Thursday, June 22, 2006

Congressional Pay Raises Trump Stagnant Minimum Wage

In each of the following years, Congressmen gave themselves a pay raise:

1998 – $3100

2000 – $4600

2001 – $3800

2002 – $4900

2003 – $4700

2004 – $3400

2005 – $3100

2006 – $3300

The same Congressmen who have had no problem taking an automatic pay increase every year for seven consecutive years have also had no problem in blocking an increase in the minimum wage – for nine years running. Shameless hypocrites!

Purchasing power of the federal minimum wage, currently $5.15 an hour, is the lowest it’s been in more than half a century. Shameful, that people who work for a living in the world’s richest country can’t make a living.

Critics of a higher minimum wage, mostly well-heeled Republicans and near-sighted Libertarians, argue that if someone isn’t satisfied with a low-paying job, they need only go get a better one. Unfortunately, it’s not always quite that simple. Hidden factors come into play.

These same critics also argue that raising the minimum wage would result in the loss of many minimum-wage jobs. It’s a specious argument. If people lost their jobs solely on the basis of pay increases, wouldn’t there be an increasing number of unemployed Congressmen? Of corporate CEOs? Of people at all levels of corporate and government hierarchy?

People of privilege—and here I’m talking about people who had the good fortune to have loving, nurturing, educated parents, good role models, unfettered access to education, an unlimited number of opportunities, and more than a few lucky breaks—have no true understanding of what it means to be marginalized.

They don’t understand (or, if they do, they don’t acknowledge) how difficult it can be for someone who was born into a cycle of poverty to escape that poverty. Those who lack job skills and financial resources, and have no way of acquiring either, tend to remain mired in poverty. For them, poverty is a prison without exits. All too often, poverty is an inherited condition that passes from one generation to the next.

Often, minimum wage jobs come without healthcare benefits, meaning that Public Health and Human Services agencies often subsidize healthcare for minimum-wage earners, which is tantamount to taxpayers subsidizing the minimum-wage-paying employer’s bottom line. The same can be said for food and housing programs, too.

Lacking discretionary income, wage slaves at the low end of the economic ladder find that ordinary life events have disastrous consequences. A car breakdown, work missed because of illness or injury, or any number of other unplanned expenses or work interruptions can have catastrophic repercussions, further disenfranchising the already disenfranchised.

Taking time off work to look for a better-paying job is rarely an option. When income is already stretched to the limits and ends still don’t meet, every missed work hour is missed income, the effects of which usually take weeks – if not months – to overcome. You can’t possibly get ahead if you can’t get caught up.

Below-poverty wages invite increased crime and violence, compound problems associated with illicit drugs, contribute to slumification and neighborhood blight, add to the ranks of the homeless, and drive up costs of healthcare and other social services.

Full-time workers and part-time workers who would otherwise be available for full-time work deserve better than starvation wages. They deserve the dignity of a living wage.

The U.S., once a bastion of democratic principles, economic opportunities, social progress and capitalist ideals, has systematically stacked the deck in favor of the wealthy, the politically powerful. In its quest for global dominance, America has ceded the moral high ground, surrendered its ethics, forfeited its integrity and sacrificed the respect of its allies – all in service to its new highest ideal, greed.

America can – and must – do better in the way it treats the least of its citizens. It starts with a minimum wage sufficiently high enough to lift minimum-wage employees out of poverty. In a land of plenty there is enough to go around.

When the tides of fortune come rushing in, they should lift all the boats in the harbor, not just the yachts.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Capitalism vs. Communism

Comparing democracy to communism is a lot like comparing apples to rutabagas. Democracy is a form of government and communism is an economic system. One does not equate to the other. A true democracy could, in fact, govern over a communist economy if that’s what a majority of the citizens wanted.

Capitalism and communism are comparable in that each is an economic system that provides a means for the production, distribution and exchange of goods and services. The only significant differences involve ownership, management ability and effectiveness. The goals—if not always the results—of each are much the same.

Under capitalism, the means of production, distribution and exchange are privately owned for the sake of private profits. Individuals (sole proprietors), partnerships, joint ventures, investor-owned corporations and employee-owned companies are just a few of the entities that qualify as privately owned businesses.

