Class Warfare Blog

December 5, 2019

Well, Now They Know

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 7:45 am
Tags: , ,

In the news was this: “A furious Donald Trump cut short his attendance at the NATO summit in London after a group of leaders, including Boris Johnson, was caught on video ridiculing the US president at Buckingham Palace for staging lengthy press conferences.” (Source: The Guardian)

So now they know how to get rid of them. Next time there is a confab, don’t be surprised if they don’t stage the Trump chit chat right at the beginning, giving them the hope of having a productive meeting, without the Great Disruptor.

The cardinal rules of politics include “never let them see you sweat,” and “never let them know what your real motivations are.” Since Trump is only a politician by definition, he is unaware of these things. Interestingly, the same principles apply to high-level business, which shows that Trump is only a businessman by definition also.

December 4, 2019

The Hero: A Book Report

Filed under: Culture,language,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:33 am
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I finished reading The Hero by Lee Child, author of action thrillers, most prominently those involving his main character, Jack Reacher. And I promised you a book report.

This is a quick read and quite enjoyable as it the author’s riff on what defines the word “hero.” He uses as a framework the evolution of humankind, focusing on the genetic bottleneck that occurred about 2500 generations ago in which the human population of Europe and its surrounds fell to about 4000 individuals (due to an ice age, you know). He believes that that event shaped us into the people we are. To quote him:

Conventionally our long, eventful seven-million-year evolutionary journey is thought of as an inevitable ascent toward ever-increasing perfection. Which it might be. Or not. It depends on where we started. Who are we descended from? Who was my 1,198-times great grandmother? What kind of person survives an eight-hundred-generation Ice Age? Such a thing doesn’t happen by accident. Potential survivors didn’t sit around hoping for the best. They spent eight hundred generations kicking and clawing and killing and stealing. Maybe they started on the Neanderthals. Then they started on each other. Conditions got worse. The nice guys died out. By the end the human population was reduced to the nastiest handful. My 1,198-times great grandmother was one of them. One of a savage, feral, cunning bunch. They would kill you as soon as look at you. They would steal your food and shelter. A ferocious will to live, with the emphasis on the first part.

Along the way to this conclusion, Mr. Child dissects the meaning of the word hero, from its initial meanings to the almost total meaningless it has now (ordinary firefighters are labeled heroes without having done anything heroic . . . for political reasons). Mr. Child explains why this happened:

The entire purpose of story is to manipulate. Previously who was doing the manipulating didn’t matter very much. It was always just some random person, with talent and energy, and no real agenda beyond some kind of empowering encouragement, which was intended to help the community as a whole anyway. But now there was a state, however rudimentary, and a government. There was an elite, and a hierarchy stretching out below them. There was power and control. The New Stone Age. A new system. Perhaps too long ago and too small and too prototype-crude to be given names from later periods, but all authoritarian and totalitarian governments need to control the story.

The bottom line is that Mr. Child, he of a classical education and quite erudite, has foresworn the use of the word “hero” as being meaningless . . . now.

This is a quick and good read, quite thought provoking.




December 3, 2019

What You Oppose You Make Stronger

I cannot find a source for the quote used as the title of this post but it has been rattling around in my head for a very long time (it might be a Go aphorism). It came to me as I was reading these paragraphs in an article in The Atlantic:

“But the liberal politics of young people brings us to the first big reason to care about rising (religious) non-affiliation. A gap has opened up between America’s two political parties. In a twist of fate, the Christian right entered politics to save religion, only to make the Christian-Republican nexus unacceptable to millions of young people—thus accelerating the country’s turn against religion.

“Although it would be wrong to call Democrats a secular party (older black voters are highly religious and dependably vote Democratic), the left today has a higher share of religiously unaffiliated voters than anytime in modern history. At the same time, the average religiosity of white Christian Republicans has gone up, according to Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the polling firm, Public Religion Research Institute, and the author of The End of White Christian America. Evangelicals feel so embattled that they’ve turned to a deeply immoral and authoritarian champion to protect them—even if it means rendering unto an American Caesar whatever the hell he wants. American politics is at risk of becoming a war of religiosity versus secularism by proxy, where both sides see the other as a catastrophic political force that must be destroyed at all costs.”

