Uncommon Sense

August 28, 2016

The Case: Theists v. Atheists, Part 2

As if to prove my point in Part 1 (yesterday), the N.Y. Times ran an opinion piece on how religion is portrayed on TV and other “smaller media” (“Where Is God on the Small Screen?” by Margaret Lyons and James Poniewozikaug, 8-24-2016). The article didn’t prove my point, but the comments sure did! Atheists and theists lobbing bombs back and forth, bright flashes of light, tremendous bursts of bombast … any real communication? Naw.

The crux so far of the dialogue between atheists and theists (pun intended, sorry) is the sense that “both sides cannot be right.” This, however, is not a path forward as it leads to a discussion of who is right and who is wrong and, well, history has shown that does not get us anywhere. Instead, let us consider the possibility that both sides are right, not in the details but with regard to things that are really important. This is not a caving in on my part, it is just a rhetorical device to get past a rather large road block.

Sharing Facts Does Not Work
Let us get this out of the way from the get-go: sharing facts does not, will not, and can not work. Each group has its own facts and is relatively ignorant of the other group’s facts. There is a sizable majority of folks who possess very few of any pertinent facts, but they still have opinions. What those opinions are based upon is important as I hope to show.

So, my favorite topic: pointing out the flaws in others’ thinking (I enjoy it so much that I enjoy it when others point out my flaws in thinking) is counterproductive. The situation is both sides have an array of weapons at their disposal. When one is fired, but has no effect, we reach down and select another weapon and try that one. We don’t stop to reflect on why a direct hit by the opposition has no effect on us. We shrug and assume it is probably the case that their weapons are ineffective. Well, they are ineffective, in both directions, because we slough off any effect they might have if we were to consider what was actually said. Like two children arguing over a point of honor, we stand toe to toe and shout “Is!” followed by “Isn’t!” followed by many repetitions of the same.

I might add to this that euphemisms and clarifications will also not help. Various theists describe god as “Nature” or “the All” or “the Ground of All Being,” whatever. Some sociologists describe god as a metaphor for society as a whole, in that it is all powerful and can crush us like a bug, but if we follow its rules, we have hope.

Naw, doesn’t help.

“Let us consider the possibility that both sides are right,
not in the details but with regard to things that are really important.”

Let’s Peel the Onion One Layer at a Time
Let’s take one claim for the benefit of religion espoused by theists and examine it: the solace a religion provides when a loved one dies. Most of us atheists want to jump to point that fantasies may be reassuring but they aren’t real, but try for a moment to see what is actually going on.

A neighbor of ours has lost her mother and her brother in just the last month. Along with all of the sorrow and loss being felt there are funeral arrangements, settling the affairs of the deceased, informing friends and family, and myriad of other tasks to attend to. Anybody having lived any length of time can relate to this situation.

If one is the member of a healthy church community, a whole cadre of folks are activated when a member dies. Even before your loved one dies, prayers are offered for their recovery and visits to the sick bed are common. Now, you and I know that praying doesn’t work, but it addresses a number of the fears that people have about dying. Few of us want to die alone. We aren’t children; we don’t need somebody to hold our hand as when we learn to cross a street, but physical human contact helps. It is reassuring. Also, we don’t want to be forgotten. We live on in the memories of people who knew us when we were alive. But human memories are plastic and fail when the person owning them dies, so people often try to leave a more permanent legacy, in the form of a building, a book, or something that will point to our existence after we are gone. This is a need we all have. Praying and prayer circles don’t work in an actual physical sense but are examples of an often large number of people holding you in their thoughts, which means you will be remembered, at least for a time.

A solid church community has processes in place to assist members suffering from a bereavement. Church ladies show up at your door with a casserole so your kids can eat, knowing that you won’t feel up to cooking. If your minister is any good, they will call (physically, not via email or phone) and outline all of the support systems being offered. They will check in with you. Some churches have grief counselors available.

The church proper is available for a funeral service or memorial service with folks available who can help with the arrangements. If you want to have a reception after the service in the church’s meeting hall, often all of the arrangements are made by other members.

Who would not want this for a loved one who has to cope with your death? This is solace with a capital S.

And, as atheists, what do we offer as a substitute? Some kind of intellectual purity and a feeling of being all grown up because we no longer believe in fairly tales?

The Big Bugaboo: Death
Many of the benefits of religion seem to surround the Big Unknown: Death. But in my experience, the vast majority of people I have known have spent almost no time thinking about death. We entertain ourselves, ad nauseum, with the potential of dying in myriad movies and books, but actual death … not so much.

