Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What role, fathers?

Our society has come to accept a dichotomous argument with regards to the rights of potential parents.  Either it is the woman's unilateral and inalienable right to choose to become a parent, or that woman has absolutely no right to choose to become a parent.

The father has no role in that choice after the point of conception.  He is a mere bystander.

Let's just say, for argument's sake, that a couple of kids have some of the sex and the girl gets pregnant (as girls tend to do much more frequently than boys).

Under the current cultural understanding, the girl can decide, unilaterally, to have the child and then compel the boy to support that child for the next 18 years.

So, let's flip the argument.  Let's say, just for argument's sake, that the boy wanted to have the child and be a father, even a single father, but the girl did not.  Does this boy have a unilateral right to compel the girl to bear the child and pay support for the next 18 years?  Why, then is it OK for the girl to do the same to the boy?

Or, to look at the alternative scenario, what if the boy doesn't want to be a father and decides, unilaterally, that this pregnancy will be aborted without the input or consent from the mother?  Under the current cultural (and legal) understanding, this boy can be brought up on charges of murder in many states.

How is this equal protection under the laws?

The answer, of course, is that it isn't equal protection.  It's a clear double standard and a cultural blind spot.  And I suggest that the current dichotomous argument, and generally accepted norm that it is the woman's unilateral right to choose, is morally and logically incorrect.

Of COURSE the father should have input.  That's his child.  It is as much his flesh as it is hers, and assuming the child was conceived in a legal manner (not rape, of course) and not anonymously (as with in vitro), then that father has as much right to the child as the mother.  But if you take away the input, the responsibility for the decision, the right to be a party to the delivery and the birth, then you also take away the responsibility and expectation of fatherhood.  If he is to be relegated to bystander status in the decision to bring the child into the world, then there is no reason to expect him to be anything more than a bystander thereafter.

And that's bad for society.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Nobody cares what you did last night

Much of what you have been taught and told is true, no doubt.  Some of it has been distorted by the lens of history and the particular agenda of the medium delivering the information.  But some of it is outright lies.

And the most often and universally told lie is this:  you’re someone special.

The truth is, and I know this is going to hurt, that you’re not special.  There’s nothing about you, inherently, that makes you someone worth listening to, following, seeing, knowing, or generally interacting with on a regular basis.

Because you’re not special.

And that may be the first time you’ve heard that in your entire life, because people have lied to you since you were a wee lad or lass.

Generally speaking, that’s no big deal.  You feel good about yourself and you go on living.  No harm no foul.

But the problem is that you idiots have taken this lie to heart and gone off and gotten tools to live stupid, shallow, meaningless lives that are all about primping, preening, and ACTING like you’re someone special.  YOU’RE NOT ANYONE SPECIAL.  Especially when you’re living a stupid, shallow, meaningless life that’s all about primping, preening, and acting like someone special.

Sure, there are people who have special talents that make them, in the context of that talent, special.  Like the dancer, or artist, or code guru who can give inanimate objects the ability to seem alive, or the designer who can take a block of plastic and make it into a thing that people will literally line up overnight to pay too much for.  Those people are special.  In those contexts.  And in every context you’ll find someone who is “special”.  But that doesn’t make them a special person.  Let’s face it, it takes a special person in the political context to be President.  But you don’t necessarily want the President to be your babysitter while you go out for a movie and a bite.  He’s not necessarily special like that.

The even greater truth is that you’re unique—not special.  Like a snowflake that, presumably, has no exact copy, you’re unique.  But also like a single snowflake, by yourself you melt and are too pointless to even be considered statistically.  By itself a snowflake is so not special that it might as well not even exist.  However, with several other snowflakes it can collapse the roof of a football stadium.

And look here, douchebag with the stupid had and idiotic facial hair.  By yourself you’re so pointless as to not even be considered.  Sure, you’re stupid douchebaggery is a badge of uniqueness—just like all the other stupid douchebags around you—but your uniqueness isn’t special.  And nobody cares.

And you, the stupid twat that thinks the world owes her a living and thinks she can “demand respect” from people.  You’re wrong.  You’re a stupid, vapid, shallow, pointless waste of atoms and you’re not special.  Nobody cares.

So quit acting special and go live a life of meaning.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

And the beat goes on

President Barack Obama has retreated on yet another high minded ideal that was rooted in neither fact or reality.  The "hope and change" mantra that was sold to the deluded masses continues to unravel.  The temptation is there to say "I told you so"...

