Class Warfare Blog

May 31, 2019

Joe Biden—Just Say No

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:50 am
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The current front runner for the Democratic nomination for the office of president is former senator and vice-president Joe Biden. Nominating him would be a horrible mistake, so why is he a front runner?

The talking heads all mention the “electability” of Joe Biden. How they make this determination is not shared and it is very, very flawed. Joe Biden is not electable, even with Donald Trump as his opponent.

Think about it. In 2008, this very racist country elected its first black president. Why? I say “hope and change.” Ordinary Americans have become very, very tired of the elites saying things are just hunky dory when their lives are swirling down the toilet. The status quo is very nice for the elites as they are reaping almost all of the benefits of society and government but that status quo represents lower wages, insecure jobs, part-time employment instead of full-time and fewer fringe benefits if you are lucky enough to acquire a full-time job for the rest of us.

Mr. Obama runs for re-election in 2012 and who do the Republican choose but a smarmy rich guy, a more obvious icon of the former status quo as you can get and he loses, of course. But Mr. Obama promised hope and change and partially because of Republican intransigence and their own commitment to the status quo, the status quo gets disrupted very, very little and income and wealth disparities continue to rise. It also didn’t help that the Obama administration decided to bail out banks and their effing shareholders but not ordinary Americans from the ravages of the Great Recession.

So, then we arrive at the 2016 election and we have a choice between Hillary Clinton, another avatar of the status quo, and Donald Trump and we elect the execrable Donald Trump. Was there ever a greater statement of dissatisfaction with the way things were going than the election of Donald Fucking Trump to be President of the United States?

And people are now talking seriously about running Joe Biden for president. If he is selected as the Democratic nominee, expect four more years of Donald Trump. If you can say anything positive about our current POTUS is that he is definitely not acting like the people who got us into this mess in the first place. That he is acting in a very negative way doesn’t seem to matter to many voters who want ever so much something other than the status quo created by the post Viet Nam war era political parties.

 

 

 

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May 27, 2019

Artificial Pearls Before Real Swine?

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:40 am
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I have been inspired by Jim over at TheCommonAtheist quite a bit of late. (His site is worth a visit: go, go.) Quoting him: “Searching for god, we don’t discover who he is, we discover who we are. This aphorism brought to my mind a number of other “pearls of wisdom.” I have been perusing a book entitled “1,001 Pearls of Spiritual Wisdom” for some time and found more than a few that are self-serving nonsense. For example:

I can’t explain it, but spiritually it makes sense—though I don’t understand how it does make sense. —Kevin McDonald
In other words, it makes no sense but I believe it.

If somebody wants a sheep, that is a proof that one exists. —Antoine de Saint Exupéry
This seems to be an offhand “proof” for the existence of a god or gods . . . but if you take that sentence and modify it a bit you get “If somebody wants a unicorn, that is a proof that one exists.” You can have fun with other variations involving Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whatever. Bizarre thinking.

Every word, every image used for God is a distortion more than a description. —Anthony de Mello
Was it this guy’s intent to undermine all Abrahamic scripture? In scripture this god is described as a whirlwind, a burning bush, a blinding white light, looking like a man, etc. So, all of these are false? And this god is quoted ad nauseum, e.g. “I am the Lord your God, and blah, blah, blah.” All of those quotes are distortions rather than descriptions of what this god actually said? WTF?

For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible. —Franz Werfel
Uh, says who? How does he know that no explanation is possible? Or are you just trying to get people to stop asking for explanations? And the Bible itself tells believers that they are to have reasons to believe, so screw the Bible and listen to my deepity, that’s the message?

The sheer number of these “spiritual” pearls of wisdom that are utter nonsense is an indication that the collector was daft or that there aren’t really that many actual pearls of spiritual wisdom to share.

I think Jim’s aphorism is spot on. It also has application elsewhere, for example to authors of books on finding the historical Jesus (Searching for the historical Jesus in these books, we don’t discover who he is, we discover who the authors are.) There is no better evidence for the lack of an historical Jesus than the dozens upon dozens of people who have written books on finding the Real JC™ with each effort coming up with a different result. Apparently the evidence is not conclusive one way or another. Not having enough historical records to establish an historical character doesn’t mean that one did not exist, it just means we have neither the evidence nor a clear idea of who they were. I tend to think Jesus is fictional but that belief (the ordinary kind, not the religious kind), at least, is supported by evidence (Jesus said nothing that had not been said before, Jesus’ miracles are based upon miracles described in the OT, etc.).

May 26, 2019

The Law of Unintended Consequences, Still Unsurpassed

As conservative American politicians are doing their damnedest to pound a square peg into a round hole with regard to any issue involving women, they are accomplishing the exact opposite of what they want. They are undermining the societal structure they most value: the family. An article in The Guardian indicates why (Women are happier without children or a spouse, says happiness expert). Here’s an excerpt:

We may have suspected it already, but now the science backs it up: unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population. And they are more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers, according to a leading expert in happiness.

