Uncommon Sense

January 30, 2013

A Real Must Read Blog

Paul Krugman is the exception to the rule that economists are “people who are good at math but don’t have enough personality to become accountants.”

In his latest blog post he begins with: “Aha. In his latest op-ed, John Taylor comes out as a full-fledged monetary Calvinist. No, not a disciple of John Calvin, the preacher — a disciple of Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes.

Dr. Krugman reads the classics, that is Calvin and Hobbes.

If you are not a regular reader of Dr. Krugman’s blog (already reputed to be the most read blog created by an individual) I recommend it highly: The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/).

Tax the Rich (Corporations)!

According to Richard D. Wolfe, an economist:

. . . approximately fifteen million of our citizens attend colleges and universities. Over twelve million out of those fifteen million attend a public college or university. That means that the overwhelming bulk of the highly trained, highly skilled workforce we produce in this country is created by the public sector by public universities sustained by public funds.

The future of the American economy depends as much on the quality and quantity of these well-trained college and university graduates as it depends on anything. Our future as an economy and as a society is in many senses dependent on public higher education.

How strange it is that our current economic crisis which the public education system had nothing to do with producing, is forcing many of the fifty states in our country, almost all of them, to cutback on the support they give to public higher education; to fire teachers, to cut back on programs, to close whole departments or to demand more money out of students and their families at a time when they can least afford it.

Now couple this situation with the parallel situation that American corporations are crying about a “skills gap,” which they say is manifested by jobs requiring advanced skills going begging because no one is applying. They say the skilled workers are clearly not available and that the only solution is the open the floodgates to foreign born, well-educated workers to come here to fill those jobs.

Now, the dirty little secret about many of those jobs “going begging” is that the pay associated with them is closer to that of McDonalds than it is a common wage for someone with those skills. No one is applying for them because the wages being offered are ridiculously low. Why would a master machinist work for $10 and hour when he could get $10.25 at McDonalds? Why would a senior chemist work for $60,000 a year when recently, that job paid $125,000 a year. But you can bet that foreign workers will work for those wages to get their foot in the door in this country. The net effect will be to depress wages for all people in the country. This is another attempt by the plutocrats to force wages lower and increase their already record-level profits.

How about we do this: business taxes on major corporations are already at record low levels, so since businesses are the major beneficiaries of a highly educated workforce, how about we get them to pay more, with the “more” directed primarily at higher education?

Couldn’t G.E. for example, pay some business taxes (currently they pay none) to pay for the highly trained workers we are supplying them? Shouldn’t there be an Alternative Minimum Tax for corporations?

January 27, 2013

Roe v Wade Nonsense

Filed under: Education,History,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 9:38 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Part of Bill Moyers Program tonight (1-27-13) was devoted to the fact that the Supreme Court decision “Roe v. Wade” had been in effect for going on forty years. In addition, abortions, the legalization of which for the whole country was the point of that decision, were currently harder to get than any other time in the previous forty years. One of Mr. Moyer’s presenters pointed out that the original laws banning abortions were not based on religion or morals but a power grab by doctors (mostly male, mostly white) trying to put midwives and nurses (mostly female) out of business.

That aside, it is the common impression in this country that as soon as the ink was dry on Roe v. Wade, babies were being killed by the hundreds, thousands, millions further eroding white population supremacy.

So, I made a graph showing the U.S. Birthrate by year for the last 100 years or so. If “Roe” had had such an effect, we should see plummeting birthrates immediately thereafter, no? Here’s the graph—can you pick out when Roe became the law of the land?

US Birth Rates Graph #1

Did you find it?

The next graph has the same data but with the year labels replaced and two lines added. The red line shows the year that Roe became law, 1974. The blue line shows the trend in birth rate just prior to its passage. From 1905, the birth rate in this country has been declining (it recovered somewhat after the Great depression but then continued to decline). This is normal and almost always occurs as people in general become more affluent and women in specific become better educated and acquire more political power. Remember the “Population Bomb?” We were heading to sheer disaster due to over population according to some in the 1970’s. The United Nations had studies and dire predictions; it wasn’t just disaster mongers claiming this. But the Population Bomb didn’t pop. The reason? Education of women and political rights won by women around the world. Birth rates tumbled and the “bomb” was defused.

US Birth Rates Graph #2

You can see from this second graph that right after Roe was made law, the decline in birth rate virtually stopped. It certainly didn’t follow the blue line from that point onward. Now this is a complicated subject and Roe is not the only factor involved, but certainly the numbers of abortions did not sky rocket (it would have shown up) nor did women turn away from motherhood. What Roe allowed was safe, medical abortions rather than the unsafe “back alley” ones that were available before. If there was any other effect, it wasn’t negative.

