Class Warfare Blog

September 17, 2014

I’m Shocked, I Tell You, Shocked!

Why is it that we are shocked by the obvious?

  • The NFL now admits that one in three players of NFL football will suffer from brain trauma. Who would have figured that harm would come from using one’s head as a blunt instrument?
  • In the education debate we now find out that poverty is a trap for school kids. Who would have thought that being hungry would inhibit paying attention in school. It doesn’t make sense, at least to Republicans.
  • The current job market would be “normal” except for a greatly reduced number of government jobs. Who would have guessed that government jobs were real jobs? Certainly not our legislators, who have real government jobs.
  • Study after study is showing that charter schools, even the “for profit” ones, really perform no better than ordinary public schools and often a lot worse. Who would have guessed that extracting profits from a school wouldn’t have improved it?
  • We consider an “army” of 400-10,000 ISIS “soldiers” rampaging around Iraq a threat to our national security. And I thought pulling that blanket over my head at night would keep me safe but, no, there are Jihadists in the suburbs of Chicago! Whatever happened to the president’s policy of “self-determination?” If the Iraqis are so threatened, why aren’t they fighting for themselves? These brutal idiots are no threat to the United States. Who is kidding whom?

 

September 13, 2014

Time to Cut the Crap

Filed under: Education — Steve Ruis @ 7:59 am
Tags: , , , ,

The current corporate takeover of public education effort has lead to a wide-spread discussion of public education, which is probably good. What is not good are the bullshit memes that we drag over our eyes during such discussions. Recently I read an article that began “A school is a sacred place.” Really? Another article stated “Our children are our most precious resource.” Really?

It’s time to cut the crap.

Schools are not sacred spaces. We certainly do not treat them as such and they have nothing in common with the places people agree upon as being sacred. Children are not precious. Sure we think our own are, but other people’s kids? Not so much.

Schools are schools and kids are kids.

To drive this point home a bit more, please realize that one of the roles expected of public schools is the indoctrination of our children. That’s right, not education, indoctrination. Children are not given information and expected to make up their own minds. The information they are given is slanted as only the best propaganda is. Kids are not expected to conclude that the U.S. is a great country, they are taught this (and it will be on the test). In our history, the shameful bits are eliminated, covered up, or glossed over. The shameful details of the basically good parts of our history are left out as obscuring the “main message.” In Texas, school books are written to point out that slavery wasn’t such a bad deal … for slaves! In fact we were civilizing the heathens and bringing them the “one true religion.” I can’t wait to hear what Texas has to say about Native Americans. An honest appraisal would be “sure they were here first, but we had more guns.” I don’t expect that point to be made.

Most fights over school curricula (what is actually taught) are between different false versions of what scholars believe. In other words, the truth is irrelevant, the spin put on it is.

If we want to have an honest discussion about the role and effectiveness of public education we need to look at it honestly and openly. I am not holding my breath until that happens.

 

The Wrong “I” Word

The NFL has decided that one of their many fouled up domestic abuse cases (Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens) is fouled up enough to require an “independent” investigation. So, they hired a former FBI Director to do such an investigation. There is only one problem. The investigator is being paid by the NFL.

Change the word “independent” in “independent investigation” to “internal” and it will be correct. And we all know how useful internal investigations into corporate misconduct have been.

And to make sure that things will come out “right,” the person hired has a long contractural history with eh NFL and two NFL owners, each with close ties to the Commissioner, will “oversee” the “investigation.”

September 12, 2014

The Missing Question: Then What?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:35 am
Tags: , , ,

Of the many neocons and others saying we must go “all in” on ISIS/ISIL and send in American troops to do the work that must be done, nobody is asking the right questions. Here’s what should be asked: “Okay, so we go ‘all in’ with ‘boots on the ground,’ then what?” They will say something like “we will kick those mofos back to the Stone Age,” or the equivalent. Fine, then what?