Speaking at the Hay festival on Saturday, Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, said the latest evidence showed that the traditional markers used to measure success did not correlate with happiness – particularly marriage and raising children.

“Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: fucking miserable,” he said.

“We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.”

Men benefited from marriage because they “calmed down”, he said. “You take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children,” he said.

As the benefits of family and children have shrunk substantially, the “duties” of the position of “wife” have escalated. Not only are they still obligated to all or most of the household management choirs and child rearing chores but are also expected to bring in a full-time salary. Would any man get married if they were offered the same “bargain”?

The “bargain” when I was a child was the wife stayed home and worked while the husband went out to work and “brought home the bacon.” This arrangement was reinforced by women being excluded from most jobs as being “unsuitable” or incompetent. The fact that women are doing all of those jobs now and just as competently as men or more so, gives the lie to that prejudice. It was also largely reinforced through societal memes: the bride as princess, mothers as Madonnas, the “fulfillment of marriage,” the wedding ceremony as mini-coronation, etc.

So, why would women take such a bad deal? Apparently, they are beginning to no longer do so in numbers. Their reward? Greater happiness, less strife; less pressure, longer life. If they choose to have children, there no longer is much of a stigma attached to single parenting and while raising a child by yourself might be daunting, it is certainly easier than raising a child while serving a man as maid, cook, errand runner, etc. and working a full-time job at the same time.

There is an axiom in politics that when a politician is undermining himself, don’t interrupt. Go, GOP, go!

May 25, 2019

Now I Understand!

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:59 am
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In a recent post (What, The Huge Trump Tax Cut Didn’t Prevent This?) I pointed out that the Ford Motor Company has been laying off employees and will be laying off even more in an effort to save money. I though this is what the huge tax cut given to corporations like Ford was supposed to solve.

Then I stumbled on this NYT graphic of the corporations in 2018 which paid no federal tax (some even receiving rebates!):

Stunningly FoMoCo was not on this list, which means they have been paying corporate income taxes! (Apparently three out the past ten years!)

No wonder they are having financial problems! Fools!

Why Are We Here?

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:51 am
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Over at TheCommonAtheist Jim has a post (Contemplating Existence—The Why is in Asking) about how questions tend to hijack our attention. When I read it I was in the process of working on this post on a particular deepity I encountered. Here it is:

The most important question a human being has to face … What is it? The question, Why are we here? —Elie Wiesel

Now, to call this a deepity probably stretches the definition of that word. What I am saying is that the statement sounds profound but in reality is meaningless.

The most important question a human has to face? Really? Why do I need to face this question? If I answer it, what value do I reap? Has anyone ever answered this question?

Basically, I think this question has never been answered by anyone and may not be able to be answered. As such any answer currently has to be produced by our imagination at best. And, if we do actually answer the question, it may destroy our mental balance in a way that is destructive (such as in the movie Prometheus).

Jim’s point (do read his post) is that such questions hijack our attention. To quote his post “’Questions trigger a reflex in humans known as ‘instinctive elaboration,’ that is when someone asks you a question, the question takes over the brain’s thought process and you feel compelled to answer—and make it a good one.”

I suggest that this question is a loaded one and I don’t mean loaded with meaning. I think that it is asked because it cannot be answered. If you ask yourself this question, do you yourself come up with an answer? No. But many others have come up with an answer and you might want to ask how. Hint: What do religious apologists use to fill gaps in our knowledge? God! He isn’t called the God of the Gaps for nothing!

Let us say you do come up with an answer. How is that the most important question you ever have to face? Does the answer feed your family? Does the answer protect you from harm? Does the answer help you get or keep a job? Does the answer serve you in any way in the here and now? The “god” answer doesn’t actually serve you, but it does serve proselytizers.

Now I am not saying the theists sit around in their bunker in the Colorado mountains thinking up questions that hijack our attention and which point to their god. Far from it. It is, I suggest, the sense that they have an answer to this question and you do not and because for them the answer is god, they think that the question will lead us to the same answer. But it does not.

Any number of movies and now, television shows, have addressed the idea that we were either created from scratch or genetically modified from existing primate stocks by some powerful alien species. If we were to discover this “fact” what do you think the response of the world’s religions be? Would they say “Our bad, guess we were wrong.” Or would they tear their garments, gnash their teeth, attack the evidence, and declare that this is the end of the world? How would devout believers respond . . . really? Acceptance? Denial? Violence?

Any number of “authorities” apparently have claimed that if we had evidence of the mere existence of intelligent aliens, that we should keep that knowledge secret because “the people” would panic. Imagine if we had evidence that we were created or transformed by the actions of such a species?

