Class Warfare Blog

July 1, 2015

How Would They Know?

A recent survey was brought to my attention: “A PRRI survey released Tuesday (June 23) finds that nearly 2 in 3 Americans (62 percent) say God has granted America an exceptional role in human history.” (Source: Religion News Service, June 23, 2015)

The fascinating thing to me is “how the heck would they know?” These are the very same people who say things like “no one can know the mind of God” and “God works in mysterious ways,” yet they seem to know what God is thinking all of the time.

This responders in that survey also had a somewhat narrow view of who is “truly American.” High on the list of very or somewhat important characteristics are people who:

Speak English: 89 percent say this is very or somewhat important.
Believe in God: 69 percent.
Were born in the U.S.: 58 percent.
Are Christian: 53 percent.

Again, I would have to ask them: how would they know? There is an official definition of what an American is, being basically anyone who has met the requirements of citizenship. I got mine by being born to two citizens. Others, like friends of mine, got it through the naturalization process. Stating one’s opinion on who is a “true American” is an invitation to show one’s biases and prejudices. So, from the responses to this survey questionnaire, I conclude the responders (be they actual Americans or not) are bigoted in the extreme.

All of my take on this comes from my background as a teacher. I saw, after the end of the Vietnam War, a wave of immigrants from that country come to live in California. Comments flew around right and left about these new “immigrants,” many of which were negative. What I saw was that those people exhibited all of the qualities that Americans said they admired in Americans: they worked hard, they saved their money, they invested in their own businesses, they made sure their children got good educations; they almost never broke the law, and they kept their mouths shut. One of the most frequent negative comments was about how “those people” were getting government assistance (not necessarily) and were being unfairly advantaged. A closer look would have shown the complainers were getting the advantages, they just didn’t want to work that hard to benefit from them.

As an example of one such “immigrant,” whose name will not be given, I met her when she attended my General Chemistry course, in which she got a C. I could not remember her ever asking a question though a long semester and a bitch of a course. (Voted most difficult course at Georgia Tech, for example, and those were tech students voting!) Later she went on to graduate from UC Davis in biochemistry, and then go on to become a physician. When she gain entrance into medical school (on her second try, a year after her first), she came back to the little two-year college where she began her education to thank all of her teachers. One thing she shared with us was her translation of her general chemistry textbook into Vietnamese! It was a 1000+ page book. After she finished chemistry, it was passed down to siblings coming along as a bridge to learning in English.

Horatio Alger couldn’t come up with a better story and that is not the half of it. When she was applying to medical school she asked me for help with her essay for her application. In that essay she described how she was captured … three times … trying to escape from Vietnam after the war. She was imprisoned three times and “re-educated” before she made it out on her fourth try. Yes, she was one of the “boat people.” (I remember tears in my eyes as I was reading her draft.)

When she came to this country she did not speak English, she was not born in the U.S., she was not a Christian, and I don’t think she believed in the Christian god, but she is still one of the finest Americans I have ever had the pleasure to know.

June 30, 2015

No More Parks! No More Parks!

In an op-ed piece in today’s N.Y. Times (“Let’s Fix Our National Parks, Not Add More”) by Reed Watson and Scott Wilson of the Property and Environmental Research Center, the authors make the seemingly rational argument that we shouldn’t be acquiring new land for parks when there is such a backlog of deferred maintenance on the ones already in existence ($11.5 billion by their estimate). Any money spent on acquiring new lands would be better spent fixing up some of what we got already. I am sure this is an honest opinion and it sounds reasonable, but if you put it in context, uh, not so much.

Currently every aspect of our public holdings has massive deferred maintenance costs associated with each and every one of them. You can thank our disfunctional government (really the Republicans) for that. Look at what happens if you apply their argument to other governmental holdings:

  • We shouldn’t build any more bridges because there is so much defered maintenance needed on the ones we already have.
  • We shouldn’t build any more roads because there is so much defered maintenance needed on the ones we already have.
  • We shouldn’t build any more schools because there is so much defered maintenance needed on the ones we already have.
  • We shouldn’t build any more office buildings because there is so much defered maintenance needed on the ones we already have.
  • We shouldn’t build any more Army bases because there is so much defered maintenance needed on the ones we already have.

