Uncommon Sense

December 30, 2017

Are UFOs Real?

Filed under: Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:27 am
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This is a quite stupid question that keeps getting muddled. Of course UFOs are real, but that is not the problem. The real problem is with the “U,” that is they are unidentified.

Many people, apparently, want these UFOs to be evidence of visitations from extraterrestrials, i.e. real aliens. That interpretation is still open.

So, UFOs are real. They are real mistaken identities, real secret weapons systems, and real we don’t know what the heck they are. But what about the aliens? Most people are ignorant of basic science, so allow me to establish some parameters based upon known scientific limits. One of those limits is that as a physical object, such as a spacecraft approaches the speed of light, really any sizable fraction of it, the amount of energy needed to increase the object’s speed goes up, well astronomically. This makes moving a space craft along at the speed of light essentially impossible, but let’s assume, for the sake of this discussion, that such a feat, travel at the speed of light, were possible.

If any neighbor of ours wanted to come our way, what do you think would be a reasonable travel distance? I suggest a reasonable limit to that distance is 100 light years. If a planet is 100 light years away (the distance light were to travel in 100 years) and it had a spacecraft capable of doing what we think impossible, traveling at the speed of light, they would be undertaking a trip that would take 100 years to get here and 100 years to get back. Even if these space faring aliens lived incredibly long lives, that is a very long time to be cooped up in a spacecraft, exposed to the hazards of space travel (nasty radiation that cannot be blocked out, the vacuum of space, tiny meteoroids that can and do punch holes through spacecraft, no refueling/reprovisioning stations along the way so you have to bring everything with you, etc.). The boredom alone would make the trip daunting.

So, there is a region in space surrounding our planet, that is 100 light years in radius from which we could reasonably expect a possible visit. How does this compare with the size of the rest of the universe? The universe is 14 billion or so years old, so its radius is about 14 billion light years. To compare the volumes, we need to cube the radii of both “spheres” and we end up with a ratio of 1003 to 14,000,000,0003. That means our little neighborhood constitutes roughly 3.6 x 10–23 of one percent of the entire universe (just add a decimal point and 22 zeros in front of the 3 and you can drop the rest).

We could conclude, therefore, that our little bubble in space also contains that fraction of the space faring intelligent alien species in the universe, too. Oh.

If you have ever wondered why we don’t see “them,” this is why.

Oh, I didn’t mention the time problem. The universe is 14 billion years old and we have been looking for aliens for maybe 100 years … to make a long story short, we have a similar fraction of time in which such encounters could occur. Space faring aliens may have come and gone, too far away to make contact, millions of times and we couldn’t possibly have noticed them as we were not looking.

There is a reason why science fiction authors are constantly inventing methods of travel (wormholes, warp drives (whatever that is), etc.). The inventor of the warp drive was cagey enough to not define what a warp number meant. Most people think it is like the Mach system with the speed of light replacing the speed of sound, so Warp 5 is five times the speed of light. The Star Trek shows seem to indicate that a limit to their technology was travel at about Warp 10. If this actually represents ten times the speed of light, then that expands our bubble 1000 fold! Hooray! Which brings our percent of the universe within reasonable travel times to 3.6 x 10–20 of one percent. Oh.

If you happen to be a theist and are wondering why a creator god would have created so much of the universe inaccessible to us, you may want to consider that he wanted to keep all of his created creatures separated for a reason (maybe until we learn that Kill, kill, kill! is not a good first response to anything strange), or maybe he enjoys a good joke, or maybe he is just perverse, or….

We Can Trust Corporations As They Would Do Nothing to Besmirch Their Reputations, Part 298

As reported on the Naked Capitalism website:

“’A unit of Caterpillar that repaired railcars at a Los Angeles facility pled guilty last week to a federal environmental offense of dumping parts into the ocean to conceal that it was performing unnecessary and improper repairs for several railcar operators’ [Corporate Crime Reporter]. ‘As a result of illegal conduct that spanned the years 2008 through 2014 – including the unnecessary and improper repairs on railcar adapters, brake beams, grating platforms, brake shoes, friction castings, hand brakes, roof liners and side bearings – United Industries earned at least $5 million.’


The Only Way to Less Inequality?

