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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 415: Who Wants to Win a... Baby?

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/29/world/asia/pakistan-baby-giveaway/index.html?hpt=hp_c5

Karachi (CNN) -- Plumbing new depths in the battle for television ratings, abandoned babies are being given out as prizes on a controversial prime-time game show in Pakistan.
TV host Aamir Liaquat Hussain presented baby girls to two unsuspecting couples during his show, which is broadcast live for seven hours a day during the month of Ramadan.
"I was really shocked at first. I couldn't believe we were being given this baby girl," said Suriya Bilqees, now a mother of a two-week old. "I was extremely happy."
Another baby, a boy, is due to be given to another couple at some point in the coming days.
The show's host has been described as a religious scholar, TV megastar and even a sex symbol. His heady mix of religion and entertainment is often followed by controversy.
"At Christmas there's Santa Claus to give everyone gifts, it's important for Christians. For us Ramadan is a really special time so it's really important to make people happy and reward them," said Hussain.
His show -- Aman Ramazan -- has been dubbed Pakistan's version of The Price Is Right, with members of the 500-strong audience receiving prizes in exchange for answering questions on the Quran.
The giveaway bonanza includes motorbikes, microwave ovens, washing machines and fridges.
He also cooks while men sing Islamic hymns and discusses religion with children in a garden full of rabbits, snakes and goats.
The baby girls given away on the show were found by an NGO, the Chhipa Welfare Association, which says it receives up to 15 abandoned babies a month.
"Our team finds babies abandoned on the street, in garbage bins -- some of them dead, others mauled by animals. So why not ensure the baby is kept alive and gets a good home?" said Ramzan Chhipa, who runs the organization.
"We didn't just give the baby away. We have our own vetting procedure. This couple was already registered with us and had four or five sessions with us."

I was going to write about some other psychology topic tonight - that is, until I came across this article. Hmmmm. Interesting. Babies. 

On the one hand, WTF. Seriously? Babies? 

On the other hand, the babies now have parents - should the parents decide to actually keep the baby. 

Sure, there are so many orphaned or neglected children living on streets around the world - but why decide to do it on a TV show? What is the reasoning behind that?If the parents have already been vetted and approved by the charity to adopt a baby, what's the use of the TV show? Sensationalism. Everything is a popularity contest now. Sure, this show is doing some good (the host plans to do shows for the minority religions too, to promote acceptance)  - but this baby thing is maybe not so kosher. 

Pakistan is a very religious country - there is no denying that. Most of the Asian-Arabic-Islam-Hindu-etc countries are fanatical about something. North Korea has its illustrious leader and giant army. South Korea has its super dedicated computer gamers and plastic surgery obsessions. The Islamic countries have Sharia law. The Hindus really like deities. China has China. Japan has doughnut heads. You know? When those guys like something, they really like it. Back to my point: obviously it makes sense that this show is pretty religious. At this point in time, I doubt that the show could make any kind of positive strides without being all about religion. It would be nice if religion was not in the picture, if people could be kind to each other without their god(s) having to convince them. Small steps I suppose. 

Religion is basically the major cause for the turmoil in Pakistan. What with the suicide bombers and whatnot. 

There are some proponents for the theory that religion was created to soothe our fear of death. We fear that our lives will be meaningless, so we created magical beings in elaborate fairy tales, and then went so far as to accept the ramblings of some possibly bat-shit-crazy people as the "word" of the magical being who created all life and really likes contradictions and suffering and stuff. Like birth defects. The magical being(s) must really hate some babies. I wonder why, seeing as he/she/it allegedly created each baby.

Anyway, stay tuned - tomorrow I will tackle some Social Psychology. Should be fun and/or funny.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Day 414: How much does it Cost to be President?

http://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/

Ok, so I know that this data is for the 2012 US election - yes, it is outdated BUT still relevant.

So, Obama spent $1.1 billion in his campaign, and Romney spent $1.2 billion. Wow. That is a buttload of money. If I had that much money I could feed myself, my family and probably an entire village for a lifetime. And build comfortable houses for everyone. And some other cool stuff, like pools.

$2.2 billion is a lot of money. That much money, in this world we've designed, could have a huge impact on a lot of peoples' lives. How is it that over $2 billion is spent by just 2 candidates in the race to be president - and for what? What have either of them accomplished? Have either of them made a real difference? Do either of them even know how to make a difference?

