Class Warfare Blog

October 15, 2018

Defining Conservatives

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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A self-defined conservative laid out a number of points why he finds conservatism attractive. These are not all of his points, just some and I respond to these. Here is my truncation of his list, mostly without the supporting commentary:

  1. Conservatives are in favor of less government.
  2. Conservatives are in favor of following the law.
  3. Conservatives seem to support lower taxes. Government can’t really do anything right, companies are much better at getting the right products to the right people at the right time. The higher taxes go, the less well they can do that and the more government will step in and screw things up even further.
  4. Conservatives want people to reach their full potential. They want people to enjoy life and be the most that they can be – without interference from anyone else or from the government – especially from the government.
  5. Conservatives are pro-immigration … but they want legal immigration, not illegal immigration.
  6. Conservatives value life.
  7. Conservatives believe in helping out people who have less than they do. Did you know that 80% of charity money comes from conservatives?
  8. Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land. They believe the government should follow the Constitution and the law and not butt into people’s private affairs.
  9. Conservatives will fight for your right to say whatever you please even if they disagree with it.
  10. If you’re poor, a conservative will give you a chance at a job, they will try to help you get an education and a place to live, food and clothing if you need it. But they also expect you to take responsibility for your own life.
  11. The way I see it, is that conservatives want things – like in politics – to work.
  12. Conservatives favor capitalism over socialism because they know that capitalism works better.
  13. Conservatives believe in a strong defense because every country that has dropped their defense has been attacked by some other country.

I don’t know how far I will go with these, but here are some of my responses.

Conservatives are in favor of less government. Well, yes and no. The federal government has expanded under all Democrats and Republican presidents in my lifetime, so no matter what is said, we have gotten more government and not less. The claim that conservatives are in favor of less government is ideological support for their attempts to cut parts of the government they do not like. They tend to follow actions in this vein, for example, with irrational demands to expand military spending (often as a way to support military-industrial corporations, which donate heavily to their political coffers e.g. ordering new tanks when many of the tanks we have are being scrapped because they are unneeded). They seem to be in favor of what they like and not in favor of what they do not. So, there is no position here, just ideological support for “smaller government” in the areas they do not like and larger government in the areas they do.

Conservatives value life. Uh, again, yes and no. Conservatives are frequently anti-abortion. Once you are born, however, you are on your own. And if you make a really big mistake, like breaking the law while black or brown, they are staunchly in favor of the death penalty. So, again, this is a statement meant to portray conservatives in a good light, but really, who doesn’t value life, especially their own? Everyone values life. But being “pro-life” is just ideological cover for what they want to do, like banning abortion, which is a huge government intrusion into people’s private lives. So, here again, their desire for smaller government doesn’t extend to government restrictions on abortion. They want more government regulations in this area, but less in business.

Conservatives believe in helping out people who have less than they do. They just do not want the government involved. They prefer a situation in which the poor know who is giving them a handout. They prefer “charity” as the mode in which we help out our fellow citizens who are struggling. Clearly studies show that “charity” is not up to the task, but still the government, which is really the collective “we” as in “we the people,” should not be involved, say critics. Examples of other countries which have effectively figured out how to provide their citizens with basic supports (healthcare, education, etc.) we cannot copy because well, it would make government effective and the last thing conservatives want is a perception of the government being effective. The government is the only power in play that can rein in uncontrolled capitalism and the richest conservatives do not want that. Government has to be perceived as being inefficient and incompetent … except in the areas they like, such as the military.

Conservatives want things – like in politics – to work. Uh, like everybody else? Actually, they seem to want politics to work the way they want it to and, if it does not, they set about changing how politics works. They recently have been gung ho for voter suppression when historically they have been in favor of the act of voting for everyone. It was just that they began to lose too many elections because the wrong kind of voters were voting.

Conservatives believe in the Constitution and that the Constitution is the paramount law of the land. Well, who doesn’t? It is interesting, however, that whenever the conservatives discover the Constitution doesn’t say what they want, they set about changing it. For example, the Second Amendment right to bear arms was viewed since its writing as a collective right for Americans to bear arms in support of militias. But that wasn’t good enough, so centuries old settled law was changed so that bearing a firearm became an individual right. (With regard to the NRA’s campaign to change the “normal” interpretation of the constitution, Chief Justice Warren Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”) More recently, the Supreme Court’s conservatives have given corporations free speech rights as well as the right to donate as much political money as they want, as if those “powers” of corporations were not just manifestations of their executive officers, giving them super powers as citizens.