Repealing Roe or doing the myriad things Republicans and other Conservatives are doing to effectively “outlaw” abortion will not reduce the number of abortions. It will just result in more dead women from unsafe abortions and the last time I checked, dead women don’t have any more children.

Some argue that this is a moral issue. I say, if it is a moral issue, don’t legislate it for Pete’s sake. Do we want our morality legislated? What they “give” us, they can “take” away. If you believe abortion to be immoral, no one should force you to have one. But if you do not, should you be forced not to have one? Some “moral” issues such as murder are easy to legislate to the betterment of all. Others not so much. We should keep to our own moralities and keep religion and the rest out of our state houses.

January 25, 2013

God Has a Plan For You (And I know What It Is, but You Don’t, Nyah, Nyah!)

A Gallup survey has found very strong correlations between belief in a God who has a plan for individuals and the belief that hard work is sufficient for success.

The survey was conducted for Baylor University by Gallup in 2010 and they have a margin of +/- 4%. When asked how they felt about the statement “God Has a Plan for Me,” people responded:
Strongly Agree 40.9%
Agree 32.2%
Disagree 12.3%
Strongly Disagree 14.6%
Those who strongly agreed with the statement “God has a plan for me” responded to the statement “Anything Is Possible For Those Who Work Hard” thus:
Strongly Agree 53.7%
Agree 34.2%
Disagree 25.6%
Strongly Disagree 21.5%

If you believe that God does have an individual plan for your life, then of course God will provide you with whatever you need to accomplish whatever it is that God intends for you. God wouldn’t have a plan for you then not supply you with the abilities needed to work the plan. It’s up to you, though, to execute God’s plan. It’s not necessary for the government to help you; in fact, it would demonstrate a lack of faith to rely on the government instead of on God. What’s more, it would be immoral to not make the most of what God has given you. Therefore, you have an obligation to God to work as hard as possible and when you do so, God will ensure that you will be just as successful as God intends for you to be. This leads, of course, to: if you aren’t successful, it must be because you haven’t worked hard enough. (My guess is that Pizza Man Herman Cain who ran for President was an Evangelical.)

Therefore, if you aren’t successful, it must be because that you are lazy or maybe shiftless (but only if you are Black) or you’ve been seduced into accepting government assistance. Either way, government assistance must be cut or eliminated in order to end temptation and punish those who refuse to work hard.

It is clear that this is a message provided by those in power. Religion and the state have always been protagonists, finally culminating in the standoff in the U.S. in the form of “you mind your business and I’ll mind mine,” also known as “separation of church and state.” Look around the world and you will not see similar chummy relations. In Islamic countries and countries which have large Islamic populations, the church is trying to get in the driver’s seat of the wagon of state, if it isn’t there already. In Israel, the religious ultraconservatives are constantly at odds with the state. There are dozens more examples.

Apparently it can’t be part of God’s Plan for you to be out of work.
But what if it were part of God’s plan and he is testing us to see if we are
sufficiently charitable to provide nontrivial assistance . . .
something like unemployment compensation, maybe?

Of course, institutions of power, like Christian churches, are not apolitical, they make sure that their acolytes are primed to think the right way, especially about power. (My partner grew up as a Baptist and she always wondered why every danged one of them voted Republican. Chance would yield a 50:50 mix, not 99:1.) Institutions of power want you to shut up, work hard, expect a reward later (preferably after we are dead), and make as much money for the masters as you can; either for your corporate masters or the masters to whom you tithe. And if you can disadvantage one of the other institutions of power along the way, more the better.

Think about it. One could look at unemployment compensation, which is a form of insurance mind you, but we could look at it as charity. But evangelical Christians look at it as unnecessary government support, interfering with God’s plan for you. God wants your children to be hungry, wants you to lose your home, and wants you to work somewhere flipping burgers instead of the high paying machinist work or copyediting work you’ve done for most of your life. It is part of His Plan! (These are the same folks who answer almost any tough question about their religion with “No one can know the mind of God” . . . except them when it comes to God’s plan for you.)

Does their Bible really recommend this? Actually not, unless you go back to the Pentateuch of the Jews . . . , also called the Old Testament, which Evangelicals say has been superseded by the New Testament and Jesus, but well, anything to back up a good conservative message, right?