In other words, we shouldn’t build anything until we have fixed what we got. I don’t think this is a very strong argument. Plus with American corporations looking to “exploit” our natural resources at an ever increasing rate, once you lose a battle over the use of the land it is lost forever. (There are folks still wanting to put a uranium mine in the Grand Canyon.) Besides those parks are generally only used by the poor and middle classes, when has the equivalent been done for rich people?

Sometimes making a new national park is the only way to preserve some of our national heritiage. I am not arguing that the federal government should make parks out of every scrap of land they can get their hands on, but on special pieces, they should go ahead.




What’s Left of Christianity?

No, I don’t mean what is to the left of Christianity, but what is left of it.

Biblical archeology and biblical historical scholarship were constituted right along with the rest of the scientific movement. Their goals were simply the confirmation of what folks read in the Bible. So, these were religious people serving a religious funtion, but something happened that was not expected. What happened was for there to be a total lack of evidence for the main stories of Pentateuch, the first five chapters of the Bible.

No evidence has been found that Moses or Abraham or most of the characters portrayed in the Bible actually existed. No evidence was found for the “wandering for forty years in the desert” of very large numbers of Jews (not a shard of pottery, a campfire, nothing). No evidence of the war against the Cannanites was found. But it was noted that Goliath was dressed in the armor of a Greek hoplite of the sixth century. Amazing that five hundred years before there were Greek hoplites (the supposed “date” of the encounter with David) that the writers of the Bible could invent such armor. (Yes, I am being sarcastic; I do apologize.)

It now appears and has been acknowledged that these texts were written and edited by many different people over a long span of time. Most scholars tend agree, however, that the Pentateuch as a combined, whole work probably first existed in the 7th or 6th century BCE. Some editing and adding was still to come, but not long after the Babylonian Exile the Pentateuch was largely in it’s current form and other texts were being written.

The genesis of this document is even sketched out in the Bible itself. Mostly it appears that a king of Judea was trying to consolidate his power and needed a back story that gave him rights to be who he was and also power over his people, which he was willing to share with the priestly class.

So, scraps of earlier religious writings were stitched to gether to make this document they claimed was “discovered” and was the lost word of their god. But … now that it was found … etc.

So, all the claims of Moses being the author (he was not) and all of the other claims of authenticity are completely baseless as nobody knows the sourses of their source material. what we do know is the job they did of stiching things together wasn’t done all that well. The two stories of Genesis getting the days of creation mixed up is just a start on the inconsistencies. Hundreds of such discrepancies have been logged. Claims of divine inspiration are based then upon what? Texts of unknown authorship edited by unknown editors for political reasons are what they are and that certainly is not divinely inspired.

The Bible itself describes the conversion of the Hebrews to monotheism, so if they worshipped other gods earlier than that conversion, which of them inspired the earlier texts?

Also, there are way too many fairy tales woven in to these texts to make them reality based. Clearly they were written as “stories,” stories that would make points, and unfortunately those points were more political than anything else.

What’s Left?
So, if the Pentateuch is so clearly fiction, what does this mean for fundamentalist Christians? It means there was no Creation. It means there was no Adam and Eve. It means there was no Original Sin. It means there is no Heaven and Hell. And, if scripture can be believed, there was probably no real “Jesus” as scripture quotes him time and again believing all of the above because it was Torah, because it was the Law, and Jesus came to Earth to change not one single part of it. So if Jesus was mistaken (at least he is said to be), then what is left?

What is left indeed?

Many Christians subscribe to the position that they don’t need to know all of “that stuff” because they can feel the truth of their religion. They are at odds with all of the zealous work done to “confirm” the events of the Bible. There are events in the Bible that have been confirmed, but they were historical events, easy enough to write into anything after their fact. This provides a veneer of believability, except none of the foundational events upon which these religions were built have been verified. Israel is still using the Bible to justify their occupation of the land they currently hold. That was the justification for the writing of the “scriptures” in the first place, and maybe the only justification.

