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This is a sort of self-serving post, really, although I do have something to offer readers with it.

I want to tell you about an amazing site I’ve discovered – The Lost Souls. If you’re looking for some really good music to listen to in your travels about the interwebs, this is THE place to be. With an eclectic mix of music covering almost every genre imaginable, and some really nice, friendly people in the shout box, you won’t regret stopping by and registering with the site.

You will need to become a registered user there, but it’s free – unless you want to donate to a good cause. You’ll also need to read and abide by the site rules, but they’re nothing that you haven’t agreed to in the past at other sites, I’m sure.

Now, for the self-serving part: In the very near future, I’ll be joining the ranks of the volunteer online DJs at the site! That’s right – love me, hate me, whatever, now you can actually talk to me in person! Aren’t you just thrilled to death? I thought you might be…

So, if you want to check out some good tunes, as well as other content, and get in on some fun chatter with other members, check out the following link:

The Lost Souls

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So, I saw a commercial this morning that’s railing against the idea of taxing certain food items. Please note that I’m using the word “food” very loosely here. I’ll explain that in a moment.

The commercial, which is paid for by a group called Americans Against Food Taxes, features a woman in the grocery store complaining about the once-proposed taxes on some foods. Known as the “fat tax,” it targeted, basically, junk food. It’s important to note that this tax is no longer being considered on the national level, though some states are still contemplating it. In the commercial, a two-liter bottle of soda is placed in the woman’s cart, and then shown again, in a close up, as she starts to check out her groceries. Here’s the commercial:

Now, here’s what bothers me about this commercial. First, the actress states:

“…trying to control what we eat and drink with taxes. Give me a break! I can decide what to buy without government help.”

Can you? Really? Statistics would tell us that in fact you can’t. More than one third of American children are overweight or obese. Did you catch that number? One third – as in 33% – of the kids in the United States are overweight or obese. Almost every expert on the planet will tell you that this is the result of the kinds of foods kids eat and a lack of adequate exercise. As a nation of adults who grew up on fast food now begins to have children of their own, more and more junk food is being stuffed into the mouths of kids who are more and more overweight.

So, please don’t tell me that parents can make responsible decisions about what their kids are going to eat. Too often, it’s completely out of their hands; if it’s not, then too often those parents give in to the whining and let their kids demand to be fed a diet that consists primarily of utter crap. If taxing that garbage will help cut down on how much of it kids consume, then I’m all for it. We already tax tobacco and alcohol because of health issues, so why not junk food? It makes sense to me.

After seeing the commercial, I decided to go and take a look at the group’s web site. A couple of things became glaringly clear to me. Remember, the food item focused on in the commercial was a bottle of soda. When you visit the site, this is one of the first bits of reading material that greets you:

Our coalition members are doing their part, too. Beverage companies have cut calories from beverages available in schools by 88 percent by removing full-calorie soft drinks and replacing them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverage choices. They have also committed to placing new labels clearly listing calories on the front label of their beverages. Not to mention they are producing fewer total beverage calories for the marketplace through the innovation of more no- and low-calorie beverages. From 1998-2008, industry cut the total beverage calories it brought to market by 21 percent.

Visit the web site by clicking HERE

So, guess what? A little more digging for facts, which aren’t exactly concealed on the website (How many people actually read those “About Us” links on a web site?), turns this up:

The group [Americans Against Food Taxes] is spearheaded by the American Beverage Association, which represents the makers of sodas and other drinks. According to Advertising Age, the American Beverage Association decided to form the coalition in June 2009, when the idea of taxing sodas and other sweet beverages was being considered as a way to fund the Democratic health care bill. The coalition includes dozens of members, including 7-Eleven, Inc., Burger King Corp., Domino’s Pizza, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, McDonalds, the National Association of Convenience Stores, Snack Food Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group, Inc.

From Politifact.com – read the full article by clicking HERE

You’ll forgive me if I tend to be cynical about the motives of these companies. They are profit driven; the health of the people who consume the crap that they produce really doesn’t enter into their business model, except when it might affect those profits. I mean, please – are you shitting me? McDonald’s as a champion of healthy eating by kids? Yeah, and I was abducted by aliens last night who performed all sorts of interesting and invasive experiments on me before returning me to my bed this morning.