I have been watching Newsroom, which highlights how little news reporters actually investigate the stories they report, especially political stories. The show depicts how politics has become just another fancy show of big words, big lights and big music, but no real plans. The reporting that does get done is mind-numbing - it brings focus to things like this or that candidate's favourite colour or shoes - how is information like that relevant to the person's ability to lead fairly and with the best interests of the people in mind?

Oh, sure, my favourite colour is blue and my opponent is a racist. Also I love God. Also I am funded by one of the big oil companies (what, did you think that donations from the patriotic citizens of America came up to anywhere near $1.1 billion?). Also dogs are cute. Also I am pro/anti abortion. Also blah blah blah.

What is the point of having a president if he/she is not capable of actually leading the country into a better place for all? Why put so much time and energy into something so completely pointless? You think those presidents who got into office because big, fat donations from a number of select corporations will have your best interests at heart? Pffft. They are going to be thinking of the interests of those corporations, first and foremost - every time. Sure, they may talk a good game about how CEO's get way too much money, but until they present a well-researched, unbiased solution that would benefit everyone, then their words are worth nothing.

I find it interesting that we are so easily swayed by speeches and big, but essentially empty and meaningless, proposals. The key to our hearts and minds is a good speech, coupled with some clever pictures. Simple as that. No need for those pesky things called "plans", or "solutions" or "details" - as long as we promise to do a whole bunch of stuff, no one will really ask questions. It's a vicious cycle: Reporters don't want to lose their jobs, so they report what they are told to, perpetuating the cycle of ignorance and big, fake fluff in our society.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 413: Noble Words

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/28/pope-to-millions-gathered-fear-not/?hpt=hp_t4

Rio de Janeiro (CNN)–Pope Francis closed out World Youth Day with a final Mass before a giant crowd on Copacabana beach of millions.
"Go, do not be afraid, and serve," the Pope told the crowd Sunday.
Catholic pilgrims from around the world traveled to Brazil for the weeklong celebration and a chance to see the pontiff, whose visit was a shot in the arm for a church that has seen its share of scandal and troubles.
Massive crowds followed Francis at every stop on the trip. Organizers and local officials said 1.5 million people came out for the Way of the Cross observance on Friday. The mayor's office in Rio said final estimates for a prayer vigil on Saturday could reach up to 3 million. On Sunday, the Vatican citing civil authorizes put the crowd for the final Mass over 3 million.
Helicopter shots showed crowds that stretched shoulder to shoulder for two miles the beach and the streets, where pilgrims had camped out overnight as part of the prayer vigil.
As the "popemobile" made its way down Avenue Atlantica for a final time on this trip, the military lined both sides of the street along with volunteers keeping the crowds further back from Pope. Security guards continued to bring infants to the pope to bless and even began lifting disabled persons in wheelchairs up to for a blessing.
During his homily the Pope admonished the crowd to go and share their faith, "the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community."
"Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent," he said.
The pope said the message applied all the more to the young people from the Latin America. In Brazil over the past three decades the Catholic Church has slipped significantly, dropping from 90% to 65% of the population who identified as Catholic according to the national census.
Pope Francis has been dubbed the "slum pope" for his consistent focus on the poor and again during the final message to those gathered. "Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did."
That message he said, "is bringing God's power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world."

It would be nice if these words moved people to action, to live selflessly. I'm not so sure about the other stuff, the presence or absence of a god is irrelevant to life on Earth. If only religion was actually useful. If only it was a force for good. In some lives, it is, but on the most part it has been one of the greatest causes for division and cruelty in history as well as in current times. Religion has no place in this world - it causes far more harm than good.

What is religion other than the instilling of a false hope and blind faith in some entity that will apparently fix our lives if only we love him/her/it. There are many good messages in religions - unfortunately they are generally ignored by followers, the aggressive messages seem to be more popular. What if the people who put so much energy and thought into their religion and/or God were to, instead put their energy and thoughts toward practically making the world a more pleasant place to live in? That would make a difference.

