Uncommon Sense

July 31, 2022

Deep in the Pockets in Texas

The above title is the title of a CNN Special Report, now available on YouTube. I watched it last night and it is truly alarming. (If you have any interest in the future of American politics, I recommend viewing this—it is 42 minutes or so long.)

In short, it is a documentary about how two billionaires who have decide to run the State of Texas as their little fiefdom. And they are pulling it off. Texas is basically a one party state. Democrats don’t get much traction down there. And so Republican primaries are critical for state office holding. And these two guys, and the political action committees (PACs) they have created, and special interest groups, etc., etc. dominate all of those elections and many local ones, too. They even keep a scorecard on the Internet telling people how “conservative” the various office holders are, but that is basically a rating that determines whether they will get monetary support in the next election or a challenger that will be lavishly funded.

Oh, by the way, Texas is one of a dozen states that doesn’t limit how much a candidate can take from any one source, so some of these candidates get 60, 70, even 80 percent of their “donations” from the two of them. To claim there is no quid pro quo involved is more than naïve. This part is not shocking. This is becoming the norm in red states.

What is shocking is that these two billionaire buddies are Christian Nationalists and Christian Dominionists. Neither believes in the separation of church and state (and even claim that that is not part of our Constitution or traditions). They want Texas to run on the basis of a Christian Worldview.

Based on the Christian Bible, political matters are decided by men, wealthy men, and priests. Women are second-class citizens with few rights, and children have no rights at all. There is no democracy, no voting, no public polls, no representative government, no government of the people, by the people, for the people. There is no balance of powers, it is Yahweh or the highway with these folks. Can you spell oligarchy, boys and girls?

Apparently one of the two got his start in state politics stumping for public funding of religious private schools. When that effort failed he found his current partner and they have decided to remake the politics of the entire state. And, of course, what is good for the State of Texas is good for the entire country. Yes, they have dreams to go nationwide.

There is a stop gap measure that will slow these assholes down, but probably not stop them. Currently, for example, outside money can support candidates for your current school board and, when they take over, tell your schools how and what to teach your children. So, should “outsiders” tell us how to run our schools? This is currently happening in Texas, and many other places in our country. A simple corrective is to restrict fundraising to within the districts that are being served. So, for a school board election, funds could only be raised from people who live in the school district. Why should anyone outside of that district have a say in how we school our children? The same should go for all elections. If you are running for state senate, you should only be able to solicit funding from people who live in your senatorial district. If you are running for the Federal Senate, to represent the State of Texas, you may collect donations from anyone who lives in the state. Why should anyone outside of Texas have any say as to who represents the citizens of the state? Now, we all still have free speech, so if you want to go to Texas, rent a hall, and give a speech, you may. You just can’t send cash, material goods, or material support to the candidate or issue you support.

This would not stop the rich assholes out to destroy our country, but it would slow them down. Basically it is drawing a simple distinction between honest political advocacy and influence peddling, which is illegal already.

Addendum Of course, their interpretation of our governmental founding and structure is flawed and so is their theology. That doesn’t even slow these people down. And now that they have allies on the Supreme Court, we are in for a rocky ride.

July 30, 2022

Putting Innocent Questions to Bed

Filed under: History,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:32 am
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Note—Okay, this is a Sunday type of post but Jesus honored the Sabbath on Saturday and if it was good enough for him. . . . Steve

On Quora.com we see myriad innocent (I assume) questions concerning gods, for example “Is God necessary for the existence of the universe?” Another vein of questions revolves around ideas like “how can atheists be so sure when they can’t prove that God doesn’t exist?” (Bwah, hah, hah, read on infidels!)

We can put these naïve questions to bed by examining the god claim itself. A quick look at Wikipedia and we get this: “God is usually conceived of as being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent as well as having an eternal and necessary existence.” Lets break this down a bit.