Uhhh …

I’ll tell you “what then;” we will either stay or leave. If we leave, we leave behind a power vacuum (by definition) which was how ISIS/ISIL got started in the first place. If we stay (Residual force! Residual force!) we will be viewed by the rest of the world as an occupying force and we will be losing the lives and limbs of U.S. servicemen in a steady trickle to guerilla tactics from that point onward. This occupation will be used as a recruiting point for Islamic militants as long as it is occurring. Plus we will be paying billions of dollars for this for … how long?

We need to ask “then what?” over and over.

And when somebody responds with something sensible-sounding to “then what,” we need to ask “Can you give me an example of when we did that in the past and it worked?” I suspect those who get past the “then what” question will not get past this one.

September 9, 2014

Should We Formalize “Pay for Play?”

Last night on the Chris Matthews show (Hard Ball) on MSNBC, regarding the “little things” that politicians do for large donors, like grant them ambassador positions in the case of the President, host Chris Matthews asked “If politicians can’t do things for the people who gave them money, why would they continue to give them money?”

I can’t tell whether Mr. Matthews was drunk or otherwise impaired but he seemed to be thinking about the fallout of the corruption trial of the former Governor of Virginia, Governor Ultrasound, whatshisname. A juror in that trial basically stated they wanted no gifts, no favors, etc. done by their politicians.

WTF?

So now our politicians are supposed to provide services for donors, above and beyond services to constituents? Let me say this as straight as I can. There should be no special services donors get, none, zero, zip, nada. They get no night in the Lincoln bedroom in the White House, no ambassadorship, no Presidential attendance at their daughter’s wedding, no special meetings with bureaucrats with the implication that favors will be done … nothing!

If they can’t donate their money out of more noble motives, then they shouldn’t donate the money.

Sheesh! Does Chris Matthews read these things before speaking them on the air? Does he want a tacit quid pro quo system in place?

What made this country great was an abundance of natural resources and a culture that didn’t require you to bribe your mailman to get the mail delivered. And Mr. Matthews wants to trade that in for a “negotiate everything” system? Amazing!

September 8, 2014

Secularism Under Assault (Is There a War on Secularism?)

A recent letter to the editors of Spectrum, published in Cedar City, Utah, USA (USA!, USA!, USA!) entitled “Some Things are Beyond Comprehension,” is quoted as saying:

The Theory of Evolution is the only acceptable explanation for human existence allowed to be taught in public schools these days. No creation allowed. References to any religious ideas about how and when humans populated the world have been replaced with metal detectors and closed campuses. Students are locked in, and God is locked out.”

Ah, the separation of Church and State, assailed again.

But is this Christianity under assault or our secular schools under assault?

Around this country, every Sunday, in evangelical churches the Theory of Evolution is under attack. Is the Theory fairly represented or are these kangaroo courts? The Creationists say that scientists accept the Theory of Evolution on faith, just like Christians accept the mumbo-jumbo in their bible on faith, so every Sunday in these Churches, the faith of these mild, meek, often Christian scientists is being attacked, viciously, without provocation or an ability to be defended.

Have those scientists asked for equal time in their churches? No.

Have the Creationists asked for equal time in secular schools? Yes.

Do scientists publish books and pamphlets excoriating the beliefs of Christians? No.

Do Creationists publish books and pamphlets excoriating the beliefs of evolutionary biologists? Yes.

I ask you, who is making war upon whom?

On one side you have simple scientists, despised because of their intelligence, allowing Nature to tell them its story. On the other are fundamentalist Christians, saying “Are you going to believe our book, the one with thousands of contradictions and inconsistencies, or your lying eyes?”

I ask you, who is making war on whom?

Regarding “References to any religious ideas about how and when humans populated the world have been replaced …” We accept allowing such references to be included in school classrooms but only if they include the creation story of Egyptians who believed that the world of people began when a god masturbated. His seed, falling on fallow ground, populated the world. Blessed be He.

***

This message is brought to you by the Institute for Common Sense, an organization formed to balance claims of American Exceptionalism.

