Class Warfare Blog

September 19, 2017

Consuming Religion

In a review of the book Consuming Religion by Kathryn Lofton (University of Chicago Press, September 12, 2017) the author is quoted as saying:

And this is what I want to emphasize in my study of consumer culture and religion: religion is a word for how people consciously organize themselves in the world and unconsciously are organized by the world. Insofar as ours is a world built by material and immaterial networks and grids, I think we’re missing out if we think of those networks and grids as secular or irreligious.

We are missing out insofar as we are missing what I have found as the archival intention of designers. Namely, to organize themselves (and us) into a world they get thereby to organize. The problem of collectivity is the danger of assimilating into any grid. The possibility of collectivity is the strength we have to rewrite our frames, together, to design different societies.

I see in our country that conservative rich people have capturered or are capturing religion and our society, from which our recovery will be very difficult. They are indeed engaged in an exercise in which they get to organize themselves (and us) into a world they get thereby to organize. Consider Bill Gates and other billionaires disrupting public education, a subject they know little of and what they do know is wrong. Think of the Koch brothers reconstructing American politics along the lines their father, a founder of the John Birch Society, would approve.

I plan to check out this book.

Do think of the word consuming in the title as both an adjective and a verb.


September 18, 2017

Evolution Isn’t True, But Creationists and Christian Apologists Keep Referring to It As If It Were

Christian apologists are fond of claiming that evolution has adapted our minds for survival but not to recognize ultimate truth; for that we need religion/Jesus/whatever.

There are so many holes in this argument, that it makes me weary just addressing it. Before even starting, aren’t these the same people who say the Theory of Evolution is false? Well, let’s get started.

First, if one accepts that evolutionary processes have adapted our minds to allow us to survive and not to recognize absolute truth, how is it the Christians are so damned sure they have found the Absolute Truth™? And, just what the heck is absolute truth? The only examples they can offer are trite word games, e.g. there are no married bachelors. Is anything worth discussing regarding the world and our experience in it an absolute truth? I am going to need some non-trivial answers to that question before I consider this anything more than a rhetorical device to get the false idea of absolute truth slipped sideways into the discussion so that it will be acceptable. It is not.

Then, how the heck does one state the premise “that evolution has adapted our minds for survival but not to recognize ultimate truth” with a straight face? A premise is something that is obviously true, or provisionally true for the sake of the argument which will prove it to be true. If you start a discussion with a bald-faced unfounded statement, you aren’t going to get anywhere reasonable at all, let alone soon. This is a typical rhetorical con, one favored by Christian apologists, is to slip their conclusion into one of their premises in an innocuous fashion, and then voila!

Let me step back and address the science here: consider the metal facility of imagination. Then consider a human being, maybe a Homo erectus, who sees the grass rustle not too far away on the African savannah. Is that due to a zephyr of the wind … or is a predator stalking him? Only the power of imagination allows both of these interpretations. If one favors the wind interpretation and one is right, there is no harm that can come from that. Same is true if one thinks it is a cheetah and one is wrong. If one thinks it is a predator and moves away, that is a good result, but if one thinks it is wind and not a predator and takes no action, our erect man may end up becoming a meal. Clearly, there is a prudent path to take, and that is wind or predator, I will avoid that area. (Note that this is just Pascal’s Wager in a different guise, worked out by the being not even an Homo sapiens.)

Survival is favored by imagining that predators exist, even in cases where they do not. In other words, imagining predators has little down side and a possible big upside. Obviously this cannot be taken to an extreme as one would become paralyzed. If used judiciously, a being can survive and even thrive.

This survival-based mental adaption of imagination is what allows, or causes, us to believe in invisible agencies, just a step away from animistic gods. So, it is evolution that allows us to believe in gods or God, but not in absolute truth. The idea of absolute truth was concocted by people wanting to brag that their knowledge was better than yours. (Oh, yeah, well, I have Truth Squared™!) There is no such thing as absolute truth, it is just another weapon in the rhetorical tool bag of apologists. “Your puny truth is merely human concocted. I spit on your puny truth! I have Absolute Truth™, so there!”

There is no absolute truth or absolute morality, or absolute anything … outside of religion. Inside of religion there is but it is mystical and supernatural, aka make believe. I guess in this sense the premise of “that evolution has adapted our minds for survival but not to recognize ultimate truth” is true as there is no such thing as absolute truth, so evolution could not create an ability to recognize it (since it doesn’t exist!). Evolution did, however, supply us with a bullshit detector and this is what this argument clearly is.

Cultivate your bullshit detector. It will help you survive!