Being Necessary
What, for example, is a “necessary being?” In philosophy a proposition is said to be necessary if it could not have failed to be the case. So, a necessary being is a being that cannot fail to exist. It is more than a little strange to be debating the existence of a god or god and have one participant claim “My god cannot fail to exist.” How could they possibly know such a thing? Basically they are slipping a premise that says “God exists” into an argument showing that a god exists. This is the simplest way to win a philosophical argument—slip your desired conclusion into the set of premises. This is also dishonest. I think we can set aside the idea of any god being a necessary being as a conclusion masquerading as a premise.

Being Eternal
Now, eternal; we all know what that means, kinda sorta. This “power” claimed for this god is quite unnecessary. But theists had painted themselves into a corner by claiming that this god created the universe out of nothing. (FYI This is not a claim of the Big Bang Theory; the only people claiming this are theists.) In order for this god to have created our universe it must have pre-existed our universe. How much time it must have preexisted the universe by is irrelevant, it just had to have come before. But if the claim is made that this god is “the creator” of the universe, the question then arises “Who created your god?” They didn’t have a pat answer for that question, so their claim became that their god is uncreated, it is eternal, it has existed forever. So, stop with the snarky questions, okay?

But claiming an eternal god has any number of other problems associated with it. For example, how much time did this god wait before creating this universe? If it is eternal, that amount of time is infinite. (You may note that theists argue vociferously against the existence of infinite regressions, but they actually are embracing one here.) What was this god doing during all of that time? Why did it decide it was time to create this universe 13.5 billion years ago? Was it bored? Had it created other universe with which it was dissatisfied? And so on. . . .

Being Omnipresent
I have written extensively about this power, a power made up by religious authorities, one that has no basis in fact, nor is it needed. Since this god is omniscient and omnipotent, it doesn’t have to be somewhere to observe something happening or being said, nor does it have to be someplace to be able to act. This power only benefits priests and other clerics as a method of controlling their “flock,” by giving them a cosmic eavesdropper/Peeping Tom from whom the sheep cannot hide. So, you had better do as they say!

Being Omniscient
I used to pride myself on knowing a lot of stuff . . . typical male, that is me. (I am a human male; I fix things and I know shit!) But imagine knowing everything, and I mean everything, even the events that will unroll in the future. This eliminates some small things right away, for example, Christians are fond of saying that their god is testing them or someone else in various ways, but why would a god test anyone when he already knows whether they pass or fail such a test? Re-read the Book of Job and constantly remind yourself that Yahweh is omniscient. It is even more perverse than when read straight up as a myth or fairly tale.

The big problem that giving their god this power creates is a deterministic universe. God already knows what will happen, so your future is determined, you cannot choose it to be different. In other words, there is no free will. If there is no free will, how can anyone be responsible for what they do, when somehow a script was written that we had to follow?

Uh oh! Doh!

Being Omnipotent
This power is the subject of catechism student jokes for centuries, e.g. “Is God so powerful that He can make a rock even He cannot lift, Father?” Whole books have been written walking back the “all powerful” capability of this deity. “Can God make married bachelors, Father?” “God can do all things . . .  that logically be done,” my son. So, all-powerful isn’t all-powerful because there are limitations, hmm.

This god power has been beaten to death and has been shown in multiple ways to be impossible, so I will leave it here.

Being Omnibenevolent
This claim cannot be made with a straight face, especially when this god is quoted as saying “I am a vengeful God!” (“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is fierce in wrath. The Lord takes vengeance against His foes; He is furious with His enemies.” (Nah. 1: 2 HCSB)) And, one of my favorite Biblical quotes: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)

It is hard to blame Satan or the Devil for all of the evil in the world when their god is on record making the claim “I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”

And, of course, just who created Satan and the Devil? And who could uncreate them with a mere thought, but apparently can’t be bothered to do so, because it is nice to have scapegoats around. (And, gee, I wonder who invented the idea of scapegoating? Hmm.)