September 4, 2014

Trying Not to Do Something Stupid

President Obama has been roundly criticized for his “policy” of “when you don’t know what to do, try not to do something stupid.” This criticism is unwarranted.

Consider the videoed executions of two American journalists. Just these two acts has the neocons frothing at the mouth, saying “We must do something, anything (war, actually), to stop this!” I. too, would like to see this stopped, but the process in my mind doesn’t start with “war” as the only option. I start with the Five Whys and you probably only need one or two “whys” to see the motives behind this. And, I really would like to understand their motives before I decide on a course of action because, otherwise, I might just do what they want me to do, which will be “something stupid,” by definition.

So, why is ISIS/ISIL doing this? How does this benefit them? The simplest answer is that they are doing a box office business in kidnapping ransoms. Kidnapping ransoms have been in the millions of dollars for individual Europeans. But Great Britain and the U.S. have policies that their governments do not pay ransoms (although private citizens may). The argument is “if it works for the kidnappers, then the result will be more kidnappings.” (Even free market conservatives should be able to understand that.) So, since ransoms are not being paid ($132,000,000 was requested for the return of one of the American journalists subsequently assassinated) these public assassinations are designed to goad the U.S. and G.B. into doing so. And, talk about ROI; a cell phone video uploaded to YouTube, a sharp knife, and plastic handcuffs cost very little.

Let’s not stop there, let’s ask “why” one more time. So, why is ISIS/ISIL doing this?

Another reason is to goad the U.S. to getting involved in the land war again. Remember Osama bin Laden? He stated quite publically the goal that he wanted to get the U.S. to engage in war in the Middle East so as to bankrupt us. A couple of trillion dollars later and, well, did we learn anything? The results of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars? The region is no better off, one could say is worse off, than it was before. So, obviously, our position should be “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” (It is if you ask John McCain.)

U.S. involvement in a ground war in the Middle East has done wonders for recruitment and funding for radicals there. Huge amounts of the money we spent there went to lining the pockets of corrupt officials who then ended up supporting one or another of the currently warring factions. Once you get a taste for American money, it is hard to give it up, so they want more. They don’t particularly care if hundreds or hundreds of thousands of civilians get killed as collateral damage, it is all good. Recruiting is good, there are plenty of weapons and cash flying about. Hoo rah!

So, President Obama’s policy of “not doing anything stupid” comes into play here, quite nicely as a matter of fact. Doing what they want us to do would be stupid. Going back in to “clean out ISIS/ISIL” would be stupid, because we would either leave (stupid) or stay (stupid) afterward. So, what should we do?

To begin with, we should stop showing videoed executions. It is that simple. Remember back in the last century when people/fans used to run out on the playing fields during professional sporting events, often without any clothes on (Streakers!)? Have you noticed that does happen any more (the exception being soccer as they haven’t figured it out)? This “problem” was solved quite simply. The leagues got the people under contract to broadcast their games to not display the people running around on the field. So, the idiots doing this could not go home and show the recorded video to all of their friends and neighbors because there was no video record. The payoff for the idiocy on the field was they got a night in jail and a fine, and no notoriety.

But, but, if we, the public, aren’t informed as to what is going on, how will we know what policy to support? Hello, what planet did you wake up on? Our governments don’t even pay lip service to serving the public any more. If our politicians actually listened to us, we would have legalized pot, we would have mandatory background checks for all firearm purchases, we would have “jobs, jobs, jobs,” food stamps for poor people, universal health care, etc., etc. Public notice of such assassinations can be made in small text only boxes on “page 2” as it were. To put things into perspective, remember the PBS honor roll of the soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan on Friday of every week. Name after name of young men whose lives were cut off before they could fulfill their destinies, every damned week. And we are going to war over a couple of journalists? (I do not trivialize the personal loss, but merely would like to bring things into perspective.)