Here is a devastating assessment of the actual cost of the GOP’s recent tax bill. It is by Bill Honig, who I have met and consider to be a smart and honorable man.


Much of the GOP tax bill has been labeled as “bad news,” so I do not think you will be surprised to find out the news is worse that we thought. I bring this up because a new book has come out that addresses the history of inequality and the only forces that seem to reverse it for even small periods of time. The book is “The Great Leveler” by Walter Scheidel. Here is part of the description of that book (from Amazon.com):

How only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout world history
Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes. Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return. The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality. The “Four Horsemen” of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich. Scheidel identifies and examines these processes, from the crises of the earliest civilizations to the cataclysmic world wars and communist revolutions of the twentieth century. Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.

This book supports my view that the fundamental purpose of civilization is to create inequality of income, wealth, and opportunity, for the benefit of the elites, both secular and religious, with the costs to be born by everyone else. And I have advocated, sometimes tongue in cheek, that it was time to get out the pitchforks and torches, but if this author is correct only “mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich” we are in quite dire straights. We have been making war on other countries for over 200 years of our existence, and it is a very rare occasion for war to intrude on our shores, and a “mass mobilization” for war means the war has to be very, very large indeed. That is a path, in this age of nuclear weapons, I do not wish to take. State collapse and catastrophic plagues aren’t appealing, so that leaves “transformative revolutions” to us. Such revolutions can be non-violent (rare) or violent and considering the polarization of the U.S. and our massive personal stockpiles of weaponry, it looks like a peaceful revolution will be a very good trick to pull off, indeed.

I do note, however, that the only way to avoid the toxic effects of wealth is to make sure great amounts of it either do not occur or are reduced when they occur. This means that a major function of a democracy is to … wait for it … wait … redistribute wealth away from the wealthy. Unfortunately, our governments have been captured by the wealthy who have been busy redistributing wealth to the wealthy for the past 40 years.

My only hope to avoid large scale violence is that the GOP’s paymasters will so overplay their hand that there will be a quasi-socialist revolution that will give power back to the people and defang the wealthy elites now running the show. My preference is for new political parties (two at least) as the ones we have have failed miserably and have too much baggage to carry into the future.

December 29, 2017

Monotheism Only an Inch Deep

I noted in my reading the other day that the Catholic Church fell all over itself finding a person named Brigit to canonize after the church took over Ireland. St. Brigit’s declared feast day just happened to coincide with the feast day of the Celtic goddess Brigit. An amazing coincidence, no? And, of course, there is some debate over whether St. Brigit was a real person. So, if you can’t find an appropriate real person to canonized, canonize a fake person.

This was the same procedure used by the Romans when they conquered a new people. All of that people’s gods were swept up into the mix of Roman gods. Some equivalences to Roman gods might be noted but if there were a passel of absolutely new ones, well, the more the merrier. The master administrators the Romans were almost guaranteed there would be an office to keep all of these gods straight, and of course there was, a significant one.

It is puzzling that the Romans eventually adopted a monotheistic religion, Christianity, because of all of the problems created by just the idea. Prior to Judaism, polytheism ruled. A few places dabbled in monotheism (Aten in Egypt, etc.) but those efforts failed. Under polytheism, people were quite tolerant of other people’s gods, which made for social harmony. The suite of gods that came with such beliefs had many benefits. While most of these systems had an over-ruling Big Kahuna god (Odin, Zeus, Jupiter, Brahman, etc.), those gods were rarely called upon for help. The lesser gods were much more approachable because they specialized. Each was the god of this or the god of that. If you wanted a good crop of olives this coming season, a believing Greek didn’t go to Ares, the God of War for that; they went to Demeter, the goddess of the harvests. So, there was a built-in incentive to learn all about the appropriate gods and how to beseech them. Also, since there were so many gods and goddesses, there was no Problem of Gender of just the one god. Both feminine and masculine qualities were recognized in gods.

And, if there was a drought, or crop failure, or devastating storm while at sea, the big god didn’t get blamed for that. The smaller gods were notoriously capricious and it never shocked anyone when one of these acted up. As a consequence, there was no “Problem of Evil” to deal with. There was little to no conflict (jealousy, yes; open conflict no) between faiths; many coexisted side-by-side. Like I said, social harmony, much valued by the Romans and all other empires.