I’m not a fan of having to pay more taxes, believe me. Let’s face it, though, if something isn’t done to stop the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country, the long-term costs are going to be a whole lot more expensive than the couple of percentage points in taxes that might be placed on junk food. Bluntly – and harshly, I admit – parents need to grow a pair. They need to get firm: “No, you cannot have a Happy Meal for dinner again. Now, be quiet and eat your broccoli!”

Unfortunately, it seems that the parents of 33% of our children just can’t find it in themselves to do that. Until they do, perhaps the government needs to step in and make them pay for it.

If you’re going to neglect your kids to that extent – and I do consider it to be, at the very least, neglect – then you deserve whatever price you have to pay for your inaction.

I received an email recently, one of those “Please forward this email to twenty people” deals. I normally don’t do that, but in this case, I decided to do as the email asked. I sent it on. Here’s the contents of that email:

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971…before computers, before e-mail, before cell phones, etc.

Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land…all because of public pressure.

I’m asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed around.

Congressional Reform Act of 2011

1. Term Limits.

12 years only, one of the possible options below.

A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!! If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.

You are one of my 20+. Please keep it going.

‘Nuff said…

They’re at it again. This time, they haven’t just stepped over the line of decency, they’ve jumped across and landed about twenty miles on the wrong side of the line that separates decency from vileness. Make no mistake, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church have gone completely over the edge.

God hates fags. God hates Jews. God hates America. God hates American soldiers. God hates Catholics. And apparently, if you believe this mentally impaired bunch of idiots, God’s hatred of Catholics extends to nine-year-old little girls who are murdered by a deranged killer. She died because God hates the church that her parents were raising her in.

I don’t advocate violence. On the other hand, I would be happy to organize a celebration should Phelps happen to fall victim to one of these killers that he tends to glorify for his own ends. His group plans to picket the funerals of all six victims who were killed in the Tuscon shooting incident, but the most sickening action is the plan to picket the funeral of a nine-year-old child.

I’m going to go you one better, Fred. God hates you. God hates the Westboro Baptist Church. Let’s go into some mythology, and put it into words that perhaps you’ll understand. God hates you and your followers because you are the instruments of evil. I’ll tell you who loves you, Fred. Satan loves you. You carry out his work quite efficiently.

Christina Taylor-Green was by all accounts a precocious little girl with a strong interest in politics. She was at the political function with a family friend because politics interested her, and she wanted to experience first hand a part of the political process. According to the WBC, this, coupled with the fact that God hates Catholics, is the reason that God sent someone to cut short her young life.

You know what, Fred? If you believe the things you’ve said, then your fucking God is Satan. Your fucking God is evil incarnate.

Christina was born on the day of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Her short life spanned the time between two horrible tragedies in this country. Now, her parents are left to mourn her loss, and these people have decided that her death was an act of God – not simply a God who allowed it to happen, but who sent the killer to bring her and others down. According to Phelps, she was targeted by God.

I don’t understand what is wrong with some people. I’m pretty cynical, really, but I like to think that I have some measure of compassion and empathy. To blatantly use the death of a little girl to push forward a demented religious doctrine, and grab some more headline space, is simply unforgivable.

May you rot in hell, Fred, and all of your followers along with you. There’s a fair chance that I may see you there, and if I do, well, let’s just say that finding you in hell along with me would go a long way towards turning my hell into a paradise.

Dumbing Them Down

This is a sort of continuation of my post about stupid Americans. It’s political in nature, but only loosely so, really – I’m not going to attack Republicans or Democrats or Independents. This post is about what has come to be called the “dumbing down” of American children, and how our education system is deliberately (if you listen to some people), setting about turning people into mindless automatons. As an example of what I want to look at, I’m going to tell you a very short anecdote.

