Monday, February 29, 2016

The Wanderers - The Movie: How Joey Ultimately Screws Over Richie Far More Than The Other War Around!

I just happened to come across the old movie from 1979 called "The Wanderers" tonight, the movie about street gangs in the Bronx around 1963. And as I watched the opening minutes, for the first time, it occurred to me that Joey screwed over Richie a helluva lot more than Richie screwed over Joey. But I'm betting you cannot tell me how?

If you recall the movie, Joey develops a thing for Nina, who's played by Karen Allen, even though everyone can tell that Nina has a thing for Richie. But Richie has a girlfriend. By near the end of the movie, however, Joey and Richie's girlfriend find Richie and Nina fooling around in the back seat of a parked car.

Note also that the Baldies were chasing Turkey and Joey in the beginning of the movie, to which all of the Wanders came running to their aid when Joey began to whistle (make a mental note of that fact, by the way). By the end of the movie, conversely, both Joey and Turkey left the Wanders, with Turkey betraying his old gang like a Judas figure, and Joey feeling betrayed by his best friend, Richie (also like a Judas figure), and thus by the Wanders over all ( since Richie was the leader of the Wanderers).

But remember the whistling I just mentioned, by Joey, in the beginning of the movie? Well, do you remember what Richie was doing when he heard Joey whistling?

Richie was having sex with his girlfriend. And when he heard Joey whistle, that meant "a Wanderer's in trouble," as Richie exclaimed to his girlfriend as he climbed off of her; as if drained of more than just his energy. Joey's whistling leads Rickie to forget to "coitus interruptus (i.e., Richie forgets to "pull out" of his girlfriend) because his mind is 'pulled out' of it's focus on the person he's having sex with, to focus on the gang to which he belongs.

And when Ritchie does that, when his mind leaps like a lap dog to its master, "The Wanderers", he 'leaves his body,' so to speak, on auto pilot; and he accidentally impregnates his girl friend. As a result, Richie's whole life is pulled into something he never wanted.

Again, if you recall in the beginning of the movie when the Baldies corner the Wanders in the alcove of an alley, trapped, it's Richie who came to help Joey. But in the end, Joey leaves Richie, who's now trapped (thank's to Joey!).

And all because Joey whistled.   

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Raven: A Confession of Murder

I have long been a fan of Edger Allan Poe, and his poem The Raven is obviously one of his most famous works. I have read this poem any number of times before, and enjoy regularly deciphering it's ideas in different ways. But just last night, as I sat reclining, it occurred to me that the poem was perhaps more sinister than I had ever imagined.

 I had always interpreted the poem to be of a man who was mourning the loss of his daughter, Lenore. But then I thought that perhaps she was his lover instead. (If I was feeling rather jovial, I would imagine it was his cat or his goldfish.) But what I had failed to consider in these many different possible explanations for who the mysterious maiden named Lenore could have been, was that perhaps he had murdered the poor girl. And if Lenore had been both his mother and his lover, then the Raven is basically about Oedipus Rex.

Indeed, perhaps he smothered her to death using the very pillows upon which he sat reclining, and now was haunted by it all for ever, evermore!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Jesus & Dr. Jekyll, The Holy Sprit & Mr. Hyde

Humanism is a kind of Catholic Atheism, that sees humanity as a species divided by beliefs, yet united by its curiosity. It cultivates the human soul by respecting the differences of our physical human forms. Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, cultivates our metaphysical soul by regulating the hell out of our physical human form. One sees children of the universe, and invites them to play, while the other sees natural born sinners, and inveighs them to pray.

When the soul is all that matters, however, because it alone is eternal, the body becomes something that some "believers" start to see as well worth sacrificing to save their own soul, and possibly everyone else's. Indeed, to avoid their own eternal torments in Hell, or even that of their families, what person on earth would not be willing to sacrifice all of humanity?

Roman Catholics also fail to notice, or simply forget, that not everyone is terrified of their own fantasies or are willing to bow down before their greatest fears. And because they are not, they do not seek, nor do they need, an antidote for either one.

Conversely, Christians think that the only reason such Humanists fail to show the proper fear  and respect for their own death and tendency for evil (as well as the possibility of being sent to eternal damnation), is because they have yet to learn the love of the good doctor who intends to cure them of their as yet unrealized fears and evils, by introducing them to both.

The Christian refers to this doctor by the name of Jesus, but the Humanist might refer to him as Dr. Jekyll, for as one convenes the Inquisitions with the power of the holy spirit, the other sees how a religious belief can turn someone into Mr. Hyde. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Conservatism & Christianity: Barrabbas & Christ

I used to see myself as both politically Conservative and religiously Catholic, until I realized that such labels themselves are problematic precisely because our minds do not work in a groove, like a bowling ball rolling in a gutter. (At least mine doesn't.) This was also before I realized that politicians were simply the public relations division of corporate America. They do not represent the will of the people, in other words, they take the "will" of their overlords and impose it on the people while finding ever more clever ways - through propaganda, Houdini-esque manipulations of language, distractions, and, when all else fails, out right lies - to convince those same people to see the "will" of their overlords as if it were really their own.