I could almost hear the pieces clicking together in my mind. Follow me now. For the last half century, the wealthy elites in this country have engaged in a class war, although all they were doing was trying to reassert the control they used to have over the economy and culture, at least they claim that is what they were doing. They wanted: social stability, lower restrictions upon their ability to make money (lower taxes, less regulation, etc.), and a small grab bag of other things they thought were all to the good for “ordinary people,” of whom they knew none.

As part of that social stability, they saw strong corporations, strong families, and a dominant religion as parts (our dominant religion is “Christianity,” whatever the heck that is).

Their strategy was to control elections and government, something the wealthy elites were used to doing in the past, although they did it socially. It was considered unseemly and “beneath their station in life” to participate in politics. But that changed with the Powell Memo and a new breed of wealthy businessmen (yes businessmen, few women were involved as they were seen as a pillar of families, so they belonged in the home bringing order to that chaos).

In order to expand and protect their wealth, it was necessary to effect wealth transfers, from the poor and middle class to them. This was effected mostly through tax revisions; for example, tax cuts were good so small tax cuts for the poor and middle class (throw them a bone) and large tax cuts for the wealthy were, and still are, the order of the day. Many of the wealthy were shocked at how effective their political spending was. ROIs of over 20:1 were seen (for every dollar they spent on politicking/lobbying, $20 came back to them or their corporations). This was too easy.

But eviscerating the poor and middle class by making them politically impotent and economically disadvantaged, had consequences. By making them less secure, they also were being made less religious. Religious leaders were seen to be as corrupt as the political leaders. This was topsy-turvy to the wealthy; usually insecurity raised religiosity. People turned to God when their needs were not being met. But in this case, people were seeing religions forming coalitions with politicians and religious scandals were undermining people’s acceptance of their religion as being separate from and different from their politicians.

The economic uncertainty has weakened the state of marriage, weakened the hold of religion on people’s thinking, and undermined the social stability these fat cats were trying to effect.

They are now riding the tiger of the populous sentiments that have risen in response to their actions.

Well, it least they got richer.

Simple and Impossible

I love it when things come together, in this case a PBS history of Hanukkah and a blog discussion of Christian ethics. Here, in a nutshell, is the core of the discussion of Christian ethics:

“The Bible says a lot of good things. Fundamentally, as Jesus says, the rule of law comes down to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Heartwarming, 100% a principle to live your life by, good job Bible (though it is bizarre to say that the Bible is its origin).”

I think this “law” is a classic exhortation of an impossible goal. Is it even possible to “Love your neighbor as yourself?” I think it is not. In the hierarchy of things we value, we place ourselves at the top (anybody who says otherwise is virtue signally or deluded or lying at the same time). This is because of a certain practical situation. You cannot serve, help, protect, etc. any of those you love if you die first. You must preserve yourself, so you can protect, etc. others you value. (Yes, it is that simple. Not even lemmings are lemmings.)

Under yourself, are your immediate family: your spouse, your children and then your extended family, your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. (We have names for these relationships for a reason.) Then, past that point there is your tribe and I use this term loosely as people see it differently. These are your extended in group, people you care about, at least theoretically. (Governments try mightily to extend your in group to the borders of the country … and no further (loyalty, patriotism, love for the Vaterland, etc.).

Biologically and socially, we have invested a great deal in making signals for who is and who isn’t in our in group. We have: language (people who didn’t speak Greek were called barbarians), hairstyles, hats and other articles of clothing (flag lapel pins, special underwear, shawls, religious uniforms, etc.), membership in certain groups (religions, churches, Knights of Columbus, Republican Party, etc.), and so on. So, if you are in conversation with someone and they interject “Praise the Lord,” you know who you are talking to.