The other day, in anticipation of an impending snowstorm, I was watching CNN. The weather person came on the screen, with her map behind her. On the map were descriptions of expected snow accumulation in various regions of the northeast United States. For example, the wording should have read something like, “6”-12″,” “4”-8″,” etc. In one location, I saw this phrase on the map: “Less then 12″.” The people who work for these broadcasters supposedly are college educated, and should have a basic grasp of the english language. “Then?” “Less THEN?” Than! It’s “THAN,” not “THEN.” Jesus fucking jumped up Christ on a stick, what the hell is going on here?

Now, I understand that taken by itself, this is just an amusing little faux pas in broadcasting. The problem is, I see it as a reflection of a widespread problem. I see this particular thing happen constantly now – someone arbitrarily switches up and uses the word “then” in place of the word “than.” Poke around on the World Wide Web, and you’ll see it all over the place. I find it to be one tiny indication of a much wider phenomenon that’s taking place: We’re being turned into a nation – no, a world – of mindless idiots.

Language is the essence of communication. It is the means by which we communicate our thoughts and ideas to others. The mastery of language is slipping to a lower and lower level, along with just about every other field of study that our children are force fed on a daily basis. I say “force fed” because what we teach our kids, and the way that we teach them, are not in any way, shape or form educational. These things are making us, as a society, more and more stupid. But let’s stay with language for a moment. Then we’ll look at the so-called conspiracy that’s taking place. I’m just here to pass on some information that I’ve found. I’ll leave any important decisions to you.

What follows is a graphic that I found some time back in my travels around the web. We use language to communicate, and in order for our communication to be understandable, there has to be consistency in the language that we use. If there is no consistency, then less and less can be communicated in an understandable way. I apologize in advance for the rather ridiculous over-use of profanity, although, I also symnpathize with the reason it was being used:

Okay, so the person who put this together made a few mistakes of their own, but the point is still more than valid. As comedy, it went a bit over the top – to me, less is more, but hey, I didn’t write it, and it seems to be seeing a lot more exposure than I’m used to. At any rate, I’m not going to delve into other fields of academic endeavor here. I think that we can all agree on the fact that American standards of education are being lowered more and more, almost year by year.

What I’d really like to look at is why this is happening. There must be some reason for it, don’t you think? I mean, it really does not make sense that we as a society are in the midst of an intellectual devolution. Human beings, and in fact, most forms of life, are supposed to be in a constant state of evolution – that is, a state where improvements are constantly coming into play. So, why is it that our level of overall intelligence seems to be slowly coming undone?

I’m not a conspiracy nut. Well, not a full-blown, tin foil hat wearing conspiracy nut, anyway. I do believe that there is far more kept from us than most people are aware of. More frightening, I think that the majority of people do not even want to know how much is kept from us. No, I don’t think that Area 51 holds the bodies of alien visitors and the wreckage of their space craft. When it comes to our educational system, I have not yet formed my own, complete opinion of what is happening. But I’ve been reading and listening to enough material that I have to wonder: Is the dumbing down of our society a deliberate act?

There is an accepted tenet of sociology which states that it is in the best interests of those who are in the highest social strata to always have a large pool of under-educated, lower class people at their disposal. What better way to assure that this pool exists? Keep them dumbed down, and they will always be there for you.

Schools seem, to me at least, to have become centers not of learning, but of socialization. While I won’t try to downplay the importance of social skills, it’s my belief that they have become the overall goal of our public schools. Education has taken a back seat to learning how to be a social creature. Yes, social skills are important if one is to function successfully in a society. But those skills should not come at the expense of useful and important knowledge.

At the risk of sounding like my parents, when I was a kid…

When I was a kid in school, if a student didn’t measure up in the acquisition of certain key elements of knowledge, that student was held back and forced to repeat the grade level that he or she had failed. Some kids were held back for two or more years. That no longer happens, because (and I’m quoting a school official here), “it would be socially detrimental to the child to hold him back and put him in a group of younger students.” Translation: It doesn’t matter if he has the intelligence of an ant, as long as he is socially comfortable.

