Class Warfare Blog

September 24, 2018

A Failure to Communicate

I read just now the following:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez … was on Jake Tapper’s show on CNN the other day, the host grilled her about how she would come up with the forty trillion dollars needed to fund Medicare for all, housing as a federal right, a federal jobs guarantee, tuition-free public college, and canceling all student loan debt.

She apparently could not answer the question … <sigh>.

Let me just address funding “Medicare for All (MFA)” for the nonce. Currently, the average family of four pays in excess of $16,000 per year for their health insurance. Mostly this goes unnoticed because these payments are made by their employers as part of their compensation. How much do you think the actual value of that insurance is? If you compare it with costs in other developed countries and look at how inflated the costs are and consider that the insurance companies providing the “insurance” are quite an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy (Medicare has a 3% overhead. If private insurance companies likewise have a 3% overhead, where do all of the handsome profits those companies make come from?). Basically that $16,000 represents a quite unnecessarily inflated cost. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, the actual cost is $9,000 for that family of four. If MFA is invoked, the employers will be required to pay that $16,000 directly to the family and then that family will pay, say $10,000 in taxes (a bit more than their own costs to be able to cover the unemployed, etc.) and pocket the other $6000! (Note: these are not the actual numbers, but even if $100 ends up in your pocket, you would be making money on the deal.)

Once we have Medicare for All, we also have group buying of pharmaceuticals, something Big Pharma has spent billions to avoid (why they are opposed to such a system is it would squeeze its profits down from the astronomical to merely lavish). This will reduce the cost of medicinals, at least to what other countries are paying (for the same drugs from the same companies … yes, they are gouging the Rich Gringos because they can). Similarly there are a multitude of large cost savings that can be wrung out of the system (e.g. there would be only one billing process, not hundreds, for doctors and hospitals to contend with).

Currently the US spends about double what any other rich nation spends on health care per capita. This means we could spend 10%, 20%, or even 30% less and still be spending more than any other country on health care. If you remove the costs of private health insurance companies, we can save even more.

Conservative pundits always focus on the cost/taxes and never mention the cost savings. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez should be better prepared if she is going to go on camera to defend our ideas.

PS The Federal Reserve “printed” several trillion dollars to bail out the banks and Wall Street firms during the Great Recession and these same pundits didn’t blink. Plus that “forty trillion dollars” is not for just one year and they are careful not to mention that.

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Interesting Patterns

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:41 am
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The President Donald J. Trump makes accusations by the score, mostly unfounded, often borrowed from scurrilous “news” sources (what we would call “fake news”). He says “Climate Change is a hoax.” He claims the Assistant Attorney General is conspiring to tape record his conversations and is considering invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution (what to do when the President is incapacitated). He claims that the FBI is conspiring against him, Hillary is crooked, Cohen and Manafort are “good men,” etc., etc.

None of these ideas occur to us unprompted, so where does the President get them? The answer is simple. Some he plucks from the ideasphere of the alt-right and some he makes up. All are things he would think of doing or being. “So and so is a liar” comes from the fact that he lies easily, so others probably do, too. Claims that people are doing things just for the money are because he does things just for the money. Claims that people who speak against him are treasonous because he is treasonous. Claims that Climate Change is a Hoax, well just consider a great many of The Donald’s business enterprises: Trump University, etc. He would lie to make money, no?

Instead of reacting to the President’s claims as we would to factual claims, I think it best that we look at them as a reflection (the psychological term is “projection,” I believe) of his own thoughts.

Not a pretty picture.

Addendum Anyone who accepts the claim the Climate Change is a hoax, supposedly perpetrated by climate scientists to acquire grant monies, is an idiot. Most scientists are egotists of the highest order; they would throw their grandmothers under a bus to be able to prove their colleagues are wrong and they are right. Any such conspiracy would be betrayed almost instantly by a scientist counting coup on his “colleagues.” Scientists who “cheat” even to the point of fabrication some data here and there are humiliated and drummed out of the business, soon to become cab drivers as they have no prospects in the scientific community.

September 20, 2018

Our Great Response to the Great Recession

Note The title I wanted and could not create is “Our Great Awful Response to the Great Recession” (mostly due to all of the recent “pat on the back” looks back at our response to the financial collapse).

On the Naked Capitalism website there is a great interview of Michael Hudson in which he simply and clearly points out that our economy is currently still in the tank because of decisions made to bail out political donors and screw average Americans, mostly by President Obama (a corporate Democrat), which were unnecessary and counter to what has worked in the past.

Check it out:

Michael Hudson: 10 Years Since Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy – Did the Economy Really Recover?

