anyone else. Legally, we have to figure out whether or not President Obama violated the law by not notifying Congress prior to Bergdahl's release. We have to determine whether there truly were safety concerns and extenuating circumstance that warranted a different approach. For that, we won't have the answers until an investigation is completed by Congress.

Important questions that need to be answered, but for me the more pressing issue involves America's very soul: was it worth saving one man for the risk of endangering others and weakening America's opposition to global terrorism?

A lot of pundits have been vocal about why it is American policy is never to negotiate with terrorists. A lot of Republicans have cried foul that by conducting a prisoner exchange--one that seems to heavily favor the enemy--America now appears weak to our enemies. To those men and women I ask this: do you really think that terrorists consider America to be strong in the first place? Are you truly all that concerned with how America is perceived by whack-jobs who are willing to strap bombs to their chests and blow up school buses full of children? Perhaps we should be more concerned with actually being strong than appearing to be strong.

Then some say, "this sets a dangerous precedent. Now Al-Qaeda will try harder to capture more Americans. They've already stated that they will try harder!" Here's another question: do you honestly think that before this incident, capturing an American was not a high priority on Al-Qaeda's to-do list? Taking hostages is a staple of terrorism, regardless of the organization or its cause. If Al-Qaeda truly had the capability to capture more Americans, they would have been doing that long before Bergdahl's release. The incentive to capturing Americans is creating a sense of terror, and that incentive remains. Prisoner exchange is not even really a bonus for them, because the ultimate goal is breaking our spirit.

So when I ask myself, "was one man worth it?" I answer: yes. Am I pleased about how everything unfolded? It probably could have been handled in a better way, but ultimately I'm glad that someone in our government stood up and said "yes, one man is worth it." Whether or not you agree with how Obama went about it, bringing Bergdahl home shows the terrorists that they have not won.

Their goal is to dehumanize us--to break our resolve and bring us down to their level of horror and inhumanity. Now, we have shown them--and the world--that America still has a soul and, to some degree, that we still believe that no one is ever truly expendable.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why Religion Isn't as Good as You Thought

Because it's funny.
Question:  When was the last time we saw a group of scientists vow to kill each other because they believed in differing interpretations of a set of data?  Does anyone remember reading about the great war of "Did dinosaurs have feathers or not"?  And aren't we glad that scientists no longer enslave entire populations of non-believers for the purpose of forcing them to believe in dark matter?

Hopefully, all of that sounds completely absurd, because really, who would actually enslave an entire race of people just because they didn't believe in dark matter?  Forcing people to believe in something they can't see sounds asinine, and actually waging war against an entire group of people because they believe that dinosaurs actually had feathers sounds totally Alice (Alice in Wonderland--I'm trying to make a new catch-phrase).  Warriors for atomic theory!  We're doing the work of science: changing hearts souls, winning over minds for science!

By now, any reader should be able easily to see where I'm going with this.  Let's try asking these questions again but from a different perspective.

Question: When was the last time we saw a group of religious fanatics kill each other because they believed in different theological texts?  Does anyone remember reading about the Crusades?  And aren't we glad that Christians no longer enslave entire populations of non-believers for the purpose of forcing them to believe in Jesus Christ?

So much horror has been wrought in the name of God that I find it baffling that we, as a species, have not yet awakened from the nightmare that is religion.  Sure, religion has some benefits.  It gives people a sense of belonging and community.  It allows people to ponder infinity and that part of existence that we cannot perceive.  Religion helps many people find their cherity and compassion, people who otherwise may never have realized their potential for good.

I used to think that religion wasn't to blame for all of the bloodshed, but that people were to blame.  Unfortunately, I can no longer hold that belief because I understand that religion itself is an invention of man.

Why did man invent religion?  Well, because one day, some poor, random bastard--after having his home and his farm burned to the ground, his family murdered, and his entire life shattered--had the audacity to ask himself "what the hell is the point of this miserable existence?"  The man, broken hearted with no will left to live, resigned himself to end it all.  As he knelt in the ashes of what was once his joyful existence, the sharp blade pressed against his throat ready for one last slice, he stared into oblivion and became frightened.

He didn't go through with it because he asked himself an even more chilling question than his first:  "what if there is nothing after I die?"  Shaken to the core, he let the knife drop to the ground because the only thing more terrifying than all the horrors of this world is the prospect of becoming nothing.