The people asking this question and similar ones think they know the answer already and that such a scenario could not play out, because, well, faith. I suspect that faith would crumble to dust in short order if such a scenario did play out. Consider all of the hubbub at web sites like Answers in Genesis and The Institute for Creation Research and their myriad ilk who have already claimed that there is no intelligent life anywhere else in the universe. (And they know this because . . . we’re special? Hint: It ain’t in scripture.) The same lovely folks spend a considerable amount of their time throwing shade on the theory of evolution and the fact of evolution as well. (Hey, theists abiogenesis and evolution at least don’t involve aliens!) Imagine how they would react if it turned out that a god did create us . . . and it wasn’t their god! It would be ten times worse than if it turned out to be aliens.

I also suggest that if theists weren’t asking this question, no one else would. Philosophers would find the question ill-defined and avoid it. (Only philosophers of religion would consider it.) Ordinary people would see no benefit to such a question and if it were brought up at a dinner party, they would shrug and change the subject to something more meaningful (the weather, sports, politics, etc.)

 

May 23, 2019

What, The Huge Trump Tax Cut Didn’t Prevent This?

Filed under: Business,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:44 pm
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In the category of we all have short memories (and much of that is taken up by bullshit comments by our current POTUS):

Ford Begins Final Round of US Layoffs

Ian Thibodeau, The Detroit News on May 21, 2019

DETROIT — The first of 500 U.S. Ford Motor Co. salaried employees are expected to be notified in meetings Tuesday that they’re being let go.

. . .

CEO Jim Hackett notified employees in an email Monday that Ford was nearing the end of its months-long bout of white-collar layoffs that would eliminate 7,000 jobs globally, roughly 10% of the automaker’s global salaried workforce. When the U.S. layoffs wrap by June, Ford would have cut around 800 jobs in addition to 1,500 buyouts that occurred late last year, or around 7% of its U.S. salaried workforce.

The layoffs come months after General Motors Co. cut 15% of its global salaried workforce. Both sets of layoffs are largely a result of a slowing auto market and looming economic recession. Ford’s layoffs are part of a $25.5 billion pool of cost cuts expected to roll out over the next few years.

* * *

Gee, I thought those huge … permanent … business tax cuts were going to allow them to hire more workers and raise their wages? Hunh! Since that tax cut didn’t work, expect the Trump administration to ram through another tax cut for these poor, suffering corporations.

May 22, 2019

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Snappy Comeback Contest!

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:27 pm
Tags:

The President has told Congress that “they can’t legislate and investigate at the same time.” While the President may have never heard of multi-tasking, this comment just begs for a snappy comeback, so I will offer mine and then open the floor.

Snappy Comeback #1
The President seems have confounded his problem regarding chewing gum and walking with how the Congress functions.

The floor is yours!

May 21, 2019

The Direction of Biological History

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 10:59 am
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Many simplistic people characterize evolution as having a goal, namely us, as we . . . obviously . . . are the pinnacle of evolution. Ah, to which supposition I offer the Fainting Goats. If you are not familiar with said animals, here is a video showing How They Got Their Name (Fainting Goats Video). Basically, if startled, their muscles tend to lock up and if they were moving when this happens, they fall over, hence it appears that they “faint.”

According to Wikipedia “The fainting was first described in scientific literature in 1904, and described as a ‘congenital myotonia’ in 1939. The mutation in the goat gene that causes this muscle stiffness was discovered in 1996, several years after the equivalent gene had been discovered in humans and mice.[15]

According to the dictates of natural selection, this makes these defective goats “easy prey” and they should all be gone by now, no? So, why are they still around? The answer is simple: humans. We “like” them enough to protect them. For the same reason, the most common bird in the world is the chicken. We “like” them enough to make sure their population has expanded to gigantic proportions.

So, a possible evolutionary strategy, that didn’t exist before, is to “survive by being liked by humans.” You may actually possess many attributes that would make you nonviable if you were merely subjected to nature, but if you are liked by humans, you get to survive and carry on your genes. (As Exhibit A I give you the Westminster Dog Show.)

By this answer alone it should be clear that evolution has no purpose, no divine plan, no pre-conceived end product. If one acquires a mutation that allows one to survive better, one survives better (on average). If one acquires an “easy prey” mutation, one doesn’t survive better in nature. It is that simple.

Nature didn’t forsee that some species would take the route that computer companies took when those companies were designed to be bought out by Microsoft. So, in effect, we have hijacked any “original purpose” of evolution, had one actually existed. Our food plants and animals dominate the biosphere. Period.

 

May 20, 2019

A Moral Tale

As I have mentioned I have been working my way through the book The Moral Animal (Why We Are The Way We Are; The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology) by Robert Wright. I was planning to do a book report when done, but there is so much in this book that that is probably futile. If you are interested in where morals really come from, get this book! It is by no means the final word on the topic but it is an excellent start!