 

September 15, 2018

Ethics and Morality without God

In a recent post on Daily Kos I read the following:

“I once said to a Native American friend that I thought that the Golden Rule was a perfect expression of social ethics, and before I could put the period on my sentence, he shot back, ‘No, it’s not … because if you’re a misanthrope who hates people and just wants to be left alone, you can behave that way in clear conscience. In my tribe, I have responsibilities to widows, orphans, and the ill. I have to hunt for those who can’t. That’s mutuality.’” (sfzendog)

This attitude toward the collective responsibility we all have, as well as individual responsibility, might be summed up in “love thy neighbor as thyself” but it isn’t made at all explicit in Christian ethics/morality.

Many people do not know that the “tithe” which has morphed into a fundraiser to support the church building fund and minister’s and staff’s salaries, was originally a tax. The Jews had a theocracy. Even when outsiders came in and established a new ruling structure, the Temple kept its own governing structure and the tithe/tax was a way to support widows, orphans, and the afflicted. That is what it was for, explicitly. The Jews had a structure in place regarding the collective responsibility of all to support those in need.

Christian ethics/morality on the other hand stops at “love they neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” with little parsing of those instructions. There are clear signs that early Christians were communal (that means communists, Comrade). As Christianity was rewritten by pagans, that collectivism was written out. The Republicans are doing their damndest to wipe out collectivism in the U.S. right now, so this “battle” is quite longstanding.

We still haven’t answered the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are still trying to address mutuality.

Many studies on democratic socialist states show that as they collectively (through government) care for those less fortunate or less capable and just ordinary citizens, the less the need for religion in their population. It therefore seems that religion has a vested interest in opposing government providing basic support for their people. The widespread evangelical support for the current administration therefore is less perplexing looked at in this light.

Couldn’t Have Said It Better

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:08 am

I buy a lot of stuff through Amazon.com. Recently the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, did the billionaire thing by announcing a two billion dollar donation to “help” the schools. My reaction wasn’t good. Pete Greene’s was on point. Please read this.

WTF, Bezos

September 11, 2018

Evangelical Pastor Denies the Existence of Original Sin, Undermining All of Christianity

The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel, was recently issued by a group including John MacArthur, a prominent (and very conservative) evangelical pastor and Bible teacher.

The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel claims that social justice is not, in fact, a definitional component of the gospel, and that it is heresy to elevate “non-essentials to the status of essentials.” The document instead affirms traditional beliefs on same-sex relationships and “God-ordained” gender roles. It seems particularly focused on rejecting collective blame in racial matters. “We deny that … any person is morally culpable for another person’s sin,” the statement argues. “We further deny that one’s ethnicity establishes any necessary connection to any particular sin.”

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

These worthy divines are denying that we have inherited Adam and Eve’s sin (“We deny that … any person is morally culpable for another person’s sin,”) and are, therefore, in no need of salvation through Jesus or anyone else.

These people will do anything to support racism, it seems, including throwing Christianity under the bus.

September 10, 2018

The “Active Measures” Documentary

There is a new documentary available on iTunes (for $3.99 rental) called “Active Measures.” The term is Russian and describes the efforts Russia makes to undermine other countries without going to war with them.

If you haven’t been following the story of President Trump’s ties with Russia closely, this documentary takes you step by step through the information. I was moderately well versed in the story, but I learned a great many things and also I learned about how what the Russians have done with Mr. Trump, they have done a number of times to other leaders in recent history.

The Russians, who are no longer a “superpower,” are one of those several countries whose “defense budget” when added to those of a number of other major states, still doesn’t quite come up to what the U.S. spends. Consequently, they can no longer bully major players in the Great Game. They can, and do, bully individual weaker countries and their strategy is to break up alliances in opposition to them (EU, NATO, etc.) so they can pick off individual countries one by one. Their strategies involve major dirty tricks operations including hacking computers which are used to state election results abroad and in the U.S.

Their strategy regarding the US is to sow discord so that we can no longer effectively use our military might (due to divided opinion at home).

If you are curious as to why Donald Trump is so friendly toward Russia, and Vladimir Putin personally, you need to see this documentary. Very revealing. (Spoiler Alert: If Trump isn’t in Putin’s pocket, he is making a tremendously good impression of being so. There doesn’t seem to be an upside for The Donald in being Vladimir’s BFF.)

 

 

 

 

What Passes for Wisdom Now

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 9:01 am
Tags: ,

I subscribe to a “quote of the day” service called QuotableNotes. Today’s quote was supplied under the tagline “In the wise words of Oprah Winfrey”

Here’s the quote:

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” (Oprah Winfrey)

WTF? I am supposed to live my life as a series of repetitive, incoherent, bizarre fantasies, none of which involves paying bills or earning a living? Maybe she is not referring to real dreams, but is referring to goals we have contemplated but we haven’t attempted because we feel they are out of reach. Of course, that makes no sense either. You can’t live those goals without living the process that will take you to them.