Woody Allen said “It’s not death I am afraid of, it’s dying.” and I think he hit the nail on its head. We have all experienced pain, discomfort, fear and other negative emotions and our imaginations allow us to extrapolate those feelings to the transition from being alive to being dead. Being dead has no negatives about it because there are no more emotions, no feeling, no nothing, but we think about leaving loved ones in the lurch, with unresolved financial issues and more. Clearly, dying seems to be rated as “most unpleasant” by most if not all people for good reasons. In addition, evolution has provided us with survival reflexes. If we step off of a street curb and a bus is coming right at us, we step back. We don’t even need to think about it. Any species that did not routinely avoid death would not be around very long. So, we are primed to avoid dying in many, many ways, often subconsciously.

It is “normal” that religions would sprout up to apply salves to the emotional wounds of those left behind which also acts as training for those who will be dying themselves in short order.

And what do we atheists offer instead?

Okay, take a deep breath, I know you want to say that deluding ourselves with fairy tales is not a good way to support healthy lives. You know I agree, but that attitude does not solve the problem. It itself does not solve the problem.

We need to change the way we see things. I remember being appalled when the presiding minister at my uncle’s memorial service stated that he “knew” that my uncle, an avid golfer, was up in Heaven playing golf! (The clergy, like other traditional professions has suffered a brain drain.) When I took the time to think about it, I don’t believe any present actually thought there were 18-hole championship golf courses in Heaven. I suspect that a number of them might have pictured my uncle in the “other place” playing golf with Beelzebub. What most thought was probably something along the lines of “… that’s what I would expect from good old Bob!” It would have been perceived as a joke by those who knew my uncle and not as being blasphemous.

The main message was “your loved one is in Heaven” which, of course, no one could know even within the parameters of religious doctrine. (Imagine the length of the waiting line and the amount you could charge if you could prove whether or not a deceased person was actually in Heaven. For everyone not wanting to know there would be two people who would gleefully want to know whether someone was in the “other place.”) Though Christian scripture indicates in many, many ways that while many are called, few are chosen for admittance through the Pearly Gates, yet according to every Christian Church memorial service, every member who dies is going to Heaven. This is another form of solace for those remaining behind.

We need to learn to translate “what we hear” into “what they hear” if we expect to be able to communicate with them.

I know this is a bit rambling, and I expect to ramble some more but I am heading to a place where we can actually address the real issue: how to meet the social and psychological needs of people who are now using religion to meet them. Because if we do not, then it is no contest, because they are right, their religion does offer solace when a loved one dies and they are right about a great deal more.

August 27, 2016

The Case: Theists v. Atheists, Part 1

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:41 am

Yesterday I received in the mail a paperback book which was a proselytizing instrument. Curious I flipped open the book and read a couple of lines. The author was writing about Satan tempting Christ in the wilderness and drawing a conclusion from it regarding our own future as his god’s children. My thought was “… but if Jesus were God, he could have done 40 days in the wilderness and gained weight from the experience and, as for Satan tempting Jesus with dominion over earthly kingdoms, how much sway would that have over the being that created those kingdoms, who already had dominion over everything, and who in fact created Satan? Don’t these people think about what they are saying?”

I am writing, not about the war between theists and atheists because there is none, but about why there is an almost total lack of dialogue between the two groups. Were I to draw a Venn diagram describing the interaction of the two groups, the overlap between the community of atheists and the community of theists (represented as circles) would show the two groups closer to being tangential than overlapping significantly.

And do not get me wrong. I have reveled in my ability as an atheist to be able to share my perspectives with like-minded people (while secretly holding out the feeling that some brilliant argument on my part will help some deluded theists see the light) but it is clear that I and you have been “preaching to the choir” and have not added anything to the discourse that could affect a meeting of the minds of even just a few members of these two groups. We have basically been talking amongst ourselves. And those in the scant overlap of the two groups, the Christian apologists and prominent atheists who debate one another from time to time, have had no effect whatsoever upon the other group.

I have been taught and truly believe that in order for there to be useful communication between two people, let alone two groups, one much expand one’s reality to include the reality of the other. So far, all we have done is to explain why “those people” don’t belong in “our group.”