What I am writing on now is based upon a comment made in a chapter on ethics. Here it is:

“Why should we have a moral code? Even accepting the basis of utilitarianism—the goodness of happiness—you might ask: Why should any of us worry about the happiness of others? Why not let everyone worry about their own happiness—which seems, anyway, to be the one thing they can be more or less counted on to do?

“Perhaps the best answer to this question is a sheerly practical one . . . everyone’s happiness can, in principle, go up if everyone treats everyone else nicely. You refrain from cheating or mistreating me, I refrain from cheating or mistreating you; we are both better off than we would be in a world without morality. For in such a world the mutual mistreatment would roughly cancel out anyway (assuming neither of us is a vastly more proficient villain than the other). And, meanwhile, we each would incur the added cost of fear and vigilance.”

This resonates on the political stage in current American life. A small minority of wealthy individuals has decided to run this country for their benefit alone and to hell with the rest of us. To claim that legislatures around this country are motivated by expanding the happiness of their constituents is to make a rather bad joke. They seem to be motivated only to please their paymasters.

That issue aside, this quote brings up the utilitarian ideal of each of us treating the others well (not necessarily as well as we treat ourselves, mind you, just well), that this can be a source of greater happiness in all of our lives and that brings me to my tale.

Back in my working days, I was part of a training group. We trained people in our enterprise (a community college district) in the process of interest-based decision making. Our first few attempts at doing these trainings was fraught with anxiety . . . on the part of us trainers; the trainees apparently didn’t notice our discomfort.

To allay these feelings, we spent a great deal of time (a really great deal of time) creating a master training schedule for each training. On this schedule, every presenter, every volunteer, was listed as to time and task, for example: At 10 AM on Thursday Steve goes to Room XYZ and does Task W or on Friday at 3 PM, Steve presents Topic A in the Main Training Room. Every task was supported with instructions; every presentation had a list of key points that was monitored and if any were skipped over, the Monitor doing that task would bring it to the attention of the presenter.

This went swimmingly . . . and then I noticed something happening. Following the master schedule, I (at time X in Room Y) was expected to go set the room up in a particular fashion. At that time, I went to that room, only to find my job already done! This was a gift from an anonymous volunteer. Since I now had nothing else to do, I looked down the list of tasks to find something worth doing and went to do that instead. Before long, in our daily debriefs, we discovered that everyone was doing the same thing, doing someone else’s job for them. When we teased this out we didn’t look at this practice as undermining our Master Plan for our trainings. Instead, each of us felt that we had received gifts, gifts of other peoples’ time and attention and work. This became an unscheduled practice for all of the subsequent trainings I participated in.

Interestingly, the same amount of work got done, but instead of us just wading through mundane tasks, each of us felt like we were giving a gift of our better self, and that we were receiving gifts, anonymous gifts, that left us feeling respected and, well, very happy indeed. In our end-of-training debrief sessions, volunteer after volunteer claimed that this work was the best and most satisfying work they did in their job! It was on their own time and sometimes on company time, but in no case were their job expectations lessened. It turned out that others voluntarily filled in for them while they were away at our trainings.

So, if you take author Wright’s point, that treating each other well is superior (for all) than the libertarian ideal of “every man for himself,” then there is another level of additional happiness available if we treat others more than just “well.” Not oppressing people, or taking advantage of an other, is one form of treating others “well.” But if you go beyond that, as the volunteers in our training group did, and actively treat others very well indeed and we all pay it forward, as the saying goes, a level of happiness unthought of before becomes available to us.

And if you immediately react with “what about the freeloaders” just taking and not giving, read the book. That topic is covered, too.

May 19, 2019

Hello? What About the Emoluments Clause?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:11 pm
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When he issued a subpoena week before last, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said he was seeking six years of President Trump’s personal and business tax returns to aid a committee investigation into whether the IRS was doing its job properly in auditing a sitting president and whether the law governing such audits needed to be strengthened.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denied the “request” saying that the subpoena was “unprecedented” and “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

Hello?

First of all, the Treasury Secretary does not have a say in this. He does get to decide whether a congressional subpoena is appropriate or not. The law simply says such returns will be provided upon being subpoenaed.

Second, audits? WTF? What about the emoluments clause of the Constitution, also called the foreign emoluments clause, which is a provision of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8) that generally prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives? If Mr. Trump has been making money off of his presidency, and he apparently has, and the sources of those funds are foreign, wouldn’t his tax returns show that income? Wouldn’t this be a way for Congress to exercise its oversight responsibilities as no other body has that responsibility?

Hey, they got Al Capone on tax fraud, didn’t they? Might work again!

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