Hope and Change!!
Hope for what, exactly?  Change to what, exactly?  

Right, a secure future, wrong trajectory, that whole war on terrorism stuff.

Except, we're not the cause of terrorism any more than a rape victim is the cause of rape.  We're the target of terrorism, no doubt in part because of our policies, intervention, and visibility in the world.  But the CAUSE of terrorism is the bankruptcy of morals within the terrorists.  Murderers are murderers because they're pieces of shit, not because the murder victim "provoked" the murderer.  So, it turns out that the detention camp at Guantanamo (it's not, and never has been, a prison), military tribunals, indefinite detention of enemy combatants, the aerial drone attacks, the Patriot Act, and all the other stuff that President G.W. Bush engaged in to FIGHT terrorism was, in the end, the right decision.  Which is why they were continued by President Barack Obama.

And then there's the security of knowing that your health care was going to be paid for and you wouldn't have to go bankrupt just because you broke your leg, or got sick.  But he punted on that signature initiative and tossed the keys to congress.  Surely it wasn't because he's never written a bill in his life?  Surely it's not because he has no legislative track record?  Surely it's not because, as the junior Senator from Illinois, he has no congressional leverage?  Surely it's because he's naive, untested, unproven, and unable to really accomplish anything except running for higher office?  Surely not.  Even though what track record we do have for him shows that the only thing he ever has accomplished is running for higher office.  The good news?  There is a health care insurance reform bill that has been passed into law.  The bad news?  It was so badly mishandled that he won't be able to run on THAT accomplishment during his re-election campaign and it'll probably be tossed as unconstitutional without additional, major modifications which may include a public option.  Good job Barry.  Good job.

And then there's the whole crap about making the tax code "fairer", which was punted.
And then there's the out of control spending that he's done nothing to control.
And then there's the complete lack of transparency.
And then there's the carbon control legislation.
And then there's the...  Oh, but do I really need to list the whole litany of woes?

The fact is that the pie eyed leftists were sold a bill of goods, and they were duped.  After drinking their own Kool-aid, the same leftists put Nancy and Harry in charge while the kid in the White House sat in the back and followed their orders.  Those fools mismanaged and mishandled basic governance WITH A 2/3 MAJORITY IN BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS so badly that practically nothing of value was accomplished, and what was accomplished that had any kind of value was botched and is possibly unconstitutional.  Oh, and to top it all off, their complete and total disregard for representative governance brought rise to the Tea Parties.  Thanks a whole fucking lot.

So, there you have it, suckers.  Good job.  You deserve what you get, and you deserve to have taken from you what you're going to have taken.  Hopefully the REST of us will manage to right the ship in the coming years and moderate both congress and the White House, or at the very least have opposing radicals in the halls of power, rather than like minded radicals screwing things up for the rest of us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Ok, we're well into the Lenten fast, the traditional 40 day "fast" Christians participate in prior to Easter.
A few little facts:  it's 6 weeks, plus 4 days, starting on Ash Wednesday.  That's more than 40 days, you say?  Why, you're exactly correct, my mathematically endowed fellow!  6 * 7 is 42, plus 4 days is 46.  But Sundays are days of grace, so knock 6 days back off that tally and you have 40.
So, what's this fasting business all about?

Well, fasting is an interesting little creature.  It can be a lot of different thing to a lot of different people, including, but not limited to, not eating or drinking anything.  We humans tend to die when we don't eat or drink stuff.  That's kind of how it goes.  So a 40 day Lenten fast without eating or drinking anything will, short of a miracle, kill you.  

Probably even if you do take those days of grace and stuff yourself stupid.

But that's not to say that a fast cannot be a period of self denial, introspection, and reliance on God rather than some crass material thing such as food and water.

Or an ATM card.

Or a car.

Or a pair of shoes.

Or the act of verbal communication.

Now, of course, the simple ACT of sacrifice isn't really the point.  Anybody can not do something for a period of time and not think much of it (unless, obviously, there's a medical or psychological condition involved).  Simply stashing a credit card or ATM card in the back of the freezer isn't necessarily a "fast", in the most appropriate sense of the word.  And every single one of us has had to "hold it" for just another few minutes while we found an exit with an acceptably clean bathroom.  That's not a "fast", either.

The key to the thing isn't sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice.  Or for the sake of losing weight.  Or for the sake of saving money.  Or for the sake of admiration from your peers.