I Will Repeat This as Often as is Necessary

On the latest episode of Bill Maher’s program (Real Time on HBO), both the host, Mr. Maher, and his two guests: Salmon Rushdie and Fran Leibowitz collectively missed the point over and over as to why the Democrats don’t have their act together. They pointed to Democrats trying to play fair when the Republicans don’t bother with the niceties, and complained that there is a branch of the Democratic Party that wants true leftist ideology in their candidates, and then there is racism.

Hello? Wrong. Wrong. Partially wrong. Donald Trump won the last election because the American people are fed up with the status quo … period.

This indelibly racist country went so far as to elect a Black man president as a statement that we were fed up with the status quo. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama cast his lot with the corporate Democrats and what we got, with or without GOP opposition, was essentially more of the same.

So, we grabbed the biggest monkey wrench available, Mr. Trump, and cast it into the gears of the government.

And, yet, the pundits still don’t get it. Neither, of course, do the politicians.

The Democrats started the process of “losing their grip on reality” in the 1970’s. They felt their coalition of working people, teachers, unions, and racial minorities wasn’t strong enough for the new America being created. So, they distanced themselves from unions, racial minorities, and working people and embraced their new core constituency: professionals. This started pretty much under Bill Clinton. Remember the Clintons and their movement to the center? Oh, that’s right, they are both still around peddling the kinds of things that have been gutting the middle class for the last, say, 50 years! Bill was for NAFTA, Hillary was for TPP (and on and on …).

So, in the last election, the Democrats couldn’t have picked a candidate more representive of the status quo than Hillary Clinton. Her new book (I haven’t read it but people are falling all over themselves quoting it to me) proves that she doesn’t “get it” either.

The American middle class, once the biggest segment of the American economic spectrum, has been decimated over and over again. Individual workers today make less than they did 50 years ago when adjusted for inflation. No part of the American Dream included that little fact. The only reason that American families have made any headway at all is because millions of American women took jobs … not because they wanted to, but because they had to establish a decent standard of middle class life for their children.

With the Great Recession of 2008, a lot of people, unable to find decent work, have dropped out of the job market, moving us more toward the 1970’s in that regard, too.

The middle class is hurting. Consider Donald Trump to be a howl of anger and pain. If we don’t “get the message” soon, what will be the next signal sent? I shudder to think.

September 17, 2017

Why We Do and They Don’t Want National Health Care System

We are talking here about the healthcare systems such as Canada and France have as examples, you know, all of the other advanced western nations. Names such as Medicare For All have been bandied about for such a system here in the U.S., which is just one such option.

Here in a nutshell is why we want to do this and the conservatives and their paymasters do not:

Per Capita Spending Health Care 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Miraculous Finland: $3984

When we see this list, we see “Gosh, we could have quality healthcare for only about half of what we are spending now!” and “We could use some of what we save to make sure that all Americans are covered.”

When they see this list, they see “Oh my gosh, look at the profits we will lose under national healthcare.”

We spend twice what most other countries spend on healthcare and only the very rich get a commensurate healthcare outcome. Most people spend more and get less than they get in other countries. For those of you who think Canada and France do not have quality healthcare systems, you might want to consider how you learned that … Fox (sic) News, maybe? We have a higher rate of infant mortality than most of those other countries. We have shorter life spans than people in those other countries. The middle class incomes in those other countries often exceed ours, especially when you include the fact that we pay so much for healthcare. We also have millions of people with no health insurance at all, who simply go to a county hospital when they are very, very ill and plead for charity care. In the meantime, those sick people spread diseases and die much younger than they could have.

Whatever your position, do realize that the opposition to “socialized medicine” comes from those making megabucks off the current system: doctors (lead by the AMA, so their faces don’t get shown), Big Pharma (surprise, surprise) and, of course, the health insurance industry.

The insurance companies are playing a game. Through accounting procedures, they are claiming big losses through Obamacare. These losses are being used to argue for large premium increases under the system. But if you look closely, these very same corporations are claiming record profits and their CEO’s are receiving big bonuses. There stocks have soared even higher than the record stock price surges under President Obama. Huge losses, record profits, skyrocketing share prices! Some companies made so much profit that they exceeded the 20% allowed under Obamacare and had to issue refunds! This can be compared to the 3% total overhead for Medicare.

Look at that list again and ask yourself, as Ian Welsh has over and over: why don’t we see those numbers on the news over and over and over again … instead of never. Who controls the news?

September 14, 2017

How Will We Pay for It?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:58 am
Tags: , , ,

Now that healthcare as a right of citizens is becoming viable, there is much public hand wringing along the lines of the question “How will we pay for it?”

Hello? This is a stupid question.