Okay, so the PBS special? I found it fascinating how the memes of Hanukkah celebrations are supported, passed on to new generations, and used as a binder of Jewish society (which is what memes are for and why they are “transmitted” and survive). All of the ceremonies, special foods (latkes, yum!), songs, games, etc. involved in these festivities establish a common background for all of the people in their particular “in group.” This helps bond people into the group and helps to identify who is and isn’t in the group. (If you don’t know what a dreidel is, you ain’t in the in group.)

Which brings us full circle to Christian ethics. The admonition to “Love your neighbor as yourself” intended that neighbor to be someone in your in group. At that time “foreigners” just did not buy a place in your neighborhood and settle down. Jews lived with other Jews, so “Love your neighbor as yourself” actually means “Love your neighbor Jew as yourself.” It was not designed to include everyone. There was no point, especially in a group that is related genetically as Jews were. (The hostility directed at modern converts is a residue of this feeling. Those converts may be Jews, but they aren’t family.)

And, even when so limited, this admonition isn’t really possible. It was posited, possibly in good faith (no pun intended), as a standard that could not be met but could be strived for, a standard everyone fails at some times, and so it also bonds the in group. And it certainly wasn’t directed at “humanity.”

And, as an aside, the decrying of the secularization of the Christmas holiday (including the Fucking War on Christmas), is a bemoaning of the loss of any grip the Christian churches had on this “holy day.” Festivities were often centered in the church (when the church got over its opposition to the festivities all together) with nativity plays, special services, etc. Now, many don’t include the church in their plans art all. Thus Christians don’t have a powerful meme sharing program to identify with as the Jews have in their Hanukkah festivities. And they bemoan its loss.

November 29, 2019

How Many Angels Can Dance Upon the Head of an Academic Argument

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:35 pm
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In discussions of the New Testament (NT) gospels, it is claimed by scholars that a document was used by both Matthew and Luke to flesh out (no pun intended) the gospel of Mark. This document was given the name Quelle, or Q for short, from the German word for source. No evidence exists in the archaeological record for such a document. No one has referred to it, nor have any fragments of it been discovered. The document is claimed to contain sayings of Jesus that include wisdom sayings, prophecies and other things. Some have been so adventurous to reconstitute the contents of the document.

There is a competitor to the Q theory, and that is that both Matthew and Luke copied from Mark, but then Luke “copied” from Matthew, which is the source of the material that Luke and Matthew share that does not come from Mark. This idea occurred to me and I wasn’t surprised that I was not the first.

In any case, there are robust arguments for both of these arguments and the “Q” people seem to be in a majority.

I have not, however, seen an analysis yet that has occurred to me. Here it is.

Both the gospels of Matthew and Luke contain nativity segments (birth of Jesus). Neither Mark, nor John, do this. Scholars seem to have reached a consensus that both nativity segments of those two books are bogus, fictional.

Matthew seems to have been written before Luke, so it could have been available to whoever wrote Luke. (The only thing we know about the authors of the gospels is that they were not the people whose names are on them . . . well, it is also known that there were more than four people writing them, but possibly some of those may have just been editors/redactors.)

So, what are the odds that both the writer of Matthew and the writer of Luke had the same thought that what the gospel of Mark needed was a (fictional) birth narrative and each wrote one? Let’s look at what they wrote.

There are a handful of similarities between the two. Obviously Joseph, Mary, and Jesus have to show up. The others are: conception by the spirit of god, no donkey shows up, Herod the Great is mentioned, and the birth took place in Bethlehem. On the rest of the details, many, many details, they differ. One mentions a guiding star, the other does not; one says Jesus was born in a stable, the other says a house; one says there was a visit by magicians (Magi) and the other says the visit was by shepherds, and so on. Surely these seem to be written independently, no?

