Uncommon Sense

April 26, 2020

Why Do Christians Insist that Jesus was a Jewish Messiah?

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:12 am
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I have had this question for quite some time. Christianity is founded not in the slightest on the status of Jesus being a Jewish Messiah. If it were, their scriptures do a horrible job of explaining how Jesus performed that role at all. Instead it sounds like another “god claim” in that he had to be everything . . . because god, you know, and he was an Olympic Champion and won a spelling bee in school, and . . . and . . . just like Yahweh has every god power in the book . . . and he lives beyond space and time . . . and. . . .

In Judaism, a messiah is a human being who is inspired by their god to save the people from oppression. This may be as a war leader or prophet but usually people thought of a war leader who would mobilize the people to overthrow their oppressors.

If Jesus were a messiah in his time, it would be to throw the Romans out, who had been running the show more or less for about a century (ironically enough invited in by both opposing fractions of the reigning Jews of the time; talk about bad judgment). So, did Jesus lead any battles? Not to speak of. The cleansing of the temple probably comes closest but that is probably apocryphal. (Why apocryphal? Ask yourself: Jesus comes in with a “cord” overturning the tables of money changers, but look closely, who is standing behind each of those tables? Answer: a burly guard who would beat the snot out of anyone who came close to his master’s table with ill intent. At least one guard per table would have made a small squad of “corporate muscle” who would have made mincemeat of said Rampaging Jesus™.)

So, shortly after Jesus’ demise, in scripture, the Jews revolt, get crushed by the Romans again, but this time the Temple is razed to the ground, and the followers of Jesus scattered to the winds.

Some messiah. Alfred E. Newman could have done a better job.

A small window on what may actually have gone on there is offered by the book “A Shift in Time” by Lena Einhorn. I am only about half way through but so far she is building up a good case for the scriptures having deliberately placed Jesus 20 or so years earlier in time than the real sources of the story. So, instead of wrapping up Jesus’ life story in the early 30’s CE, they were closer to the early 50’s CE in actuality. Interestingly, during that time, there was an actual insurrection, one involving thousands of participants, etc. and the “magician” who led the insurrection escaped the backlash and so was “at large” and could possibly be “coming back” to cause more trouble in the future.

So, why would this “time shift” be desirable? I don’t know how the author will answer this question but at this point it makes sense to me. If the writers of the gospels (right around the time of the first Jewish-Roman War) are making the foundations of a religion based upon a savior god who will come and whip the asses of Israel’s enemies, and if they told the story as it happened in the 50’s then the Romans would be informed a great deal when the war started up in the year 66 CE. The personages in the stories would be identifiable and could then be rounded up and executed, etc. So, moving the stories back 20 years places them out of recent memory, especially out of the memories of Romans serving in the military.

This explains a great deal about the inconsistencies found in scripture (errors made in making the time shift, probably after the gospels were written) and it established that Jesus was indeed a messiah, having led an insurrection against the Romans, still a failed insurrection, but at least he got a few licks in.

I will provide a more complete book review when I finish the book. (So far, this seems to be a neutral analysis, not having any ax to grind, but like I said . . . ain’t done yet.)

April 25, 2020

1 Picture = 1000 Words?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:57 pm
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Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words. As Exhibit A, I offer:

April 24, 2020

We Can’t Pay for Medicare for All! But . . .

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:26 am
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Michael Hudson is one of my favorite economists and recently he said this: “Just think of when, in the debates with Bernie Sanders during the spring, Biden and Klobuchar kept saying, ‘What we’re paying for Medicare-for-All will be $1 trillion over 10 years.’ Well, here the Fed can create $1.5 trillion in one week just to buy stocks.

“Why is it okay for the Fed to create $1.5 trillion to buy stocks to prevent rich people from losing on their stocks, when it’s not okay to print only $1 trillion to pay for free Medicare for the entire population? This is crazy!”

So, the very same corporate stooges that proclaim that we cannot possibly afford to pay for Medicare for All are more than willing to have their share prices and corporations supported to the tune of trillions of dollars.

And, of course, the costs of Medicare for All are never, ever placed side by side with the benefits, you know, in a cost-benefit analysis?