In the capitalist business model, government regulates and taxes businesses until such time that the largest, wealthiest, most powerful corporations seize control of the government. Then, everything the government does is for the betterment of the corporations, at the expense of ordinary citizens. Sort of like – no, exactly like – what’s going on in the U.S., today.

Capitalist business managers are very good at managing businesses, but as government leaders, they really suck.

The communist business model differs in that government owns – on behalf of the people (yeah, right!) – all of the businesses. This arrangement, of course, reveals communism’s greatest weakness. Politicians can barely run a government; as business managers, they really suck.

A deeper analysis of the two systems turns up more similarities than dissimilarities. Each system extracts, imports or co-opts natural resources, converts those resources into consumable goods or services, and provides a means to market those goods and services to consumers.

In the final analysis, the only real difference is one of ownership. Or, is it just one of semantics?

Business owns the government! Government owns the business! What the hell’s the difference? The results are always the same. In the end, scum always forms at the top. And that really sucks.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Space Travel

In order to travel into outer space one must have a worthy vehicle suited to the purpose. Whether you call it a space ship, a rocket ship, a star ship, a flying saucer or a Borg hypercube, it must sustain a habitable environment and have a means of propulsion.

And so it is when venturing into inner space, except that the requisite vehicle is entirely different. Inner space travel requires mind-altering substances, typically derived from psychotropic plants and fungi, such as psilocybin, amanita muscaria, datura, salvia divinorum, mescaline, peyote, marijuana, harmaline, MDMA, DMT, LSD, and ayahuasca, among others. Sensory deprivation also accomplishes similar results.

Other worlds and other dimensions exist outside the range of our normal perceptions. Telescopes and microscopes reveal this to be true by bringing those distant worlds into focus. Now, science is on the threshold of making it possible for us to visit those worlds. And in the meantime, the shamans of our world journey inward in search of knowledge and wisdom, just as they have done for thousands of years.

Explorations into inner space may, in fact, lead one closer to the core of Universal Mind, perhaps to the very centers of Multiversal Intelligence and Cosmic Consciousness. Think of these things collectively as the CIA (Cosmic Intelligence Access), whose primary function (unlike its Earth-bound namesake) is not to gather intelligence but to disseminate it.

For sure, if venturing into outer space were as affordable and as accessible to the masses as are hallucinogenic drugs and the ventures into inner space they make possible, you can bet that space travel—outer space travel—would be illegal, too.

The powers that be are always threatened by changes in the status quo.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Turning Back the Clock

Self-righteous Christian bigots would usurp the protections afforded all U.S. citizens under the U.S. Constitution to further their own agenda. What is their agenda? Nothing less than to turn the clock of social and scientific progress back 400 years. Nothing less than a return to coat hanger abortions and the burning of witches.

The ├╝ber religious scapegoat God to justify heinous acts directed against people who don’t believe as they believe. To these moral hypocrites it’s perfectly acceptable to coerce, intimidate, incinerate or exterminate anyone or anything that doesn’t conform to their delusional interpretation of reality.

One religious Taliban is as bad as another. We’ve all seen how intolerant religious fanaticism, mingled with American intervention, has brought death and destruction to many in Iraq. Would we now wish the same destruction upon our own country, our own people?

A couple of millennia ago, non-Christians nailed a hippie dude named Jesus to a cross. Ever since then Christians have been trying to nail a cross to everyone else. Does the insanity never stop?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Non-pharma Pharmacists

Just when you think that things can’t possibly get any screwier than they already are, they do.

I’m referring, of course, to pharmacists who are now refusing to fill emergency contraceptive prescriptions on moral, religious or philosophical grounds. Maybe they just want to force more women into having abortions so they can oppose that, too.

Does anyone besides me see where this is headed?

If pharmacists can selectively refuse to perform duties (filling legal prescriptions) that are a normal part of their profession, how long will it be before other professionals begin doing the same thing? Once a trend like this gets started, it becomes ever more insidious.

The next thing you know Christian doctors who are morally or philosophically opposed to atheists won’t write prescriptions for them. Environmentalist doctors can justify withholding treatment to automobile accident victims because they find driving a car to be morally reprehensible. Right-handed dentists might refuse to fill the teeth of left-handed patients because they find left-handedness objectionable. Christian Scientist EMTs will draw a paycheck just for showing up for work, but they’ll never have to do anything.