But to base one’s faith in such outlandish ideas upon one’s personal feelings based upon hearing the stories (often first as children) is very close to having yourself as an object of worship. Think about it. When you first heard the stories of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, did you believe? And if those beliefs were reinforced over and over by trusted adults in your family? And your “belief” in all of those stories is now based upon how you feel?

What is left indeed?

Chrisitanity means what its practitioners believe it means. The current debate over the most recent Papal encyclical is evidence of that. The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics has said that we each have a role to play in conserving the environment that supports our very lives. This seems to be an opinion that is incontestable, but what have we heard since the issuance of the document? We have heard commentary containing the ideas of the Pope could not really mean that and the Pope should stick to saving souls and stay out of politics. (Really, could any Christian claim that their leaders should stay out of politics when the purpose of having a leader is entirely political. Has there ever been a Pope who was not political? (Maybe the one who was assassinated taking the oath of office? No, that was a political statement in itself.)

So, Christianity is currently being redefined by the likes of Mike Huckabee and others of his ilk based upon how they “feel.”

What is left indeed?

Is there really a STEM shortage? And do we want to emulate China or Korea?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:41 pm

Steve Ruis:

I have said things similar but it is nice to see my opinions backed up.

Originally posted on GFBrandenburg's Blog:

You have all heard the mantra that we don’t have enough young people studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and that is the reason that so many Americans are doing poorly.  If you agree with this call,this articlein the New York Review of Books might make you think about the subject differently.

A few important points:

(1) The United States graduates way more engineers and scientists every year than can ever hope to get a job in their fields.

(2) As a result, large percentages of STEM graduates do not work in their chosen field

(3) As part of their profit-maximization strategy, tech giants like Microsoft nonetheless encourage this glut of STEM applicants while at the same time complaining that they need to hire foreigners on H1B visas, who earn on average about 57% of what a similarly-qualified American worker makes.

(4) While many, many American high…

View original 375 more words

Union Thuggery Exposed! Uh, Not!

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a challenge to the way public-sector unions finance their operations. The “plaintiffs” are from California, claiming that some of their “fair share fees” are used to support political positions they don’t approve of.

All of this is quite interesting, in the context of an on-going war on Unions by conservatives and Republicans. I have to ask: what do they have against working people?

The opponents of unions paint dark pictures of unions, harkening back to the 50’s and 60’s in which time union corruption was exposed. Unlike those union opponents, the unions don’t have to go back 50 to 100 years to find evidence of perfidy on the part of corporations. Examples abound in the daily news and have for hundreds of years.

What these worthies have against unions is quite simple: union workers earn higher wages and union members generally vote Democratic. Both of those “outcomes” are based in reality. When workers have someone watching out for their best interests, they do better. The same principle applies to corporation executives when they get called into court or Congress, they lawyer up for the same reason.

In this latest challenge to union “thuggery,” the plaintiffs hope to make the case that the dues collected by their union to pay their “fair share” of the costs for negotiating and administering contracts is just not fair. Please note that the law of the State of California requires the Union to extend all services to all covered by their contracts, whether they are members or not. The reason the law extends the provision to charge non-members fees is because of what is known as the “freeloader rule.” If non-dues paying members of the union can get the same service as dues-paying members, why would anybody join the union? As another example, if you heard Costco was allowing just anyone to go into their stores and shop, how would you feel when Costco’s annual dues bill showed up? Not hard to anticipate, that.

California law requires that unions make a good faith estimate of what the costs of local services are and that becomes the “fair share” dues that non-members must pay. That amount cannot exceed full dues and, at the request of such a payer, an audit can be demanded to ensure that the estimate is accurate.

Some confusion can be had as a sizeable chunk of one’s union dues to the local organization goes off to the State and National organizations, but much of that comes back in the form of various supports. The amount of money spent on politicizing cannot be charged to the accounts of the non-members. Apparently the general public seems to believe that the unions are awash in money that they spend for political reasons. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the last election corporations outspent unions ten-to-one. Unions almost always form political action committees to aid in fundraising as they don’t have enough resources otherwise.

