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Splinters in Your Eye

One day an evil troll (called the devil) made a magic mirror that distorts the appearance of everything it reflects. It fails to reflect the good and beautiful aspects of people and things, while magnifying their bad and ugly aspects. This devil teaches at a “devil school.” He and his pupils take the mirror throughout the world and delight in distorting everyone and everything. The mirror makes even the loveliest of landscapes look disgusting.

One morning they try to carry the mirror into Heaven with the idea of making fools of the angels and God, but the higher they lift it, the more the mirror grins and shakes with delight. It slips from their grasp and falls back to earth, shattering into millions of pieces. These splinters, some no larger than a grain of sand, are blown around and get into people’s eyes and hearts, freezing their hearts like blocks of ice and making their eyes like the troll-mirror itself, seeing only the bad and ugly in people and things.

On a pleasant summer day, a little girl and boy who live next door to each other were looking at a picture book in their window-box garden when suddenly splinters of the troll-mirror get into the boy’s eyes. The boy becomes cruel and aggressive. He destroys their window-box garden, he makes fun of his grandmother, and he no longer cares about the girl who he befriended for so long, since all of them now appear bad and ugly to him.

The following winter, the boy goes out with his sled to play in the snowy market square and (as was the custom back then) hitches it to a curious white sleigh carriage, driven by the Snow Queen, who appears as a woman in a white fur-coat. She takes the boy in her sleigh to her palace near the North Pole, where he is contented to live due to the splinters of the troll-mirror in his eyes and heart.

The little girl, who misses her friend so much, travels the land in search of her long-lost friend. When the young girl reaches the Snow Queen’s palace, she is halted by the snowflakes guarding it. She finds her friend alone and almost immobile on a frozen lake, which the Snow Queen calls the “Mirror of Reason”, on which her throne sits.

The young girl runs up to the boy and kisses him, and he is saved by the power of her love. She weeps warm tears on him, melting his heart and burning away the troll-mirror splinter in it. They boy bursts into tears, dislodging the splinter from his eye. He becomes cheerful and healthy again, with sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks.

From there they walk back to their home, “the big city.” They find that all is the same at home, but they have changed: They are now grown up, and they are delighted to see that it is summertime.

The end.

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That is a very brief synopsis of the fairy tale “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen, to which Disney’s movie Frozen was based on. (Edited down from Wikipedia.) I found the premise of the Splinters to be very relevant to how some people are in society today. In almost everything and everyone you meet, you can see the good or bad in them. We all have a certain amount of splinter in our eyes, but if, whether as a society or as a couple, we can help remove the splinter from someone’s eye, we could make the world a much better place.

 

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Trivia : While the story deviates from the original fairy tale, four of the main characters’ names are references to the author Hans Christian Andersen: Hans, Kristoff, Anna, and Sven.

Your Real Tax Rate

This year I filed both federal and state returns through H&R Block on February 17th. By February 26th my federal return was in my bank account. Pretty awesome.

While glancing at the “Overall Savings” section of the PDF I saved to my computer I noticed something:

Marginal bracket : 25%
Effective : 8.6%

I’m supposed to be giving 25% of my income to the federal government to pay for things we as a society need: Social Security, Veteran’s Benefits, Infrastructure Spending, etc… whereas I’m only giving 8.6%. If I’m doing my taxes myself and getting that kind of a discount, imagine what the extremely wealthy are getting with their financial advisors. The same goes for my payments to New York State as well:

Marginal bracket : 5.6%
Effective : 4.4%

Not as bad as the Federal “discount” I’m getting, but still. For all those people complaining about how high our taxes are, just check out your Effective Tax Rate then get back to me.

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How and When the Political Parties Swapped

So I did something really stupid yesterday. Let me give you a quick backstory though…

In my attempt to think and be happier I’ve done several things. From eating healthier to buying a “Live Laugh Love” wristband to remind me to think more positive. But one of the things I debated was blocking hard-core right wingers from my Newsfeed on Facebook. I had enough of their negativity and misinformation. It drove me crazy. The reason I debated this was because I am all for learning new information and having a healthy debate, but when the person you’re debating is nasty and negative, it isn’t fun anymore. Plus when you present facts to someone and they refuse to accept it, what’s the point? So I ended up blocking a handful of right-wing Republicans (ie: Libertarians) from showing up in my Newsfeed. Yesterday I tried to give them another chance. I unblocked them. Big mistake. A Libertarian posted this:


While it may be a fact that the Republican Party did those things (I don’t know if the percentages are accurate), the poster of the image is completely unaware that the political parties swapped in the early 1900′s. Abraham Lincoln would be a Democrat today based on today’s political parties.

