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Prophet 451

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Member since: Wed Jul 27, 2005, 05:10 PM
Number of posts: 8,543

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Can't watch the video

I think my graphics drivers need updating. Anyway...

I do wish atheists would stop trotting out the mental illness accusation. I actually am mentally ill (MDD, GAD, "visions" and voices), I'm also a man of faith (Luciferian Satanist, if it matters) and, by coincidence, studying psychology. There's a strong difference between the two that can't really be explained to someone who hasn't experienced both. My "visions" are when an image (in my case, always a violent image) fixes itself in my mind's eye and won't go away. My voices are... difficult to explain. It's like someone talking in the next room. You can hear the sound but can't make out the words.

My religious experience is an entirely different sensation. It's a feeling of connectedness (is that a word? Fuck it, it is now). If you'll forgive the mysticism, it's a sensation of oneness with the deity (Father Lucifer, in my case), of being part of something much older and wiser and larger than the self. It's a quite different sensation.

Now, could this just be a different type of mental illness? Yes, that's entirely possible. However, my drug regime includes a fairly powerful dose of anti-psychotics so I consider it doubtful. In the end, I'm not sure it matters. If my faith demanded that I ignore simple facts (denying evolution or global warming, for example) or caused me to harm anyone, then I could understand trying to talk me out of it. But since my faith doesn't require me to deny facts or cause me to harm anyone including myself (my mental illness frequently does but not my faith), I would suggest that it doesn't really matter very much to anyone outside my close family. I'm happy with my faith, it provides me with a sense of purpose and a code to live by (Note: I am categorically not saying that atheists lack either) and since I'm not affecting anyone else, where's the harm (rhetorical question)?

Is the USA now a fascist state?

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism as it is the union of state and corporate power" ~ Mussolini

And he invented fascism so he should know. Given that a report a few days ago found that the USA was now an oligarchy and that the FCC yesterday capitulated entirely to the two-tier internet that corporations want, is it now accurate to call the USA a fascist (i.e. corporatist) state?

Remember that tanks in the streets, racism, genocide, etc are not required for a nation to be fascist.

Why or why not?

EDIT: If you can't be bothered to explain why not beyond simple denial, DON'T RESPOND.

Just tried my first e-cigarette

And I think I may be a convert. The cig lasted less than a day (crappy cheap disposable) but it gave me a nice solid smoke flavour and a nice throat hit similar to Marlboro Reds (my preferred pre-rolled). I've now ordered myself a proper starter kit and bottles of dark tobacco flavour and cherry flavour. My SO is happy because, while not harmless, e-cigs are considerably less damaging to my health.

So I'd just like to thank all the people on DU who encouraged me to give it a try, you were so right.

I'm all for age regulation

but complaining about "sweet flavours" is a "Hitler ate sugar" argument. They make these things in every flavour on the planet, same as they make booze in every flavour. It's just short of complaining that they should only come in boiled skunk flavour because ecig smokers shouldn't be allowed to enjoy it.

Do you think we'll see a female president?

Simply put, do you think we'll see a female president within the next, let's say, 30 years?

Not necessarily Hillary Clinton but any female president? Assume, for the sake of argument, that we have a female candidate. She espouses more-or-less the standard Democratic party line; she is in almost every way, a generic Democrat. Could she get elected as president or is there still too much sexism (both conscious and unconscious) for her to be elected? If it helps, substitute your favourite female politician into the equation.

So Sick Of This Gender Wars Bullshit

Believe it or not, DU didn't used to be like this. I've been here since 2005 and it didn't used to be constant gender wars all the time. Yes, occasionally, some topic would come up and we'd be preoccupied with it for a day or two. Yes, there'd be long arguments and sometimes flamewars over different points of principle. But it wasn't like this.

This was actually going to be a really long post laying out my annoyances and who is to blame for this constant gender wars crap with the perpetual claiming of victimhood and (self-)righteousness. But that post got way too specific, even for a stress-relief rant like this. So I'm just going to say that it didn't used to be like this. Even with this new, much tamer, version, I have a bet with myself on how long it will be before this post gets alerted/locked/hidden.

And now I'm in a really bad mood, I'm going to go play with my cats. Cracker and Lily send their love.

I do, nearly every day

I miss Jelli, who was a half-blind (one eye blind, the other going) stray that we adopted and who became my inseparable companion. She'd tear anyone else to shreds if they tried to pick her up but snuggled into my arms for a cuddle and slept curled up around my knees. We have no idea how old she was when she suffered the stroke that killed her but we made sure her last few years were spent in luxury and with love.

I miss Mac, who was a kitten abandoned on our doorstep who grew into a big ball of fluff. He would race downstairs at full tilt and smack into the wall at the bottom because he'd never learned to turn. He was a boisterous kitten all his life until a heart attack took him at two and a half.

I miss Suki, the crotchety old lady of the house who existed her cat-carrier, wandered around for a few minutes then settled herself on a cushion and decided that would do for her. Slow and easy, she took life at a walk. She was sixteen when we lost her to old age.