Maybe if people were less concerned with the afterlife and more concerned about this life here and now the world wouldn't be quite so unpleasant. Maybe not. Maybe it is in our nature, with or without God and religion, to be complete douchebags. Or maybe not. What I know for sure is that there have been people who have changed what they believed to be their nature, actively choosing to be and live in a different way. Sure, religion has helped people in different situations. Now what is required from us is to take what is good from the different religions and leave the rest. There is no need to live in fear of some angry sky demon's wrath. There is no need for teachings about violence. There is nothing good about promoting inequality in any form. We don't have to live according to these principles.

So, coming back to the words of the pope. will they make any difference on a global scale? Doubtful. Will they stop murder, rape, animal abuse, neglect, abandonment, exploitation? No. These things are as old as religion. None of the religions are saying anything that hasn't been said a thousand time before - they had little effect in the past, why would they change anything now?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 412: I'm sorry my Existence Inconveniences you

49 Endangered Cape vultures have died in Natal South Africa, after eating what looks like from poisoned sheep carcasses on a farm. It is illegal to use poison bait in South Africa. It is illegal to use poison for any other purpose other than its intended use. The deaths of these birds is equivalent to the slaughtering of as many rhinos in terms of the impact it has on the species. There are an estimated 5000 - 8000 of these birds left in the wild, and their numbers are dwindling rapidly. They are regularly electrocuted by power pylons, killed for muthi and poisoned.

Killing any animal simply because it inconveniences us is evil, but then going on to say that it is somehow more evil to kill certain animals because we have killed too many of them already goes to show how little we consider and value life. So we are now making the statement that rarity implies some higher value.

To us, animals are one of 2 things: useful, or an inconvenience. The useful ones are treated with anything ranging from humanity and compassion to cruelty, neglect and genocide. The ones that "inconvenience" us are treated with anything ranging from disregard to genocide. The only animals whose numbers remain high are the ones we breed to eat, entertain us or give us something to love - most other wild animals, especially the ones with nice fur or horns, are killed en masse.

At what point have we considered living in balance, consideration and cooperation with animals, instead of murdering them simply for existing? Or how about those who kill because they like it. They develop a god-complex and feel a rush of power whenever they take the life of some creature that has no way to defend itself or outsmart it's predator. I don't even want to say "predator" - that implies the act of hunting as a requirement as opposed to being a sport.

Imagine if you were treated with such disregard. Imagine you are trying to survive, do what your ancestors have been doing for generations in the same place - and that this is enough to get you killed. Many animals die in the name of "protecting human profits/assets" - especially farm stock. What the hell are the wild animals supposed to do? We have taken their homes away, their hunting grounds - it is either kill some sheep or starve to death - there is no other choice for them. They can't call up for a home delivery of fillet steak. Tell me what other choice they have.

The fact that we are unable and unwilling to consider animals as living beings with an intrinsic value equal to our own shows us how we have developed our value systems. A TV has more value than most animals. WTF.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 411: Why We All Hate Ourselves

Why do we feel so insignificant? Why do we feel like failures? Why do we feel worthless? Why do we feel like we are useless? Why do we feel like no one likes us? Why do we feel ugly? Why do we feel like we're not good enough? Why do we hate ourselves? Why do we judge ourselves? Why do we compare ourselves?

Why is it so hard to see ourselves clearly and without bias?

We all hate ourselves because we are taught to need to be special, unique, the best, the center of attention - but not one of us can claim that this happens to us in every single event in our lives. We all have things that we must first practice over and over before we become "good at it" - but this is not the message we receive from childhood - the message we receive is "I will love you more if you are the best. The world will love you more if you are the best." Maybe this is not spoken outright, but it most certainly is implied everywhere - in school, in TV, by our parents telling us that they are proud of us for winning some competition. Simply saying to a child that you are proud of them for winning implies that you will love them more and have more positive feelings toward them if they are a "winner". Pride and disappointment are both emotional manipulations used by parents to try and shape a child into being a winner who never does anything to hurt the parents' feelings.

So our parents encourage us to "do our best" and aim for high achievements, our schools encourage us to "do our best" and be winners and good students, the TV tells us that if you are a winner you are more likely to be liked and successful in life. Our entire environment is shaped around this message: "this is what you should be like, if you are like this then you will be acknowledged, loved and considered to be a success."