I and another Facebook user commented pointing this out, but of course the image poster doesn’t want to hear it. I researched this “swap” in a lot of depth a few years back.

Originally in the 1700s you had Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The Federalists wanted a central government (ie: Modern Day Democrats) while the anti-Federalists did not (ie: Modern Day Tea Party). Eventually the Anti-Federalists went away and the Federalists turned into the “Democrat Republicans”. After a few decades though this party was so big it split in two. The Republicans (Federalists) , who lived mostly up north, and the Democrats (Anti-Federalists), who lived mostly down south. Throughout the elections of the 1800s you can see this clear distinction:

Note that in each electoral map below the Red States voted Republican and the Blue States voted Democrat.

Election of 1860

 

Election of 1880

Theodore Roosevelt is one of the first major political figures to start the party swap. He won the Election of 1900. He hated how Big Business was corrupting the government and wanted to give more power back to the people. He was a huge opponent of Monopolies. After his second term he left office and eventually left the Republican Party because of how corrupted it was by businesses and monied interests. He started the Progressive Party (also known as the Bull Moose Party).

Election of 1908

 

Election of 1920

 

After Theodore Roosevelt left the party, the political parties and Presidential Candidates they elected slowly changed. (Note FDR and the New Deal.) People left one party and started joining another, but what sealed the deal was the Presidential term of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson championed civil rights and the Great Society which helped the poor and underprivileged:

Election of 1964

 

Looking at elections since then, you can see the swap has taken full effect:

Election of 1992

*Note Bill Clinton won many southern states due to his home state of Arkansas.

 

Election of 2012

 

 

So if anyone brags about how the Republicans were or are the champions of the poor and/or African American community, tell them the political parties swapped in the early to mid 1900s and ask them to look at the past two centuries worth of electoral maps.

What a Great Day to be a Republican…

First we find out that Global Warming is actually real, and then this: Ex-Reagan Economist: Idea That Deregulation Leads To Jobs ‘Just Made Up’.

Ouch!

And the Winner is…

Jon Stewart! Without a shadow of a doubt. Bill O’ the Clown can suck it.

Listen To The Lyrics

These lyrics are amazing.

Lupe Fiasco- Words I Never Said
ft. Skylar Grey

Lyrics:

[Skylar Grey]
It’s so loud inside my head
With words that I should have said
As I drown in my regrets
I can’t take back the words I never said
I can’t take back the words I never said

[Lupe Fiasco]
I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit
Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets
How much money does it take to really make a full clip
9/11 building 7 did they really pull it
Uhh, And a bunch of other cover ups
Your child’s future was the first to go with budget cuts
If you think that hurts then, wait here comes the uppercut
The school was garbage in the first place, that’s on the up and up
Keep you at the bottom but tease you with the uppercrust
You get it then they move you so you never keeping up enough
If you turn on TV all you see’s a bunch of “what the f-cks”
Dude is dating so and so blabbering bout such and such
And that ain’t Jersey Shore, homie that’s the news
And these the same people that supposed to be telling us the truth
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit
That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either
I’ma part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful
And I believe in the people.

[Skylar Grey]
It’s so loud inside my head
With words that I should have said
As I drown in my regrets
I can’t take back the words I never said
I can’t take back the words I never said

[Lupe Fiasco - Verse 2]
Now you can say it ain’t our fault if we never heard it
But if we know better than we probably deserve it
Jihad is not a holy war, wheres that in the worship?
Murdering is not Islam
And you are not observant
And you are not a Muslim
Israel don’t take my side cause look how far you’ve pushed them
Walk with me into the ghetto, this where all the Kush went
Complain about the liquor store but what you drinking liquor for?
Complain about the gloom but when’d you pick a broom up?
Just listening to Pac aint gone make it stop
A rebel in your thoughts, aint gon make it halt
If you don’t become an actor you’ll never be a factor
Pills with million side effects
Take em when the pains felt
Wash them down with Diet soda
Killin off your brain cells
Crooked banks around the world
Would gladly give a loan today
So if you ever miss payment
They can take your home away