An exercise in group communication that I was stunned by when I first did it (in a union-management context) was to have each group in isolation characterize the other group, including all of their wants, desires, etc. Then each group viewed the record created by the other group, in silence with no comment allowed. What I was stunned by was how clearly the management representatives saw and understood us union types and later we found out that they were as equally surprised at how well we understood them. Now that is the basis for further discussion! Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case in this situation. Members of the two groups stand far apart and occasionally throw a rock that hits nothing but the ground. This is some war!

Currently as I see it, this is how atheists view theists and vice-versa:

How Atheists View Theists
Religion is an archaic, irrational force, a source of superstition, including beliefs about an invisible world of spirits and ghosts. Religion has been and still is an institution of inquisitors and heresy-hunters, burning people at the stake or lopping off their heads for their beliefs. Religion is an upholder of the status quo, a kind of agency of the ruling class that makes people put up with economic and political injustice in return for a better life in the hereafter. Religion is a relic of the Dark Ages, something that will die away as societies become modernized.

How Theists View Atheists
Theists are in the vast majority and have been for ages and can’t see how all of those people could be wrong about something that is so profound for so long. Something in which people believe so strongly could hardly be based upon nothing but an error in reasoning. Atheists, in denying the even existence of God, are turning their backs upon all believers and on society as a whole. Standing outside of a religious body, they cannot be trusted to act in a benevolent fashion and their sheer existence can lead the children of future generations astray, to their destruction.

Being perfectly scrupulous about the source of these descriptions, I lifted much of them from Sociological Insight by Randall Collins, a classic of sociology. Please note I avoided including any of the scurrilous claims made by each group about the other.

So, in an effort to re-examine my atheism, I have read a great many books and articles about atheism and Christianity written over the last three thousand years or so, I have viewed many hours of debate between members of the two groups and now, I am here. I have but one question: how is the dialogue going so far?

Obviously, and I do not use the word lightly, it is going nowhere.

In future posts, I will address how atheists could change their role in the dialogue to create a different future. I won’t presume to address the other axis of the communication but would hope that some theists somewhere might accept the challenge and see if they can do the same for their group.

August 26, 2016

Oh, No … Ape Gods?

Filed under: Morality,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 2:13 pm
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In an article on Scientific American Online (“Like Humans, Chimps Reward Cooperation and Punish Freeloaders” by Bret Stetka, August 22, 2016) the following comments were made:

Although the study only looked at a small number of individuals, the results were telling. In 94 hour-long test sessions, the chimps cooperated with one another 3,565 times—five times more often than they were in competition. In addition, the animals used a variety of strategies to punish competitive behaviors, such as preferentially working with their more communal and tolerant fellow animals.

When aggression did occur, it was often used to subdue the overly competitive or prevent freeloading, perhaps an even greater affront to the chimpanzee honor code. Attempted thefts by those who did not put in the work were not well received. In fact, the researchers even observed 14 instances in which a third-party chimp—typically one of the more dominant of the bunch— intervened to punish freeloaders. ‘It has become a popular claim in the [scientific] literature that human cooperation is unique,’ study co-author Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Yerkes, said in a statement. ‘Our study is the first to show that our closest relatives know very well how to discourage competition and freeloading.’”

But, wait as minute. That sounds like a moral code being enforced. How can chimps have a moral code without a god to authorize and enforce it?

OMG, you heard it here first! Chimpanzees have their own god!

We know it is not the god of the Jews, Christians, or Muslims because that god has been quoted as saying “I ain’t no relative of no monkey!” So, we can assume that chimps were made in the image of their god and further we can imagine their god, in all of its glory, as an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-beneficent chimp.

The Jobs Scam

Isn’t it amazing that U.S. Corporations are now for lower tariffs? I can remember a time when U.S. corporations were all for tariffs. Why allow cheaper foreign goods to come into the U.S. to compete with ‘Merican made goods. Keep ‘em out or make ‘em pay! That was the attitude when I was a sprite.

But things are changed. How so, I wonder?

Ah, here it is. By having almost no tariffs, U.S. corporations can ship their goods production facilities overseas (and our jobs with them) to countries that have much lower labor costs, often very weak environmental legislation, and weak government oversight of their business. Oh, and lower taxes, too.

Then these goods, identical in most ways to the goods that were made here, are brought back into this country as “imports” to be sold at the same comfortable prices that we were used to. Certainly they shouldn’t be expected to lower their prices just because their cost of production just went way, way down, do you? Those are the same items we were willing to pay that high price for before, aren’t they? So, no U.S. jobs are supported with those dollars, but so what?

So now, boys and girls, you know why the Captains of Industry in this country went from being very pro-tariff to being anti-tariff in my lifetime.