So then what happens in those situations where we are not "the best", or winners? What happens when we fail at the directive that has been programmed into us from birth? We feel pretty shitty. We look at ourselves and see a failure. We look at ourselves and recognise that we are not what we have been taught we should be if we want love, acceptance, success. So obviously we start telling ourselves that we are not good enough, we are not lovable, we are not acceptable - and this becomes our daily obsession. We spend most of our time hoping that no one notices what failures we are, thinking about how we are worthless, thinking about how we are failures. With these self-obsessed thoughts running through our minds, day in and day out, there is not much space for anything else. There is not much attention left over for recognising that what we are doing is both destructive and abusive - it is destructive to ourselves as well as to the world, because we recreate our inner struggles in the world around us - therefore the world is an aggressive place, full of systems designed to win at all costs and beat down anyone not up to the task.

The reality about having one winner is that there are hundreds, thousands, millions, billions or trillions of losers. That does not seem to be a sustainable logic to live by.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 410: This Baby will Fix the World

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/23/world/europe/uk-royal-baby/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

Somehow, people really care about this baby. I wander what life would be like if every birth was celebrated in this fashion? Well, we'd all be camped outside some poor sod's house pretty much all the time, cheering them on for their act of procreation.

What's so special about this baby? Do you think that it chose this life, and is now absolutely conscious of this choice and the life that lies ahead? Why are some babies thrown into dustbins to starve and die alone and others are worshiped. Literally. The very ideal of royalty is mind boggling. I mean, come on. Our obsession with lineage and bloodlines is really quite ridiculous. How does this make someone worth more than someone else?

This belief in royalty and superior breeding is what makes this crappy world go round. We happily go along with what we are told, buy what we are told, live where we are told, eat what we are told, believe what we are told - all because we don't have the chutzpah to demand equality. We ourselves do not even recognize equality. We look at the "royal families" and believe they are superior. We look at the homeless and believe that they are inferior. Then there is the press and whoever else making a big deal about really weird and not uncommon things, like babies or going on holiday, but doing it in such a way that we actually get exited for the royal person in question. We feel connected. We feel like we are a part of their special, happy life. I dunno. It doesn't make much sense to me.

Apparently Twitter crashed because there were so many people tweeting about the royal birth. What if Twitter crashed for the plight of just one of the species we are annihilating? If people could care that much about making the world a better place then it damn well would be. But no, we go to sit vigil for a baby being born to a group of elitist, economic supremists. You can bet that this baby will grow up being exactly what he is taught to be.

What are the chances that this baby will grow up to be someone who fights for real equality? Pretty close to zero. What are the chances that this baby will grow up and go on to develop and implement changes that will actually positively change the world in a substantial way? Pretty close to zero. What are the chances that this baby is now, and will be rich until his dying day? 99.9999999999999999%. What are the chances that people will fawn over this baby simply because we bestow upon him the title of "royalty"? 99.9999999999999%. What are the chances that people will remain interested in the development and growing up of this baby, over and above what is going on in the world and what can be done to understand and improve all of our circumstances? 99.9999999999999999%

And so, a baby is born and the world keeps turning.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 409: Revelations

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2373279/Drug-companies-forced-publish-secret-research-medicines-reveal-hidden-effects.html



Pharmaceutical companies could be forced to publish secret research into how drugs are created under new European laws, potentially revealing information about dangerous and unknown side-effects.
The rules would mean that some of the world’s most powerful drugs companies would have to share the results of clinical trials which could then be analysed by independent scientists.
Experts said that the move could also highlight if patients and customers have been fooled by placebos or drugs that have not been scientifically proven to work.
Drugs companies currently only release a small amount of their research data from clinical trials, with critics claiming that negative results are only half as likely to be published.
But the disclosure rules being drawn up by the European Medicines Agency, an EU body, have been met with resistance from pharmaceutical companies.
 (Uhhhhh.. Duh)