[Skylar Grey]
It’s so loud inside my head
With words that I should have said
As I drown in my regrets
I can’t take back the words I never said, never said
I can’t take back the words I never said

[Lupe Fiasco - Verse 3]
I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence
Fear is such a weak emotion that’s why I despise it
We scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth
So scared of what you think of me, I’m scared of even telling you
Sometimes I’m like the only person I feel safe to tell it to
I’m locked inside a cell in me, I know that there’s a jail in you
Consider this your bailing out, so take a breath, inhale a few
My screams is finally getting free, my thoughts is finally yelling through

[Skylar Grey]
It’s so loud Inside my head
With words that I should have said
As I drown in my regrets
I can’t take back the words I never said

Giving Credit Where It’s Due

Osama Bin Laden is dead, and we have Barack Obama to thank. I’ll explain…

How I Found Out

This was the first time “Social Networking” has informed me of a major newsworthy event. A friend of mine, Jamie, left a very intriguing Facebook status:

“The President is about to address the nation live from the White House at 10:30. Something is going on…”

I thought that was very interesting. A Presidential speech at 10:30pm on a Sunday night was very strange. I clicked over to the Huffington Post whose headline was:

“NATO Accused Of Overstepping Libya Mandate After Airstrike Reportedly Kills Gaddafi’s Son”

I thought this was pretty important, but not major. Apparently Russia was pretty upset, which made me think, “Oh boy… is World War III about to kick off?” But then, 17 minutes after Jamie left that status, and still with no word from the President, some random person named Sarah who I’ve never met informed everyone on Jamie’s Facebook wall that, “Osama is dead.”

Peace flowed through my body like blood. I didn’t even contemplate it as a joke, which maybe I should have given it’s been almost 10 years since 9/11. I tuned to CNN on the TV who mentioned nothing of Osama, but saw another Facebook comment saying CBS News claimed he was dead. I went to their website and yes, there it was… Osama Bin Laden was declared dead.

Immediately I texted my friend who was stationed in Afghanistan several years ago, and then my father and brother who have heavy interest in the military. My grandfather was a gunner on a B-24 Bomber and my brother is enrolled in the Marines. An hour or so after I read Jamie’s comment, Barack finally made the announcement.

Why We Have Barack Obama to Thank

Obviously the first people we have to thank are the men and women in the service. Many have risked or sacrificed their lives defending this country and delivering justice overseas. We also have to commend Navy Seal Team Six for performing extraordinarily and doing a flawless job. (Reports say one helicopter had mechanical errors, but that’s not their fault.)

Next, the family members who have lost loved ones, had them injured, or have gone years without their family member, who was protecting us from harm. We also have to remember that just as our troops are fighting overseas, we have leaders both there and at home making the tough decisions of having to send our troops overseas, controlling where our troops go, and how much military assistance we should provide them.

What got me thinking about this was a comment someone named Ian left on another one of my friend’s statuses. My friend wrote, “We got that mofo!!!” to which Ian wrote:

“He’s been dead for years. This is just a re-election maneuver.”

His reaction makes me sick. I clicked on his name to see his page, and sure enough he’s a Libertarian. For those of you who don’t know, Libertarians are like Republicans on crack.

First of all, if Bush had killed Osama Bin Laden, don’t you think he would have loved to bask in the glory? First to have American’s celebrate that justice was delivered, but also to save his horrible approval ratings? He’s statistically going down as either the worst or 2nd worst president depending on how you review approval ratings (depending on overall or last taken data set). If Obama had killed Osama a year or two ago, do you think no one would find out? Not from troops leaking this, or the Taliban initiating attacks or making statements condemning America again? There is no way his death could be kept under wraps for more than a few weeks. Plus, he would have released this next year not in early 2011.

It disgusts me to see someone so bitter that when something great happens they can’t enjoy it because someone of the opposing party accomplished it.

The reason I’d like to congratulate Barack Obama as well is because it was his leadership that got us here. Look at this chart containing troop levels from 2002 to 2008:

For six years, from 2002 to 2008, Bush ordered 30,100 troops into Afghanistan. Barack Obama, in only 2.5 years, more than TRIPLED that. Let me repeat…. he more than TRIPLED that in less than 3 years. That was the only chart I could find, which has projections for 2009 and later. It turns out that by January 1, 2011 we had a little over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Bush was sending 157,800 troops into Iraq for weapons of mass destruction no apparent reason. Since Barack Obama took office, he has dwindled that down to approximately 44,000, which is right on target with the 2011 goal he presented in 2009.