And, they are all big supporters of the TPP “trade pact” (which is not a trade pact, it is a corporate rights doctrine) which we can count on as being the same kind of support they had for firing so many U.S. workers to be able to make the same stuff overseas, bring them back into the country, and sell them to us at the same prices. We can trust them … to … be … who … they … are!

August 18, 2016

Civilian War Casualties are Invisible, Honest!

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:32 am
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The N.Y. Times had an op-ed piece this morning that asked the interesting question: “Does the U.S. Ignore Its Civilian Casualties in Iraq and Syria?” The reason it is interesting is why would anyone in their right mind limit the discussion to Iraq and Syria?


The U.S. has ignored civilian casualties in every conflict we have engaged in. Recall the firebombing of Dresden, Germany. Recall the indiscriminate bombing in Viet Nam and bordering countries. Recall, well, Sherman’s march through Georgia. Recall, the U.S. Indian Wars in which Native American women and children somehow were considered combatants and were slaughtered indiscriminately.

If you think otherwise, name a conflict in which our behavior changed for the better because of a reaction to civilian casualties. I cannot think of one.

Instead of discussions of the usual chest thumping topics in our high school textbooks, this would be an interesting discussion for all U.S. History classes.

August 17, 2016

Objective Morality, Really?

I have been reading a number of recent blog posts regarding the topic of objective versus subjective moralities. The usual terms are thrown around: “illusory,” “fictional,” “delusional,” etc. I am amazed that this discussion continues.

The only thing of value regarding a moral system is whether or not people will follow it on with actual behavior. A beautiful conceptual framework that everyone ignores is useless as only through behaviors can such a system be identified. Consider slavery: throughout the bulk of human history slavery was considered an acceptable practice, supported by myriad individuals, governments, and religions. Today it is universally considered immoral and anyone practicing it is considered a criminal. Slavery used to be moral, now it is not.

I had to look up definitions of the word “objective” because I thought maybe the discussants were using different definitions and hence the confusion and arguments. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary “objective” has the following applicable meanings:

1bof, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers :  having reality independent of the mind <objective reality> <our reveries … are significantly and repeatedly shaped by our transactions with the objective world — Marvin Reznikoff> — compare subjective

3aexpressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations <objective art> <an objective history of the war> <an objective judgment>

Okay, if there is such a thing as “objective morality,” allow me to suggest an experiment. At the snap of my fingers all of the people on the planet disappear. (Obviously this is a “thought experiment.”) A lone alien explorer lands his ship on the planet to investigate what happened. It quickly discovers that we called our planet Earth (and a bunch of other names), and that history stopped abruptly on August 17, 2016. Question: would they be able to find this “objective morality” if that was their primary interest? If so, what would it be?

When a believer in objective morality can answer these questions, I will begin to consider the existence of an objective morality. I will even help a Western theist of a Christian bent begin: the first question’s answer would be “It would be found in the Holy Bible,” of course. That is what I would expect they would say. But they have to go on. What would the alien researcher read that would delineate a moral system that was objective? (Please note that “because God said so” is not an objective statement.)

Please note whether the alien researcher would find evidence of large numbers of people following this system. Please include the moral instruction from your source regarding slavery in your answer.

I’ll wait.

August 15, 2016

CEO Pay, Again? Really?

Filed under: Business,Morality — Steve Ruis @ 2:24 pm
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A piece on The Conversation (U.K.) about CEO pay describes the situation we have known here for decades. CEO’s are vastly overpaid. The reason, of course, is that they manipulated their Boards of Trustees to become a back scratching club when it came to paying their salaries.

The essence of their argument went that CEOs were underpaid and if their pay weren’t raised “we” would be at a competitive disadvantage. No evidence was given for this claim … because there is none. It is clearly bullpucky, made up out of whole cloth, for the sole purpose of getting themselves raises.

Since over 80% of CEO appointments in major companies (International Fortune 500) come from within, and there is some evidence that such appointments work out better in the long run (in actual performance), I have a suggestion as to how to correct for this malfeasance.

When your CEO is retiring, or you just hate the bastard and fire him, offer the position to the next in line with a 20% pay cut. Explain that if the next in line turns them down the position will be offered to the person beneath him and so forth. He will accept the position. Obviously underlings can’t be paid more than the CEO so all executive salaries need to be adjusted downward.

