Uncommon Sense

June 29, 2021

Biden and Trump and Their Churches

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:55 am
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Ain’t religion grand?

Donald Trump was embraced by Evangelical Christians despite his many, many, many, many, many flaws and character failings. Joe Biden is on the brink of being thrown under their religious bus by American Catholic Bishops for a single failing. They want to deny him holy communion because he supports a pregnant woman’s right to choose.

Please, oh, please, Catholic Bishops, do follow through. I love it when folks who are on a slippery slope actively grease the skids.

According to Gallup polls, the Catholic Church in America lost nearly 20 percent of its parishioners between 2010 and 2020. American Catholic women support the right to choose and the right to use artificial birth control in high percentages, so the all-male bishops can accelerate the decline of the Catholic Church into irrelevance. (Even the Vatican has warned them off from doing this. Egad!)

Go, Bishops, go!

De Aliens, Boss, de Aliens!

Filed under: Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:12 am
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A recent post on the EarthSky.org blog (reposted from Cornell University) told about a recent sky survey. The bottom line? Well, I’ll let them tell you.

Bottom line: Scientists have calculated that 2,034 stars within 326 light-years have an opportunity to detect Earth using the transit method.

The “transit method” is how we detect “exoplanets” (there is a orientation requirement involved and I don’t know how they determined that for the study—for the curious the orientation requirement is if we are looking at the star from its north or south pole, the planets don’t transit in front of the star).

But I digress. My point is that by my rough calculation, this number of star systems is 0.000002% of the star systems in our galaxy, the Milky Way, and 0.00000000000000005% of the star systems in the visible universe.

Which is why we haven’t actually seen any aliens as yet.

Oh, and the number of star systems that can detect of radio and TV waves is smaller, since they have gotten a max of 200 light-years away from Earth.

De odds, Boss, de odds!

June 28, 2021

It Is Easy to Be Confused

Filed under: Culture,Medicine,Reason,The News — Steve Ruis @ 11:47 am
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I read two blog posts recently, one that stated that none of the vaccinated (in the US) are dying from COVID-19 and the other (from the UK) that only the vaccinated are dying from COVID-19. Actually, both are true.

In the US, the unvaccinated are many, just under half of the population. In the UK, the percent vaccinated is approaching two thirds.

The vaccines are reported to be in the mid-90’s% in preventive effectiveness, which is not 100%, so the vaccinated will still be getting sick, but the vaccines also prevent more severe symptoms, so the vaccinated getting the disease will be dying at a lower rate.

Consider a hypothetical region that is 100% vaccinated. What is the death rate of the unvaccinated? It is zero, of course. The death rate of the vaccinated must be higher, by default, but what people don’t hear is that the death rate is much lower than it had been for the unvaccinated. So, the vaccinated dying at a higher rate than the unvaccinated is a logical consequence of a vaccination program.

I wish that headline writers would strive to be more accurate and more complete.

Otherwise you end up with people seeing “None of the Vaccinated are Dying” and “Only the Vaccinated are Dying” and those who are not detail oriented throw up their hands and claim that “you can’t trust the news media because everything changes at the drop of a hat. Or the ideologues choose which stories to “pass on” to others who are like-minded.

In writing this I realize that a great many of the “issues of the day” have been treated the same way, exacerbating our divisions.

Do you have any ideas as to how to fix this? (Obviously expecting more from the general population isn’t going to work as it hasn’t worked for forever.)

June 27, 2021

Donald Trump 2.0?

Filed under: Culture,Politics,The News — Steve Ruis @ 8:29 am
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Before we have dispatched Donald Trump 1.0 people are trying to identify Donald Trump 2.0. My brilliant partner worried when Donald Trump was first elected that someone would come along who actually had the talent and desire to do the job in a Trumpian manner, and we would then really be in trouble.

A post today on Medium.com had the subtitle of “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to be a GOP favorite to attempt to continue the former president’s brand of tyranny in 2024.” The title of the piece was “The Threat of Donald Trump 2.0 Is Beginning to Emerge.”

This is an abuse of the version labeling system.

While catchy and titillating as a title, the facts don’t match it, DeSantis is at best Trump v1.01.