The benefits are immense, especially when you consider the savings from not having to buy health insurance. For example, according to Modern Health care, the nation’s seven largest publicly traded health insurers saw revenues of $913 billion in 2019. So, pay a trillion dollars a year for Medicare for All and get 0.913 trillion dollars back. And that is just the top seven companies. I suppose that if all of the rest of the companies were added it, the savings would be greater.

With just that benefit alone we are down to an annual cost for Medicate for All of $87 billion and that could be paid for by cancelling one small weapon system from the Pentagon’s budget.

Ca-ching! Done. Medicare for All is paid for.

Of course the opponents of universal health care in this country don’t want you to see a cost-benefit analysis. I mean, all of those numbers . . . bound to be confusing, so they just want to keep it simple (using a risk-risk analysis).

PS What ever happened to the idea of risk when investing in the stock market? The purchases are not insured, like savings in federally instituted banks. Remember all of the people the Stock Market Crash of 1929 bankrupted? Isn’t the danger of losing one’s money supposed to be a major factor in controlling risky behaviors? If the government is to bail out the poor, poor investors every time they get a financial hangnail, the whole system becomes corrupt, or should I say “has become corrupt.”

The Industrial Usurpation

(The title was to be The Industrial Revolution Usurpation, but I can’t seem to format fonts in the damned titles! SR)

Ian welsh had a fascinating take on the roots of capitalism (The Transition to Capitalism) which I recommend to you. I have excerpted much of it below to make my point, starting with …

“One of the most important things to understand about industrial capitalism is that the lower classes didn’t want it.

“Peasants did not leave the land voluntarily. They were forced off, often with violent force, in a series of enclosures, where their millennium old rights to use the land were taken together.”

“With the fields enclosed, the peasantry lost control of capital: land is capital. They couldn’t grow their own food, raise sheep for wool, chop down trees for fuel and so on.

“They were thus forced off the land, into the slums of cities and had to work for industrialists, six and a half days a week, 12 hours a day on average. They died younger, there was far more disease, they were maimed often and they lived worse.

“They knew this. They resisted. They hated.

“Capitalism, among the many things that it is, is the concentration of capital in the hands of a few people. That means access to capital is removed from most people. They must now work for someone else. In some times and places that work is nice, at others it is not, but it is a loss of control and choice.

“Peasants and free farmers in Britain had far more control over what they did and when than factory workers. In fact, they had more control than most modern American workers do today.”

“The choice for most people today is to choose their master, not to choose to have no master.”

“They control the capital. We do what they tell us to, negotiating only who wields the whip.

“That’s capitalism.

“Did it have to be that way?”

In reading this, it seems as if capitalism is the crowning achievement of civilization.

Most people consider “being civilized” as an asset, a complement even, but actually civilization occurred through force, just like the onset of industrial capitalism. Hunter-gathers had it much better than an existence as a farmer provided, but they were given no choice. Actually, they did have one choice left and that was to hightail it out of that “civilization” and apparently more than a few “farmers” did just that. They had the advantage of possessing skills in living off the land which were still quite recent. These “defections” resulted in severe labor shortages which led to large scale slave raids on neighboring populations. And, as I have mentioned before, many of these nascent civilizations didn’t last a century or in some cases even close to that length of time.

So, civilization was brought about by force. The hunter-gatherers transformed into farmers did not want it, but the elites forced the issue. Since confiscating the “surplus food” grown through forced labor supported more soldiers, the idea grew basically as the only way to stem the threat one’s neighbors now posed.

And then from the above we are able to appreciate the coup-de-grâce of industrial capitalism once again forced by elites (elites who were often more wrong than right, but they always seem to decide in their own favor somehow). The key line in the above, for me, is “The choice for most people today is to choose their master, not to choose to have no master.” Basically this says that you are born into a form of serfdom and there are very, very few ways out. This may possibly be the source of our addiction to “self-made man” mythologies, especially the ones in which an “ordinary Joe” becomes a millionaire.

If I may repeat Ian Welsh: “Did it have to be that way?” And, does it have to continue to be this way?

April 23, 2020

Can You Spell Opportunity Cost, Boys and Girls?

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, now a pandemic, that noted medical specialist President Donald Trump has been trumpeting the efficacy of the drug hydroxychloroquine. Since this drug was already FDA approved, a long set of tests to make sure it did no harm were unnecessary, but it hadn’t ever been proscribed to combat Coronoviruses.