Declare a moratorium on executive pay increases. Your shareholders will thank you. Your employees will thank you. You executives won’t but they’ve been overpaid for years, so they should just shut up.

When each CEO leaves, repeat the process, until matters are brought back into line with employee salaries (relatively, of course), such as they were in a benchmark year, say 1980.

Easy, peasey.

As an alternative, you could just pile up all of that extra cash you are overpaying your executives and burn it; that would be about as effective as what you are doing now: paying premium wages for ordinary performance.

August 9, 2016

Money and Politics

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:35 am
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The Supreme Court has made a number of surprising decisions regarding money in our political processes (money is a form of free speech, Citizen’s United aka “corporations have more free speech than you do,” etc.) most of which seem to indicate that the justices subscribe to the opinion of mainstream social scientists that money has negligible impact on elections.

A new study has blown holes in this idea and that common sense (money affects politics more than anything else) prevails.

If this interests you, this is a must read article: Stark New Evidence on How Money Shapes America’s Elections

August 7, 2016

You’ve Been Waiting for This All Year …

Filed under: Sports,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 3:27 pm
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You know you want it!

All right boys and girls, we are into the second half of the baseball season and it is time for my annual rant regarding baseball. (I can hear the … delete, delete, deletes … and now that we are rid of those not interested, I continue.)

All the rage on TV broadcasts of baseball games are the graphic strike zones which claim to show where the ball was thrown on each pitch. There are a few problems with these graphics and I have already written about one (see “On Baseball from 4/24/2015 … that’s 24/4/2015 for you Euros out there).

Pitch Trax
Here is a screenshot showing the PitchTrax grid and the little balls that represent the places previous pitches passed near home plate.
The ball is about 3˝ in diameter and any part of it that intersects with the strike zone should be deemed a strike.

Here’s a definition of the strike zone:
Rule 2.00: The Strike Zone. The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap.

And we must keep up with rule changes, so in 1996 the “Strike Zone” was expanded on the lower end, moving from the top of the knees to the bottom of the knees.

So if a ball is thrown by the pitcher from any angle (as long as he begins to throw with one foot touching the pitching rubber he can end up anywhere he can reach) if any part of the ball passes through the strike zone, it is supposed to be called a “strike.”

Now with regard to the grid in the little graphic, we have a problem. Home plate is 17 inches wide and hence so is the strike zone … for everybody, but the height of the zone varies with how tall the batter is. So, I decided to use my own body for an example. According to the written definition, my strike zone would be 17˝ wide and 30˝ high. This zone has an aspect ratio of 1.76 that is the height is 1.76 times larger than the width. I then took a plastic ruler and measured the little grids on my TV screen and this is what I got”

PitchTrax     1.35 : 1
tbStrike Zone     1.35 : 1

I must have got something wrong so I remeasured my own zone and it came out the same … and then I remembered that umpires don’t call balls and strikes according to the actual rule. The rule they follow is:
De facto Rule 2.00: The Strike Zone. The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is at the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the bottom of the knees.

This practice has made the major leagues a “low ball league.” So I measured myself according to this de facto rule and I came up with an aspect ratio of about 1.32 : 1 which is close enough to the little screen grid.

But this doesn’t  actually solve my problem. My problem is they use the same grid for a tall player that they do for a short one. Here are the aspect ratios for the strike zone (= height / width) for the tallest and shortest players:

Tallest (roughly 6´8˝)     1.41 : 1
Shortest (roughly 5´7˝)     1.18 : 1

Now those numbers don’t make a very visual difference, so here are the two grids to the same scale graphically:

Strike ZonesThe strike zone on the left would be the one to use for a 5´7˝ player and the one on the right for a 6´8˝ player.
Note they are of quite a difference in height (but same in width as that is determined by the width of home plate, not the batter)
as well as the one for the taller player starts off farther from the ground (estimated).

I do realize that it is perfectly possible to map any of those grids onto the “standard” one they use for every batter, but that doesn’t give an accurate sense of where the ball actually was to most viewers making it easier for them to be disgruntled.