If ISIS/ISIL doesn’t get all of the free publicity we are currently providing, they will probably stop because the ROI is vanishingly small. Why assassinate Americans when Europeans will pay for their kidnapped? Playing an assassination video in just the Islamic World may acquire a few recruits but the lack of evidence that they mean anything in the US will relegate them to “been there, done that” status and so will prove ineffective for the purposes outline above.

Hey, gang, I’ve an idea! Let’s not do anything stupid!

September 3, 2014

Labor Day BS

A Labor Day editorial in the NY Times, that bastion of liberalism (not!), thanked the Union Movement for its many contributions to the current state of American labor: the 40-hour work week, 8-hour work day, weekends, overtime pay, Social Security (yes, SS wouldn’t have happened except for organized labor), and on and on and then went on to comment that the number of union jobs in this country has dropped dramatically over the last 35 years (unlike out northern neighbor Canada, which has seen its level of union jobs stay pretty much constant over that same time period). The NYT quickly segued to how Congressional gridlock might be overcome to bolster the American Union Movement.

The point they missed is what happened to the American Labor Movement over the last 35 years was not an accident. Not only that, but the current gridlock of Congress and the decline of labor in this country have the same cause, so looking at how gridlock could be transcended is ridiculous on the face of it. The gridlock is there to prevent any such actions.

If you look at union vs. non-union wages in this country, union jobs pay more than non-union jobs whether you are White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, male or female. That is why the middle class should be pro-union (but is not because of the “family values and race cards” being played) and why business interests are anti-union.

It is no accident that since 1980, American productivity has risen steadily, but wages have been decoupled from that productivity. Since WWII, as workers became more productive, their wages increased … until 1980 when wages went flat but productivity continued on up and up. This was no accident or “natural” factor of market economies. This was because of a campaign by conservative think tanks (funded by people like the Koch Brothers) to get conservative representatives elected to Congress and the state houses. These people then passed legislation at every turn to disadvantage labor unions. (Thank you, ALEC!) As just one example the Labor Relations Board, created to oversee labor problems, has been crippled because Congress will not allow Democrats put anyone who is pro-labor on that board. When a Republican is in the White House, they are all in favor of filling all of the empty seats. Since Obama was elected, not a one. The same strategy was employed to make sure that the Supreme Court is dominated by Conservative Activist Judges.

Let’s stop pretending that the Fall of American Labor “just happened” and address the real reasons for it and the real repercussions from it.

I Saw The Headline and Thought …

I saw a news headline today: “DNA Clears North Carolina Inmates After 30 Years in Prison” and thought “They’re black.”

Got it in one.

Just sayin’!

And … there is absolutely no evidence that police departments, even Black police officers, illegally and immorally target Black Americans. Nope, nothing to see here, so move along.

PS People seem to believe that Black cop on Black American brutality somehow exonerates White cops. It does not. It merely shows that having a police mentality doesn’t require a white skin. All it requires is the ability to separate “good Blacks” from “bad Blacks” and you’re in. You are indistinguishable from the corrupt, racist white Cops who see “good Blacks” (Black Cops) and “bad Blacks” (all others). See Chris Rock’s rant on the difference between “African Americans” and “N—-rs.”

September 2, 2014

Are Black Americans Disproportionately Targeted by the Police?

The pundit class has been debating the point of whether Black Americans are disproportionately targeted by the police: targeted for traffic tickets, targeted for searching and questioning, targeted with guns. Most say “there aren’t enough data to say anything definitively.”

Really?

I am old enough to have lived through the Civil Rights Movement. I have heard generations of Black comics talk about the violations they call “driving while Black,” “walking while Black,” and “standing while Black.” I have read and seen myriad stories about this: the most recent was a Black man was arrested because he was sitting on a bench waiting for his kids to get out of school. So, add “sitting while Black” to the list.

I have a novel idea, if we really want to know how Black Americans are treated by the police …

… we could ask them.

They’ve been telling us about it for decades if not centuries, but this time we could, you know, listen.

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