They claim that some of their information might be misinterpreted, potentially sparking a significant health scare around the use of a particular the drug.
In the last three years, 26 drugs companies have racked up fines of more than £7billion for acting dishonestly.
Britain’s largest pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline announced earlier this year that it would support a move for such legislation by publishing the results of all its clinical trials.
The move followed fierce criticism of the company after it was given a £1.9billion fine in the US in 2012, in part for withholding safety data about Avandria, its best-selling diabetes drug.
News of law comes as a leaked message from the head of a leading pharmaceutical industry body to company bosses revealed that patient groups would be used to try to block amendments to the clinical trials directive.
The email was sent by European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations director general Richard Bergström to the directors and legal departments at companies including Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.
In the email, seen by The Guardian, he says that patient groups will be ‘mobilised’ to express concerns about ‘the risk to public health by non-scientific re-use of data’.
But campaigners said that the groups – which are often funded by companies – are a ‘front for the pharmaceutical industry’.
Tim Reed, from campaign grouop Health Action International, said: ‘It’s incredibly ironic that this is a transparency initiative and we’ve now got clear indications that the pharmaceutical industry is ready to use patient organisations to fight their corner.
He told the Guardian: ‘It underlines the fact that patient groups who are in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry will go into battle for them. There’s a hidden agenda here.
‘Patient groups get traction because they are assumed to represent the voice of the suffering. But industry uses them to say we’re not going to get innovative medicines if the industry is deterred from investing by having to be transparent about their clinical trials.’
The EFPIA said: ‘Knowing that some people want all data to be made available to everyone, EFPIA is engaging with stakeholders to share concerns with harmful ‘re-use’ of data.
‘We will engage not only with patient groups, but also with the scientific community.’ - Mail Online


Ummm... Shouldn't pharmaceutical companies already be publishing all of the information for drug trials in the first place? What possible reason is there, being a company created for the sole purpose of healing people, to hide results of drug trials? Could it be? No! Never. Pharmaceutical companies want to HELP, they don't care about money. Yeah, sure, they're in a multi-billion dollar industry. Yeah, sure, there are only a handful of pharmaceutical companies dominating the global market. Yeah, sure, drugs are arguably not always the best approach to health in the first place. Yeah, sure, most drugs have death as a possible side effect. All of those things don't mean that pharmaceutical companies don't care. They spend millions developing drugs to try and cure diseases, they must care. Money does after all imply love.

You think that pharmaceutical companies are acting in your best interest? They are acting in the interest of making lots of money. You think that there is integrity in testing new drugs? There is only potential profits and potential liabilities. Integrity and honesty costs a lot of money. You think the watchdog organisations are effectively controlling the quality and integrity of drugs? These organisations are funded by pharmaceutical companies. You think that your government is going to go up against the pharmaceutical companies? The governments are funded by pharmaceutical companies. Politicians are funded by pharmaceutical companies. How do you think we got to the point where drugs that have such horrendous side effects are actually legal. Governments create the environment for this abuse to exist. Everyone is looking after their own interests - people in government, people in the private sector, the consumers - there is a policy of "don't ask, don't tell" or else your own dirty laundry might be aired. Everyone keeps quiet for their own sake, because they dread having their own secrets exposed.

So no one calls out the abusers, because everyone is an abuser in some way or another. We find abuse to be acceptable because then we are allowed to be abusers as well. Maybe I am speaking in extreme terms - but the condition of life on Earth is extreme. We allow things like pharmaceutical companies to continue being dishonest and functioning without honour or respect for life, without question. We do not question the conditions we so readily accept as being immutable. We simply do not question - we just accept. Poverty? Oh, it is a fact of life. Economic segregation? A fact of life. Murder? Life. Neglect? Sad, but a part of life. Dishonesty? It's in our nature.

Well. This attitude has not brought much happiness to our lives. Maybe it's time for a change of view.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 408: Take that, you Stupid Planet!

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/21/world/asia/australia-reef-u-s-bombs/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

(CNN) -- Two U.S. military aircraft jettisoned four bombs not far from the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast last week, the U.S. Navy says.
The two Marine planes had to abandon the bombs Tuesday in the national park containing the natural wonder because they were running out of fuel and could not land with the amount of ordnance on board, the Navy said. The two Marine aircraft were launched from a Navy ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard.
Two of the projectiles were explosive bombs that were disarmed before they were dropped. They did not explode, the Navy said.
The other two were inert, or non-explosive bombs, the Navy said.
The pilots chose an area away from the reefs, which contain 400 types of coral. The area was also deep enough to prevent passing ships from running into the bombs, the Navy said.
The reef is home to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 kinds of mollusks, according to the United Nations' World Heritage Convention.

We have done many things to our home. We have nuked it, bombarded it, spilled toxic wastes, deforested it, dried up rivers, made new rivers, dried up dams, dries up seas, made new dams, pumped gas and smoke into the air, stripped natural habitats to make way for farms to feed our fat ungrateful faces, and a whole lot more. What's four more bombs, right?