I respect Oprah Winfrey as an entrepreneur, a self-made rich person, not as a public intellectual. Publicly she espouses a world of woo, full of magical influences she seems to think we can just reach out and grasp. And, I suspect, that her “opinions” would have almost no reach if she were not rich. (In this country, being rich stamps one as having some ineffable quality of being.)

Maybe she is living her world of dreams because many of her stances seem incoherent and bizarre.

September 9, 2018

Another Approach (The Nike Ad Campaign)

Recently, the shoe company (amongst their other products) Nike featured Colin Kaepernick in an ad campaign with one of its tag lines being “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Mr. Kaepernick is famous for protesting police brutality against people of color by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem at NFL football games. (Kneeling is a form of respect and submission, but not the form that Mr. Kaepernick’s detractors want.) He paid a price of many millions of dollars in that he lost his job as an NFL quarterback.

Several police organizations have protested this ad campaign as being a fallacious smear against the police who risk their lives daily. This is a bit much but also ignores the many, many incidents in which police officers have shot and or killed people of color with no repercussions other than occasionally an officer losing his job. The idea of a police officer being prosecuted for excessive force is almost ludicrous in this country.

Interestingly, police officers and their organizations, supposedly taught how to diffuse tense situations have instead poured fuel on the flames. There is available to them another approach.

They could have, without agreeing to anything, stated that a police officer using excessive force is unacceptable. They could go on to state that while the vast majority of officers do their jobs safely and with respect, even one bad officer is unacceptable. Consequently, the XYZ Police Association asks for more training funds and … blah, blah, blah. They could even have asked Mr. Kaepernick to sit with them and discuss options to move forward to a safer future. All of these things would defuse some of the issues involved.

Several things that come to my mind are the removal of the feeling of fear as a justification for a policeman to use deadly force. According to the police organizations, policemen face death daily, which just has to be associated with fear (and courage) which means that deadly force is always a reasonable approach for these officers … on a daily basis. This is unacceptable. I suggest that the level of force should never exceed the penalty for the infraction involved. If pulled over for a traffic violation, the worst thing to happen is a ticket and a fine. If somebody, once stopped, speeds away, there is another ticket and another fine, not an excuse to shoot at the miscreant or the miscreant’s car.

Allowing the feeling of fear to be the justification for the application of deadly force is ludicrous. We cannot verify such a fear, we can only sympathize. And even if the fear exists, we are asking officers to lower the fear level, not extinguish it. (Note The same thing goes for stand your ground laws.)

September 8, 2018

Artificial Intelligence—The Promise

I am a big fan of digital technology and someone who is hopeful of the future. It is harder and harder for me to maintain that stance, however.

Currently there seems to be a widespread debate regarding the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Since we know so little the positions staked out are quite broad. At one end is a new future where machines take over dangerous and boring jobs and human beings have more leisure. At the other end, autonomous drones are the first step toward Skynet (the “bad guy” in the Terminator movies) and the extermination of human beings by intelligent killing machines.

There seems also to be many opinions in between the two extremes.

Something I do know is that it will not be the machines that determine the outcome. In every case of new technology impactful enough to change the course of history, the tech has been used to coerce and oppress the labor of the masses to serve the interests of the elites.

Consider the following photograph.

This is an Amazon warehouse. Amazon is a tech company. So, how do those who work in Amazon’s warehouses fare? Amazon uses personal monitoring algorithms to make sure that its employees do not waste time taking short breaks to catch their breath or go to the bathroom. They are to stay on task as long as Amazon wants them to … or else.

Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon, makes huge profits by paying his warehouse employees wages that are so inadequate that many of them need public assistance just to get by. Thousands of Amazon workers are forced to rely on food stamps, Medicaid, and public housing because they can’t survive on the wages they receive. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is now worth $158 billion, and his wealth increases by leaps and bounds. (And who pays for the public assistance subsidizing Mr. Bezos’ wealth? You and I do, of course.)

If you think back to the first powered looms to make cloth, it was the workers who had to get along with the machinery, not the other way around. Same was true with the assembly line to make automobiles, etc.

I do not argue that there were no benefits from technology that actually accrue to ordinary people. Henry Ford, no friend of workers, paid more than anyone else as a daily wage to pursue his dominance of the auto market. But that was then and now, wage suppression is the favorite tool of the captains of industry. Much of the advanced tech of today is not available to us because, well it is very simple, we cannot afford to pay for it. We don’t make enough money.

As much as people will squander $1000 on a new iPhone, the really impactful tech, such as a liver transplant, is not available to you … unless you can afford to pay for health insurance and many, many people cannot.

So, AI in and of itself will not necessary oppress ordinary people, coercing our labor for the benefit of the elites, but if rich people have any say in the future, my bet is that a sizable amount of AI will be used for just that purpose. (Jeff Bezos has already begun the application.)

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