Politicians also assure the masses that, even if it is the Mayan "will" of Big Money to cut out the beating hearts of our economy, such economic evisceration always performed to provide a sacrificial dividend for us, out of love from the God of Mammon, even if (especially if) it doesn't feel like it. And it never feels like it. And where the exercise of that will creates poverty or hardship, an army of "spin doctors" convince half the population they should blame it on the political party of the other half - even though both parties are two sides of the same corporate capitalism.

Pitting people against each other is how America's Siamese-political party keeps the nation sufficiently divided, after all, through a plan of divide and conquer. This division was so powerful, in fact, that it led Jay Gould, one of America's per-eminent railway barons and "8th worst American CEO of all time, to say "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half,"  during the strikebreaking activities of the Great Southwest Railroad in 1886. Gould's "vision" of the "division of labour"  sought to make people as replaceable as cogs in a machine. The industrial revolution, in other words, turned specialists in every trade to mere spokes on a wheel. And like straw, the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds had found a way to spin that wheel like Rumpelstiltskin, and make gold.

We see this even today, of course, as John Zerzan has pointed out. We are "terrorized into being consumers," as he puts it. As G. W. Bush summed it up, however unwittingly, the the terrorist is less a threat to our freedoms, or even our religious faith, and more to our willingness to shop. As Bush decried:

"We cannot allows the terrorists to achieve the objective of frightening out nation to the point that people don't conduct business; Where people don't shop."
While 9/11 sent Christians in droves to churches around the country, Conservatives like Bush were urging everyone to head to the cathedrals of American consumerism, the shopping mall. In doing so, the money lenders had manage to shroud "the love of money" in the saintly quest for that holiest grail, the profit motive. And through the process of Orwellian doublespeak, Joel Olsteen became the Christian equivalent of Bernie Madoff.

Yet all of this need to own things is quite contrary to the story of Jesus, who, at the time of his death, owned even less than Redd Foxx. What's more, the Conservatives sees himself as a priest of liberty, even though Thomas Jefferson once said that "in every country and in every age, the (Christian) priest  has been hostile to liberty." So it is quite an oxymoron to say the phrase Conservative Christian.

When a friend of mine - who is still a conservative Christian even today - asked me a simple question: "Don't you think our system (i.e., America's political and economic system) does far more good than harm in the world?"

To which I replied:

First: a system is not necessarily "moral" simply because it may do more good than harm. Nazism, for example, lifted millions of ordinary German citizens out of the abject poverty that befell Germany after World War I. But the fact that it helped far more people than it systemically exterminated did not make it a "moral system" at the end of the day. It's even worse when the "good" such a system claims to be doing is off in some distant future that will make all of the "bad" it imposes now, totally worth it in the end. The evil "means," in this sense, cannot be justified by some virtuous "end." To put it another way, the eggs we break today cannot necessarily be justified by the omelet we are endeavoring to make in some distant tomorrow.

And second: Yes, I used to think that very thing. But then I began considering evidence that was outside of what was regularly being spoon fed to me by a media who's first and only priority it is to convince me to shop.

(And I shouldn't worry that I can't afford anything I'm buying, since my over priced education will be covered by the rising equity in my house, which will only go up, and which was created by an artificially over-inflated real estate market - compliments of Wall Street investors who were all smart enough to take out insurance policies on their own version of "over spending. And they did this, even as they encouraged us to buy the very thing they all knew was about to go bust, which is why they bought CDO's and insurance with AIG.)

And while the people on Main Street were blamed for spending well beyond their financial means - which is exactly what President George W. Bush had told them to do in 2006, when he said "I encourage you all to go shopping more" - lost their homes, the institutions (with all of the lawyers and experts and quants) who had done the exact same thing, got bail outs, paid bonuses, and bought their way back into the very ponzi scheme they had only helped to create. (After they crash, they were paid "bonuses" for being smart enough to use that "bailout" to buy back into that Ponzi scheme at bargain basement prices.And when others joined in underneath them, since that's how such schemes operate, they paid back the loans and where applauded by politicians for having the "brains" and the "chutzpah" to fix the global economy.) 

Indeed, like alcohol, America's casino capitalism has only prospered by addicting people to the drug of consumerism. And while neither is inherently evil, those who have nothing better to do will gorge themselves on it, even when they do not desire to do so. It is an addiction, in other words. And war is it's annual celebration, as thousands are offered up as human sacrifice to the desire for infinitely more, which is the very thing C.S. Lewis claimed we would one day find in Heaven. 

Conservatives, therefore, are not Christians, they are Barabbians. For they worship the profit motives of the money lenders while decrying "the love of money" from the pulpit. And had they been there when Pontius Pilate offered the crowd that most infamous of choices, they would've sought to defend their Second Amendment Right to bear arms against the tyranny of government oppression by freeing Barabbas, and protected their addiction to their religious beliefs by demanding that Christ be crucified. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Big Pharma's Profit Addiction

I just watched Prescription Thugs, by Chris Bell, the same guy who made Bigger, Stronger, Faster.  Basically, as Bell points out, the movie is about Big Pharma’s “addiction to money.”