What's that saying... You don't shit where you eat. And there's another one... You don't bite the hand that feeds you. Well, we have done both. We do both on a frequent and regular basis. We are most definitely shitting where we eat. Soon it will be impossible to find food that is not contaminated by some or other toxic or dangerous substance. Look at the areas around Fukushima in Japan - they are getting some weird vegetables. Or you may want to consider some older events that caused genetic mutations in babies and cancer in adults, like in Afghanistan where there has been ongoing warfare for years. These are just a few areas, only a few incidents.

How long have we been flinging bombs at each other? Not very long compared to the history of humanity. Let's say that in the last 150 years (just as an estimate) we have discovered, developed and perfected the "art" of bombs on a large scale. The Chinese (obviously) discovered bombing a long time ago, like a millennium ago. So it has taken us this long to really get good at destroying stuff (people included) with bombs. Can you imagine what the next 100 years will bring, how absolutely disastrous our ridiculous bickering will be? And what of all the wonderful toxic chemicals and weird nuclear thingies we have created - how long until it morphs into a giant blob and devours the world?

What will most likely happen first (which is already happening) is an increase in terminal illness like cancer. The next phase will likely involve genetic mutations on a global scale (speaking of scales, I am sure the years to come will produce an increasing number of babies with scales - and weird allergies). We'll be getting pretty worried by this stage (hopefully we're not to brainwashed to recognise our impending doom).  After that we'll all start getting really sick, animals will die, plants will be really weird, water will turn neon pink, fish will grow legs, snakes will start talking English, and we will generally be pretty miserable. And covered in seeping, pussy sores and boils. Yay.

So I really look forward to our future. I am going to start a pool on how long it will take for people to take notice that we're pretty much passed the point of no return. Weird shit is going to go down in our DNA strands. Maybe we'll turn into teenage mutant ninja turtles. Or bigfoot. Who knows.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Day 407: Givez me some Minimalism

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2366370/Sample-budget-given-McDonalds-workers-proves-CANT-live-minimum-wages-need-second-job-make-ends-meet.html



McDonald's seems to be well aware that its employees are unable to survive on their minimum wages, so the company has come up with a solution - go out and get a second job.
The fast food giant became the object of ridicule this week when its financial planning site called Practical Money Skills for Life created back in 2008 in conjunction with Visa and Wealth Watchers International to help its workforce caught the attention of several media outlets.
The portal provides a sample monthly budget, which makes a series of assumptions that have been slammed by McDonald’s critics as both naive and condescending about the workers' ability to supports themselves while earning $7.72 an hour after taxes.
Suggested monthly expenses for the hypothetical McDonald’s employee working a 40-hour week include $600 for rent - a figure that has raised eyebrows among anyone familiar with the housing market in cities like New York and Philadelphia.
While it is still possible to find housing with three-digit rent in some parts of the U.S., an average apartment in Manhattan rents for about $3,000 a month. Even in the outer boroughs it is nearly impossible to come across anything cheaper than $1,400 a month.
The sample budget also sets aside only $20 for health care and $150 for car payments. The financial planning tool, however, does not include allowances for either food or gas.
McDonald’s charges workers who have been with the company for at least year $12.58 for its most basic health care plan. New hires have to shell out $14, according to The Atlantic.
In a surprising bit of self-awareness, the McDonald’s mock-up budget includes lines for monthly income from a first job totaling $1,105, and a second job, which brings in $955.
Those figures suggest that the hypothetical worker has to toil away for more 60 hours a week at minimum wage, or earn more than $12 an hour on a 40-hour work week.
In 2009, the federal government set minimum wage at $7.25, CNBC reported.
In comparison, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson received a compensation package worth $13.8million in 2012.
Others entries in the fictional McDonald's-Visa financial plan include $100 allotted for cable and phone, $90 for electric - just below the national average of $103 - but no money set aside for heating, which would not work for employees living anywhere outside of Hawaii or Florida.
Since the budget includes no separate line for groceries, it may be assumed that either the workers have to rely on leftover French fries for their meals, or they have to use the $27 a day in spending money to buy food.
The sample financial plan also makes no mention of basic necessities like child care expenses, water or clothing, to name a few.
In recent months, industry workers have gone on strike in cities across the U.S., including Chicago and New York, to protest for higher wages. - Mail Online