Soon, both President Trump and Fox (sic) News were touting the efficacy of this drug for this disease. There was only one part missing . . . any evidence it was effective against COVID-19, so some trials were quickly devised and approved. In a French study the drug had no effect whatsoever on COVID-19 suffers and in a larger US study involving Veteran’s Affairs patients, who were likely Trumpeters, it had an effect. The veterans who were given the drug as a potential COVID-19 treatment died at a higher rate than the people who were not administered the drug.

President Trump and Fox (sic) News have stopped touting the miracle drug hydroxychloroquine. Hmm, I wonder why?

In economics there is a concept called an opportunity cost, which is basically common sense. It is the simple fact that if you choose to take action A, you are forgoing the opportunity to take action B, action C, etc. So, the President and his enablers/co-conspirators pushed a useless drug to the top of the list for tests, applying no medical knowledge or common sense at all.

And while those researchers were investigating the useless hydroxychloroquine drug, other drugs that could have been helpful were not being tested by those teams of researchers.

I am sure the President and Fox (sic) News are, right now, shrugging and mumbling “Who knew?” Apparently any number of the President’s advisors knew, but what do they know, they’re just the experts, right?









April 16, 2020

POTUS Meltdown

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:44 am
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Mr. Trump has recently stated that he will give the states the okay to let down their Stay at Home pandemic orders one at a time (presumably on a scale from Most Respect Paid to Least Respect Paid to Mr. Trump). What this brings to question is how Mr. Trump, who has sworn (on a Bible) to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, can actually defend the Constitution when he clearly does not understand the Constitution.

One would expect that Mr. Trump will have less say as to when the state’s will lift their quarantine and self-isolation requirements than he did in them being implemented in the first place. That is not possible, however, as Mr. Trump had no say over those state’s orders (zero, zilch, nada) in the first place, so he cannot have “less that zero” affect on the retirement of those orders.

And the fall of the GOP is very sad, very sad. Remember when the GOP was the state’s rights party? Now they seem to have transformed themselves into the Trump’s Rights Party. They should rename themselves into the Trump’s Right Ultimate Minority Party as that would change the GOP into the T.R.U.M.P. The name ought to reflect the reality, don’t you think?

What The Pandemic Is Teaching Us

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:53 am
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Nurses, waitresses, clerks, office workers, janitors, garbage men, etc. that is ordinary workers are way more valuable than CEOs.
The pandemic is the equivalent of a CEO strike. Have you notice any impact from that? Would you rather have your local garbage men working or your local CEOs? CEOs are tremendously overvalued (mostly by themselves and their hand-picked boards of governors). CEOs ratcheted their salaries up to astronomical heights and I have proposed a way to ratchet them down quite rapidly. It starts with either firing the current CEO or on the occasion that he is retiring you then offer the job to the first vice-president (or the equivalent) at half the salary. If they are insulted by the offer or just refuse, you offer the job to the second vice-president (or the equivalent) at one-quarter of the salary. If nobody inside takes the job, offer it out at half the leaving CEO’s salary. Repeat as necessary. (And, really, you don’t have to worry about the quality of the person in the job because it just isn’t that important.)

That the economy is not driven by demand but by supply is bunk and always has been.
Paid for Hire Economists launched this steaming pile of misinformation to support “supply side economics” a product of magical thinking if there ever was one. Greed is unlimited in capitalism, so politics must do the limiting, but the very rich do not like that so they bribe politicians to do things like favor them when taxes are cut. To provide some protective cover the bullshit economic theory of “supply side economics” was commissioned and paid for.

That church and state are nowhere near separate in this country, not even close.
In Florida, the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, created a “worship exemption” in his “Safer at Home” order. His pair of executive orders forces all localities, regardless of how overwhelmed their medical facilities are or how many people are infected, to allow large gatherings in churches. Why Governor DeSantis wants to illegally allow Christians to kill themselves via virus is unknown. Maybe he has a large bet in a pool “Jesus vs. COVID-19.” Hard to say. But the state shouldn’t be exempting religions from rules designed to keep citizens alive.

Many People are Obstinate and Stupid
I admit to a certain amount of glee every time I see a preacher who insisted on keeping his (it is always a male, it seems) church open during the pandemic who then contracts the COVID-19 and dies. Apparently protection offered by the Blood of Jesus is overrated.

It also seems that stupidity has its own set of rewards and punishments built in. Another plus for evolution.