And I miss Sandy, who was so timid when he came to us that he'd run and hide behind the sofa if someone walked past the front door but got to be so confidant that he'd greet people as they came in and hop up on the table to eat the other side of my burger as I was eating it. So sweet-natured, he chased his elderly sister (Suki) at a walk, we don't know how old he was when FIV and cancer took him from us.

I miss them all. There are four small urns of their ashes on top of a bookcase and I think about them most days.

The Degree Of Civilization

ďThe degree of civilization in a society may be judged by entering itís prisonsĒ ~ Dostoevsky

Pop quiz, kids: Which nation has more of itís populace imprisoned than any other country on earth?

Nope, itís not China. Itís not Russia either. Cuba? Good guess but theyíre number five. According to Wikipedia (which has itís problems but is generally fairly reliable), the number one prison population on earth is the USA, both per capita and absolute. In per capita terms, the US locks up around 743 people per 100k. In absolute terms, the BBC tells me that there are 2,193,798 people in prison in the USA. Obviously, that number rises and falls slightly each day as people get imprisoned and released but still, over 2 million people. Red China, where the government is outright oppressive and dictatorial, has around 1.5 million under lock and key but free and democratic America has two million and change locked down.

Of those, around a quarter are there for drug offences of various kinds. Thatís the population of San Bernadino locked up for drug offences. According to the Department of Justice, 17% of state and 18% of federal prisoners committed their crimes to obtain money for drugs (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/dudsfp04.pdf). According to DrugWarFacts.org, around fifty thousand total are held purely for offences relating to cannabis. Full disclosure: I havenít smoked pot in about twenty years but I did when I was a teenager and Iím sure a fair few of you did as well. Were we dumb to smoke pot as teenagers? Yeah, probably. But we were teenagers, making dumb decisions is what teenagers do. Another piece of full disclosure: I think pot should be legalised. Age-restricted but otherwise legal, just like alcohol. I still wouldnít smoke it because taking any form of mind-altering substance when youíre mentally ill is a very bad idea but it makes no difference to me if my neighbour chooses to smoke a joint rather than have a drink. I also donít want to turn this into a rant about the virtues of legalising weed (although, if youíve a mind, Salon has a chilling piece about pot sentences: http://www.salon.com/2012/10/29/ten_worst_sentences_for_marijuana_related_crimes/) so letís move on.

Around 40% of the US prison population are black. According to the Census, black people comprise about 14% of the US population but around 40% of prisoners. What explains that? Well, partly, itís because black people are more likely to live in poverty and poverty is the most reliable indicator of criminal acts during life but itís mostly because the average prison sentence handed down to a black guy is 20% longer than the sentence for the same crime committed by a white guy (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324432004578304463789858002.html). The 100-1 ratio of crack to cocaine sentences has led to the incarceration of thousands of non-violent drug offenders. Even though that difference has been reduced to 18-1, those prisoners remain in the system. The US prison population was mostly static from 1925 onwards. It started to rise in the late Seventies (as crime always rises during recessions) but then it exploded during the Eighties and onwards (). Why is that?

Two reasons. Firstly, the drug war. Letís be honest here, the drug war has been lost. It is no more difficult to buy a hit of heroin now than it was in 1975. It hasnít been a success and it canít be a success. It canít be a success due to a basic fact of human nature: Where a demand exists, people will appear to meet that demand. Thatís just how things work, a basic law of humanity. So the laws against drugs are commonly broken and, by that breaking, a massive number of people are classified as criminals. Now, proponents of the drug war would argue that the laws against murder are commonly broken so should we abandon them too? Thatís a fair question. The difference is that murder harms someone else whereas taking drugs, in and of themselves, harms only the taker. What about the crimes committed to support a drug habit, like theft? What about them? We already have laws against theft and Iím not proposing the legalisation of all drugs anyway, just of certain soft drugs like pot.

The other thing that changed was the rise of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. This is one of the stupidest movements in human history. The whole reason we have a judge deciding sentencing is so that the sentence can reflect the circumstances of the crime and the perp. Mandatory minimums throw out all that human wisdom in favour of flat sentencing that pays no attention to circumstances. In New York, for example, possessing (note thatís possession, not supply) more than four ounces of any hard drug will get you a minimum of fifteen to life. There are easily found stories of people locked up for life under three-strikes laws for offences as minor as stealing a slice of pizza or a loaf of bread.

And the US does a lousy job of rehabilitating prisoners as well. Weíve all been shown on tv that prisoners get to complete their education. There are good reasons to educate prisoners. A prisoner who earns their GED inside is half as likely to re-offend. A prisoner who earns their college degree will almost certainly never see the inside of a prison again. You might say itís unfair that people get sent to prison and get a free education. I would respond that firstly, Iíd like to make everyoneís education free and secondly, look at the facts. According to a study conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, every dollar spent on inmate education saves twelve dollars in future crimes (http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/News/us-fails-educate-inmates-life-prison/story?id=19204306#.UeYcSW0phAo). Another study by UCLA found that a million dollar investment in incarceration produced 350 jobs while that same million invested in education, produced 600 jobs (ibid.). Prisoners used to be able to aply for Pell grants to cover the cost of their courses but that was eliminated in the mid-Nineties. The result is that there isnít funding for prisoners to get educated. Prison budgets are constantly being cut and the first thing to go, after the gyms that tv thinks are in every prison, are education programs.

