Class Warfare Blog

November 21, 2015

GOP Caught Collaborating with ISIS Terrorists

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:08 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In a stunning news announcement, the GOP has acknowledged that it has been collaborating with ISIS by coordinating their fear-generating activities. While ISIS is unafraid of using violent acts (beheadings, bombings, shootings, etc.) to instill fear in their enemies, the GOP has taken a less overt/more subtle approach to instilling fear in its base. Through its media organ, Fox (sic) News, the GOP has created so much fear, the fear that a War on Conservatives is taking place, a War on Christianity, that military maneuvers in Texas are a prelude to Obama taking away their guns, that Sharia Law is being implement right here in River City, that even GOP presidential candidates now quail in fear of completely imaginary threats.

A once proud, rock-ribbed party, known for its chant “My Country, Right of Wrong!,” the GOP cannot find a single thing this country is doing right. And the number of fears promoted has gotten so large that they have stooped to warning that one should check under one’s bed at night before going to sleep to make sure there is no liberal hiding there.

The GOP and ISIS found common ground when ISIS, in awe of the ability of the GOP to cause terror, sent representatives to one of the major U.S. conservative political confabs and approached GOP representatives to see if there were any joint efforts they could build a relationship out of. The GOP was said to have “looked favorably on anything ISIS could do to help them win the White House in 2016.”

“If,” they said, “a Republican President were elected in 2016, the U.S. would once again wage a major war in the Middle East, which could only benefit ISIS’s aims.” It was reported that the ISIS representatives were so excited at this prospect that they fired bursts from their AK-47s into the ceiling of the meeting room, which was okay because the convention was sharing space with an NRA-backed gun show.

November 20, 2015

But, But, … Socialism! (Responded the Conservatives)

I just finished viewing Bernie Saunders’s speech at Georgetown University on his view on Democratic Socialism, the ideology he proclaims. I am sure that his opponents will hear many things that weren’t quite said the way they were said. I suspect that the largest outcry will be around Senator Saunders’s use of the word “redistribution.” This term is anathema to Conservatives because it is the tool they used to get where they are now and do not want it being used against them.

Instead Conservatives (really the Radical Right) will claim that “tax and spend Democrats” are trying to confiscate what enterprising Americans have accumulated in the way of wealth through the Free Market and free enterprise system that is the basis for the American economy. There are only three things wrong with this claim. First, the primary mechanism of government is basically “tax and spend,” all governments do this: GOP and Dems, conservative and liberal, all over the world. The differences are what is to be taxed and what is to be spent, not whether there will be taxing and spending, so this is part of a smear campaign on Democrats that doesn’t really mean anything, unless it is spoken with a sneer. (I miss Bobby Jindal already!)

The second thing wrong is that the wealth boasted by the 0.1% of the wealthiest is the benefit of “free markets.” There are no free markets per se, even if one uses the most loose definition of a free market that economists can come up with. All of our economic markets are managed and the management of those markets has been significantly influenced in favor of those accumulating wealth at record paces. Take as examples, some of Senator Saunders’s examples: the lobbying that Wall Street did (costing $5,000,000,000 over ten years if his figures are to be trusted) to get the financial markets deregulated. The Wall Street gang wanted to do what they wanted, when they wanted and they didn’t want to have to comply with “unnecessary government regulations.” We found out how “unnecessary” those regulations were when the unfettered greed of Wall Street brought first the American economy and then the World’s economy to its knees. Trillions of dollars of wealth, mostly in the hands of ordinary citizens, evaporated. The houses that were foreclosed are still foreclosed, but the Stock Market has recovered, even to record levels. So, how “unnecessary” do you think those regulations were?

The third thing is equating “redistribution” with confiscation of wealth. The current state of income and wealth inequality did come about by happenstance; it was manufacturered and the primary tool was redistribution. It began in the 1980’s with Reagan’s tax cuts (primarily for the wealthy by cutting the highest marginal federal tax rates) and then tax increases (primarily in the form of taxes on the middle class and poor—Reagan famously saved Social Security by increasing SS taxes, which are capped at a low level so that the rich pay a much lower percentage of their income than do the poor). Once the rich got to keep so much more of their income, they started using their greater resources to get tax laws changed, like the “unnecessary” financial regulation of Wall Street, and the nasty law that required Hedge Fund managers to pay taxes like ordinary citizens, or the ability for corporations to store money overseas so as to not have to pay taxes on it (tax havens), etc. This then expanded the wealth of the very wealthy even more, so they have continued on this path until now when the needs of ordinary citizens go ignored by Congress, but the needs of the rich get immediate attention and a huge return on investment. One estimate of the ROI on lobbying Congress was 2600%, that is for every $1 spent on lobbying (bribing Congressmen, etc.), the companies got $26 back in return. Most people think the stock market is “great” when they get a 15% ROI, but 2600%(!), no wonder the number of paid lobbyists in Washington, D.C. has exploded.