Currently, people’s health insurance is provided by:
Employer  49%
Medicaid  20%
Medicare  20%, and
Other Public  2%.
Add all of those up and you get 91%

The 49% provided by employers (actually almost always a negotiated fringe benefit, so this is part of their employee’s compensation, so it is the employee’s money being spent by the employers) is provided through insurance companies which extract profits from the system. In a national system, the monies currently going to profits, can go to cover the 9% not currently covered. The only political problem is the redistribution of those monies.

The money formerly paid out as a employee fringe benefit to insurance companies, will be paid instead to the employees who will, in turn, pay taxes sufficient for their coverage. Considering the amount of waste, fraud, abuse, and profit taking in the private health insurance business, after their taxes are paid, there will be money left over in their household budgets. The only people who do not benefit in this are the insurance companies currently making too much money for processing too little paper. The people actually delivering the medical services will not change. (It’s called cutting out the middle man, people.)

To those who argue that this gives government too much control over people’s healthcare, tell that to the people getting Medicare and Medicaid, who are all happier with their coverage than other folks. And if you are going to make that argument, then you have to agree that the militaries of this country are socialist and we give too much control over the military to the government, and….

The government is “us,” people, just “us.” It is as good as us, as corrupt as us, as well-meaning as us.

Racism is as American as Baseball

Filed under: Culture,Race,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 10:53 am
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Some baseball fans unfurled a banner with the above printed on it at last night’s Red Sox baseball game. Of course they were ejected … for telling the truth. (Actually there is a team policy forbidding “signs of any kind to be hung or affixed to the ballpark,” but I was feeling snarky writing this.)

Actually I believe this statement is true but baseball may show us the way forward. Baseball had a racist past. Early on, people of color played but soon enough, Backs and Hispanics were banned from the professional game. (There were still plenty of “colored” baseball players, but they usually were relegated to playing on and against teams made up of just Black and Brown players in front of Black and Brown audiences.)

In 1942, as almost everyone knows, the “color barrier” in white, major league baseball was broken by Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Robinson, the player, took the abuse on the field while Rickey, the schemer behind the effort, took the abuse from other baseball executives and from fans in his mail.

Many brave actions were taken by players supporting members of their own team and many despicable actions were taken by players not supporting members of their own team but eventually everything was sorted out. I saw my first major league professional game in 1958 and by then there were quite a number of Black and Brown players. What I did not know was that even my team, the S.F. Giants, had a self-segregated clubhouse. The Blacks kept to themselves, the Hispanic players kept to themselves, and the whites kept to themselves, mostly.

Fast forward to now and you see major league teams in which Black, Brown, and White players mingle, enjoy each other’s company off of the field, support one another when they have family issues, etc. It isn’t a perfect world, but it is far, far better than where it began.

Sports teams, in general, have embraced Rodney King’s plea of “Can’t we all just get along?”

The U.S. is not the last bastion of racism. Racism is a live and well elsewhere around the world. But racism is a smear on a facade of a country claiming to be a better place, an exceptional place. It is time we address our racist past and our racist present and make ourselves an exception, rather than a manifestation of the rule.

September 13, 2017

No, You Can’t Ask Questions

Filed under: Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 7:35 am

S.E. Cupp was on Bill Maher’s show (Real Time) the other night in her usual role of defender of conservatism/conservative apologist. I like S.E. Cupp, she usually defends her points well, she’s articulate, witty, has a sense of humor, and stands her ground. The ground she took on that show, though, was on climate change and she picked a patch of quicksand to stand on.

Mr. Maher began the segment claiming that only 9% of Republicans in a survey had attested to the reality of man-made climate change and then pointed to the size and energy of the hurricanes in this season as a manifestation of the effects of climate change/global warming. He then asked, basically, what is wrong with those people?

Ms. Cupp was having none of it because she claimed “scientists” hadn’t drawn that conclusion yet, and, well, “she had questions.” Another guest pointed out that scientists were not quick to draw conclusions, but one climate scientist stated the case for the energy and size of hurricanes getting bigger back in 2006 and what he had predicted came true down the line. The argument is that one consequence of the atmosphere heating up is that the surface waters of the globe will also heat up and much of the energy of a hurricane comes from the heat in those waters. (FYI The total energy in Hurricane Irma alone exceeded that of 14 entire hurricane seasons (aka all hurricanes that year) for which we have satellite data.)

Ms. Cupp persisted in her attack that she was allowed to ask questions, wasn’t she?

The answer is “no,” you are not allowed to ask questions, not serious ones anyway.