Basically, I guess I am arguing that we need to stop using broad descriptive generalizations and, actually, I intend to stop talking about conservatives as people. A responder on Quora who was asked “can conservatives say anything nice about liberals?” responded that he had many nice things to say about people who claim to be liberals but what constitutes a liberal is way too broad for generalizations (epithets yes, generalizations no) so that there was nothing he could say which applied to all liberals. I think the same thing can be said to apply to conservatives.

So, I will try mightily to not talk about conservatives … but conservative ideas and ideology, well, I think there is an open season on those.


September 20, 2018

Our Great Response to the Great Recession

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

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

Check it out:

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


September 3, 2018

I Can … Not … Wait!

Filed under: History,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 9:25 am
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I group of enterprising literary researchers decided to apply some modern tech to old problems. The tools exist now to map networks of things, Internet memes, people, you name it. Networks of people and their relationships show some quite common characteristics which can be used to identify them as networks of real people. The researchers decided to apply such a study to The Odyssey. So they mapped out all of the characters and all of their relationships and, well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

“We found substantial evidence of a ‘real-life’ social structure in The Odyssey. Notably, the characters in each chapter or scene described in the poem’s 24 books corresponded almost precisely to cliques in real-life networks. It led us to wonder: did Homer have a profound understanding of networks, or did he copy key details about his characters and their interactions from elsewhere?

“To examine this more closely, we reran the analysis, this time excluding mythological characters like gods and monsters. The remaining network was even more similar to what you would expect in real life. On the other hand, we ran an analysis that excluded the human characters and kept the mythological ones, and were left with an entirely fictional network. The obvious conclusion is that The Odyssey is an amalgam of real and fictional characters.”

They then went on to say “It is surely only a matter of time, for instance, before someone uses complex networks theory on the Bible.”

Oooh, I cannot wait!

Imagine being able to tell what is hypothetically true and what is assuredly fictional!

August 10, 2018

Why Worship?

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:51 am
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Not contesting the claims that a god created this planet and sun and everything else and created human beings, why would one want to worship that god? Worship always seemed odd to me, the justification for it weak, and it really, really seemed demeaning. I recall Michael Palin’s “prayer” in The Meaning of Life, “Let us praise God. Oh Lord, oooh you are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here I can tell you. Forgive us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.”

Dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. Exactly. To whom else does such flattery go? Only to despots and the like.

I have asked some about “worship,” and the answers all seemed to take it for granted. I see phrases like “Well, he created us and we are grateful.” Really? In the Jewish and Christian tradition, their god didn’t create us, it created Adam and Eve and then Adam and Eve created the rest of us. Granted, according to their scriptures, he created Adam and Even with the capacity to create the rest of us, but they did the work. The story starts to break down when Adam and Eve slough off the high handed restrictions of what they could and could not do in the Garden. The next thing we know, the god curses Adam and Eve and every last person that is to be gotten from them. So, we should be grateful that this god created us and willy-nilly curses us?

Plus, this god was so inept at this human being creation process that he decides to wipe out millions upon millions of people, animals, and plants and “start over.” And for this, worship is appropriate?

I suggest another interpretation. Think of two brothers in high school, one is a freshman and is puny and the other is a junior and humungous. The little brother gets into a scrape and the older brother flies in and not only rescues his little brother but he severely trashes the miscreants that thought that picking on his little brother was a good idea. Now, do you think it entirely out of reason that the little bro might not leverage this situation into a bit of status and power. “Yes, big bro isn’t here right now, but he will find you and thrash you … unless….”

Now, what big brother is more powerful than a god? But, of course the threat has to be made manifest, but this is not hard. Bad things happen daily. To place these at the feet of a god, little bro only has to step in and “interpret” what happened as retribution for not doing what little bro wants. And what does little bro want? Little bro wants control, because he doesn’t know what he might want in the future. For now, it is important to reinforce that control by getting his “flock” to do small things: the more meaningless, the better. Asking people to do things they ordinarily would do for themselves or their community doesn’t show any control being exerted. Instead, getting them to take valuable animals and kill them senselessly to appease the “Big Brother” is very cool. Getting people to throw away their wealth is a real power display. (Thanks for your lunch money; see you next week,” says Little Bro.)

So began, in my humble opinion, worship. It began as a ploy to “appease the gods,” I am sure, at the behest of a wimpy shaman. Strong muscular tribesmen do not need help, they have personal power. Physically underdeveloped tribesmen need to use their wits to get what they want. (It is a common trope in theater to have a small clever character “outwit” a much more powerful enemy or even ally.)