So, the actual story line is conservatives used redistribution of wealth from the bottom 99% to the top 1% as the tool to create even more power to continue and expand their triumph. Using redistributive tools, such as higher taxes on the rich, to reverse this trend is no abomination, it is only fair play.

Also note that if Hedge Fund managers were asked to pay taxes like everybody else and not get “special treatment” (because, because … ?) we end up talking about “raising” their taxes, when we are really not raising them but normalizing them, by removing a special status they purchased through bribery and corruption and in no way, shape, or form do they deserve.

Bernie did miss a point he could have scored well on, especially at a university. In the 1960’s there was rampant “anti-war” activity by students including massive demostrations in the streets of cities all over this country, so great that a sitting President decided to not run for re-election. Conservatives were gnashing rugs in their ire. These damned unwashed (Smelly!) kids had the nerve to oppose “Our Country” (Right or Wrong!), especially when the public was basically supporting these ingrates with near free public college educations! (My “fees and tuition” were $100 per semester in the late 1960’s.) Shortly thereafter, college tuition started to creep up and then storm up faster and faster. The primary reason was the reduction of governmental support for low tuition college education. (Hmm, I wonder how that happened … and it is still happening in Wisconsin and Kansas, and….)  After that, somehow college loans became non-dischargeable during bankruptcy. I wonder how that happened as we grant bankruptcy to the most despicable business entities and persons in the country (Donald Trump has had several of them)? Senator Saunders quoted Franklin Roosevelt saying that we will not be truly free until we are free economically. The Conservatives have made sure that uncontrollable (and often liberal) college students will be in economic shackles for much of their life, at least consuming any youthful energy they might have had to devote to politics.

Do not be fooled—none of this current state of affairs came about by “accident” or “natural market forces,” it was all managed. And if you want to know who the managers were and are … follow the money.

It is Actually Simple

I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“What was that? Did you hear that?” Most of us have woken up in the middle of the night due to a loud sound, from outside or within your domicile. Maybe the cat knocked over a flower pot or a car backfired on the street outside. We have always been primed to fear the heard but unseen. In our infancy as a species, we learned to fear that which we could not see, for the simple reason that if you hear, or just suspect the presence of, something that you cannot see and you are wrong, there is no penalty. But if you do not fear what you cannot see, you can end up as a meal for a predator, or suffering from snakebite or insect bites and stings. Evolution has shaped us to fear things unseen.

We have also done some of that shaping. We taught our children to fear things they could not see because when they finally did see them, it might be too late. We still do this. We teach our children to be fearful with sharp objects and hot things, especially those that do not look hot. And when our children overtly fear things heard but not seen (lightning, animal sounds, etc.), we comfort them and tell them that we will protect them.

When the adults were frightened occasionally good things happened (e.g. when animal cries lead them to a meat animal with a broken leg which provided sustenance to the family) so things heard but not seen could be good, too.

This then got, well, expanded upon, as when a solar eclipse scared the entire group but one member out of fright or epilepsy went into a fevered dance and whatever was eating the sun went away. Status was given to those in communication with the unseen powers, at least those who could produce an occasional positive result. Then it was in the personal interests of those so favored to keep and even expand their higher status in the group.

More and more detail on one’s ability to communicate or even command unseen powers was needed when larger and larger groups congregated and soon we had many “spiritual worlds” spinning around replete with gods, goddesses, demi-gods, cherubim, imps, demons and more.

But as we study human history, pre-history, human psychology, and evolutionary biology, we exit the complex religious atmosphere we created with a clear narrative of how it got that way. We have found the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

Yet, people still yearn for the ineffable in the form of unseen forces (We can sense them!), they still refer to the “religious instinct” as if the religions we created are needed to fill an inherent need on our part, rather than being a part of what was needed to survive, back when we were so vulnerable. People argue that without religion, we would have no morality, when a simple examination shows that the least religious countries have the lowest crime rates as well as other indicators indicating higher moral values.

These “longings” are just part of a normal resistance to change and will fade over time.

So, how do we live without religion?