It's easy to talk about how possible and plausible it is to live on minimum wage. Yeah, sure - it's possible - it's not pleasant though. Not everyone has lived through financial pressure, but I think most have, at one point or another. Living without financial security is not pleasant. Living from paycheck to paycheck, knowing that if some unexpected expense comes up then you have no way to pay for it - is not pleasant - it creates a constant dread that eats at you every day. Not being able to send your kids to the best schools, or the best doctors, or feed them the best organic foods, is not pleasant. Having to cut expenses to be able to survive inflation of prices is not pleasant. Having to constantly think of how much you're spending, to not go over budget, to turn off electrical appliances to save a few extra bucks because those few extra bucks actually make a difference - is not pleasant. Not being able to do the things you enjoy because you can't afford to is not pleasant.

You'll notice an interesting thing: All the people who post comments defending the minimum wage are not living on the minimum wage. Some may cite some family member, or friend or a friend who does live on the minimum wage and say "well I know someone who survives and they seem to be doing just fine. They even spend some of their minimum wage on cigarettes!" Obviously they are going to sped money trying to relieve the pressure they're feeling, because there is no school class all about living on the minimum wage and not getting stressed about money. People don't know how to deal with stress in ways other than dependencies and such. The second point is that obviously people who live on the minimum wage will seem to be fine to other people, most people don't want to air their laundry to the public by showing how depressed and stressed they are. Do you really think that life should be just about surviving and getting through another day or another month without compromising on some aspect of your life to make ends meet? If you do, then why don't you live that way? Seriously, this is a question I actually want you to answer.

Anything that you feel confident in justifying on another person's behalf - like minimum wages and bad education programmes - you should be willing to live yourself and put your own family through. You think living on $8 an hour is OK? Do it then. If you are not willing to do it, then don't justify it. The CEO of McDonald's was paid $13 million in 2012 alone - you think he has any idea of how he is forcing people to live? He lives in a fantasy world and is likely completely incapable of putting himself in someone else's shoes. Unfortunately this is the case with most people in the world who earn a decent living wage or more.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day 406: Let your Sins be Forgiven

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indulgence#Catholic_teaching

According to the teachings outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, two distinct types of consequences follow when a person sins: eternal and temporal. A mortal sin (one that is grave and is committed knowingly and freely) is equivalent to refusing friendship with God and communion with the only source of eternal life. The loss of eternal life with God, and the eternal death of hell that is the effect of this rejection, is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. In addition to this eternal punishment due to mortal sin, every sin, including venial sin, is a turning away from God through what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls an unhealthy attachment to creatures, an attachment that must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called purgatory. The resulting need to break this attachment to creatures is another punishment for sin, referred to as "temporal punishment", because, not being a total rejection of God, it is not eternal and can be overcome in time. Even when the sin is forgiven, the associated attachment to creatures may remain.
The temporal punishment that follows sin is thus undergone either during life on earth or in purgatory. In this life, as well as by patient acceptance of sufferings and trials, the necessary cleansing from attachment to creatures may, at least in part, be achieved by turning to God in prayer and penance and by works of mercy and charity. - Wikipedia

Religion is weird. Seriously. Different religions each have their various rules and laws, which are often contradictory, but the most common factor is the God factor. Religions revolve around the idea that there is a Creator, sometimes all-powerful, sometimes omnipotent and omnipresent, but mostly known as the man/woman/entity in charge of all of our lives.

Let's use Christianity as an example, specifically Catholicism. There are a whole lot of things you can and cannot do according to God, and then some more things that are not overly clear. Then there's the whole "well the bible was written quite a long time after Jesus was alive" thing, so it's probably not true anyway. But you've gotta have faith. Because, who are we without faith? Rational people who have a good sense of self responsibility? Please, who wants to live like that? Not me, for sure. So we have to believe that the bible is God's word/law/whatever. It's not like we can admit to possibly being wrong about this, how stupid would that make us look? Seriously.

So now we try to live according to these contradictory and unclear laws, but we all know that there is a whole hell of a lot of room for wiggling, because God forgives (except when he is in wrath-mode, which is, like, most of the time. I dunno, it's not really clear. It depends what part of the book you're reading. So yeah) - so you can pretty much do whatever you want without too much guilt, because you can just call up or go to a priest and he'll (or she, but not likely) give you some prayers to say or money to donate to the church (lollers) that will make God forgive you. Don't question. The priest knows. The priest spent time learning how to communicate with God and read his/her/it's mind.