When I was a kid in school, I was encouraged to investigate. Yes, I had to learn my multiplication tables, and learn a lot of things by rote. But I was also encouraged to look into things, rather than simply taking as fact the word of one teacher. I remember being in the fourth or fifth grade, and asking about the gravity on the moon. When told that gravity on the moon is about one-sixth that of earth, I wanted to know just how we knew that. My teacher, who probably didn’t know herself, encouraged me to look into it. I wrote to a contributor to the Encyclopedia Britannica, asking him that very question. He responded immediately, explaining the (to me, at least), complex mathematical formulas that are used to calculate such things. Not only did I learn the answer to my question, I also learned something about the importance of mathematics.

My point is that it seems to me that this spirit of investigation, of discovering the pleasure to be found in the acquiring of knowledge, is being discouraged, if not almost completely forbidden in our schools now. When we brought about the government mandated, results-oriented education system known as “No Child Left Behind,” the schools responded promptly by lowering standards, which assured them high test results. Thank you, Dubyah…

If you believe some of the more radical conspiracy theories out there, this dumbing down of America is part of a global conspiracy, being used to bring about a new world order and a global economy. I don’t know if this is in fact true, and frankly, I don’t believe that it is – at least, no one has yet offered up a reasonable explanation as to why this might be the case. However, the methods being used to dumb down our children are, from what I can see, quite real.

If one wishes to take a look at this process, there are several good books on the subject. Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt has written a fascinating look at the topic called, the deliberate dumbing down of america. From her web site:

Charlotte Iserbyt is the consummate whistleblower! Iserbyt served as Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI), U.S. Department of Education, during the first Reagan Administration, where she first blew the whistle on a major technology initiative which would control curriculum in America’s classrooms. Iserbyt is a former school board director in Camden, Maine and was co-founder and research analyst of Guardians of Education for Maine (GEM) from 1978 to 2000. She has also served in the American Red Cross on Guam and Japan during the Korean War, and in the United States Foreign Service in Belgium and in the Republic of South Africa. Iserbyt is a speaker and writer, best known for her 1985 booklet Back to Basics Reform or OBE: Skinnerian International Curriculum and her 1989 pamphlet Soviets in the Classroom: America’s Latest Education Fad which covered the details of the U.S.-Soviet and Carnegie-Soviet Education Agreements which remain in effect to this day. She is a freelance writer and has had articles published in Human Events, The Washington Times, The Bangor Daily News, and included in the record of Congressional hearings.

A well-known educator, John Taylor Gatto has also exposed what he calls a conspiracy to dumb down American children. There’s a great deal of information at his web site. From Gatto’s site:

No one in America today is better qualified to report on the true condition of our government education system than John Taylor Gatto, the now-famous educator who spent 26 years teaching in six different schools in New York City and quit because he could no longer take part in a system that destroys lives by destroying minds.

In 1990 the New York “Senate named Mr. Gatto New York City Teacher of the Year. The speech he gave at that occasion, “The Psychopathic School,” amounted to a devastating indictment of public education (reprinted in BEL, May 1991, under the title “Why Schools Don’t Educate”). In 1991 Mr. Gatto was named New York State Teacher of the Year, at which occasion he gave a speech, “The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher,” so insightful of the wrong-headedness of public education that it will probably become a classic in educational literature.

These two remarkable speeches, plus several others, including one entitled “We Need Less School, Not More,” were published in book form last year. And what a powerful book it is, only 104 pages long, readable in one or two sittings. With Outcome-Based Education being imposed on schools across America, we will get much more school, not less, and the content of that schooling will produce far more confusion than we already have.

And finally, there is a lot of useful – and not so useful – information to be had on this web site, called The Dumbing Down of Society: It Is An Agenda.”

There was a time when American students grew up to be some of the most talented and competitive adults in the industrialized world, bringing about innovations and advances that were the envy of the rest of the world. Now, the United States can no longer compete. Why? Because, in my opinion, we are “educating” that competitive drive right out of our children. It starts young, this “education.” In sports leagues, to be precise. There are no longer winning teams or losing teams in children’s athletics, at least, not early on. Everyone gets a reward for participating, regardless of the outcome of the game. And you know, that almost makes sense. Except, what happened to the act of participation being a reward in and of itself? I didn’t need to bring home a tiny trophy that told everyone I played in the game. I knew, my parents knew, etc. If my team lost, that was an incentive to work harder and prepare more thoroughly for the next game. Now though, why should a kid work harder? He or she is going to get a trophy regardless of who wins and who loses.