So worship is a manifestation of control. If you can get people to express “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” with any sincerity at all, you have reinforced the Little Bro’s authority and control. In theater, again, you never see clerics portrayed as physically imposing. They are, in general, weak and effeminate. As they get older, they get larger but generally by becoming fat, again emphasizing their physical weakness which underlines their actual power.

Getting people to give away their wealth, to destroy their treasured goods, are all things that reinforce the power of the unseen Big Brother. And the reason for doing this? It is only to use that power to serve the interests of the secular and religious elites.

Of what use would an actual god have for “dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery” and the scent of burned animals rising into the atmosphere?

August 9, 2018

It Is All About Control

Filed under: Culture,History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:18 am
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Imagine a government agency that required you to show up at a certain place at a certain time for weekly indoctrination sessions? Or another government agency that required you perform a meaningless act every day upon rising. Sounds like 1984 Gone Wild, no?

Mechanisms for controlling human behavior are well known in psychology. They were well known before psychology was invented. Take, for example, the military, which was invented sometime near when civilization began. Prior to the invention of full-time soldiers, ordinary tribes people were enrolled in defense of the tribe or raiding parties for cattle or “wives.” (Might as well leave it as just cattle for all of the respect “other” women were treated with.)

But as soon as civilization rolled around, the labor of the masses was coerced to provide a number of societal positions that did not have to be employed in acquiring food. One of the most prominent positions was that of “soldier.” The first soldiers were needed to keep the slaves, er … citizens, in line and working their asses off to have the bulk of what they grew/captured confiscated. Soldiers were also employed in recapturing runaway slaves, er … citizens, and then most prominently in slave raiding in nearby villages. (Why oppress your own people when you can oppress the people next door?) Thus were militaries born.

History (which is only 5000-6000 years old) is rife with stories of turncoats, soldiers who were bought off by the “other side,” who then helped overthrow their own “rulers.” So, it became necessary to treat one’s soldiers well. (There are more than a few countries right now that are in danger of a military coup taking over their current government. We even have a term for the action it is so frequently observed.) Along with making sure one’s soldiers were happy there were various attempts to train them to make sure they were loyal to the right people. This led quite rapidly to extensive training schemes such as the Spartans employed.

The heart of controlling someone’s behavior is getting them to do something you want them to do. It doesn’t matter quite what. Consider the complicated rules for saluting a superior officer in the various militaries. This is a substantially more involved process than the tugging of a forelock required of peasants standing in front of “lords,” but it is much the same thing.

Standing straight with feet together. Wearing the same outfit. Sharing various accommodations such as sleeping quarters and eating quarters and … the list of the things done to indoctrinate soldiers is quite long. And what is true for controlling the behavior of soldiers applies to others. (Our militaries are “all volunteer” and I do not mean to say all such “reprogramming” of behavior is made with evil intent. In the case of soldiers, getting them to act without hesitation (obeying orders promptly) can contribute to their ability to stay alive. (If their commanding officer is grossly incompetent, it can get them killed. This is why no few officers have died due to “friendly fire” in combat.)

Now if you will think back to the examples at the top and substitute “churches” for “government agencies” you will see what I am highlighting. Church members are to report to their church weekly for reinforcement of their programming. If one fails to report, they are wheedled upon by clerics and other church members to make sure they show up next time (“I didn’t see you in church on Sunday, Marie. The pastor said he was going to call on you to make sure everything was all right. Are you okay?” implying that if you were okay, you would have showed up.)

Muslims are expected to stop, drop, and pray five times a day. Obviously a god which needs such adulation is one sick puppy, so I assume this is part of their indoctrination. By getting them to reinforce their own programming (five times a day!) it saves wear and tear on their clergy and creates a situation that makes the religion hard to sell out. To admit you were a fool and wasted so much time and effort for so long is a big jump … and, well, they kill apostates, don’t you know.

Societies that do not control their own member’s behavior do not survive. But the basics needing control are getting the society’s citizens to live harmoniously, at least with a minimum of strife, within certain bounds. In what society is it okay to kill people willy-nilly? Ever hear of such a thing? That it is okay to steal from your neighbors if they aren’t looking? Ever hear of such a thing? If such things are occurring, we take them as signs of a society that is breaking down.

Beyond the basics, look to see the ways in which you are being controlled and consider whose benefit this is for? If your parish priest is beseeching you to not blow the whistle upon a cleric for sexually abusing an altar boy, who does that act serve?

The first Christians had no temples. They met in people’s homes for centuries. Under the influence of the Romans, they created buildings (temples and church buildings) and adopted clerics and clerical behaviors. We even refer to those buildings as “churches” when in the early days a “church” was a congregation of people, not a building. Now look at what happens when church buildings fall into disarray. Funds are “raised” and repairs are made, restorations are contracted for. Various churches own multiple buildings, some very, very large and grandly appointed. Many churches own commercial properties that they use to create income (tax free even though the buildings and uses are secular, of course). Many churches have oodles of employees now, for which funds are need to pay salaries and benefits.