There is a small cadre of non-members in California who make up a very vocal minority for personal and political reasons. I assume the “plaintiffs” are of this ilk. They do not represent other than a small minority of people working under public sector union contracts. But I do not trust this Supreme Court which has proven time and again that they have political biases. California collective bargaining law is fair and balanced and is acceptable to a vast majority of both workers and management. But the conservatives in this country cannot pass on an opportunity to undermine the ability of workers to organize themselves and speak for themselves. There is just too much more money to be made with unions no longer in the way.

Postscript I have some degree of expertise in this having held union offices in California teachers’ union locals.




June 26, 2015

Obama Exposed! Final Proof!

President Obama’s performance in that church in South Carolina today has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt what so many of us have suspected for years. President Obama is a secret Muslim! Only a secret Muslim could possibly deliver such an overtly religious and overtly Christian speech in a country that so cherishes the separation of Church and State. He even slipped and acknowledged that he is coming to take away your guns! Vindication is ours!

(I thought I would save the right-wing nut jobs the trouble of writing this out.)

June 24, 2015

Atheism Called to Task: An Atheist Responds

In a blog post entitled “Atheism Must Be About More than Just Not Believing in God” Patrick O’Connor makes the claim “The human impulse is to seek answers, and to date, atheism has been unsatisfactory in its response.”

This is a puzzling attitude at best. Basically it says “the rest of us have created this fantasy that has certain properties and functions. You atheists don’t believe in our fantasy, so what do you have to offer in its place?”

Teacher, Teacher, I can answer that! . . . nothing.

That’s what you get … nothing. And I will not make the lame excuse that atheists aren’t organized and have no way to respond. There are atheist and humanist and secular societies in abundance. That’s not the problem. The problem is, you haven’t asked a good enough question to engage us atheists.

You ask silly questions like “what happens when we die?” and “I am feeling sad because my mother died, can you console me?” The answers are obvious to any bright school child. When you die, if it is not prevented by silly actions, the atoms of your body come apart and rejoin nature and become parts of new things. And, when your mother dies, you are supposed to feel sad, so feel it.

Equally silly questions are: “why are we here?” (Because we are not some other place.) and “why does it seem that this universe is carefully designed to support life?” (How many universes did you study in your sample to come to this conclusion? This universe may be the least well-tuned for all you know.).

All of these questions are made from a state of weakness, e.g. please tell us what we are supposed to do and why we are supposed to do it, so I’ll know. My response, is “grow a pair.” Why not go out and test some things: how much good can you do, can war be eliminated, how about weapons of mass destruction?

The lesson of atheism is simple: it is all up to you. That’s it. Asking for more is childish.

Missing, Missing, Missing the Point

In the wake of the brutal killings of the Black church members in a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, the debate over whether the Confederate flag should still be flown over the South Caroline state capitol has been rekindled. There seems to be a swelling of support to remove it. But there have been any number of arguments made to defend it as well. Some say it is flown to honor those who died in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. Some say it has been a symbol of racial hatred, too. All of these arguments may be valid but they also miss the point and, once again, the “news media” have missed the main point again.

The Confederate flag, like the American flag, is a battle flag. Such flags are carried into battle and are indicators of identity and have been imbued by those carrying them with the spirit to fight. If your flag is captured in battle, some life goes out of your troops. Stories are told of troops battling furiously to “defend the flag.” But, if you lose the battle, it is usually time to furl the colors. When you lose the war, when you surrender, you “strike your colors” as an indication of defeat and your intention to fight no more. If you win, you can continue to fly your battle flag as an indication, well, of an attitude of “don’t tread on me,” I will fight you.

No one should be flying the Confederate battle flag, period. To do so is to make the claim that the war is not over and that you intend to continue to fight in it. And that war, our Civil War, was a war about slavery. If you have deluded yourself into thinking it was about some nebulous “state’s rights” point or any reason other that slavery, you should go read the proclamations of secession made by the states of the Confederacy. Every one of them mentions slavery as the reason they are seceding, often in proud yet bitter tones.