Along comes Christianity, a form of monotheistic Judaism on steroids, and all of a sudden, things were quite different. Jews and Christians did not tolerate other religions at all. They refused to acknowledge the divinities of any of the Roman emperors, which was the primary cause of their persecutions by the Romans. The Romans thought them more than a little problematic because of this, so why embrace them?

I suspect Constantine was trying mightily to hold a shaky Roman empire together and thought that bringing Christianity into the fold might normalize their relations with the state. Basically, taking an unruly, more and more powerful group, and co-opting them. (Christianity was not adopted as the state religion of Rome until later. Constantine made it a state religion of Rome.)

The problems inherent in harmonizing a monotheistic religion, though, were quite great. As far as the people were concerned, if there were only one god, then that god was responsible for all of the bad things that happened as well as the good things (aka the Problem of Evil).

The Catholic Church (and all other Christian churches) solved this problem by making the veneer of monotheism so thin as to be almost invisible. Christians, for examples, had more than a few wars over the creation of the trinity: three gods in one! These are not three gods! There can only be one god, so these three … well, it’s complicated. There are not just three versions or manifestations or disguises of the one god. Zeus could walk the Earth as a bull or swan, and still be Zeus; now that was a disguise. The Trinity was and is … a mystery … three gods of one essence, whatever the heck that means. (I think it means “one, not three,” and nothing else.)

Because there was only one god, one had to approach the “all mighty” for even the most trivial of favors, the things always done by demigods in the polytheistic religions. So, Christianity (and Judaism) invented all kinds of god helpers. There were angels and archangels and cherubim, seraphim, and whatnot. What are these other than demi-gods? And to cover the Problem of Evil, Satan was invented. Here is a god if there ever was one. Imagine a being responsible for all of the evil, temptation, and lies, and Republican politics in the entire world … but He is not a god, nope; there is only one god. In any polytheistic suite of gods, Satan would be a major god.

Then there are the Saints. Christians scoff at Roman emperors deifying themselves. (Actually, they had to be dead first, so they had people to do that form them … there were forms to be filled out, rituals and sacrifices to do, etc.) What are saints but deified humans?

St. Brigit of Ireland is apparently a “patron” saint of Ireland, which is another way to say “important” and “popular.” Brigit started out as a Celtic god and ends up being a Catholic saint, serving the exact same purpose: providing a mechanism to appeal to the god(s) for favors. Why bother “Him” if you can pray to a saint to get a small job done.

So, Christianity is “monotheistic” in name only. In its structures, even the Protestant structures with no saints and whatnot, it is still quite polytheistic. This is why Yahweh/Jesus cannot do away with Satan, even though He created Satan. To do so would give the people no source for all of the evil in the world other than Yahweh/Jesus.

Always give the people what they want, otherwise they will turn on you. This is an inherent principle in the structure of all scams. The scam is to appear to give them what they want, without actually giving them anything. A mob “protection” racket is a prime example. For just a small or maybe large fee, the mob will protect your business. Who will they be protecting your business from? The mob, of course.

Some wonder why I spend so much time discussing religion in a class war blog. I do so because religion is one of the, if not the, primary control mechanisms by which the “elites” extract wealth from the masses (us). The current mainstream religion of the U.S. insists that each of us is weak and sinful and can only be saved by turning over all of our decisions to them. Saved from whom? Guess.

And the primary message is that when you die, you will be rewarded and your enemies punished but, whatever you do now while you are alive, just don’t rock the boat. Too may elites are dependent upon your passivity! Remember, you are unworthy … as one evangelist puts it “God only requires from you the honesty to admit that you are morally and spiritually a failure. You can come to Christ just as you are.” He will accept scum like you, but only if you accept someone else controlling your life. Their class (the religious and secular elites) are making war on our class (the hoi polloi/you and me) and their religion is a tool of the oppressors.

A Note on Original Sin Many Christians believe in Original Sin as the source of mankind’s sinfulness. Sin is defined as a transgression of the law of their god. But the Bible describes what is called the War of the Angels, who rebelled against God’s will by refusing to bow down to mankind on the occasion of the creation of man. So, how original could Adam and Eve’s sin be if there were angels transgressing God’s law well before their “fall?” For those who therefore claim that Adam’s sin must have come first; if that were so why would God demand his angels, his perfect heavenly angels, bow down to such sinful creatures? It seems a stupid idea, no?