I suggest that real “spiritual leaders” are those people who can focus our attention on how much we need one another. I am not talking about needing a plumber to fix our plumbing, or a bureaucrat to help us fill out our tax forms. I am talking about our need for social interaction. I am somewhat reclusive, and then I go to a gathering and talk everyone’s head off in conversation after conversation as if some floodgate of interaction was opened. We are social animals. We do not do well in solitary confinement, hence its use as a punishment for criminals (an unwise one as it leads to psychopathy).

We do not just need to just “take care of #1,” we need to take care of one another. If you desire life after death, embed yourself in the memories of many, many people by doing them a kindness. You will live on long after you are dead.


What the Heck Has Happened to American Conservatives?

I have to ask: where have all of the conservatives gone? After purging it’s ranks of liberals and moderates, the GOP seemingly has continued on to rid itself of actual conservatives, leaving only the Radical Right in its ranks. (Yes, the GOP used to have liberals and moderates … in my lifetime!)

  • During the Viet Nam War and just after the conservative chant was “My Country, Right or Wrong!” and now it is “My Country: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!”
  • Conservatives used to believe that we were a strong nation and now they seem to be afraid of shadows and curable diseases and 5-year old refugees.
  • Conservatives used to support the social structures of the country, including our public schools and now they argue that public schools should be closed because they are not profitable and replaced with for-profit charter schools.
  • Conservatives used to support Small Business and now Small Businesses are thrown under the tax bus so that large corporations can continue receiving corporate welfare tax breaks.
  • Conservatives used to support the social safety net and now they want to do away with Medicare and Medicaid because they are not making profits for their corporate sponsors.
  • Conservatives used to be proud of our strong infrastructure (Eisenhower created the Federal Interstate Highway system, for example, and transportation bills passed regularly with huge pluralities) and now they don’t want to spend a dime on infrastructure that can’t be used as a wedge to undermine other spending.

When I was young the common saying was “if you weren’t a liberal when you were young, you didn’t have a heart and, if you weren’t a conservative when older, you didn’t have a brain.” Now it seems as if the Radical Right requires that you exercise neither heart nor brain but reach for as much bile as you can.

It is sad, very sad what has happened to American Conservatives. Are there any of you left out there? Hello?

November 19, 2015

Bad Ideas … Executed Immediately!

Ever since the terrorist attacks in Paris, France the Republican candidates for President and many of the Republican governors have been vociferous in their demands that the U.S. not accept any more Syrian refugees, as they represented just too great of a terrorism threat. Then, just a couple of days of investigation in France has shown that all of the terrorists, every last one of them, were citizens of Europe, notably of France and Belgium. Not a single Syrian was involved, refugee or not. And this is but one of many issues they have got dead wrong.

This highlights a cornerstone of the 2016 Presidential election: it seems there is a high probability that the House of Representatives and the Senate will still be controlled by the Republican Party. Do we also want to install a Republican President so that every bad idea that comes up can be run through the machinery of government before anyone really has time to think?

2016: Do we want single party control? Do we want bad ideas executed immediately?

November 17, 2015

Supersonic Winds and the Working of Science

A group of astrophysicists have identified a planet circling another star where the winds are blowing twenty times fast that anything ever recorded on Earth, about 5400 miles per hour.

In my lifetime, we have progressed from a point at which we had no evidence that there were planets circling other stars to a point that we have not only discovered ways to identify a great many “extrasolar planets,” aka “exoplanets,” but are now able to identify and measure weather patterns on some of those planets.

What was pure speculation then is now supported by facts. And, importantly, once we have facts we stopped talking about speculations that are not supported by the facts. Those ideas disappear back into the swamps of our imaginations.

This is how progress is made in understanding how reality works; no other method works at all.

This is why the current trend in political circles to eschew facts in favor of a more favored but false fiction is especially dangerous.

November 15, 2015

Where’s the Conservative Ennui?

Filed under: Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:15 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Four gunmen systematically slaughtered at least 87 young people attending a rock concert in Paris recently and conservatives have gone ballistic saying we have to make war on ISIS, we have to nuke something, and we need to do it now!

I don’t understand.

Where are the conservatives saying it is too soon to be addressing changing laws or changing anything really, as that would be exploiting people’s grief?

Where is the NRA saying that only good guys with guns could have stopped the bad guys with guns?

Where are the NRA shilling Congressmen saying that there is no need for more laws, the laws they have just need to be enforced?

Where are the conservative assholes saying that such events are the cost of liberty?