As Karl marx once suggested, religion is an opiate.  It facilitates a sense of comfort by providing "answers" to the questions that have no discernable answers.  Why fear death when there is a promise of eternal life after shedding this mortal coil?  How can you feel alone or adrift when God loves you and gives you purpose in life?  And the best part about it is that no one can tell you that you're wrong, because no one can prove you wrong.

That is a perfect set-up when you think about it.  Consdering most people don't like to be wrong--and moreso, they don't like to be proven wrong by ideological opponents--believing in something that can never definitively be proven wrong is an ideal arrangement.

Religion is not so great because it is based on feelings and faith rather than logic and knowledge.  Think about it: the entirety of the scientific community agrees that the force known as "gravity" exists.  The scientific community agrees on a lot of concepts like photosynthesis, atomic energy, and plate tectonics.  But what does the religious community as a whole agree upon?

That God exists?  Nope (Buddhists).  That Jesus Christ is the savior of humanity?  Nope.  That Mohammed was a prophet and revealed the final testament of God?  No, again.  Or how about the idea that much of the Old Testament is not meant to be taken literally, because much of it is based in myths common to the Middle East?  No, Christians can't even agree on that.

When you believe in something without evidence, that is called faith.  When you believe in something because there is evidence supporting the existence of that thing, it is called knowledge.  A man of science can be arrogant and can appear to be "close minded," but that's because his beliefs are based on knowledge, evidence and study that has been conducted countless times.  If someone tells me that gravity is a load of hogwash, and I respond by telling him he's mad, that does not mean I have a closed mind.

Similarly, when someone tells me that he knows God exists, and I tell him that because of the limitations of human perception, we can only surmise that there is an equal chance of God not existing as there is a chance of God existing, that also does not make me close-minded.

People cling to religion because it provides them comfort.  Religion eases the burden of oblivion and self-purpose.  Religious people don't like science--and often ridicule men of science as arrogant know-it-alls--because science suggests that their beliefs are fictitious. 

When a religious person is challenged and becomes angry or upset, it is because he is afraid he may have to finally face the very real potential that there is only oblivion.  When a man of science is challenged and becomes angry or upset, it is because the challenger usually has no basis for his argument and cannot provide any evidence to support his claims other than "because a 2000 year old book tells me to believe it!"  Sure, to believe in science takes faith because not everyone has the time to run countless tests to prove theories, but when I watch a pebble fall from my hand, that's a hell of a convincing argument for gravity.

What can you tell me that God has actually done lately?

Friday, May 9, 2014

We have nothing to hide! But seriously, call off the investigation . . .

Benghazi and the NSA: If something doesn't smell rotten when it comes to these two hot-button issues, then you might have a neurological disorder that prevents your brain from detecting the unmistakable scent of shit.

Yesterday, the House voted to create a select committee to investigate the Benghazi incident.  I think I speak for a large number of Americans when I say: finally!  Yes, there have already been several investigations, and according to this article, those investigations actually led to punishment.  Even so, many Americans still can't help but wonder whether or not the blame goes a lot higher up the food chain.

Democrats allover have expressed their protestations against this investigation.  Unsurprisingly, Nancy Pelosi has decried this as political theater--a publicity stunt, perpetrated by the GOP, to smear as many Democrats as possible before the mid-term elections.  It's true that we can't deny the fact that this investigation certainly will create a positive political advantage for the GOP, but that is merely a side-effect, a result of what may come to light.

The truth remains that there is a number of White House communications regarding Benghazi that have been redacted.  Given the little information that has been released and/or exposed, there still remains enough evidence to cast a large shadow of doubt on whether the White House was not somehow complicit in the Benghazi tragedy.

To the Democrats, I have only one question: if there was truly no malfeasance on the part of any member of the Obama administration, then why are you acting as though you have something to hide?  Although the GOP is often guilty of this, many times dealing with the Democrats is like dealing with children.  It's like when you ask your kid to clean his room.  After a couple hours, you ask him if he cleaned his room just as he was told.  He says "yes," but when you go to check to make sure he actually did it, he stops you and says "it's okay, you don't need to check!  I told you I did it!"

Does that not seem awfully suspicious?  Would you not then be further compelled to check whether or not he complied with your instructions?  The Obama administration tries to tout "transparency," as though we're supposed to simply trust them.  But then we're faced with oddities like heavily redacted emails and an increasingly evasive administration, it's hard to trust that there is no cover-up afoot.

And why shouldn't we be suspicious?  Look at all that has been revealed about the NSA's illegal surveillance programs.  It's interesting that the very concerns that Ed Snowden expressed, and the illegal activity that he exposed, have all come to light and have been proven to be true.  Yes: Snowden violated his NDA, but he did so to expose the illegal programs of a government agency long bereft of any true civilian oversight.