We Really Do Benefit from Not Having an Idiot in the White House
Since we are a secular country, the POTUS can act as a moral leader and, well, a cheer leader, when we encounter a major bump in the road as we are experiencing now. Having an amoral moron in the White House not only does not help but it can actually cost a lot of lives, misery, and lost economic opportunities.

April 14, 2020

The Transmogrification of Donald Trump

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:35 pm
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I saw a bit of an interview with Donald Trump from 40 years ago. He was almost demur; he spoke in whole, coherent, well-thought out sentences. He stayed on topic and the topic was something other than himself. When I compare that performance (he seemed to always be performing rather than just being) with his performance in his “news conference” yesterday, it is hard to claim that this version of Donald Trump is the same man.

I think a fair campaign ad for the Democrats would be to alternate clips of Trump speaking in 1980 and in 2020. Anyone who could ignore the onset of dementia that obvious is not going to be convinced that Mr. Trump is not fit for the presidency by any evidence whatsoever. They are evidence proof, which is why his almost total support amongst evangelicals is so obvious. They have been in training to be evidence proof for most of their lives.

April 13, 2020

Election Security, Election Trustworthiness

Filed under: Politics,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 11:01 am
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I was watching a documentary called Kill Chain, last night. This was about how easy it is (not would be) to hack into the electronic systems used for our elections. A fact that by itself undermines the integrity of our election process. At one point the people leading the documentary took a series of machines to a hacker conference in Las Vegas and asked people there to try to hack the machines. So, with little to no preparation and only the tools that they had on them, the play began. In just a couple of days, every machine available (including all of the ones currently in use) was hacked. These were casual hackers working part-time attending a conference. As the hosts commented, in Russia and other countries there are highly trained and motivated professionals working 24-7 to do the same. How hard could it be?

That the technology was 16 years old, with four years being a long generation of computer hardware, this was hardly a surprising outcome. The documentary went on to document several rather egregious examples of hacked elections, so why hasn’t there been federal action to forestall our elections being undermined?

The documentary showed a clip of Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, saying that any such anti-tampering legislation would have to be bipartisan to be brought up for a vote in the senate. Then various senators pointed out that at least four bipartisan anti-tampering bills had been forwarded to Senate leadership and none had been brought to the floor. Each had been killed by . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . Mitch McConnell.

Even though McConnell seems to be in the pockets of the Chinese and/or Russians, it is quite extraordinary to accuse a sitting Majority Leader of such a treasonous act, so the politics are more likely to be more local.

So, think about this. Think about the current GOP membership and the current Democratic Party membership. On one hand you have CEOs who can barely type and bankers and the like and farmers and soldiers and on the other you have all of the New Age hippie computer nerds in tie-dyed teeshirts. Which party do you think would have the better hackers? Yeah, it was obvious to me, too.

So, why is Mitch McConnell acting to protect Democrat election hackers?

Why would he betray his own party like that? In any kind of reasonable contest, the hippie Democrats could hack the shit out of a band of GOP members, so why is Moscow Mitch protecting Democrat hackers? What do they have on him to make him their puppet? Do you think they are controlling the outcome of his re-election? What would make a staunch rock-ribbed Republican into such a toady for a bunch of hippie hackers?

PS Watch this documentary!



April 12, 2020

The Words We Use to Protect Ourselves, Thus Doing Irreparable Harm

Filed under: History,language — Steve Ruis @ 11:35 am
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I was viewing and reading the other day and came across two rather extraordinary statements. Here they are:

The buffalo hunt was an instrument for opening the west to settlement.”


“(referring to the early civilizations on the Nile, Indus, and Yellow rivers) Bountiful agriculture produced grain surpluses to feed these ever more populous settlements, the rulers coordinating the labour of growing workforces to construct impressive civil engineering projects like expansive irrigation systems, roads and canals, to further increase food production and its distribution.

Do you see what they have in common?

Both are descriptions of brutal treatment of the majority of a population for the benefit of someone other than the population itself, using breezy language.

The phrase “opening of the West to settlement,” is fascinating. The “West” referred to is the American West and the entire history of the “settlement” of the American West is rife with Indian troubles. Every time “settlers” started “settling” they were attacked by Indians. Damned savages! If only they had been civilized!