Why are they calling for action now, when every time a similar event occurs in this country, they dissemble, deflect, and ignore?


November 7, 2015

Feeling the Burn

At the Democratic Candidates Forum on MSNBC last night a number of questions regarding the production of energy were asked. One in particular asked about what to do about jobs while we make the transition from traditional sources of energy to new greener ones. What wasn’t supplied was some background. If one looks at the coal industry, for example, in 1923 there were 705,000 coal miners working in 9300 mines. In 2011 there were 88,000 miners working in 1300 mines. During that time, the rate of coal production doubled (yes, twice as much coal being produced by one eighth as many miners). Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration

Something that also doubled (and doubled and doubled) are the profits of the coal companies involved.

If the coal mining industry were to be put out of business entirely, you are talking about only 88,000 jobs, not millions as have been implied. Plus there are many uses for coal other than just burning it, that there will always some need for workers there, so do not expect there to be zero workers any time soon.

There have been similar reductions in the number of workers in the oil industry, to the point that some companies have included people working in gas stations to bolster their numbers of employed.

Then consider that jobs are being created in the alternative energy sector at quite a clip. There are apparently more people working in “solar” than are working in “coal” at present.

Now consider the rate of change of a country this big with this much infrastructure. If you think turning an ocean liner is hard, try turning the U.S. Nothing is going to happen all that fast.

And, I must ask, why is it perfectly acceptable for the coal industry to reduce its numbers of miners from 705,000 to 88,000 (that is by 88%!) over 90 years for profit but not for the continuing well being of all of our citizens. Why are special considerations needed?

And if another “critic” of alternative energies states that they wouldn’t be doing so well without government subsidies, I will scream. The damned oil companies, some of the richest and most profitable in the world, are still getting government subsidies and have for almost 100 years. Why should the new energy companies be treated any differently?

Feeling the Bern

Right after last night’s Democratic Candidates Forum on MSNBC, the talking heads got together for chitchat. One point leapt upon almost immediately was that Sen. Bernie Saunders had done poorly on the ISIS question, a question he had done poorly on before.

What the Hell?

I had just watched his segment and remembered it fairly clearly. Bernie was pressed on what we should do about ISIS. His response was that he felt that the current activities surrounding ISIS and Syria were a battle for the soul of Islam and we should stay out of it. That the Muslim countries surrounding the area need to get their boots on the ground and not wait for us to do so. Host Rachel Maddow pressed even harder, “But if they do not, should we …” and the applause from the previous statement (that we should stay out) had not died down much, drowned out Bernie simply saying “no.”

What I heard was clear and unequivocal. Why is it the pundits so often get it wrong, especially when it comes to Bernie Sanders? Is it their desire to be a part of the “I knew it all along” crowd that they come to conclusions before they heard the positions of the candidates? Is it because they already have a horse in the race (Hillary Clinton)? Chris Matthews has never hid his opinion of Hillary.

Why is it that pundits have more than a hard time “Feeling the Bern?”

November 6, 2015

And We Support Them for This?

“It’s not surprising, given its army of first-rate scientists and engineers, that Exxon was aware as far back as the 1970s that carbon dioxide from oil and gas burning could have dire effects on the earth. Nor is it surprising that Exxon would later try to cast doubt on what its experts knew to be true, to inject informational pollution into the river of knowledge about climate change.” (Fossil Fools by Timothy Egan, N.Y. Times, 11-5-15)

Reuters estimates that Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil paid effective federal tax rates of 19 percent, 18 percent, and 13 percent, respectively, in 2011. Reuters noted that this is “a far cry from the 35 percent top corporate tax rate.” Plus these are some of the most profitable companies in the U.S. economy, even the world economy.

Then the anti-climate change “memes” created by Exxon became required talking points for the GOP political candidates receiving the small mountain of money Exxon has spent on electioneering. Consequently political action on climate change is almost nonexistent.

But Exxon and the next four biggest oil companies receive $2.4 billion dollars per year in federal tax subsidies.

So, here is an idea. Exxon has said to U.S. citizens in no uncertain terms “Fuck you, our profits are more important than your futures.” As a start we should say back “Fuck you, Exxon, you will no longer receive your lion’s share of that annual $2,4000.000.000 federal tax subsidy.” We should take the money saved by canceling their tax subsidies and investigate Exxon’s culpability in this scandal, as well as the participation of all of the other oil giants in the U.S. I can’t believe that none of them knew what was going on. And they didn’t say anything either.

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