So we can all live how we wanna, because we essentially are not going to be held accountable for our actions (at least not in our own eyes), because only God holds us accountable, and he/she/it is a merciful God. How do I know this? I have faith. I believe. Also I have not been struck down by lightning, which is one of those pesky little points of not so much clarity in the big book of God words. Hopefully you have money enough to take long leave of absence's to go on pilgrimages to have your sins forgiven - if you feel guilty enough. I suppose it can be quite hard feeling guilty for doing things you know in your heart you're not really responsible for - this is certainly a challenge given to us straight from the big G.

Oh man, it totally makes sense why people believe in God and stuff. Totally.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day 405: For the Love of Animals - or Money?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2364755/RSPCA-fatcat-rakes-45-previous-boss-reveal-figures-spending-LESS-animal-welfare.html



The new ‘fat cat’ boss of the RSPCA is being paid up to 45 per cent more than his predecessor, figures revealed yesterday.
Gavin Grant was accused of ‘brazen greed’ at a time when the animal charity’s income from donations is falling.
Figures also showed the RSPCA is spending less on animal welfare, but more on prosecuting people for alleged cruelty.
Mr Grant, a former public relations executive and lifelong Liberal Democrat who is credited with helping Nick Clegg become party leader, began as RSPCA chief executive in January 2012.
At the time, the charity refused to disclose his pay package, but yesterday its annual report revealed the figure to be between £150,000 and £160,000. The RSPCA still would not state his exact earnings.
His predecessor, Mark Watts, earned £110,000 to £120,000, meaning Mr Grant is raking in between £30,000 and £50,000 more – a rise of between 25 per cent and 45 per cent.
Two other unidentified bosses are earning up to £150,000 and £130,000. This is believed to be the first time pay has risen above £120,000 at the RSPCA.
Anne Kasica, a campaigner who runs the Self-Help Group, an organisation for animal owners ‘experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA’, said: ‘Even we were taken aback by the brazen greed which this represents.
‘Whoever all these highly-paid executives are, this is outrageous. Donations intended to help lost, sick and suffering animals have been, and are being, used to pay at least three people vastly more than last year.’
Fellow campaigner Ernest Vine said: ‘The dwindling number of people who still do without, in order to put money in RSPCA collecting tins, will be horrified at the way their sacrifices are being used.’ - Mail Online


When you donate to a charity, you expect that your donation will actually go toward the actual cause that you are donating to. Most people don't realise how incredibly high the salaries are for the exec's of big welfare/charity organisations. Here are some figures: http://www.bestmswprograms.com/non-profit/ & http://www.charitywatch.org/hottopics/Top25.html

Well, those salaries seem a bit excessive. Charities are assumed to be headed by dedicated people who are doing what they are passionate about and not doing it for the money. So that assumption just got busted.

So what the hell is the point of charities anyway? They make some small, individual differences, but they consistently fail to make any real, substantial and lasting changes. Consider the RSPCA, an organisation that is present in multiple countries that has been around for years and years - has it decreased animal abuse? No. Animal abuse actually seems to be increasing in regularity and level of brutality. Consider the Rhino protection organisations (pretty popular in South Africa at the moment): have any of them managed to stop Rhino poaching? No. Rhino poaching has only gotten more out of hand.

But then how could these charities make any real difference without understanding the actual cause of these problems? Animal cruelty is not going to stop because of criminal charges being brought against offenders, because this doesn't address the reason why people are abusing animals in the first place. Charities like the RSPCA are doomed to be chasing ghosts  forever- sure, they'll save a few animals along the way, but sadly only a tiny percentage of the animals who suffer in the world.

So what is the point of charities if they don't actually make substantial differences? Hmmm. Maybe so that people can earn lots of money while seeming to be "good people"? But then that's only one percent of the charity - can't be that, can it? Maybe so that people can feel good when they donate to a cause? Possible, especially since the act of giving money is not supported by any real knowledge of what is actually done with the money.

Charities are clearly not a solution. On top of that they are being used as money laundering operations for greedy people, but this time turning legitimate, "good" funds into exploitations.