But, think about someone who is capable of writing such a document and who finds the gospel of Mark lacking, and then who acquires a copy of Matthew, what would come into their mind? For one, it might be “I didn’t know you could just make stuff up and insert it!” Another might be “If Matthew were divinely inspired, if I am going to use his stuff, I better copy it exactly.” And maybe “Jeez, he did a shit job of his additions, I can do better.” Wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall for that first writing session?

Matthew was thought to be the first written gospel by the church for a very long time. It includes the Sermon on the Mount and other desirable material. It flows logically and literally better than the other three, etc. But Matthew was not first. It was probably second, and a lot of stuff was added to what he included from Mark (which was most of Mark).

If the writer of Luke knew that Mark existed well before Matthew, he could not have not noticed that a great deal more information had been included. And he cannot have considered those additions as “word of god, divinely-inspired” texts, because he felt free to edit the pieces of Matthew he did include. Pieces got chopped up and moved around a great deal.

So, why would an author, who has decided to plagiarize (a word not used then) and improve upon Matthew have made so many changes, some of which were poorly done? Well, if you are going to plagiarize another’s writing, what would you do? Just lift out whole chunks of the stolen stuff and drop it in? This was done with Mark, but Matthew established that this was okay by doing the same. Luke still made minor changes if the stuff clipped from Mark. But if one didn’t want to be caught stealing wholesale, one had to disguise what they are doing somewhat. Rewrite some of this, reword some of that, cut out this, include that, these are the orders of the day. To do less, then one should just use Matthew, instead of Mark and leave it at that. One wanted to have to change what Mark or Matthew had written to do the project at all. That both Matthew and Luke copied most of Mark, they couldn’t have considered it fallacious, just in need of tightening . . . and expanding.

And, the clear fact that the birth narrative in Matthew was fictional would support my imagined approach of Luke. Well, did Luke know that Matthew’s birth narrative was fictional. If Luke’s sources were just Mark and Q, there is nothing in Q, according to the Q advocates, regarding a birth narrative. So, where would this information have come from? There are no other sources of birth narratives other than Matthew and Luke, period. So, if Luke had enough brain cells to rub together, he would realize that the birth narrative of Matthew was added fiction, serving the purpose of fleshing out the story. And, if it was fictional, changes in it would disguise that the idea for it came from Matthew and also would allow for the correction of some errors perceived. Of course, local knowledge is never perfect, and things Luke thought were the facts, might actually have been errors and “correcting” Matthews factual errors may actually have inserted different errors in place of the perceived ones. (There are errors, oodles of them.)

So, until some concrete evidence for the existence of Q is found, I will continue to think of it as a hypothetical document invented to plug holes in hypothetical arguments over the gospels.

The gospels and the book of Acts of the Apostles are the only place any mention of an historical Jesus are made. (Yes, there are references to Jesus in a few other sources, but those references cannot be distinguished as being distinct from descriptions of the beliefs of Christians.) These earliest gospels were written after the fall of Jerusalem in the early 70’s CE, so way after the claimed birth, death, and rebirth of the main character. And the others are placed after to well after the first gospel, Mark. How likely are the “facts” to have been preserved when the communication system of the region (not counting the Romans) was gossip. More likely was that the gospels were written from agendas that cropped up in the early church and were not intended as historical documents at all.

Many claims are placed at the feet of a robust oral tradition preserving the facts of Jesus’ life, but that belief also has a great many holes in it, so set that on the shelf next to the Q document. (As I have wondered before . . . if you believe your god walked the Earth and you were one of his chosen companions, wouldn’t you get a wealthy believer to pay for a scribe to record everything you could remember about the man-god? And there were over ten surviving people in that situation, possibly over twenty (all of the unnamed women and people Jesus visited and stayed with and . .  and . . .). Oh, the disciples? The only place they are mentioned is in said gospels and Acts. The “pillars” of the church (Peter and James) are mentioned often enough in other works of the NT, but these people were mentioned as leaders of the Jerusalem sect of the nascent Christian church, not as disciples.)