If you want to play the game of science, you have to play the game, you cannot just sit on the sidelines and ask questions, certainly not questions that are ideologically motivated. If you want to ask serious questions, you have to study the topic, the science, and then ask a question based upon evidence you find. As an example, consider the following subject: the health consequences of smoking tobacco. An enterprising reporter delved into the research and discovered, to no one’s particular surprise, that the only scientific papers published claiming that tobacco use was benign was paid for by the tobacco industry (The Tobacco Institute, etc.). This is an actual basis to question that research, but just the research so sponsored. When research is paid for by a private agency, that agency controls whether or not the work gets published and later investigations showed that the tobacco companies either didn’t publish any negative results or commissioned other work to include with the negative work to make it seem a “push” when it came to health effects. So, questions by people outside of the field can be valuable if they are based upon an examination of the research.

“If you want to play the game of science, you have to play the game,
you cannot just sit on the sidelines and ask questions.”

This, by the by, is the reason we need to have a stout public presence in researches that are important to all of us. “Privatizing” scientific research would be turning over the chicken coup to the foxes, not just asking them to tend it. Plus corporations aren’t interested in doing research that doesn’t make them money.

When it comes to the political question: what do we do collectively about climate change, we all get to ask questions because we are all political actors in the game of American politics (we get to vote).

I would like to see one reporter, just one, ask the follow-up question to the next person claiming that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by scientists to get grants: “That is a serious allegation. You do have evidence to back up that claim don’t you? What is it? When will you produce this evidence?” There isn’t much difference between a corporation that stands to make money from denial of tobacco science and a politician who stands to make money (campaign contributions, jobs after “retiring” from public office, etc.) from denial of climate science. This “fraud” is a serious claim (which will be proved to be frivolous, if not spurious) and serious claims demand serious evidence.

Pony up, climate change deniers.

Pony up or shut up. Those are your options.



September 11, 2017

Let’s Bring Back Public Humiliations

Every school child can tell you about an Early American tradition of public humiliations in which people were locked into stocks and pillories with a small sign indicating how their behavior was detrimental to the community. People would then through words and actions (pelting the miscreants with rotten vegetables, spit, etc.) share their disgust with the miscreant so displayed.

While I don’t know if I want to go that far, I do think it is past time we bring back public humiliations. I would start with Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Limbaugh shared with his greatly shrunken radio audience that he thought about Hurricane Irma. Here’s a taste:

“So there is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced.
“Well, the TV stations begin reporting this, and the panic begins to increase. And then people end up going to various stores to stock up on water and whatever they might need for home repairs and batteries, and all this that they’re advised to get, and a vicious circle is created. You have these various retail outlets who spend a lot of advertising dollars with the local media.”

Much of what Mr. Limbaugh says is implied rather than spoken outright (he does have lawyers advising him), so he didn’t outright say that the authorities and news media are lying to you, but he heavily implied just that, which leads to people having less respect for the recommendations of those very same authorities.

So, Hurricane Irma was blown up by the desire of media outlets (boo, hiss) to bolster the sales of bottled water and the like sold by their advertisers (Limbaugh). This, of course, is side-by-side with satellite photos showing Irma to be four times the diameter (8X the area!) of the incredibly destructive Hurricane Andrew, that created billions of dollars of destruction in Florida as well as quite a number of deaths.

Shortly before the hurricane hit, Mr. Limbaugh exited the state of Florida to safety, making him the biggest hypocrite on our airwaves. Mr. Limbaugh will not own that he was wrong, or that he might have cost people their lives through his “advice” which he claims is based upon “data” from the National Weather Service and other reputable sources (… right …).

I suggest that Mr. Limbaugh be the inaugural subject to a new public humiliation ritual for the sin of feeding his fat ego at the expense of his fellow citizen’s lives.


September 9, 2017

NRA Quietly Backing Democratic Presidential Candidates

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:43 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The NRA has been quietly funding some Democratic candidates for president for the 2020 election, noted an inside source. The election of Donald Trump has been a disaster for the guns and ammunition manufacturers. Without the threat of a progressive administration “taking away our guns,” there has been no impetus to stock up and guns and ammo sales have plummeted.

While Mr. Obama was president, gun sales soared as repeated NRA campaigns focused on plans of the Obama administration to confiscate Americans’ guns. During Mr. Obama’s time, of course, no such plans were made, neither were there actions taken, with only a few mild suggestions to Congress for reforms. Mandatory background checks at gun shows or universal background checks were recommended, even a one gun per month limit on sales was suggested but none of these were acted upon. Still the threat of confiscation was a constant topic in the circle of gun owners.

Since the election of Mr. Trump, the sales of guns and ammunition have fallen dramatically. While the NRA will not admit it publicly, privately officials are saying that a Democratic president will be much better for business, hence the attempts to support candidates now. Early money is like yeast, our source told us.

September 7, 2017


Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:44 am

I finally found out how to turn on the “Like” button for comments. You are now free to hammer that button on comments as you like.

Heh, heh, and I thought the third try was a charm … took more.

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