If Barack hadn’t tripled our troops and sent them to the Afghanistan and Pakistan border I believe without a doubt that Osama would still be alive today (unless he died of natural causes). Those extra troops captured or killed numerous high-level Taliban leaders, especially in 2010. Extra investigators, negotiators, secret agents, and CIA officials tracked Osama down to Abbottābad and finally served him justice.

Barack had to make the tough choices, like hastily invading (possibly ill-prepared) last Fall when they discovered the compound Osama was in. Or bombing the place but risking losing any proof Osama died. Of all the options I read were on the table, sending in Team Six does seem like the best idea.

So to the ignorant, conspiracy-theorists, and bitter jerks like Ian I say, “How can you be so absurd? No rational person would think this is a re-election maneuver.”

To the people who say we shouldn’t celebrate because it took America 10 years to accomplish this, I ask, “Who did you vote for in 2000 and 2004? Because most likely it was for the person who irresponsibly sent more troops to Iraq than Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

And to the people like Rush Limbaugh who say, “Congratulations, President Obama, for continuing George W. Bush’s Anti-Terror Policies” I beg you to look at the facts: Barack withdrew unnecessary concentration from Iraq and put all his effort into Afghanistan and more importantly Pakistan. It’s called “efficiency”, something Bush knew nothing about. I honestly believe that had this level of hard work and efficiency started in 2002 this war could have taken half the time.

Right now we should be coming together with other Americans and thanking the President and all the men and women in our armed forces for making hard decisions and accomplishing a tough task. George Bush should get some credit, but I stress the word “some”. He was too busy with his own personal agenda and sending 157,000 troops in the wrong direction for 6 years, whereas Barack Obama sent approximately 100,000 in the right direction. But because Barack is a Democrat, and because he believes everyone should have decent health care and that we should take care of our environment and allow gays to marry, people like Ian and other right-wingers will never give him credit for his accomplishments.

I feel bad for them. Their narrow-mindedness will lead them throughout a life of pessimism and bitterness, not allowing them to join in the sweet, sweet victories like the one we had May 2nd, when the United States of America killed Osama Bin Laden and won the War in Afghanistan. Now let’s bring our troops home.

The World Awaits…

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  -Mark Twain

What an amazing quote. I just had to share it.

PS: I have now just finished my 200th blog post. It feels like only yesterday…

Sick of It.

Two days ago I read that all thirty-one Republicans on the House Energy And Commerce Committee voted on an amendment acknowledging that climate change was a real and serious issue that needed addressing. That’s it. No money allocated to it, no new laws, just a statement saying “Climate Change is Real”. Each and every Republicans voted “I’m an idiot” “Nay”, going against decades of scientific research.

Then, yesterday I read Obama’s Op-Ed piece encouraging the nation to have a serious talk about gun reforms, two months after the tragic shooting in Tucson. Sounds understandable. He said,

“The fact is, almost all gun owners in America are highly responsible. They’re our friends and neighbors. They buy their guns legally and use them safely, whether for hunting or target shooting, collection or protection. And that’s something that gun-safety advocates need to accept. Likewise, advocates for gun owners should accept the awful reality that gun violence affects Americans everywhere, whether on the streets of Chicago or at a supermarket in Tucson.”

He goes on to list three things he feels need addressing, which include enforcing laws already on the books, rewarding states that provide the best data, and a faster and nimbler background check system. Nowhere in his piece does he state taking away people’s guns. In fact, he clearly states,

“I believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms.”

So why then, do gun advocates go crazy with this theory that he’s going to take them away? What really got me was his prediction of how the talks would go:

“I know some aren’t interested in participating. Some will say that anything short of the most sweeping anti-gun legislation is a capitulation to the gun lobby. Others will predictably cast any discussion as the opening salvo in a wild-eyed scheme to take away everybody’s guns. And such hyperbole will become the fodder for overheated fundraising letters.”

And it’s already happening. Obama has asked both the main gun control advocacy group and the NRA to come to the table and join in a discussion about finding some common ground on this issues, which the NRA flatly turned down.