We are educating our children right out of the competition. Perhaps one day, your child can grow up to be that college educated person who doesn’t know the difference between “then” and “than.”

Scare Tactics Now?

Ascentive, do you think I’m completely stupid? Comments to this blog must be approved by me before they’re posted. Did you honestly think I’d approve that little piece of irrelevant drivel?

Again, since I’ve not posted my full name to this blog, and since the folks at Ascentive have managed to track me down, the so-called comment that was submitted most likely came from someone there. If you think that trying to “expose” me to the world will intimidate me, you are very, very mistaken. Your comment wound up in the spam trap here, so, nice try, but it won’t work.

The things you tried to post are irrelevant to this topic. Your attempt to “expose” me is simply an indication of the kind of tactics that your company employs. For the rest of the readers of this blog, I’d like to post some links – just a few – to other sites that have discussed Ascentive, FinallyFast.com, and the products they sell:

The Blade
Workbench
Tech Support Guy
Whirlpool Forums
Web Of Trust

* I apologize to the sites above – I fear that Ascentive may come after them now.

I have many, many more, but you get the point.

So, Ascentive, do you see? No one has to take my word for it – I did my homework before posting my horrible comments about your bogus product. I even tested your product, as did several other sites that I visited.

If you think that threatening to “expose” me will scare me into backing off, you are quite mistaken. I was quite content when I made my first post about you to simply leave it at that, and move on. Now, though, I will make it my mission to post as much negative information about your company as I can, in every venue that I have occasion to visit on the web. Negative, factual information. You see, it is factual that your product is useless, that it infects customers machines with viruses, spyware, malware and adware, and that the things that it does do to improve performance are easily done by any user with even a minimum level of technical skills. Those are facts that you cannot escape, because they have been documented by many other sources, not just by me.

We can continue is this little game that you seem intent on playing with me, or you can just drop it, and move on. It really makes no difference to me.

A small update to my last post:

I believe that I may have upset someone. I received a phone call a little while ago, which I was not here to take. The caller placed three calls, one without leaving a message, a second call in which the caller did leave a message, and a third which again had no message. Apparently, someone has read this post, and they’re upset with me. The message that was left says:

Hello, Stephen, my name is Elizabeth, and I was just on your web site, and was calling for more information. So if you could give me a call back, my number is ###-###-####. Thanks.

The number given in the message is not the number that appeared on my caller ID screen; however, the number on the screen is listed as belonging to Ascentive Software, 201 Spring Garden St., Philadelphia, PA. The number left in the message is someone’s cell phone number – I’m assuming that it belongs to Elizabeth.

That was very fast work. I’ve never posted my home phone number in this blog. Nor, to the best of my recollection, have I ever posted my full name – although, I may have. I’m not going to go combing through my blog to find out. If I am correct about that, then the only name connected with me is my mother’s name. Someone did some quick work in finding out how to contact me at home.

Now, I’m not an egotist. I know that this blog doesn’t see an enormous amount of traffic. Actually, I know exactly how much traffic this blog sees, and I can assure you, it’s not that much. This leads me to believe that either a very unlikely coincidence occurred – someone from Ascentive just happened to stumble across my blog here – or (and far more likely to me), Ascentive has their eyes and ears open so they can step in and do some damage control when things like my last post appear on the net. They must be very busy tracking this stuff, because there are countless web pages on the internet talking trash about FinallyFast.com. If they find my obscure little corner of the internet to be threatening, then they’re really in trouble.

So, for you folks at Ascentive, pay attention. I will not communicate with you verbally. If you wish to communicate with me, you can respond to my post about FinallyFast here on the blog, or you can send any correspondence to me at my home address. Since you tracked down my phone number so quickly, I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding my snail mail address. Be sure that you send any correspondence by certified mail, please, and I’ll do the same when I respond. I’m not going to put myself in the position of engaging in any communication with you that is not of a written nature. That way, there can be no “he said, she said” inconsistencies cropping up.