Christian charity means: it is okay to give other people money but only if we can do it through church charities where we have the opportunity to shame people for being out of work. (This was a significant barrier to getting relief distributed during the Great Depression. New Deal officials had to explain to their workers that they could speed up the distribution of relief funds a great deal if they didn’t spend so much time shaming people for being out of work or poor!)

Apparently it can’t be part of God’s Plan for you to be out of work. (They do know the mind of God!)  But what if it were part of God’s plan and he is testing us to see if we are sufficiently charitable to provide nontrivial assistance . . . something like unemployment compensation, maybe?

Apparently those people don’t think like that.

January 24, 2013

Ah, So That Is It

Readers of this blog know that I have railed against the abusive uses of money to control our politics and society, and railed against the absurdities of religion, plus the seemingly unexplainable rejection of science by many in our culture.

What I didn’t know is that they are all connected.

There is a movie that shows this in great detail. It is called Zeitgeist: Addendum. I just finished viewing it on Netflix, so I assume it is available from other suppliers as well. There are three Zeitgeist movies, I have seen the first two now. (For you non-German scholars, zeitgeist translates roughly into “spirit of the times” (literally it means “time ghost/spirit”).)

I strongly recommend you view this movie. If you do not accept the second half of this movie, please do not reject the first half as I recognized all of the evidence they provide as being truthful, that our foreign policy is a corporate policy, that money enslaves people, that money itself creates inequality, etc.

You can also get more information at www.thezeitgeistmovement.com.

I am going to go view the third movie.

January 23, 2013

GOP Fears Annihilation

Today House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner stated unequivocally that he believed that President Obama intended nothing less than the annihilation of the Republican Party.

To which I am sure the President responded: “Please proceed, Mr. Speaker, please proceed.”

President Obama has learned that when an opponent is busy beating himself one should not interrupt.

Around the News

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:02 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The Chicago Tribune points out that a local community is having trouble buying ammunition for police guns: “The national discussion on gun laws made its way to the Orland Park Village Board meeting this week when the police department asked to make its annual ammunition purchase earlier than normal. Police Chief Tim McCarthy said it is becoming more difficult to find suppliers with the ammunition needed by the police department because of an increase in demand. “We have been checking around,” he said. ‘We’re finding that ammunition is drying up.’”

Can anyone doubt why the likes of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA is going around the country warning folks that “Obama’s gonna take your guns”? The bulk of the NRA’s funding comes from ammunition and gun manufacturers, but gosh, I can’t imagine they would be so venal as to try to scare people just to boost their sales . . . would they?


Reuters reports that “A key U.S. Senate committee will hold a hearing in coming weeks to examine U.S. aviation safety oversight and the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to allow Boeing Co. to use highly flammable lithium-ion batteries on board its new 787 Dreamliner, a congressional aide said on Tuesday.”

The Senate better watch out; it looks as if they are dangerously close to endorsing the existence of, gasp, regulations!


Fox (sic) News has condemned the President’s Inaugural Speech for not reaching out enough and being a liberal screed (the end of Reaganism, etc.). It is not known which one of their staffers actually saw and heard the speech or read a transcript to supply them with their lines.

GOP Shocked and Aw, Jeez . . .

GOP Shock and Awe Jeez

January 22, 2013

Yes, Yes, . . . and . . .

Yes, President Obama just delivered a liberal’s wet dream of an acceptance speech during his second inauguration celebrations. In it were a large number of progressive positions, enough to make even me smile.

And . . .

And in his first term, his Justice Department couldn’t bring itself to prosecute any of the myriad crooked bankers who brought down the economy. In his first term, the Patriot (sic) Act continued to erode our civil rights, with the giant federal computer center continuing on track to monitor every bit of electronic communication in the country, without warrants, of course.

All of the Bush era privacy breaches are still in place and President Obama is using that “Act” to justify drone strikes on foreign territory that have killed hundreds and hundreds of civilians. Those drone strikes are “clandestine” so we don’t even claim them, plus we do strikes as “favors” to our “partners.”

The power of corporations and the wealthy, the cause of our middle class decline and the cause of our distorted foreign policies, has not received one setback not of their own making. The banks “too big to fail” are even bigger. The Wall Street gamblers are still gambling, still with our money.

The monied elite are still calling all of the shots and no change or hope is on the horizon.

I do not want progressive plums dangled in front of me as a distraction to the fact that the power of the wealthy and corporations is unhindered.

Nice talk, Mr. President. I still await action.