He does not have the savvy, intelligence, or moxie to make it past v1.1 in my estimation. He is Trumpian in a slightly better looking package.

This is a little like when television became immensely popular. People worried about the effect it would have on education, children in toto, our culture, etc. I didn’t worry so much as I hadn’t seen anyone capable of using it effectively.

Have you seen a political TV ad recently? I stopped watching them years ago, but I occasionally watch one to see if anything has changed. So far, nothing has changed. There is nothing of value in a political TV ad and there are so many of them that any which might be effective are diluted out in a sea of mediocrity. (And they pay consultants millions of dollars to produce that crap.) So, no one has learned to use TV effectively, although Donald Trump did a better job of that than any previous presidential candidate.

The big threat right now is not Donald Trump, v1.0 or v2.0. The problem now is the antidemocratic Republican and Democratic parties. Yes, I know, one is worse that the other, I don’t care; they are both execrable. The uber-rich have captured our politics and now the entire system serves their interests and not ours. And, if you think their interests parallel yours, what planet are you from?

June 26, 2021

How Sloppy Language Misleads Us All

Filed under: Culture,Reason,The News — Steve Ruis @ 10:38 am
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With the release of the Pentagon’s “assessment” of “UAPs,” that is Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” more popularly known as UFOs, Unidentified Flying Objects, The Guardian offered a piece with the title “How pop culture has shaped our understanding of aliens.”

Hello?

We have no understanding of aliens . . . zero, zip, zilch.

We have never met an alien, we have never studied an alien, we have never questioned an alien. All aliens known to us so far are either: (a) fictional (am a big fan, am I) or (b) provisional in that they are based upon reports of individuals who claim they encountered such beings.

I am a big fan of fictional aliens because they offer a mechanism for authors to consider different ways to think, act, and live, without judgment. Very cool.

But as to any “understanding” of aliens, we have exactly none. If you think you do, a reality check is warranted.

A better title would be “How Pop Culture has Shaped our Image of Aliens,” or something similar.

June 25, 2021

U.S. Billionaires Don’t Pay Taxes

I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you!

Recently a federal government official leaked the fact that over the past decade, U.S. billionaires effectively paid no federal tax. The response from the government was swift: a veritable thunderstorm of condemnation . . . of the leaker, with threats of FBI investigations into the leak, jail sentences, etc. Condemnation of the billionaires for “rigging the system?” Not so much.

Was there any difference between the Republican and Democratic Party’s reactions? A slight difference in style, maybe, but in content no. Gee, I wonder why that is?

Both political parties have been captured by the “rich donors” who fill party coffers. Since these “donors” are in the cadre of wealthy assholes paying few to no taxes, is this situation surprising to you?

Just another sign that the elites, the wealthy and powerful elites, are on their side of a line and the rest of us are on the other. And they are defending their privileges tooth and nail.

When the whistleblower law was enacted, it was framed as a protection for government officials and corporate officials who “leak” information that the public needs to know.

Isn’t this something we need to know? That the recent Republican tax cuts reduced already small tax burdens on the very rich down to no tax burden at all? And, guess who is going to make up for the lost revenue? (And you don’t get three guesses!)

I wonder how these rich assholes can complain about U.S. tax policy when they are paying no federal taxes at all. Chutzpah personified.

June 24, 2021

They Are Coming for Your Churches (The Tax Collectors!)

On June 30th 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that if a state has a program of providing public financing for private entities to provide educational services, that program cannot exclude from participation any institution simply because that institution is religious (see Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue).

But, as much as these tax exemptions have been argued by some as absolutely untouchable as a form of religious freedom, or grudgingly untouchable by others as upheld in existing case law, Espinoza changes all of this, and provides a clear path toward taxing the churches.

<This SCOTUS decision> provides a clear path toward taxing the churches.

If a state cannot exclude from access to taxpayer resources institutions simply because they are religious, a state also cannot exclude from taxation institutions simply because they are religious. Indeed, to the extent that properties on which private schools operate are exempt, then this exemption would also apply to properties on which private religious schools operate. But the exemption would not extend to the church itself, or for example, rectories, religious retreats or other lands and buildings used solely for “religious” activities, including worship. The state cannot define religious activity in-and-of-itself to qualify as public service because the state should not be in the business of defining “religion,” and bestowing differential benefits on that basis alone.