It seems, rather, that disobedience of Yahweh’s will was commonplace, not something that was so heinous that it should become heritable by all humans … unless, unless you wanted to beat people’s spirits down so low they would jump at a chance of salvation by doing what you tell them to do. (Luigi and Salvatore, your local protection insurance payment collectors, would be proud.)

December 27, 2017

If Trump Discredits the Mueller Investigation …

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:13 pm
Tags: ,

And the investigation exonerates Mr. Trump, but the investigation is suspect, no? And it will all have to be done over.

Do over!

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first …

December 26, 2017

God, the Inspiration of Artists!

At this time of year I see many representations of artist’s glorification of the Christian god (including mundane Christmas carols that I have always loved). This treasure trove of art is used from time to time for justification (aka spin) of the existence of this or that god. “How could a god who does not exist inspire so many artists?” we are asked. “How could such great artistic expression come from less than the most holy?” (♫ Grandma got run over by a reindeer … ♫)

I think folks need to take a closer look at this. I just finished a book on the messages hidden in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by none the less than Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. Michelangelo, who only wanted to sculpt, was given the commission to paint the ceiling of a huge chapel, a facsimile of the temple of the Jews (at least part of it—which was a huge insult as the Jews forbade any such replicas being built). This was an offer he couldn’t refuse and which cost him seven years of his life, his most productive years that could have been applied to sculpture, but. . . . His commission was to paint Christian scenes upon the ceiling and then later, the far wall. This was so inspired by God (and the Pope, his patron) that Michelangelo painted that huge fresco, still one of the largest frescos ever painted, without painting a single Christian figure on the ceiling. All of the figures Michelangelo painted were Jews. There were also several insulting messages for the Pope and other prominent people of the time.

This was not a new practice invented for the occasion, Renaissance painters often painted in such “messages,” including insults for their patrons. Artists were also not allowed to sign their works, so it was often the case that a figure in a painting carried the face of the painter. Michelangelo was so insulted when he unveiled the Pieta he sculpted because the viewers insisted that the sculptor must be Roman because no one from Florence had enough skill, that he broke into the site at night and hastily chiseled his name into the statue! Similarly his face and the faces of his lovers appeared in his frescos. One of the faces on the Sistine Chapel’s surfaces is that of his lover of the time (and yes, M was gay)!

Much of this art and music was commissioned at a time when the few rich people who could afford to commission such works were either Princes of the Church or were secular leaders who needed to overlay some religious sanctity atop their secular rule. So, many of these glorious works of art (sculpture, painting, music) were commissioned on religious themes.

To claim that religion inspired these art works is disingenuous at a minimum. The ability to paint or sculpt “on spec” was limited as artists were paid very little, so if you wanted to guarantee a sale, you had better cater to the prevailing “art market.” Since the rich were constantly sucking up to the religious elites, and vice-versa, it is no surprise that many, many glorious artworks were dedicated to such people. To make an argument for the existence of god from such inspiration shows either a complete lack of understanding, a lack of other credible arguments, or both.

I am really tired of the elites pissing in our glasses and telling us it is lemonade. I would find them more honest if they were to swing a pocket watch in front of our eyes, mumbling “You are getting very sleepy, very sleepy … when you awake, you will believe….”

December 25, 2017

Ah, Yes, Of Course … Now I See

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:34 am
Tags: , , ,

Since it is Christmas Day, the N.Y. Times runs an almost obligatory op-ed piece on why Christianity is oh so reasonable (How Can I Possibly Believe That Faith Is Better Than Doubt? by Peter Wehner). This is, of course, pandering to the choir. They somehow didn’t choose to highlight how Islam is oh so right, or Buddhism, or Voodoo. They reached into a sack containing slips of paper and drew out one labeled “Christianity.”

The author goes to some length to explain the roles of reason and faith and how they are not so far apart. (I suspect that author finds the faith of Hindus unreasonable, but that is just a guess.) Here is a sample:

“The apostle Thomas clearly thought so. According to the Gospel of John, the other disciples told Thomas that they had seen the risen Lord, to which Thomas replied he wouldn’t believe until he put his fingers in the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his hand into Jesus’ side.