How are we supposed to solve problems and make sure both sides are represented fairly when one won’t even join in the talks? I now have no sympathy for them should assault weapons or high capacity magazines get banned. (Although my theory is that Obama wants to settle these three small issues and leave it at that, especially because the 2012 elections are coming up. Maybe then gun owners will also realize he’s not out for their guns.)

In fact, the NRA has already supported proposals preventing the sale of weapons to the mentally ill, strengthening the national system for background checks, and spurring the need for data sharing amongst states. So if there is already common ground on these three issues, why not come to the table and discuss them so your input is valued?

It’s because they live in fear. And their fear and pessimism disgusts me. The NRA’s reasoning was because Obama has a proven track record of standing against gun owners and never demonstrating support for them. In fact, this is a lie because the only two laws Obama has signed since his presidency began have been allowing guns on Amtrak trains and in National Parks.

So my questions to Republicans are as follows:

1. Please explain why the earth is heating up, and increasingly so since the advent of industrial revolution.

2. Please explain why the Arctic ice shelf is shrinking.

3. Please explain why joining in on a discussion about weapons is so difficult.

But then again, I guess I’m wasting my time. They probably won’t come to the table to discuss these anyway…

It’s the Inequality, Stupid.

As the protest in Wisconsin continues, I figure now may be a good time to write about my frustrations over the inequality in America. I was never a huge proponent of Unions growing up (I was in two), but a significant amount of history and research shows they may be more necessary than ever. A little history…

There is a great article posted on Mother Jones showing 11 charts that explain everything that’s wrong with America. For the past 30 years a huge portion of the nation’s economic growth has trickled up to the top one percent.

Americans have a fascination with becoming rich. We buy lottery tickets, watch shows like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, and the idea of a Free Market that will allow us to own a business and become filthy rich sounds amazing. But ever since the 1970′s America has  slowly deregulated the market and what we saw in 2008 was the collapse of the economy. Wall Street ran wild and now the top 20% richest Americans hold over 80% of the wealth. How ridiculous is that?!

Now if you look at household income, wages for middle and lower income families have remained stagnant since the 1970′s meanwhile the top 1% have skyrocketed from 500K to 2 million:

Deregulation and taxes are huge factors in this, both things in which Republicans have had their hand in. They deregulated the market allowing businesses to run wild (Reagan and Bush mostly, although Clinton did not help with repealing Glass Steagall), and they lowered taxes on the rich. When President Obama wanted to institute a 3% increase on the wealthy making 250K or more the Republicans had a fit. This would have brought them back up to the same rate they were paying during Clinton’s Presidency in which the economy boomed.

Now I know Republican’s don’t intentionally want to dismantle the economy, and I know lower taxes sound good on paper, but the reality is what they’re doing is incredibly harmful. It’s like a child who wants the freedom to play with a knife or eat candy to his heart’s content. It may seem fun and taste good but it’s harmful to one’s health. The Democratic Party has been statistically proven to be smarter. Studies have shown Democrats are more likely to go to college, and Blue States have a higher percentage of their population graduating with Bachelor’s Degrees or higher. The Democrats know that a regulated market with a progressive tax system, both of which are balanced and fair, work best.

Many countries in Europe are operating this way currently. Many have a VAT and Cap ‘N Trade system, which provides government revenue to give its people a cleaner environment and Universal Healthcare. Although taxes are slightly higher than Americans, studies have proven that they are happier:

Source: OECD

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says people in Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands are happiest with their lives, they are also countries with the highest tax rate. Denmark was one of the first countries to establish streamlined social services with relief for the sick, unemployed and elderly. Basically, get what you pay for in regards to taxes.

My point is that many Republican policies have failed, but yet some people don’t want to listen to the facts. They’d rather be blinded by ideological preferences or the soap opera the media provides. After the New Deal’s policies were in place and World War II came to an end, a regulated marketplace with union workers kept the middle class going, but that wasn’t good enough for corporate profits (It was in fact fine, but CEO’s became greedy). So while deregulating the marketplace the Republicans were also attacking unions:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

I know that unions shouldn’t be necessary, but in reality they are. They protect working Americans from the abuses of Big Business (Foxconn) and Big Government (China). If you have time watch Rachel Maddow’s great piece on Unions here, showing how they were responsible for creating the 8 hour workday, 5 day workweek, unemployment benefits and worker’s compensation.

We should all be alarmed. Now that Big Business has deregulated the market they will slay the unions next. It will all be over for the middle class, and we can welcome the Corporate States of America.