When the Snowden documents first revealed the "metadata," fiasco surrounding American cell phone communications, the NSA vehemently denied that they record phone calls.  A few months later, we find out about the MYSTIC program, it's purpose being none other than to hold 1 month's worth of American citizens' phone call recordings.  The Obama administration claims to have known nothing about this.  So what is it?  Is Obama still woefully unaware of what is going on in the US government, or is the White House lying about the extent of their knowledge/involvement with the NSA's illegal surveillance?

What's more: why are folks on Capitol Hill still calling for Snowden's arrest?  As far as I can tell, Snowden has not damaged America's intelligence efforts against our enemies--unless, of course, the average, free-thinking American citizen is considered the enemy these days.

The past year has seen some serious questions raised about what our government is up to.  Fortunately, we have patriots like Ed Snowden who are not afraid to sacrifice everything in order to protect the American people from would-be Big Brothers.  What is worrisome is that, although we have brave men and women who are unafraid to ask the hard questions, we seem to have a shortage of brave men and women in positions of power who are afraid to actually find the answers and bring them into the light of day.

One last thought before the Democrats rush to the defense of their King: you want us to let go of Benghazi--an incident that cost American lives--but you didn't want to let go of Chris Christie and "Bridgegate."


Friday, April 11, 2014

Burn the Witch! ~ by AHB

For those of you who haven't been keeping up with current events, there is yet another victim of the social justice warriors: Brenden Eich. Eich is a prominent member of silicon valley and the inventor of javascript (not to be confused with Java itself) and had a significant impact upon those of us who grew up in the early days of the world wide web.

The "problem" was back in 2008, he made a $1000 contribution to the proponents of the widely derided proposition 8. Prop 8 was a bill that passed in California to effectively ban same-sex marriages, and was ultimately ruled unconstitutional. While I do remember reading about people being up in arms about his "involvement" back then, what has happened recently just proves to me that like so many things, tolerance is only accepted when it comes in the form of a one-way street.

So, for 6 years, this has been in the back of the public's mind and lo and behold toward the end of march Eich was promoted to CEO of the Mozilla Foundation. Cheers and good times all around right? Wrong. The social justice warriors called for his head on a plate, with one of the largest dating sites, OKCupid, actually changing their message to mozilla firefox users saying "hey, uninstall firefox if you aren't bigoted" essentially. The outcry online as well as within mozilla about the boycotts basically ran Eich out of the job and into resignation barely a week after he took the reins. Eich himself stopped short of apologizing, but he basically said more or less "you have the right to your opinions and so do I."

This is just the latest in a long line of social justice gone wrong. The Duck Dynasty fiasco that took place last year if you recall, as well as Paula Deen's reputation and livelyhood was basically shattered into a million pieces for having admitted to "using the N-word" in the past. Chick-Fil-A being accosted because of the opinions of their CEO... Before that was the noted case with Don Imus and the "nappy headed hos" comment which ultimately cost him his place on TV.

Now I am all for people having a voice, but that is a two-way street in my view. Yes, freedom of speech (and the press) is technically a protection against the government and not the arena of social opinion. However, if we are going to ruin the life's work of a man simply for donating money to a cause (which at the time, was even a LIBERAL stance, hence the bill passed) where does it end? These people are acting like the god of the bible who convict people of thought crimes in their sleep. I hear all the time from my more democratic friends about such injustices, and when I remind them that their cult icon Billy C wrote DOMA into law, I get the whole gamut of rationalizations.

It's no different than this latest bullshit about the wage gap between men and women. Those of you who have read my piece on feminism knew that. What you are being told is outright bullshit with just the vaguest hint of truth. Yes it is true that women make 77¢ to every man's earned dollar, but this is not the result of gender discrimination at all. It would be just as asinine for me to say "People who don't go to college only make 64¢ on the dollar to every college grad! That's Degree-ism!" No, that's the way it is because there is a fundamental difference between what is offered to college grads and what is offered to non-college grads. The choices women make determine their income, and truly nothing more.

The pay gap nearly completely vanishes when you compare apples to apples. When you take never married no kids males and compare them to never married no kids females, in most fields it is the WOMEN who dominate the income scale in that arena. Also, just like other social justice bullshit, not one word is spoken about how we can narrow the gap in workplace fatalities and injuries. If you want the pay gap to narrow up and you want equality, why not strive for EQUALITY in everything? The reason is because getting maimed on the job is an undesirable situation and since it doesn't negatively impact women, who gives a shit?