“Fast-forward a week, when Thomas encounters Jesus, who tells him, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas does, to which Jesus replies, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

“Not seeing and still believing is held up by Jesus as a greater thing than seeing and believing. But I’m not sure I have ever fully grasped what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of God. Recently, with the help of friends — pastors, theologians, authors, fellow believers — I’ve tried to deepen my understanding on that subject.”

I want to unpack just one sentence in this, namely “I’m not sure I have ever fully grasped what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of God.” This is where reason and faith separate … widely. An assumption is made that the writer who put the phrase “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” in Jesus’ mouth is assumed to be “God.” To engage reason, one should consider the question “what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of any one?” Such a question would illuminate other possible sources of the statement that could then be compared with the first interpretation, that the statement came from god.

I, for one, think that faith is prized over reason by anyone trying to sell you a bill of goods. “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes” is punch line to a joke, I believe. If you take a step back and look at a few facts: there are many religions, all value faith over reason, all include statements regarding what we should do and think. All of these are therefore mechanisms to control human behavior. And, to answer the obvious question “Why should I do what you tell me to do?” the answer is either a very large carrot or a very large stick in the form of a very, very, very powerful god.

The only thing all of these religions have in common is their ability to control the behaviors of the adherents … the only thing. Is it not obvious then that that is why they exist at all?

Since getting large numbers of humans to obey by force is a rather daunting undertaking, requiring much expenditure of wealth and effort, it is very much easier to get the adherents to control themselves by creating a culture they can step into, or are born into, and then it becomes invisible. One ends up thinking “what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of God” instead of “what it is about faith that makes it precious in the eyes of any one?” Trying to answer the first question results in one running down a rabbit hole of questions without answers. In answering the second question, the behind-the-scenes controllers and manipulators can be identified and the yoke of control thrown off.

It is a kind of red pill–blue pill moment.

It has been the case, for all of civilization, that the secular and religious elites have operated to control the behavior of the masses, for the benefit of the elites, not the masses. Are you aware of any culture or state in which ordinary people lived in mansions and the elites lived in simple robes in caves? No? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. Are you aware of any culture or state in which the elites did/do not live in mansions, no matter how the hoi polloi lived? No?

In American culture now the elites have gotten us to believe that they deserve all of their wealth, because they earned it. Interestingly enough, the greatest number of new elites are the “rentier class.” This is the term used by economists to describe people who live off of financial investments. Some of these wealthy people inherited great wealth, then hired a financial manager to expand their fortune through the various financial markets. Just how did they “earn” all of their wealth? What is it about them personally that demonstrates their abilities to earn?

The elites have manipulated our culture to the point that they claim that their god favors them, a sign of which is the fact that they are wealthy. And this claim is made by Christians whose scriptures claim that riches prevent people from getting into Heaven, and that we should all give away what we have and follow Jesus, and … so on.

Reason allows us to take the cultural blinders off, if just for a moment, a moment that might just be a red–pill moment.

After Note In reading the op-ed piece again, it is clear that the arguments, though wrapped in Christian terminology, etc. would apply to any religion you might want to plug into the text, the religious culture is that powerful a weapon in the Class War being waged by the elites on you and me.

December 24, 2017

Effing Blundering Humans

What a perfect invention a human is, how noble in his capacity to reason, how unlimited in thinking, how admirable in his shape and movement, how angelic in action, how godlike in understanding! There’s nothing more beautiful. We surpass all other animals. (Hamlet, Shakespeare)

We use the term “civilized” as a complement and “uncivilized” as a criticism. We seem to be fans of civilization and “being civilized.” Unfortunately this is part of the self-propagating control mechanism which is culture. Culture exists so a few can control the many for the benefit of the few.

I was watching a documentary on the Americas before Columbus. I knew much of what they portrayed but to have it all thrust in my face at once made me see the big picture in alarming clarity.