(Source: Time to Tax the Churches! on schoolfinance101.wordpress.com)

“Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

The Infinity War—Much Ado About Nothing

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 1:01 pm
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In the Marvel blockbuster series culminating in the move Avengers: Infinity War, an evil alien by the name of Thanos was collecting a set of magic stones that would allow him to kill half of the population of the universe with a snap of his fingers. The Marvel people mine mythologies to acquire names for their characters and Thanos is a shorter version of Thanatos, who was a Greek god of death who brought gentle deaths to people. Thanos also brought gentle deaths . . . to half the people in the fricking universe!

So, half of all of the aliens and humans dissolve away peacefully, including half of the Marvel characters who were fighting Thanos.

The final movie involves time travel and trying to thwart the effort of Thanos that way.

But that is not the flaw in this whole scheme.

Thanos, once his labors are complete, retires to a little tropical hut as if he has accomplished his life’s work. But all through the series Thanos rails about how overpopulation was destroying the universe. All of the ills of poverty, war, etc. could be addressed if there weren’t so many people clamoring for food, shelter, and resources.

Sounds good enough for a fantasy, except . . . do you know how many years it took for the last doubling of the population of our planet, Earth? I won’t make you look it up; it was 49 years. So, assuming that other species would be reproducing at around the same rate, fifty years after Thanos’s mass murder, the population would be right back where it was. or, if not in 50 years, then 100.

Thanos, at best, created a very short duration respite from population pressure. More specifically, he also created an immense mass of misery in those who remember their lost loved ones.

For the amount of power possessed in the infinity stones (the magical bits), a better solution could have been come up with. How about a lower birth rate across the board? How about a change of mind regarding what we owe others as well as ourselves? But, the creative team was American, so “kill them all” is a dependable solution for any problem encountered in an action-adventure movies. Which makes me wonder why “kill half of them” was so attractive.

Things Are Always Simpler Than We Think

Have you ever noticed that when populism rears its ugly head, it is attacked from all sides. Currently, the anti-populism script is sticking very close to the script that was created for the American Populist movement in the nineteenth century. None of the criticisms, of course, are based in fact.

So, why the vituperation of a “people power movement?”

If you have read even a little of what I have written, you are aware that I characterize civilization as a movement in which the secular and religious elites coerce the labor of the masses to serve the interests of the elites.

So, the tension is between the elites and the masses, and any tension between various bands of elites is a side issue, a much smaller issue.

In the era of American slavery, Southerners were deathly afraid the “darkies” would rise up and kill them in their beds. In some of the Southern states, there were more slaves and free men, so this wasn’t an idle fear.

That fear has driven racial hatred of “minorities” by “whites” ever since, ultimately being a manifestation of a fear of “others” who are not understood and hence formed a danger.

The current “hatred” directed to Critical Race Theory is another manifestation of this same fear. The hatred of labor unions by the conservative arms of the elites is another “fear and loathing” expression of “people power.”

The so-called “Founding Fathers” of the U.S. Constitution were deathly afraid of the common people wielding power that they warned about even the “middling sort” from acquiring any. (The “middling sort” is what we would call the middle class today. Back them it referred to tradesmen, printers, etc.) The founders instituted many a check on, ugh, democracy, in the Constitution (the Electoral College, the Senate, etc.), pointing out that democracy has always failed everywhere it was tried. (The FFs were elitists, if you didn’t know, and I never use that term lightly.)

So, the current condemnation of populism from both the left and right? It is being made by the elites on the left and right who see “the masses” as a common enemy who need to be kept under control so as to continue to serve the interests of the elites.

If you look at current events through a lens of there being a contest between “the masses,” aka the people, and the elites a lot that appears confusing is actually quite clear.

June 23, 2021

Just Stop with the Christian Nation BS

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:05 am

I noticed an “American Heritage” documentary series on one of the streaming services, with the focus of showing how this is a “Christian nation.” I do not link to it because I just roughly perused the episodes.