And don’t expect this idiocy to be contained within the medical professions. Once the idea catches on, it will spread like wildfire. Soon, vegetarian meat cutters won’t slice bacon for their omnivorous brethren, cops who are morally opposed to crime will stop arresting criminals, and baseball players won’t play for fans that are opposed to steroid use. Such lunacy invites disaster upon the entire economy.

It’s a can of worms best left unopened. The best way to leave this can of worms unopened is to grant pharmacist licenses only to those people who are capable of fulfilling all aspects of the job.

For pharmacies that already employ pharmacists who profess an inability to carry out the obligations of their profession due to conscientious objections, there's a way to make it easy for your ethically challenged employees to find a more suitable line of work.

Fire them!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

An Age-old Question

One of the most pressing questions facing scientists, today, is this: What came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s long been a question in dire need of an answer, as the fate of mankind hangs in the balance.

Earlier this week a geneticist, a philosopher and a chicken farmer, having reached a consensus, announced that the centuries-old riddle has at last been solved. Their unanimous opinion is that the egg came first.

They’re wrong, of course, but who am I to argue? They have scientific, philosophical and chicken farming credentials, whereas I have none. All I have is logic.

Before I can accept their hypothesis, I’ll need satisfactory answers to the following questions:

Where did the egg come from? Who (or what) laid it?

Who (or what) sat on the damned thing until it hatched?

Who (or what) nurtured the hatchling until it was sufficiently able to fend for itself?

Who (or what) did the first grown chicken mate with to perpetuate the species?

If “the egg came first” is true for chickens, then it must also be true for other birds, including eagles and penguins. But then the theory becomes even more problematic, posing some new questions:

Who (or what) put the egg in the eagle’s aerie?

Who (or what) sat on the damned thing until it hatched?

Who (or what) nurtured the hatchling until it was sufficiently able to fend for itself?

Who (or what) did the first grown eagle mate with to perpetuate the species?

I could ask the same questions in regards to the penguin, but that goes far beyond mere repetition and strays dangerously close to downright redundancy. Therefore, I’ll ask a different question. Do polar bears lay penguin eggs (never mind that their habitats are polar opposites)?

To ask, “what came first, the chicken or the egg” is a lot like asking, “what came first, the fetus or the womb.” It’s obvious to me that before there can be offspring there must first be parents.

But subscribing to the theory that the chicken came before the egg leaves a whole new set of questions begging for answers. Where did the chicken come from? How could one chicken procreate? Is it possible there were more than one chicken? Aha! Now I sense we’re getting somewhat closer to the truth.

Understanding Hanson’s Theory of the Origin of Species as a Consequence of Evolving Environments Resulting from Simultaneous Fluxes of Universal Mind and Cosmic Consciousness requires three things, none of which include adherence to a prescribed set of religious doctrines, empty hours spent memorizing vacuous religious dogma, or the tedium of mumbled prayers to invisible entities. One needs only an open mind, an active imagination, and a willingness to suspend traditional beliefs – in other words, an ability to think outside the box.

At the core of the theory is the concept of Universal Mind, one-half of a Duality, which is the source of all knowledge. The other half of the Duality, Cosmic Consciousness, provides the means by which intelligent life forms gain access to knowledge.

All of the knowledge that will ever exist already exists, in Universal Mind, either as raw potential or fully actualized substantive form (perceived reality). Critical knowledge is accessible at critical times by human minds that are best equipped to process it. This explains discoveries made by Gutenberg, Galileo, da Vinci, Newton, Einstein, Tesla, et al. Human minds connect to Universal Mind via Cosmic Consciousness.

So, what has all this got to do with chickens and/or eggs? Maybe nothing! Maybe everything! It just seems so logical – so right – that if there is a supreme intelligence responsible for creating all life, then the most intelligent way of creating that life is a system in which environments evolve and life forms emerge spontaneously, in sufficient numbers to ensure survival of the species, whenever all of the conditions necessary to support that life are in place.

After that, species either evolve, to adapt to changing conditions, or they perish.

Darwin called it evolution. The Religious Right (which is often wrong) calls it intelligent design. Hanson’s Theory says they’re not mutually exclusive.

Evolution is intelligent design. Get over it!