The European conquest of Europe and then the Americas was a blundering, abysmal, staggeringly unenlightened display of brute force. The European’s animals and plants were brought onto this continent and then took over essentially every ecological niche available. Along with the pigs and barley and beer came European weeds and European diseases; smallpox itself was the cause of a majority of the Native Americans being killed. Native species of plants and animals died in front of a wave of horses, pigs, cattle, sheep and staple grains. The plow basically ruined the thin soil in New England that the Native Americans had been nurturing for millennia. Hogs rooted up vast acreage and spread diseases that native species had no ability to fight. Whole forests fell under the axes of the invaders.

Viewed in its entirety, this is a horror show. Genocide alongside ecological imperialism alongside greed alongside culture assassination.

And we call it civilization.

What I see is immense ignorance on display. A complete uncaring for the future of humans and a complete uncaring for anything that does not benefit humans. The definition of a “weed,” for example, is any plant unwanted by humans.

Arrogance, greed, immense ignorance, … aka civilized.

Are we any different now? Are events any different now?

Europeans used up Europe’s resources: cutting its trees, depleting its soils, spoiling its streams, and stripping its oceans of fish. Then they brought “civilization” to the Americas. And now the Americas are quite like Europe when the Americas were discovered.

Have we really learned anything?

I am not talking about academic knowledge, but cultural and political knowledge and actions. Have were learned to the “doing stage” any of the lessons we should have, lessons that will allow us to survive and other species alongside of us? If we have, I sure haven’t noticed that.


December 23, 2017

A Holiday Gift From Me to You

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:27 am
Tags: ,

Since this season has religious overtones, I decided that you might enjoy a bit of fiction that was uplifting, if I may make a play on words.

Happy Holidays!

* * *

Ex Post Rapture or The Rupture(?)

I got up this morning expecting a day much like the others but when I sat at my computer with a cup of coffee to read the news, an explosion of a type occurred. Then I finally got to see some of the videos.

Damn, they were right!

People were rising up through the air! Huge numbers of them! I wondered how the air traffic control systems would handle that but I guess this is one of those “let God’s will be done,” kind of things. There were some rather poignant scenes where most of the members of a family, assembled outside their home to observe the phenomenon, began to rise … but not all. I guess there were some closet atheists in those families. The other family members seemed to express shock and dismay that their entire family wasn’t rising.

This whole thing took place over about a twenty minute period and if it weren’t for smartphones, we might not have a record of its occurrence. Many of the traditional news media outlets were struggling to be able to report, because their staffs were so reduced.

Huh, the Christians were right! Damn! I did not see Jesus in the clouds beckoning his followers to join him, but still that seemed a more likely explanation than, say, a selective failure of gravity to keep those people on the ground or some alien transporter-like machine being employed.

My thoughts then turned to the other events that were promised by the fans of the Rapture, you know the Apocalypse, fiery pits, demons, flying horses, and so on, so I continued to watch scenes of events on the Internet, thinking I was probably getting a more accurate and wider picture than I would get from the balcony of my apartment. After about a hour and a half, all I was getting was looped footage of the rising Christians, at least I assumed they were Christians, and nothing newer, so I guessed the show was over.

What the real consequences of this were to be I hardly guessed but they were real and substantial.

* * *

Overnight, well actually, in less than an hour on that morning, the population of the U.S. declined by about 40% or so. Accurate estimates are hard to come by. The Bible Belt was hit hard and it seems like over 60% of those folks, maybe even as much as 70%, uh, rose.

All of the people who expected us atheists would just go berserk, ravening if you will, were now gone, so the relative calm of the population that was left behind was a confirmation that their criticism of us was unfounded. (As if we didn’t know that.) But I do admit to some anxiety as to whether the lawless part of our society would feel a special license to go about their business with renewed vigor, but that also didn’t seem to happen. Whether it was the demonstrated proof of the existence of some supernatural power that put “the fear of god” into them or whether they were just stunned like the rest of us, I can’t say.

What I can say, is that shortages of anything that seemed in little supply disappeared overnight. Many of the homeless claimed squatters rights in one of the many abandoned homes and, as time told, kept them up pretty well. Nobody begrudged them this because there were so many abandoned homes, it seemed hurtful to tell them to stay outside. There was so much food on the shelves that could spoil, that it was distributed freely so that it would not go to waste. The public utilities, even though short-staffed, seemed to soldier on pretty well.