Actually Giving Thanks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:49 am

Yesterday I had a back and forth with Professor Taboo in which I had an idea. Here is what I said then:

I am tired of those claiming that atheists have nothing to give thanks for on Thanksgiving day. What if we were to have a tradition that on Thanksgiving Day, we would write notes to all of those people in our lives we owe thanks to. Doctors who helped us survive: tow truck drivers who pulled us out of a snowy bank, bankers who helped us get out from under a dicey loan, lawyers who defended us in court against false charges, and so on. Think of millions of these notes being sent via snail mail, email, and whatnot.” (Yes, I quoted myself!)

I am sure that Hallmark and American Greetings and all of the other “card” makers would get on board with this! Think how you would feel when over a few days span, everyone who is thankful for what you have done has written you and you get a ton of mail. And, if you get no mail at all, society is basically saying you need to get your pitiful life in order and help a few others. I am sure the postal service would not look askance at this tradition.

I am sure that this “feel good” exercise would be diluted by every fricking commercial vendor thanking each and everyone of their customers, but we could disabuse them of doing that on a mechanized scale.

Currently, we currently “give thanks” by gorging ourselves on too much food and drink and watching parades, dog shows, football games, and whatnot on television. How is any of that “giving thanks”? (“I am thankful I can afford to buy too much food on occasion and can afford to have cable and a wide-screen TV to watch meaningless things thereon.” WTF?)


November 28, 2019

From What Planet. . . ?

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:41 am
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Diane Ravitch’s blog today shared a lecture (often called a sermon) by Rev. Dr. Charles Foster Johnson (J.M. Dawson Lecture on Religious Liberty, “Religious Liberty, the Public School, and the Soul of America,” Baylor University, October 7, 2019).

Everything was perking right along until . . .

The corollary to this God-given religious liberty is the principle of the strict separation of the church from the state. In our work in Pastors for Texas Children, we refer to religious liberty as a gift from God to all people, and note that James Madison did not make it up. God did. Madison took an eternal spiritual truth that God authored and wrote it down in an extraordinary sentence that comprises the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’

Hit the brakes! WTF?

Religious freedom is a “gift from god?” This is yet another example of everything we label “good,” being automatically labeled as a gift from their god.

The worship of this particular god resulted in the religions that basically say “believe or be tortured forever; obey or suffer the consequences.” The Israelites were never told “you are free to worship whatever god you choose in what ever way you choose, so sayeth God.” They were told to obey Yahweh or else. The same holds true for Jesus worshipers; believe or suffer everlasting torment.

How the fuck is this “religious freedom”? How is this “the state shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Israeli was a theocracy at the time. Rulers ruled by warrant from their god, period. If a ruler had a falling out with their god or even their priests, they should pack their bags because they were toast, sometimes literally. This is the polar opposite of what religious freedom means.

The history of the various churches involved show heresy to be a crime, often to be punished by death. The church often captured citizens and tortured them, prosecuted them, and executed them, and the various “states” were fine with that. There certainly was no church-sanctioned “religious freedom,” and the United States was the first nation to be built upon this premise (amongst others). This desire was founded on wanting to avoid the religious wars of Europe, which were promulgated by state-imposed religions. Poor England was whipsawed multiple times as its monarch oscillated between Catholic and Protestant faiths; those in ascendance could be in hiding in a very short time.

Religious freedom labeled as a gift from god, my ass. If one can consider something ripped from desperate grasping hands a gift, then this might be believable.

“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him . . .” (Jesus, KJV)


November 27, 2019

The Truth About Sodom and Gomorrah

Filed under: History,Religion,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 9:57 am
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I have seen other programs under the rubric of “Buried Secrets of the Bible,” and blogged upon episodes, but this new series stars Albert Lin, the likable new star for Nat Geo programming. The charming Mr. Lin has appeared in a series on the Maya, Lost Cities and a couple of others, I think. In any case, this series is using his tool set to investigate events in the Bible to see if there is any archaeological basis for the stories in the Bible. Very little time is spent on the theology involved. Mr. Lin’s tool set is to use LIDAR (from both plane and drone) and satellite imagery to identify hard to see from the ground archaeological sites, then he goes exploring.