It seems as if a small cottage industry has formed around the desire to show that this is a “Christian nation.” Whereas it is correct to say that this was a nation of Christians when it was founded, it was not founded as a Christian nation. In fact, it was founded as a secular nation.

The whole idea of secular anythings was dreamt up by the church. Yep, it is a religious concept. One of its greatest proponents in its modern sense was . . . wait for it . . . Martin Luther. Now Luther was as close as you can get to being a religious extremist/fanatic. He had no intention of creating the Protestant religion(s), he merely wanted to root out the corruption he saw in the Catholic church. And he saw secular government was a way to do just that. Why have church officials dirty their hands dealing with criminals, road construction, and sewage disposal. That’s what Caesars are for. (Plenty of New Testament support for this, no?)

So, let a secular group handle daily government and the prelates handle Jesus and their “flock’s” spiritual lives. Again, this is part of the unholy bargain made between secular and religious elites in almost every version of civilization we have ever created.

On top of all that: there is no democracy in the Bible! None! Zero! Zip! Zilch!

The only form of government mentioned in the Bible is monarchies. The preferred form of government is a religious monarchy in which the king/emperor/queen is also an instrument of the culture’s god. There is no voting in the Bible. There are no surveys as to the wants of the people. There are no people’s representatives, chosen by the people.

In the Bible it is Yahweh or the highway. Jesus’s followers/disciples were promised the position of being the lord/king of one of the “nations,” aka the political entities surrounding  Israel, and they lusted after those positions. (Boy, things will sure be different when I am in charge!)

So, I won’t be watching the “documentary” series on how this is a Christian nation because all of the evidence is to the contrary and whatever “Biblical support” for their position they come up with cannot counter the overwhelming rejection of democracy/self-rule the Bible proposes.

Calling this country a Christian nation because it began as a nation of mostly Christians is simply another part of the power grab. While the secular and religious elites share their power, each wants it all to themselves and acts accordingly every time they get an opportunity.

By flooding the media with video and print materials making their false claim, they can achieve the point in which there are volumes of “information” on both sides and soon, calls to “teach the controversy” in our schools will surely be made. Casual observers will look at the small ocean of “information” supporting their preferred outcome and believe that their side has the right of it. And we become even more polarized than ever before.

This seems, sadly, to be the pattern of our political discourse for the foreseeable future.

This is a consequence of allowing so much wealth to be accumulated in few hands. Every quack idea under the sun will be supported by great wealth, diluting out good information with bad. We learned this lesson regarding currency (bad money, as in counterfeit currency, drives out good) and we need to learn it regarding “information” if we mean to survive.

Postscript
Here is one blurb for the series:
Discover the forgotten and astonishing story of our nation’s founding in the American Heritage Series. For centuries, we were taught a providential view of American history that presented our godly heroes and the mortal foundation upon which our nation was built. However, in recent years, a new version of history has assaulted the fiber of our nation, censoring the core values of our past – until today! From separation of church and state to the civil rights movement, from the heroism of our founding fathers to the building of our nation’s monuments this series will inspire every American to reclaim the godly, true story of our nation. Experience the untold story of our nation’s history in the American Heritage series. America: This is your heritage!

Notice the ploy. The story of our nation’s founding has been “forgotten.” (WTF? Every school child is taught oodles of American history, most of it distorted by an overly positive view of the rightness of all of our actions.

Note that they whine about how “For centuries, we were taught a providential view of American history that presented our godly heroes and the mortal foundation upon which our nation was built.” basically bemoaning the loss of their fairy tales having been replaced by real history. They want the role of churchmen in opposing slavery taught, but not the role of other churchmen supporting slavery mentioned at all, for instance.

And when whining isn’t enough, there is hyperbole” “a new version of history has assaulted the fiber of our nation,  censoring the core values of our past.” I wonder if that is the same fiber we are supposed to have in our diets. Imagine . . . “History to the left of me, history to the right of me, into the valley of. . . .” It is war, I tell you!

“Experience the untold story” . . . yeah, there is a reason their version is untold—fictional accounts are now considered inappropriate to study in American history classes.

Oh, and if you think this bilge will be ignored, the average rating for this series on this site, a reputable movie rating site, is 4.5/5 stars. You can make a lot of money serving confirmation bias.

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