Also, I still wonder about the technology. I was watch Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox pitch the other day and he is a left-hander who often throws side arm. This means the ball is coming from about three feet to the left of a line drawn outward from the center of the plate. The camera is set up in centerfield shooting over the shoulder of the pitcher (so the batter and catcher can be seen) but fairly high up and to the right. (I am guessing it is to the right because most pitchers are right-handed.) So, Mr. Sale throws one of his wicked sliders which curves from left-to-right as well as travels over 90 mph and the “strike tracking software” throws up a ball symbol exactly where the catcher caught the ball, which was just off the grid. The pitch was called a strike, correctly so, for the pitch to land in the catcher’s glove … three feet beyond the plate on the outside edge of the grid it must have traveled through the grid up near home plate. The announcers reacted that the umpire had given the pitcher a gift by calling a pitch that was outside of the strike zone a strike … based upon a glance at the tbStrike Zone. Why the position of the ball symbol on the grid matched the position of the catchers mitt, which was physically impossible for the ball to do unless it started to curve back to the left when it reached the plate is puzzling.

I do not trust the accuracy of these gizmos and for all I know they could have an intern with a light pen watching a TV screen and then touching the grid on a tablet with a light pen, rather than the complicated radar systems they say they have.

I would prefer that they explain their technology better especially why the grid is the same for all players when the rules say each player has his own strike zone.




Fighting Against the Obvious

It was recently pointed out that a noted economist (Dani Rodrik) has often argued that “markets and states are complements, not substitutes.” Well, duh. It is clear, at least to sociologists if not economists, that without governments there isn’t enough trust in societies to engage in any sort of extensive commerce. Before government control of markets (modern markets, not medieval fairs) most market transactions were more akin to how major drug deals are portrayed in the movies … <cue the edgy music track>: two men with briefcases approach one another, one stuffed with cash, one with drugs. They inspect both to make sure that it was what was agreed upon and not adulterated (e.g. counterfeit currency, counterfeit or diluted drugs). All the while each has guards in place in case anyone wants to pull a heist. Most transactions, even for bunches of carrots were like this: face-to-face with items of equal value being exchanged.

“An obvious conclusion is that for there to be globalization, an expansion of
economic markets to include ever larger groups of countries, you need
more government, not less.”

Even with governmental controls, most transactions had some of this flavor. As late as U.S. Revolutionary times, England had laws requiring some of the commodity being bought being necessarily transferred when the contract was signed (a sheep, a sheaf of wheat, whatever was being bought). This made international commerce somewhat restricted.

Only with governmental security of the contracts, with the force only a government could supply, could make modern markets work at all.

An obvious conclusion is that for there to be globalization, an expansion of economic markets to include ever larger groups of countries, you need more government, not less.

The Republicans and Corporate Democrats (Is there much left of those two parties when you pull out those groups?) are all backers of “globalization” because their paymasters are. (It has been claimed that if the plutocrats didn’t want globalization, the term wouldn’t even exist.) The latest effort to instill more globalization is the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership which is a pact often compared to NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Act. The TPP which will be rammed home shortly on a tidal wave of corporate money actually says very little about trade but, of course, it is still is referred to as a “free trade treaty” between the Pacific rim countries that are involved. So, if it isn’t about “free trade” what is it about? It largely is a corporate rights document, empowering corporations and disempowering governments. (It was written by the corporations themselves, with no help whatsoever from the uncooperative “public.”)

So, what the corporate backers of the TPP, and their lackeys in the GOP and Democratic Party, are trying to establish is the equivalent to “more globalization with less government.”

As has been shown by economists, not overtly because they, too, receive their funding from the plutocrats, these “treaties” are “good” for the economies of the countries involved. What they don’t bother to point out is who specifically is the reaper of those benefits of the benefits of such deals that accrue. It turns out that these treaties are hugely beneficial to corporations and rich people and hugely harmful for the poor and middle classes.

We often hear about the millions of jobs that have been lost to Mexico because of NAFTA. What we don’t hear about are the millions of jobs Mexico has lost to us. Our cheaper agricultural goods have wiped out many Mexican farmers who have then tried to get across the border to find work in the U.S., thus straining our immigration systems. The jobs move quickly from place to place, but we don’t have the same mobility. If your job moves to Viet Nam, will you follow it?

The TPP is of the same ilk. The rich will get much richer, after all they are few. And the poor and the middle class will become even poorer. But that is their lot in life, no?

This is a form of redistribution of wealth of which conservatives approve. This is why they are willing to ignore the obvious (more globalization requires more government, not less). It is all about the money and really nothing else and the rich, they just don’t have enough of it.

In all such cases in which a tiny majority runs roughshod over a much larger majority, it ends poorly, often with the tiny majority trampled by the many. Can this turn out any other way? When will we begin? (Personally I would like to spare them. They have proven, though, that they cannot be trusted with so much wealth. If we want to save them, we need to tax them back to civility.)

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