January 20, 2013

Marriage on the Skids

Filed under: Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 1:03 pm

In a recent article, the following was stated as trend in marriage in the U.S.:

And yet, as of December 2011, just 51% of all American adults were married and 28% never had been, down from 72% and up from 15% in 1960. The median age of first-time newlyweds is at an all-time high (which may make the marriage-rate decline appear sharper than it actually is: some are delaying marriage rather than forgoing it entirely). However stark the overall rate decline, it is not spread evenly: marriage rates are higher, and out-of-wedlock birth and divorce rates lower, among wealthier and better-educated Americans. A bare majority of whites (55%) and minorities of Hispanics (48%) and blacks (31%) are married; majorities of all three races were married in 1960.”

I say, so far so good.

There are studies galore about how marriage benefits people. They are all flawed in one way or another. If you drop the word “marriage” and substitute it for “happiness” or “stability” I think you would be more on point. Many of the so-called benefits of marriage are artificial: the marriage tax benefits, the societal benefits, etc. Much of the parental approval comes from “marriage” being a precursor to having children (grandchildren to the parents of those wedding).

And the dark side of marriage is often not told. If you are married, you are individually responsible for each other’s taxes, so if one partner bugs out, the other is stuck with both person’s tax burdens. (I know this from experience.) Your marriage “contract” is a personal contract and is only enforced by one of the principals. Lots of luck with that if you have to try to enforce your marriage contract; law enforcement agencies won’t help.

But I say: so far, so good! Marriage as an institution is pretty much bankrupt. Good riddance.

But there is a missing part of the social fabric, direly needed, and that is a legal obligation tied to having children. Currently there are a few laws in place but nothing in the marriage contract per se. Instead of pre-nuptial agreements, people need to establish a legally enforceable agreement to support their own children. In the absence of such a negotiated agreement, there needs to be a default agreement that comes into effect should a couple get pregnant unwittingly, married or not.

I think France has the right idea. They support children. They support the mothers and fathers of newborns with stipends and services (like child care, counseling, training, and hospice). And they will drop a ten ton weight on your head if you do not support your own children. They do not kid about your responsibilities.

Children are future citizens. We owe them a good start, whether their parents are capable people or not. Dump marriage; support Paternity/Maternity Contracts enforceable by government.

More on Gun Control Idiocy

A local newspaper columnist commented today that “We learned from the 1994 assault weapons ban that modest gun control measures don’t work.”

Say what? This guy seems to think that a piece of legislation with more wholes in it than a dozen wheels of Swiss cheese not having a desired effect proves something.

He must believe that the word “ban” really meant what it said. I also presume, from this demonstration of his thinking, that he assumes that people stopped drinking during Prohibition.

What ever happened to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?” The 1994 assault weapons ban had little effect on murders and suicides, that is true, but why did it have little effect? Could it be that all of the hundreds of millions of weapons already owned were grandfathered in? Did the “ban” really reduce the numbers of such or similar weapons in circulation or did they actually expand? I remember that in California it was hard getting such weapons because people bought them by the pallet load because “the ban was coming, the ban was coming!” Delays in the implementation of the law allowed people to buy up all kinds of weapons so they could be grandfathered in with all of the other “previously purchased” guns.

If the “ban” effectively caused an increase in the numbers of such weapons being available, they why would we have expected any positive effect whatsoever?

We must instead go farther and ask questions like why are detachable magazines needed at all? A hunter can load several to many rounds into a tubular magazine of a gun and have plenty of bullets to fire off, certainly as many as are needed to hunt. In California, fowl hunters were only allowed three shells in their shotguns at a time; that didn’t stop any of the bird hunters that I could tell. Banning high capacity magazines makes excellent sense, but what about banning all magazines?

If one of these gun psychos had to stop and slide cartridges into his gun one at a time to reload just like in the days of the wild, wild West, would that not give a chance for people to get away or someone to tackle the asshole, as was the shooter of Gabby Gifford? Even the NRA assholes should like that because it gives people a chance to return fire.

Could we not have authorized gun ranges where people could rent semi-auto and automatic guns to fire off . . . continuously, should they want to? (There is one of these in Nevada I know of.) Why is it necessary to own such things and keep them around the house?

I think the line between somebody’s recreation or confiscation fantasies and our dead babies needs a much closer look.

Afterward And for those of you who think I am anti-gun, I have gone to indoor ranges numerous times and rented pistols to the end of banging away contentedly. Not only is it great fun, but I get to shoot different guns each time I go and it costs way less that if I were to buy my own guns . . . and gun safe . . . and gun tools . . . and trigger locks . . . and pistol cases . . . and cleaning kits . . . and ammunition . . . way less.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.