The same problem in the mortgage markets is going on in the pharmaceutical markets, with Big Pharma addicting people to drugs (in the same way the Big Banks were addicting people to easy loans), and then we blame those people for being addicts.The profits, however, always remain in the pockets of the pusher-man. 

 Like in the movie, The Big Short, the same way that mortgages were being bundled up and sold in “tranches,” despite the fact that no one knew if the assets in a given “tranche” were actually worthy of the triple “A” ratings they were being assigned by the ratings agencies, so to are pharmaceutical companies now selling us drugs for every physical or psychological aliment their marketing departments can concoct, without really knowing what is in the drugs they are selling us to cure it. The only difference is that, in Big Pharma, the corruption may be a great deal worse.

Just watch Fire in the Blood, for example, about how Big Pharma, in order to protect their profit margins, knowingly allowed 12 million people to die in Africa by preventing generic versions of their AIDS medication from being sold there. 

So, in America, how are these corporate drug dealers doing this exactly? Well, it all works pretty much the same way as the financial institutions. First, they proscribe us the pills, and then they structure deals that get Govt to cover the cost for those pills via Madcare or Medcaid or Obamacare or what have you. Then, the insurance companies lobby obscenely, and ultimately succeed at getting the Govt to pay hundreds to thousands of times more for the drug than it took to make the drug in the first place. (Despite the fact the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 requires that the price reflect the money tax payers spent in funding the R&D of that drug, which is never enforced.)

Also, except for Veterans,  in the US, the Govt is not allowed to renegotiate the price the drug company chooses to charge for the drug, even though Govts in every other industrial nation can.

And worse, when you consider that 84% of global investment into developing those drugs come from Govt and public sectors, that markup then really only pays for two things: pure profit (straight from the pockets of the America Tax Payer, thank you very much!) and marketing, which those same companies spend 20 x more on than actually R&D for new drugs. And most of the money that Big Pharma spends for R&D is invested in either cosmetic type drugs, or to create more of the same drugs they are addicting people to for whatever imaginary disease or psychiatric condition their marketing departments can dream up; as well as the Viagra you'll need because of taking such drugs. 

We saw this same drug addiction problem during the Civil War, by the way, when Union soldiers who were given morphine for their wounds became addicted to the stuff. Since the South had very little access to morphine, they relied mostly on Whiskey,

In this sense, we can simply think of Martin Shkreli, the guy who purchased the antimalarial and anti-parasitic drug, Daraprim, and jacked up the price (just because he could), as basically the Bernie Madoff of Big Pharma. As Robert Reich said, “what Shkreli “did wrong” was being more audacious while “playing the same game many others are playing on Wall Street.”

"And the wheels on the buss go round and round..."

Science & Religion: A Light in the Darkness

One difference between science and religion (of which there are many) is that some people can kill with the former as readily as others will kill for the latter. One similarity, on the other hand, is that in both, murder is committed far more for their fictions than for their facts. In thought, however, religion wars with human nature to establish what it defines as "moral" conformity, while science seeks to understand human difference, and as one destroys and punishes heretics (indeed, even Christ was a "heretic," after all), the other depends and promotes them.

In general, science and religion embody differing forms of belief and doubt that have battled in our minds ever since human beings evolved enough to pluck an apple from a tree and eat it. In general, the beliefs of both are that we are one and united, while the doubts of each are that we are separate and divided. The former perspective has historically been called “enlightenment,” from Buddha to Christ, and the light of the world, while the latter is often described as the shadow or the army of darkness. 

Regardless of whether such darkness is described as “the devil and his minions” or simply a delusion of a deranged mind, however – regardless that is, of what vernacular we use to describe "extremism" as “evil” – those who commit such acts do so for a fictional belief that they serve some great power, or some great idea, that stands above humanity. As John Quincy Adams observed, "Power always believes... sincerely and conscientiously .. that it has a great soul and vast view beyond the comprehension of the weak, and that it is doing God's work, while it is breaking all of his laws."   

Yet such a "belief" is a lie, for it sees humanity not as united, but as divided. It sees humanity, in other words, as standing for God or against God.

That “power” – whether it’s just an idea, or it’s their belief in their version of “God,” or a government, or a version of capitalism or democracy, or the like – can ultimately become their “God.” That belief/delusion then “possesses” them thereafter, like the fictional character Regan in the movie The Exorcist. And also like the movie, that idea can torture them into believing they must work to shape the world into something that conforms to their belief/delusion, in order to fulfill God's plan - no matter how many must be sacrificed to achieve it

The problem with hating them for it, as natural as that may feel given the emotional devastation that such crimes inflict, is that it opens a trap door in our mind to allow the very same kind of evil/delusion that has poisoned theirs. The hardest thing to do, therefore, is to look down from such a cross and try to forgive them “for they know not what they do.” For if we fail to do this, then we may eventually become the ones who need the forgiving, and for the very same reason. Indeed, in all the destruction we might cause in response to such crimes, we will feel just as “righteous" in our defending ourselves as they did in defending their delusion. And this is how an eye for an eye, as Gandhi pointed out, makes the whole world go blind.

Religion is a disease masquerading as it’s own cure.