The key to the thing is the spiritual posture that it invites.

A fast isn't just not doing something for a period to prove that you have the internal strength to deny yourself.  Anybody can do that.  It's about replacing the craving for the crass and present and replacing it with a craving for the perfect and eternal.  "God, I want a hamburger" is not merely an exclamation of desire for a yummy, juicy, delicious patty of properly cooked ground beef on a wonderfully deliciously toasted bun, topped with a couple of slices of bacon and cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard, and barbeque sauce.  It's a humble prayer telling God, point blank, that I WANT A HAMBURGER!!  And then, sitting quietly and actually taking the time to listen to what He has to say about that, and giving Him the opportunity to fill that want.  To truly live "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want", even for just a brief expanse of time.

Because it's not just denial just for the sake of denial.  God isn't about "don't".  God is about a better option.  God is about turning away from the bad, or unrewarding, or unfulfilling and replacing it with something good, rewarding, and ultimately, truly, foundationally, and profoundly fulfilling.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

You can't make me

Whether or not the individual mandate in President Obama's health care bill will be deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court is yet to be seen.  To be completely honest, I have no idea if it's constitutional or not.  It would seem that compelling someone to purchase, on the open market, a privately offered product is something entirely different from something that is provided openly by the federal government and available for all to use, the cost for which is paid for out of general--or specifically earmarked--funds.

Take driving for example.
The feds can't require people to drive on roads.  However, they can levy a general tax on gasoline that provides funding for highways thus lowering the cost to travel between cities on roads.  Consequently, people transition from traveling long distances by rail to travelling long distances by roads.  You can choose to drive on (presumably quicker) toll roads, or take alternative transportation such as trains or planes or nothing at all, but you wouldn't have to.
If the feds used the same model for health care, there would be a general tax levied for health care, then a program to provide insurance back to the populace.  If you chose to buy (presumably better) insurance on the private market, you could do that.  If you chose not to purchase private insurance, then the government program would be the default.

That program would likely work.  They kind of already do that with medicare.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why does the deficit even matter?

What if you could take, say, $15,000 and go back in time about 25 years.  Or, better still, go back in time about 50 years.  50 years ago $15,000 bought a hell of a lot.  In Syracuse, NY you could buy a split level 3 bedroom home for just over $15k.
The same type of home today is just over $100,000.  
Or maybe going back even further to 150 years ago when the federal government was giving away homesteads of 120 acres or more for 5 years work and $200.  To back when a good week's work paid $7 and you'd be lucky to clear $350 in a year.
Because back then $15,000 was some serious money.  That was the type of money that would make place someone in the "super rich" category.  Today it's really not that much.  The average household brings in that much in just under a half year's work.  But back then a person could work his whole life and never see that much money in some parts of the country.

So what?

Well, the "so what" has to do with the notion of inflation.  You can't go back in time with today's money.  The technology doesn't exist, for one thing.  For another, you'd have to be very careful about which dollars you bring back.  You wouldn't want to go trying to spend bills printed in 2005 in 1850.  They'd look funny and have a counterfeit date on them.  Plus your debit card wouldn't work.

But you CAN buy things with today's money and pay for them in the FUTURE, which is sort of like going back in time with tomorrow's money to pay for things today.  So the principle is kind of the same.  We do this with debt.  We take out a loan--like on our house or credit card--on the assumption that we'll have more money in the future to pay off the balance.  In the case of the house, we assume the value of the house will increase and in the case of the credit card we just assume we'll have some extra cash laying around to pay off the balance--somehow.

These assumptions are based on 2 things.  One is that we'll be making more money due to greater productivity.  The other is that we'll be making more money due to general inflation.  We may not think of the other much at all because inflation is a sneaky little bug that most of us don't even notice in the short run, but we all notice over the long run.  How many times have we heard our parents (or grand parents) tell us about going to a movie, getting a tank of gas, and grabbing a burger for under $5?  Yea, that doesn't happen any more.

The thing about inflation, though, is that it's been largely kept in check over the last 10 or 20 years.  Why?  A large part of that has to do with a very, very activist Fed working diligently to manage interest rates and keep inflation under control  Another very large part of that has to do with imports from China.