Well, the reason the “settlers” were attacked is that the land they were “settling” was already settled by Native Americans. The Anglos were invaders, in the terms of a subsequent generation, they were squatters on other people’s land. There was no need for “settlement” as that had already taken place. There were already people living on that land and the march west, was nothing more than an invasion that generated a genocide of immense scale.

Settlers, my ass. Of course, as a youth I swallowed this bilge easily. By accepting the term “settlers” I was accepting that the land was not “settled” and so was “open for settlement” by brave god-fearing white folk, like me. I believed the “Indians” attacked because they were savage, war-like people. In college I realized that most of what I “knew” of Native Americans came from the myriad cowboy movies I had viewed. And formal history wasn’t much better because of these words that were chosen to salve our egos, words like settlers, instead of invaders or conquistadors.

And the second quote. Egad, talk about white washing.

“Bountiful agriculture produced grain surpluses” uh, exactly how did this happen? Hunter gatherers got together in a barn one evening and one of them convinced the others that this agriculture was going to be a really good deal for them, so they all switched over? Sedentary agriculture was a disaster for many, many people before it got going and even after. People had a major reduction in variety in their diets because instead of having different harvests of fish, game, fruits, plants, and whatnot with the seasons, they spent all of their time in a much more labor intensive practice: farming. Because they ended up eating mostly what they grew, instead of what Nature provided, their teeth rotted, their children grew up smaller, and their health deteriorated because of the disease pits formed when so many people lived so closely together. A drought, or flood, or poor harvest for any reason mean starvation.

Oh, but, “the rulers coordinating the labour of growing workforces.” I am sure were a great help, providing guards to make sure the workers didn’t run off and in acquiring slaves by capturing the populations of whole villages in the vicinity. The rulers soon found out that forced labor is expensive because of the numbers of guards needed, so they created the concept of god-kings to recruit invisible gods guards who worked for free. It is hard not to do a task a god or god’s emissary says you have to do.

And, oh joy, all of those “impressive civil engineering projects like expansive irrigation systems, roads and canals, to further increase food production and its distribution” were really helpful . . . to the workers? No, I don’t think so. The distribution network was taking the grain they produced elsewhere, to feed people like soldiers, that couldn’t be afforded before the imposition of forced labor agriculture. Thus, agriculture allowed the elites to make war for fun and profit, again not with any benefit to the workers creating the surpluses that fed the elites and their minions.

And, did you notice the phrase, that the grain surpluses were in part “to feed these ever more populous settlements.What was being settled? Empty land? Why? The ever growing populations were created by the grain surpluses and a biological law which says that the population of a species will expand to the limits of its food supply. If you didn’t have the grain surpluses or didn’t make them available to people, the populations would not grow. So, who benefited from this? Not the workers. There never was much of a benefit to the workers at all. Grain was a crop that could be dried and stored. Otherwise food preservation was quite difficult. There is some evidence of mastodon carcasses having been immersed in arctic temperature lakes as a form of preservation, but most food spoiled fast, so it was eaten as soon as it was harvested as a general rule (a whole mastodon being a bit of a challenge). There was no surpluses for hunter-gatherers as a general rule. But because grain can be dried and stored and kinda sorta will keep you alive if you eat it, it was something that the elites could tax . . . by force, mind you, that could be spent (in trade, as food, etc.) later. So, agriculture was by the workers for the grain the elites wanted and the elites didn’t care fuck-all for the workers. Most of them were slaves anyway and treating them well wasn’t necessarily an advantage, certainly not an economic one.

Such breezy truncations of history, like the above, hide the incredible damage done by the elites of the general masses of people under their influence. And what about the poor buffalo which were hunted almost to extinction “to open the West to Settlement.” What a crock of bullshit. The buffalo were hunted to extinction to make a profit, for everyone in line from the frontier buffalo hunters to the wearers of buffalo hide garments in the East. No one hunted out the buffalo to win a “war” against the Native Americans, thus opening up the West to settlement. (See, no Indians here . .  well, left any way.)

By accepting such tripe we salve the wounds we should all feel when thinking back on our history. There is much good and much bad. Both encourage us to do more good in the future. By turning the appallingly bad into a “good” neither informs us of our capabilities or warns us of the dangers of certain paths we might take into the future. Ego protection should never be the watch word of history, but we have allowed it to be so in this country and are still working to massage the past to make us look better. (Look up debates over Texas school books for American history of late for examples.)

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