The basic claim is that there exists a being “conceived of as being omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent as well as having an eternal and necessary existence.” All of those powers are either very problematic or impossible. Mostly they are impossible because each of those powers lacks a mechanism for their manifestation. For example, if God wanted a bath he could manifest a cast iron bathtub, full of hot water, soap bubbles and a couple of rubber ducks. But where would the iron atoms to make the tub come from? Would he create them ex nihilo? Would he make them dance their way out of the earth and into His bathroom to assemble themselves into a tub, a la the Sorcerer’s Apprentice? Without a physical mechanism for this to happen, the only possible claim for the mechanism for such a miracle is . . . magic, and Christians really, really hate magic . . . go figure.

None of these powers has any mechanism of their expression. I have always wondered how omnipresence manifests itself. If god is everywhere, why go to church? How is it possible for God’s eyes and ears (to see and hear) in all of those places at the same time?

And because they have no mechanism to be expressed, they do not exist, not in this universe.

Of course, this is where theists claim that their god exists “outside of space and time,” which is a good thing, I guess, because it cannot exist within space and time, and so cannot interact with anything material in this universe, most especially us.

July 28, 2022

Steph Curry’s Secret

Filed under: Science,Sports,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:42 pm
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Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors teammate, Klay Thompson, are two of the best long distance shooters of all time in the NBA. Klay is a classic jump shooter. Steph, acknowledged as the better shooter of the two, is . . . not. Steph’s secret is that he is a set shooter.

Oh, I know I am going to get pushback on this, but I have just watched quite a view YouTube videos showing the two shooting and I think I am right. Some of the pushback, I suggest, is going to come from people who remember or have seen what a set shot looked like in the 1950’s. A “classic” set shot looks a lot like a free throw, with the feet hardly leaving the floor. But no one has shot a classic set shot for decades in the NBA. A modern set shot is modeled on what a young child’s set shot was. If you think back to what kids did to be able to reach the hoop from distance, they launched themselves as well as the ball toward the basket (see the photo just below). That is not a jump shot. It is a set shot aided with additional propulsion from the shooter’s legs.

If you watch Klay Thompson shoot, he displays a classic jump shot. He jumps and then at his peak he shoots. Klay is not the most athletic guy, but since he is 6´6˝, his jump shot allows him to get above smaller players. Steph Curry, on the other hand, isn’t small but he is only 6´2˝ and shoots jump shots usually only closer in to the basket (where the bigger defenders are). Steph’s advantage from distance is what is called a “quick release,” which means he takes very little time to get his shot off, giving the defender very little time to get a contesting hand in his face or even blocking the shot. To do this Steph shoots a modern set shot, which means he is jumping as the ball is being shot. There is no delay at the top of his shot as there would be if he were to be using a jump shot.

The advantages to shooting a modern set shot are that it is quicker and that much of the force needed to propel the ball comes from the legs instead of the arms and shoulders. Those muscles can be used for mostly guidance and just partly for propulsion.

So here is Klay Thompson’s classic jump shot form, in which the ball is yet to be launched and he is near his jump peak.

And here is an excellent montage made by ESPN dissecting Step Curry’s “jump shot.”

You will notice that Steph is nowhere near his jump peak when the shot begins (frame #2 from the left) and that he is at his jump peak in the next to the last frame, when the shot is basically off, not just beginning. He is shooting on the way up, as in a modern set shot.

In other words, Steph shoots like girl and he is transforming the NBA doing so.

July 27, 2022

Humor Will . . .

Filed under: Culture,humor,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:18 pm
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I have argued that humor will get us through political difficulties. (Think of Mark Twain and Will Rogers as purveyors of truth.) I used to argue that but now I am wondering. It seems that many politicians and voters have become humorless. Maybe they are just emulating their clergy.

So, Question—Why is Texas called the Lone Star State? Answer—Because the rating agency didn’t allow zero star ratings.

Now that’s funny right there . . . Git ‘er done!

White Supremacists Aren’t What They Used to Be

If you have ever watched Fox (Fake) News or even if you haven’t you are probably aware of the Great Replacement Theory. This is a grand conspiracy to replace white people with “people of color” and even Jews!