After the initial shock, there was an adjustment period. So many jobs that were really necessary needed to be filled that people left relatively unimportant jobs to fill them, leaving open a great many jobs for people who were either un- or under-employed. (Finally, we got something trickled down … sorry, old memes are hard to give up.) Since almost no corporate executives were Raptured (that’s what people called it), they lost a lot of their arrogance and no longer claimed their title as a “Master of the Universe.” And after they adjusted to a world of lesser demand, they hired freely out of public spirit, thinking as Henry Ford did, that if they paid well enough, they’d have more customers for their products.

Thousands and thousands of abandoned church properties were claimed via “eminent domain” by the government and turned into secular hospitals, community centers, housing for the poor, that sort of thing. In the legal proceedings some former members of the churches fought those orders but they were denied because they weren’t real Christians; if they had been, well, you know.

Environmentalists, those who were left anyway, were ecstatic as the pressure put on our environment decreased dramatically. The climate change deniers were mostly gone and, in any case, demand for fossil fuels fell way off and coal mines and oil wells were sealed off, to be opened in the future if needed. Many people say they saw the light and would be looking into renewable energy sources. Apparently we would have more time to address our real problems and people seemed to realize, all of a sudden, that this world is all that we have and we had best take care of it. I guess none of us were expecting a better life after we died any more.

People also seemed to lose steam on going to war. Why create hell on Earth if we had the capacity to meet everyone’s basic needs. It just didn’t seem right any more. Slowly, and it was slowly because distrust fades slowly, our militaries shrank through attrition. Recruiters were having a hard time recruiting folks as opportunities abounded elsewhere.

Funny thing is, when we were all thrown together, in the same boat as it were, people started looking at their neighbors and co-workers as just other people, like them. They started caring less about what color their skin was, or what country they were raised in, and more about what their character was. It certainly didn’t matter what religious faith they had, you know, before. I guess that was part of the miracle.

* * *

All in all, this Rapture thing turned out to be a good deal for those of us who didn’t fly away. I do hope those Christians are happy, wherever they are now. Some people are saying things like “the whole world got better when the riff raff were swept away,” and other things like that, but I think that is just being unkind, due maybe to a leftover bitterness from … before. We really don’t know what happened to all of those people. For me, I just hope they are okay. And, I would like to thank them for the better world they left behind. I suspect that is what Jesus actually wanted.


December 22, 2017

I Wonder … Is This Another GOP “Oops Moment”?

In the recent discussions of business taxes people kept quoting the, now old, marginal business tax rate of 35% when they compared our business taxes with those of other countries. Our marginal rate, that is our highest rate, is indeed higher than most all other comparable countries when you do that comparison. But if you compare our effective tax rates with those countries, the amounts that actually get paid (after all of the loopholes and “special tax credits” and … are factored in) we tend to be lower than most. Under the old system, the rate started at 15% and climbed to 35% as the taxable income rose. (This was exactly parallel to the personal tax bracket structure that also started at 15%, then rose up to 39.5% on income over about a quarter of a million dollars.) But do note that a business was taxed at the 35% rate only on earnings in excess of $10,000,000, so you are not talking about Mom and Pop operations paying anything at that rate. (Constantly referring to small businesses as if they were Mom and Pop businesses (they are not) and only quoting that 35% marginal rate is a form of lying, in my opinion.)

Under the new law, just passed, the business tax rate has been made a flat rate at 21%, that is anything over $1 (one dollar!) will be taxed at the single rate of 21%. I thought they had just reduced the marginal rate to 21% (from 35%) and kept the lower brackets leading up to that, which would mean the 21% only applied to earnings over ten million dollars, but apparently they did not. I am shocked at this because the effective tax rate has been lower than 21% for quite some time. For example, 288 “big and profitable” Fortune 500 corporations paid an average effective federal tax rate of just 19.4% from 2008 to 2012. This new rate of 21% represents a tax increase on those businesses (if there are no other compensating changes).

I wonder if the Repubs made a mistake in framing this that way. I wonder if they think they got a “two fer” in getting a big business tax rate deduction plus a flat tax, two Republican wet dreams of the recent past, and just fucked it up out of good, old fashioned American incompetence.

If this is true, life is good!


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