These shows are, I suspect, a gold mine because if they avoid offending righteous believers, they pick up the “see everything in the Bible is true” crowd and at the other end are the curious science types looking to see what advances in archaeology are to be had. NatGeo, of course, blends in a soupcon of beautiful cinematography to make it very tasty to the eye.

Okay, so last night Episode 2 was on Sodom and Gomorrah. Was there any truth to be discovered about that story?

After some scene setting, the final segment was about an archaeologist who had discovered a site, or decided he could identify the site, as the ruins of the city of Sodom. The ruins were properly placed in time, they had the outward characteristics as described in the Bible and as were known to exist at the time. The site was quite near the Dead Sea. This city had been turned into a “pile of rubble” in some sort of catastrophic event, which involved the tumbling down of buildings, extensive fire and then 700 years of no further occupation after the event. Various possible causes were considered, but the archaeologist involved felt that the possibilities were quite limited because of some of the artifacts. These were pieces of clay pottery that had been exposed to extreme heat, to the point that the pottery melted. The only known sources of such temperatures were nuclear explosions or meteor strikes, so the working hypothesis was a meteor strike. Part of the meteor (they seldom are just a single object) could have exploded over the Dead Sea resulting in a giant wave of salt water flowing over the arable fields supporting the city, resulting in fields that no longer supported crops, which would explain the 700 year historical gap. Another part of the meteor, striking the ground or exploding above ground would account for the shock wave causing the tumbling buildings and fires.

Using LIDAR and satellite images, Mr. Lin’s team created a 3-D representation of the city site and using false colors, they picked up what appeared from the ground to be a giant cistern for water, but from above looked exactly like an impact crater from a small, but potent, meteor strike. Ta da. The cistern idea wasn’t very good unless it were underground as water exposed over that large of an area would evaporate too quickly. To confirm that it was indeed a meteor crater, an excavation study will have to be done. If confirmed then a story of massive destruction involving “fire and brimstone” from the heavens will have an historical event underneath it.

Very cool.

And, let’s entertain the idea, for the moment, that this scenario, or one like it, were true.

This is a tragic event. An entire city of thousands of people with their animals were wiped out by an “act of nature.” So, residents of that city who had been away on trading trips or nearby relatives of those living there would be faced with the horrible remains. People from safely far off would describe the fiery death of the city. The survivors would be left with tremendous losses and questions that couldn’t be answered, the primary one was “Why?”

The fact that the “why” question could not be answered didn’t stop some of the religiously minded. They connected dots that existed mostly in their minds, including: this was a horrible destruction rained from above, therefore it must be an act of their god, a godly punishment. And since the destruction was so vast, the reason for the destruction must have been heinous. But in the Old Testament, the only real sin is disobedience. People are punished for disobedience because, well . . . why, boys and girls? Because religions exist to control the masses to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites, that’s why. And obedience is always what they demand and disobedience is what they always punish.

So, the inhabitants of these cities are declared to be depraved because their punishment was so severe. Stories were invented to show how depraved they were including attempts at angel rape. (Which brought to mind Arlo Guthrie’s masterpiece “Alice’s Restaurant” and “. . . mother rapers and, and father rapers, sitting right there on the Group W bench . . .”) How it is that angels couldn’t protect themselves from puny, human angel rapists is beyond me. (Were I one of those angels, I would pull out a fiery sword and lop a few heads off and see if their mood changed at all.)

And, of course, the topper is the story of Lot’s family. Lot, son of Abraham, is the only righteous person in the entire city, so angels come and tell him to get his family the heck out of town and don’t look back. And as they are descending the hill of the city, the destruction began, and one of Lot’s family couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak a peak and got turned into a pillar of salt. (Another example of the punishment not fitting the crime, but that is the norm for the Bible.)