You have been lead to believe that this is proper and necessary and are urged to commit funds to such churches to support them. Republicans are always complaining about runaway government but never seem to apply this to churches (the third rail of politics). I wonder who controls the politician’s behaviors in this arena? The webs of control are extensive and deep. Most of us do not even see them, if we ever have.

But just because you do not see them doesn’t mean they are not there.

July 27, 2018

The Problem with Bases

No this is not about baseball. It is about our two main political parties and their “bases.”

The Republicans have sold their souls to the Religious Right, neoliberals, and reactionaries of the fringe of the right wing of American politics to get and stay elected, no matter the damage done. They haven’t dumped the rich as a core base element for who else would they serve? The Democrats have dumped their historic base of labor (working class people), minorities, and the less wealthy for the professional class, only to find out there aren’t enough of those to win them elections.

When I was young (I first showed an interest in politics when Eisenhower was president.) Republicans were stabilizers. They supported the institutions that kept out society stable (in their HO, of course). They supported the schools, the police, the military, the government (Right or Wrong!), the church, law and the courts, and so on. The complained when political or judicial opinions went the other way, but they didn’t threaten to take their ball and go home.

When I was young, the Democrats stood for fairness, helping the poor, balanced taxation, labor unions, and they were far from anti-war (both Kennedy and Johnson expanded the Vietnam War tremendously on specious grounds at best).

Neither party was worth a damn when it came to international relations. There was a small fringe who complained loudly about foreign aid, which has always been a spit in the bucket financially. (Somewhere along the line instead of giving technical aid and money to other countries, we now give them discounts on buy the weapons of war. Apparently as far as the U.S. goes peace and freedom don’t go together.)

Politically there was as much corruption then as is the standard now, but the stakes were smaller as were the amounts grafted by our politicians. But each party had some principled actors who kept the others in line. Often the “line” was racist or sexist, but there were lines and you could, as ordinary citizens, see them and attack them or try to move them.

Now, what I see is cowardice and incompetence (to he left of me, to the right of me, …) in our political bodies. Leadership? Not to be found? Intelligence? So little that the political class cannot evaluate whether their intelligence experts are to be trusted. Political astuteness? I can’t even find a politician who can define it. Deft policy drafters? Give me a break.

If we were to have a parliamentary system as has been suggested, these two parties would dwindle away to nothing and newer, more robust, more coherent parties would take their places. But as I have posted before, our political system is rigged. As much as the Founders feared political parties, they created a system that allowed two of those parties to hijack the system. (Our winner take all elections doom us to having just two dominant parties.) And, it is clear that the Founders feared true democracy, so they structured the Constitution against that.

I am absolutely gob smacked that the “press” still posts articles addressing the public will. They tell us, for example, that the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision has never been so popular. So? Since when has public opinion been a determining factor in anything governmental? Large majorities of citizens want background checks for all firearms sales; does that matter? A large majority of people want corporations to pay more in taxes; does that matter? If you are poor or middle class you have zero chance of affecting legislation. If you are rich and a campaign donor, then you have some chance. If you are a rich corporate lobbyist and have donated large sums, then you have not only a chance to affect the outcome, you may be invited in to help write (or write completely) the text of the bill.

If the Republican Party of my youth or the Democratic Party of my youth were still in existence, I could vote for the kinds of candidates either party proffered. As they are now, I cannot vote for either party as they both are embarrassments and anti-democratic and need to go.

July 21, 2018

Things to Consider When Selecting Another Supreme Court Justice

This is not yet another post about who should be selected or how, but some background on how the SCOTUS fits into our system of government.

In a quite brilliant post [Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton by Paul Street (July 13, 2018)] at the author points out quite clearly that the Constitutional Authors were more than fearful of popular democracy, that they felt the “natural” leaders were people like themselves, wealthy landowners who had the time and education and sensibilities (Sniff!) to lead well.

Here are a few telling quotes:

At the Constitutional Convention, Madison backed an upper U.S. legislative assembly (the Senate) of elite property holders meant to check a coming “increase of population” certain to “increase the proportion of those who will labour under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings” [emphasis added]. “These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former.”

In Federalist No. 35, the future first U.S. secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, argued that the common people found their proper political representatives among the small class of wealthy merchant capitalists. “The idea of an actual representation of all classes of people by persons of each class,” Hamilton wrote, “is altogether visionary.” The “weight and superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal” than the “other classes,” Hamilton proclaimed.