Yup, imports from China.  A lot of the stuff we buy--most of the stuff we buy--comes from China where it's cheaper to produce things.  That's one way to keep costs, and prices, down.  And one way to control inflation is to keep prices down.  So, as we make more money due to greater productivity inflation usually eats away at those greater earnings.  But over the last 10 or 20 years, inflation has been remarkably low.  Of course, earnings gains for much of the population have also been remarkably anemic over that same time frame, but we haven't noticed because prices for everything seemed to be flat or only slightly increasing.

That is, until right around 2003.

That's about the time we saw gas prices spike up, food prices spike up, commodity prices on all sorts of inputs spike up and general panic and chaos ensued.

THIS is why the deficit matters.

One of the reasons we keep getting cheap stuff from China is because their currency is pegged to ours.  That causes much anger and consternation in the US Government, but that's not real anger, just political posturing.  You see, they'd like it if China allowed their currency to float because that would allow the dollar to become devalued against the yuan--which means inflation--and it would make it easier for the US to pay back a lot of the debt with tomorrow's much, much more abundant money.  However, that would also trigger run away inflation here in the states because all that stuff from China that is so damn cheap, that has been keeping our inflation in check, and keeping our flat wages tolerable, because we don't notice that our wages have been flat because prices have also been pretty flat, will suddenly be no longer cheap.

American businesses will redeploy capital into other nations that can manufacture stuff cheaply.  China's economy will be in tatters.  The US economy will be completely freaking out.  Everything will be upside down and backwards.

And as long as we're running trillion dollar deficits, China can't allow their currency to float against the dollar, because their cheap currency--fixed in price against our currency--maintains a very, very positive trade balance in China's favor, which sends dollars their way.  All those surplus dollars have to go somewhere, and luckily for them there's a government that spends dollars like they're going out of style.  The US sells debt, and those dollars that China is stacking up from trade go right back to the US in exchange for the debt.  And all that debt creates interest payments, that go right back to China.  China uses those interest payments to purchase commodities and fuel their own industrial expansion.  That industrial expansion puts a strain on the environment, sure, but also puts a strain on those commodity prices like corn, milk, beef, and, yes, oil.  When the price of oil goes up, the price of everything goes up.  And when the price of everything goes up, we get inflation.  Usually inflation would make it easier to pay off our debts.  However, in this case it doesn't work because when our currency gets devalued--that is, experiences inflation--China's currency gets devalued because they're pegged to currency.

And they can't unpeg their currency until we fix our deficit problem.

THAT'S why the deficit matters.
I know.  It's a complicated mess.  But in the middle of the complicated mess is a thing that we can control, and that's the out of control spending.  Get that under control and a lot of the complication goes away.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The compromise where everyone loses

First off, there are plenty of things I LIKE about the compromise that President Obama hammered out with congressional leaders over the tax rates.
I like that he actually talked with republicans for the first time, rather than at them.
I like that he listened to the opposition for the first time, rather than simply dismissing them and dictating terms.
I like that a broad deal got done, rather than a narrow, marginal deal that appeased 5 wayward senators.

There's a lot that I don't like, though.
I don't like that the tax rates were, once again, temporary.  Either do it, or don't.  Quit dithering and kicking the can down the street.
I don't like the extension of unemployment benefits for yet another 13 months.  At some point these people need to be given incentives to get off their asses and find some work, even if it's a slightly lower paying job than the last one they had.  Waa waa waa, can't find jobs...  bullshit.  Get to work.
I don't like that expenses were still not reduced out of the budget.  Lack of revenue is not the problem, out of control spending is the problem.  If in 2 years they don't get spending under control, they're going to be forced to raise taxes, and not just on the wealthy, but on everybody.  And not just to 1996 levels, but higher.  And there's going to be considerable inflation coming with it, so not only is a greater portion of our money going to get pissed away to the feds, but what's left won't buy as much, either.

There's plenty to like.  The compromise did, after all, patch up a problem that was looming.
The problem isn't solved, though.  It's just been kicked down the road to the next election cycle.  Maybe Obama is planning on getting back his 60% majorities.  Maybe the Rs are thinking they'll take over both houses and the executive branch with 60% majorities.  I'm willing to bet money that neither scenario is going to happen.  At some point they're going to have to address the spending problem because China isn't going to unhitch their currency and let us inflate away our debt--and besides, we don't want all of our goods from China to suddenly start getting more expensive.  Super cheap consumer goods is one way it appears we're actually wealthy because our dollars stretch further to buy more crap.  When the crap gets expensive, then we don't feel quite so wealthy any more.