People want their cake and eat it too, and they don't even want to bake the cake, pay for the baking of the cake, or work off calories after eating their cake. They want calorie free cake 24/7 because god dammit this is 'merica and fuck you for oppressing us and shit, we are not responsible for our actions but you better damn well be responsible for yours or we will fuck ya real slow, cause "whatever-ism" is real and you cannot deny! To deny is to comply you "whatever-ist" and we are sick of being held to any and all reasonable standards.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Welfare Sucks

For those who may not know, I've been working in workforce development for about two-and-a-half
years of my adult life.  And for the even less initiated, workforce development (WFD) is sort of a branch of social work.  As the name suggests, WFD deals in helping people who are unemployed--many of whom have found themselves unemployed because of some barrier in their lives--find employment and to attain/regain self-sufficiency.

For a year and some change, I was a job coach for people with disabilities.  Las year, I left that position to return to working with TANF recipients.  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is more commonly known as "welfare."  It refers specifically to monthly cash assistance given to families who meet certain income requirements.  Before we continue, readers must understand that TANF has nothing to do with food stamps or medicaid.

I truly believe in the importance of my work because, presently, we are faced with a very serious problem that not many Americans think about: third and fourth generation poverty.  We're talking about young adults whose parents were on welfare, their parents' parents were on welfare, and their great-grandparents were on welfare.  For these families, welfare is as much a way of life as the idea of getting a job, working your ass off, and supporting your family by the sweat of your brow is a way of life for most Americans.

It would seem that those who defend welfare and welfare recipients believe that most welfare recipients are just honest, hard-working Americans who are down on their luck.  But those are people who have never worked with the TANF population, and I am not one of those people.

While it's true that many of my clients have very real barriers that make it difficult for them to secure long-term employment, for most of my clients the only thing truly holding them back is themselves.  Their attitudes towards work, responsibility, and how to conduct oneself in public make it nearly impossible for many of them to land a decent job, especially since most of them are unwilling to change.

Believe it or not, this is how many of my male
clients would dress if I didn't tell them how to
dress appropriately for the workplace.
What attitudes do I speak of?  Well, for starters, I've heard this one on several occasions:  "This is not enough money!  I shouldn't have to work for only $400 a month."  Another variation of that is their response when we tell them their cash will be cut off because they didn't participate in their monthly work hours: "I don't understand why I have to do this."  I'm not exaggerating, either--these are true stories.  Many of my clients truly believe that they do not, and should not, have to work for their benefits.  Some of them even call it "slavery."

Many of my clients do not even possess a basic concept of responsibility, or what it means to be a responsible adult.  Just last week, two of my clients found out that they are pregnant again.  Both of them already have one child each, and since they are my clients that means they can't afford to take care of the children they already have.  Despite the fact that they know that they can get birth control for free at Planned Parenthood, they simply don't bother.  But that's okay, because the system will help them take care of their children.

Lastly, some of them can't even conduct themselves in an adult manner when they're out in public.  Many of them act like petulant children when their cash assistance is cut off due to their intransigence.  Often times they will try to pull on your heart strings in order to sucker you in to giving them a break.  Then when they discover that I don't give anyone a break, they become angry.  That anger is quickly met with scolding from me. 

Yes, I have to scold them like children--because they act like children.  They don't know any better.  Growing up, no one taught them a lick about treating others with respect.  They were only taught that they themselves are deserving of respect regardless of how they treat others.  It's no wonder that these clients of mine have never held a job for more than a year.  Hell, some of them can't even hold a job for more than a few months.

So why does welfare suck?  It's because of the people.  Welfare itself is a good program for those who fall on hard times.  But the problem is that an overwhelming majority of welfare recipients are serving a lifetime of hard times, and for whatever reason, they're totally fine with it.  They live in squalor, they raise their children like animals, they can't even muster the strength to be polite for 15 consecutive minutes, and guess what: they're all totally fine with all of that.

Some people think that welfare provides a disincentive to work.  I can tell you right now that is not the case.  Where I work, we tell every client that comes through the door that even a minimum wage, full-time job will triple their monthly income, and they can still receive food stamps and medicaid until they find a job that earns them more money.  Even knowing that, they're still content to stay on welfare until time runs out (Fact: TANF has a 5 year lifetime maximum).

They're a whole different breed.  They simply do not care about anything, and they bring down the whole system.