Now, who was selected to be the disobedient one? Ah, Lot’s wife. Silly woman. She might have been righteous and tight with god, but she also made a good object lesson and the topic of the lesson is? Disobedience! (Ah, you were paying attention!) Silly woman. Women are so flighty and undependable. Tsk, tsk. That will teach them to stifle their curiosity.

So, it wasn’t enough for the people of these cities to be destroyed by a random cosmological event, but in the aftermath, religious assholes smeared their city and all of the inhabitants and their families for ever and ever, Amen, with made up stories of their depravity. Well, I guess they just got what they deserved . . . not!

Oh, and if the narrative doesn’t hold up, then we are left with the prospect that the entire story is made up, aka fictional, which makes the religious who wrote it, thinking it a great teaching story, even bigger assholes.

A New Version of “If Their Lips are Moving . . .”

Filed under: Politics,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 9:42 am
Tags: , , ,

I read that the only Dutch-speaking fact checker working for Facebook has quit in protest in Facebook’s policy that it will not fact-check political ads.

I applaud the decision as one of personal integrity but it will mean next to nothing to Facebook as they . . . do . . . not . . . care. Actually they care about making money, but fact checking, preserving people’s privacy, etc. not so much.

This serves merely to bring up my question: Are there still people who believe that you can learn anything of value from a political ad, enough so that they are worth watching? These “advertisements” are exactly what they are as used in commerce—misleading statements that are trying to sell you something. The whole modern practice of advertizing grew out of what was called at the time . . . propaganda. (I kid you not. And this was before propaganda was seized upon for political use in a major way.) And, ironically, modern economic theory is based upon “buyer” and “seller” having the same information, which means there should be no need for advertising, certainly not the deceptive kind.

I stopped watching/listening to political ads years ago. There is no upside. Well, there is the upside that politicians will waste their money producing the damned things.

So, I recommend to you that you should also eschew political ads as they are misleading propaganda that have very little up side and a big downside. They are hardly worth fact checking as most would not pass muster.

The old joke was: Question: How can you tell a politician is lying? Answer: His lips are moving. Maybe we need an update on this: the modern version is: Question: How can you tell a politician is lying? Answer: When you hear/see him saying “I am <name> and I approve this message.”



November 25, 2019

Impossible Burger . . . Possibly?

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 11:17 am

The irony is palpable. The “health industry” is telling us in a loud voice that we should eschew “highly processed foods” in favor of using fresh ingredients, cooked to eat . . . and at the same time we are also urged to consider hamburger substitutes, such as is being served in the Burger King Impossible Whopper.

The commercials for the Impossible Whopper make it look very appetizing. The burger glistens with fat as if right from the grill. The edge of the burger patty is irregular as if it were formed by hand. Yum. So, I tried one. In appearance, not so good. the patty had a very regular edge, as if it had been extruded through a die (which I suppose it had) and glistening fat was nowhere in evidence. The color was closer to grey than the brown and black version (often with a pink interior) shown in the advertisements.

The aroma was minimal and the texture not bad. The flavor compares with ordinary burgers, so quite an accomplishment. If burgers were ranked on a scale from exquisite a la Bill’s Place in San Francisco used to make to dog meat burgers (mostly filler), this one would be near the middle of that scale, so mediocre, but not in a bad way.

I have always felt that vegetarians should be creating their own dishes (Porcini Mushrooms and mashed potatoes, yum!), not trying to mimic meat dishes, but I realize that to get the majority of people to come along with a more environmentally favorable diet, some copycatting is going to have to occur.

So, as copycats go, the Impossible Burger is meh, but a good deal farther along that road than the lamentable “garden burger.” And it is, without fear of contradiction, a highly processed food. I have no idea how nutritious it is.

I think a lot could be done to ameliorate the woeful environmental record of the meat industry, first would be to eliminate factory ranching of cattle and pigs and the like and go back to free range everything. This would not only reduce the carbon footprint of the industry but would save soil and has many other benefits. The increased cost of meat and fowl produced that way would also lower its consumption.

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