We all know how politically powerful ethnic minorities are, especial those consisting mainly of illegal aliens, they . . . what? Uh, I am currently being told that this “great replacement” is not being perpetrated by the minorities themselves. They do not have the power.

So, whoever is doing this . . . it can’t be the Republican Party, because all of the white people liable to be replaced already vote Republican, so it must be the Democrats! Yeah, it is the Democrats! You know the political party so powerful that they lost a presidential election to the extremely lame, reality TV actor, Donald Trump. And the party that has disorganization as party of their party platform.

Oh, this is pathetic. Listen white supremacists. If white people are so damned superior as you say they are, how about they act like it. Running around crying about theories, theories!, like Critical Race Theory, and the Great Replacement Theory, sheesh. Grow a pair. Act like a superior.

For the rest of us, if a white supremacist bothers you, grab them by the pussy, anywhere will do because they are 100% pussies, afraid of their own shadows.

July 24, 2022

Why We Are All in Danger from This SCOTUS

A precept I live by is “assume incompetence nine times before malice.” It applies to most human interactions, but what happens when incompetence is combined with malice? What you get is the current iteration of the current Supreme Court.

For example, in Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion supporting the Court’s decision to reverse Roe v Wade, he claims that the court restores the U.S. to “an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment [that] persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973,” when Roe legalized abortion nationwide. This is daft. Connecticut was the first state to ban abortion (only after quickening), in 1821, which is roughly two centuries after the earliest days of American common law. So what were people doing for those centuries in which abortion had not been criminalized? (You don’t need to guess, it is recorded history.) It was not until the 1880s that every U.S. state had some laws restricting abortion, and not until the 1910s that it was criminalized in every state (in various forms).

How does the actual history equate to “an unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment [that] persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.” (Common law existed from roughly the 1620’s onward.)

Was Alito ignorant? Were his clerks incapable of doing valid research? Was Alito trusting the propaganda of “his side” of the issue? Whatever the truth of the matter is, in making one the most momentous decisions in the history of the court, the conservative justices could come not up with a halfway decent cover story. They resorted to either propagating or repeating lies. This is a pathetic performance.

The conservative justices of this Court have an agenda, which equates to a return to the Articles of Confederation our Constitution replaced in 1789. And they don’t have the smarts to “discover” how wrong they are.

We all should be afraid, be very afraid. No one is safe when this SCOTUS is in session.

No, It is Not Just About Abortion

“. . . the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required equal pay for women and prohibited workplace discrimination against women by any company with more than twenty-four employees.

“The Biden administration proposed updating the expiring Equal Pay Act of 1963 with the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2021, which passed the House on a 217–210 vote but is now blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

“In the House vote, only one Republican voted “Yes”; every other Republican in the House voted “No” to reauthorizing and expanding equal economic rights for women, with the GOP providing all 210 of those “No” votes.

“Men controlling and regulating women to maintain male supremacy in this country has a long history.”
Thom Hartman

There is a long history of male domination of women’s rights in this county, longer than the country itself has existed and it is still occurring. I remember when my first wife applied for a credit card and it came back under the name “Mrs. Stephen P. Ruis.” She wanted the card to be in her name so she could start creating a credit history. This was not allowed. This was the norm in the 1960’s.

Earlier, women didn’t even have a right to their own children, they, in essence, belonged to “the husband.” (And children had even less rights.)

This is what the GOP is doing to “Make America Great Again,” subjugating women and racial minorities, like in the good old days.

July 23, 2022

Can You Spell Irony, Boys and Girls?

North Carolina is responding to the gutting of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling with their own legislation, hoping to make abortion punishable by death.

And these are people who call themselves “pro-life.”