Fly the rebel flag and you are saying “I will fight for slavery.” You did. You lost. Strike your colors.

June 23, 2015

Why Are All Right-Wing Extremists Christians?

In a blog post at, Reuven Firestone asked the question: “I know that not all Christians are right-wing extremist terrorists, but why are all right-wing extremist terrorists Christians?” This is a twist on “I know that not all Muslims are terrorists, but why are all terrorists Muslim?” but it is nonetheless a worthwhile question. The author focused on whether these right-wing extremists, like the Charleston Church shooter, were motivated by their Christianity. That is, as far as I am concerned, a nest of snakes, not to be unraveled. I think the question is more easily answered.

The question is “why are all right-wing extremist terrorists Christians?” The first part of the answer is: probability. Nationally, 70% of U.S. citizens identify themselves as being Christian. In the South, I would guess it is closer to 80%, so the odds of finding a non-Christian in this terrorist group are low in the first place.

As far as motivation goes, these extremists seem to be living in a land of fantasy. The Charleston shooter was mumbling idiocies like “Blacks were taking over” and “raping our women” as if these were common and widespread activities. Being a Christian requires a regular suspension of disbelief. The more you have “faith,” the more you are willing to believe in fantasies. So, Christianity prepares the ground for political fantasies such as these people dwell upon.

The focus on the “rape of ‘our’ women” leads me to believe this guy had never gotten laid and as a consequence was suffering a fair amount of sexual repression. Christianity is a sexually repressed religion which encourages the feelings of guilt and sin around sex and also promotes a cult of the holy mother. All of these things could support a fantasy of violation, sexual sin on the part of “others,” etc.

The capper, of course, is racism. I can remember racist comments growing up in California, before I ever met a Black person. I can imagine, in parts of the South, that these comments are more frequent. There is no easier identification of an “other” than through skin color, so this is a convenient and common source of prejudice. So, did this most recent moron’s hate stem from his Christian teachings? I doubt that, but I do not doubt that it supported a fair amount of his mindset. The concepts of sin and evil do not have to be taught but are in Christianity. Linking sex to these concepts does not have to be taught, especially to young people who can barely conceive of the topic, but this is done in Christianity.

I would be less harsh on Christians if they were regularly preaching tolerance and getting along and peace, but just as the leavening, a minor component, in bread makes all of the difference, these other factors to too common and have effects too large to be outweighed by generic peace and joy preachments.

Republicans Fall into Pope Trap

Several Republican presidential hopefuls have fallen into the trap set by the Pope. They suggest, not too subtly, that the Pope should stick to saving souls and “leave climate change to the scientists.” Hah! Trap sprung!

These very same Republicans, at the behest of their energy company paymasters, have been unwilling to “leave climate change to the scientists,” because a 95+% plurality of climate scientists say climate change is a man-made effect that will only be solved by man-made solutions. And, instead of seeing this situation as an opportunity to make money in emerging new energy markets, all we have heard from the corporate icons is the loud noise of their heads slamming into the sand as our current energy producers do not want to hear any of this. So, they have spent millions creating a “climate change denial” fiction. They have gone so far as to declare it a hoax. which shows their desparation because that thesis suggests a high level of cooperation between egotistical, arrogant scientists who are competing with one another and would love nothing more than to prove their peers wrong. They have claimed the debate isn’t settled … at the same time prefacing such claims with “I am not a scientist, but …” Why is not the press asking “Well, if you are not a scientist, how would you know whether the debate were settled or not?”

In other words, a bullshit screen has been thrown up for the public and a wall of money built around our legislators. That wall is so high and so thick it makes it hard for our “representatives” to hear us. The only way to get control of this situation is to remind our representatives, very forcefully, that we have an up-or-down vote on their positions in the government. Do it now, do it often. Be a serial single-issue voter. Tell your representative that if they vote against your interests, you will vote against them in the next election, period.

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