Oh, and your prisons are over capacity as well.

So what happens when the average prisoner gets released? He probably hasnít had a chance to finish his education. Because of the prejudice against ex-cons (not entirely undeserved prejudice, in fairness), heís probably not going to be able to get a job. Ex-cons are routinely discriminated against in housing, public assistance and education (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/25/prisons-job-homeboy-industries). So what does he do simply to get by? Chances are pretty good he goes back to crime. Thatís why the recidivism rate in 2004 was about 67% (http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=17). In countries that take rehabilitation seriously, like Sweden or Canada, itís about 35% (http://releasedandrestored.org/statistics.html).

Some would say that we send people to prison to be punished. But we donít. The prison is the punishment. With the exception of lifers, we send people to prison in the hopes that prison will, in some rough and ready fashion, turn them into honest people. The lifers, weíre just warehousing them until they die (or, in some cases, executing them) but for the rest, we have to acknowledge that they will eventually be released and, if we want them to become productive members of society, we have to equip them to be productive members of society. That means educating them. It means drug rehab facilities, preferably at the end of their prison stay (works better that way). It means making an effort to ensure that ex-cons can find work. Look, Iím not saying that we can just open the gates and let all prisoners free. That would be stupid and, more importantly, unjust. But itís also unjust that people whose only offence was puffing a joint years ago should be rotting in jail twenty years later. Itís unjust to impose a life as a member of the underclass on someone who has paid their debt to society.

And thatís not even touching on the subject of private prisons. This is another incredibly stupid idea brought to you by the worship of private enterprise. The states and the Fed already do prisons about as cheaply as itís possible to do them so the only way private prisons can do it cheaper is to cut corners. Less guards, less nutritious food, less education. And the corporations that run private prisons are going to behave like any other corporation, theyíre going to try to maximise their profits. That means theyíre going to lobby for more and longer prison sentences. That means that your government, which is already thoroughly corrupted by campaign contributions and lobbying, have every incentive to create more crimes with longer sentences. That means your prison population will continue to grow. And those prisoners are increasingly being used as a profit centre for big businesses too (http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-prison-industry-in-the-united-states-big-business-or-a-new-form-of-slavery/8289). Workers who work for pennies an hour, canít unionise, canít refuse to work or quit, who have very few rights and to whom their employers owe nothing. The corporate dream. The rich against the rest, always.

Fuck Chris Christie

The bullying prick won by 22 points for one simple reason: The media loves the asshole. He's a typical old-school Republican: Slave to the ultrarich. They own corporations. The corporations own the media. And the media tell the people what to think. So they pass his foul-tempered, thin-skinned bluster off as honest plain-speaking and the fucking sheep believe what they're told to believe. They're told he's a moderate and they believe it because the media tell them to.

Christie might not be a gibbering madman like the current Teapublicans but he's hard-right. He vetoed a raise in the minimum wage of a measly dollar, using the same excuses corporatists (a polite word for "fascist") always use. He vetoed same-sex marriage and let's not pretend that dropping the appeal was some outbreak of sanity. He dropped it because he had no chance whatsoever of winning. None. Zilch. Zero. Noticing when the courts crack the gavel on your head doesn't win you any points. He's slashed the state's Earned Income Tax Credit and property tax rebates, shifting the tax burden onto the poor in a big way. He pulled out of a regional environmental deal. He cut family planning and women's health, leading to the closure of six family planning centres and his unemployment record is dismal.

He's a dismal failure as a governor, propped up entirely by the media that kiss his ass and pretend he's more successful than he actually is. He's a mirage, a phantom. All media hype with the politics of doing absolutely fucking anything to suck the cocks of the rich and fuck over the poor. For most Teapublicans, hurting the poor is an incidental by-product of their agenda, something they don;t care about either way. But Christie enjoys it. He gets a thrill from knowing that he's making poor people suffer.

He is scum and slime, propelled by a worshipful, sycophantic media. What terrifies me is that I could have said the same about Reagan and the media lied about him so effectively that he got two terms as president and the entire right-wing (and more moderates than my sanity can tolerate) have literally declared him the greatest president in history and the Second Coming (mark my fucking words, the dominant religion in the GOP will be Reaganism within thirty years).

Fuck Chris Christie. And that's being nice. If I shared my hopes for the evil slimeball, this post would be (rightfully) pulled.

About the glitchy ACA website

Of course it's buggy and has glitches. First rule of software: No matter how well you design something or how thoroughly you test it, there are always going to be glitches that you missed. It's an immutable rule of coding. They were building a website that had to handle (potentially) millions of hits and the specs were given by politicians (who generally know little about tech).

There were always going to be problems. Frankly, we're lucky that the whole thing didn't just collapse on the first day. But bugs can and will be fixed. It just takes a little patience.
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