Legislation introduced in the state, beneath the subsection entitled life begins at fertilization, is quoted as saying:

It is a matter of indesputible (sic) scientific fact that a distinct and separate human life begins at the moment of fertilization. As such, that new human life is recognized by the State as an individual person, entitled to the protection of the laws of this State from the moment of fertilization until the moment of natural death. Any person who willfully seeks to destroy the life of another person, by any means, at any stage of life, or succeeds in doing so, shall be held accountable for attempted murder or for first degree murder, respectively. Any person has the right to defend his or her own life or the life of another person, even by the use of deadly force if necessary, from willful destruction of another person. The State has an interest and a duty to defend innocent persons from willful destruction of their lives of persons, born or unborn, who have not committed any crime punishable by death…

And these are people who call themselves “pro-life.”

The North Carolina legislature is seemingly now being led by Achmed the Dead Terrorist, whose response to almost everything is “I keel you!”)

July 22, 2022

I Understand Trump’s Reluctance to Abandon His Big Lie

As we now know, confirmed by conservative jurists, Republican politicians, etc. that there was no “stolen election.” There was no voter fraud of any note. (Interestingly when cases of voter fraud are found it is almost always being perpetrated by Republicans—which may be a consequence of the GOP undermining the act of voting and claiming the system is rigged.)

Back to Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump, Mafia Don as I call him, is a pathological liar. This is testified to by the 30,000+ lies he told while in office alone. When Mr. Trump employed his “Big Lie” which he states as “we won, we won in a landslide, everybody knows that, but they cheated and stole the election from us” etc., he employed the super power of pathological liars, which is he actually believes his Big Lie is true.

We all can detect when people are being insincere and, the flip side, when someone really believes what they are saying. By believing the Big Lie, the liar benefits from our perception that we think they think they are telling the truth. But Mafia Don is now trapped in his lie, which is now his truth. He cannot abandon it, and he cannot abandon his “followers” who believe it, too.

“. . . he employed the super power of pathological liars, which is he actually believes his Big Lie is true.”

I know this because of my unfortunate second marriage. I did not know ahead of time that the woman I was to marry was a pathological liar. It reached a point at which her best friend and I tried to stage an intervention. If it had been filmed and included as a scene in a movie, most people would have said it was pure Hollywood and overblown. My then wife, worked herself up from a rational debater to a snarling lion threatening to do us and her physical harm. I assume that such episodes are what led people to believe in demon possessions.

Pathological liars often weave a web of lies that becomes their reality. Whatever it replaces becomes, instead of their actual reality, a fantasy.

At Mr. Trump’s age and the number of years he has spent building his fantasy world leads me to believe that there is no psychological intervention that could result in his normalization, so it seems best that he be locked away where he can harm no one else to live out the years he has remaining.

July 21, 2022

Why the Secret Service Text Messages Disappeared

Really, it has nothing to do with the Secret Service. The pivotal moment was when Vice President Pence’s security detail hustled him away from the mob to a safer location in the Capitol building on January 6th during the insurrection. The head of the VP’s security directed the VP to get into a waiting car. Mr. Pence said: “I am not getting into that car. I know you, but I don’t know them (apparently referring to the driver and other agents).”

So, the VP waited out the crisis and when the mob dispersed, he went back into chambers and completed his task, being the presiding officer over the electoral college vote count.

Imagine what would have happened if the VP had gotten into the car and it had whisked him away to a “safe house” (or worse, to a shallow grave near the Potomac). Lacking its presiding officer the meeting would have been effectively canceled, at least for the day. Or the Vice-chair could have stepped in to do Trump’s bidding.

So, why did the text messages disappear?

Those messages would have clearly indicated from whom the order to evacuate the VP came. If that person were the President or someone closely working with the President, well you can imagine the conclusions that might be drawn.

So, when did the text messages all “disappear”? It was before January 20th when the Biden Administration took over, so all of the actors were linked to the Trump administration. Knowing that the Secret Service agents would not lie under oath, they effected a “technology glitch” that resulted in all of the records of the texts sent on January 5/6 to be deleted. This would not prevent the Jan 6th Committee from subpoenaing the Secret Service Agents involved, but it would delay them, possibly beyond the tenure of any Congressional Committee or Department of Justice investigation (still hypothetical at that date).

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