Mr. Street goes on to say this:

Checkmating Popular Sovereignty
The New England clergyman Jeremy Belknap captured the fundamental idea behind the U.S. Founders’ curious notion of what they liked to call “popular government.” “Let it stand as a principle,” Belknap wrote to an associate in the late 1780s, “that government originates from the people, but let the people be taught…that they are unable to govern themselves.”

It wasn’t just about teaching “the people” that they were incapable of self-rule, however. The Constitution was designed to make sure the popularity majority couldn’t govern itself even if it thought it could. The rich white fathers crafted a form of “popular government” (their deceptive term) that was a monument to popular incapacitation.

The U.S. Constitution divided the federal government into three parts, with just one-half of one of those three parts (the House of Representatives) elected directly by “the people”—a category that excluded blacks, women, Native Americans and property-less white males (that is, most people in the early republic). It set up elaborate checks and balances to prevent the possibility of the laboring multitude influencing policy. It introduced a system of intermittent, curiously time-staggered elections (two years for the House, six years for the Senate, and four years for the presidency) precisely to discourage sweeping popular electoral rebellions It created a Supreme Court appointed for life (by the president with confirmation power restricted to the Senate) with veto power over legislation or executive actions that might too strongly bear the imprint of the “secretly sigh[ing]” multitude.

It sanctified the epic “un-freedom” and “anti-democracy” of black slavery, permitting slave states to count their disenfranchised chattel toward their congressional apportionment in the House of Representatives.

The Constitution’s curious Electoral College provision guaranteed that the popular majority would not directly select the U.S. president—even on the limited basis of one vote for each propertied white male. It is still in effect.

U.S. Americans did not directly vote for U.S. senators for the first 125 years of the federal government.  The Constitution said that senators were to be elected by state legislatures, something that was changed only by the Seventeen Amendment in 1913.

It is true that the Constitution’s Article V provided a mechanism technically permitting “We the People” to alter the nation’s charter. But the process for seriously amending the U.S. Constitution was and remains exceedingly difficult, short of revolution and/or civil war.

I know this is a lot to absorb, so I recommend you read the entire article. I will add a couple of comments.

Regarding the quotation from New England clergyman Jeremy Belknap “Let it stand as a principle,’ Belknap wrote to an associate in the late 1780s, ‘that government originates from the people, but let the people be taught…that they are unable to govern themselves (my emphasis).’” I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that a clergyman would oppose people thinking and acting for themselves! Realize that in the New Testament, the only descriptions of how Christians practiced their religion were very democratic. There were no clergy per se, unless you think wandering guides such as “Paul,” qualified. Congregations of Christians met in homes and “shared” with one another with no middlemen involved. But if there are no middlemen, there is no power structure and the early days of Christianity (first three-four centuries) was all about creating a power structure … by those wanting the power.

So, to hear that some clergy, although I suspect close to all clergy, believed that people could not rule themselves is hardly a revelation. In their religion, the people could not govern themselves, they needed “guidance,” otherwise they might believe the wrong things (“wrong” as determined by those in power).

Regarding “The Constitution was designed to make sure the popularity majority couldn’t govern itself even if it thought it could.” This is a stunning revelation to me. I knew quite a bit of this background and the attitudes of the “Founding Fathers,” but I had not had this point made so clearly and forcibly before.

Regarding “The Constitution’s curious Electoral College provision guaranteed that the popular majority would not directly select the U.S. President.” Isn’t it curious that the Electoral College was the instrument that got a populist President elected in 2016. The “best laid plans of mice and men,” indeed!

Oh, and on which side of this argument do you think Judge Kavanaugh is on?



July 12, 2018

Randi Weingarten: The Right-Wing Assault on Unions Won’t Win: It Just Makes Us Angrier

We are in a race for the soul of our country. But if we really double down, if we fight not only for what’s right but for what the vast majority of Americans believe, working people—not Janus’ wealthy funders—will emerge as the real winners. Randi Weingarten

Lovely comment by Randi (Randi is the President of the American Federation of Teachers, my old union), but apparently she hasn’t been watching. The union movement has been taking it on the chin for the last 40 years and it has only gotten worse. If the recent offenses are what it takes to get the union movement to wake up, well, “better late than never” comes to mind.

I am fearful that the response will be too little, too late. It is already significantly too late. This feeling of mine seems to be partly due to the current composition of U.S. labor unions. So, who are these union members, now? They are teachers, nurses, “service workers,” and so on. In the hey day of labor unions, the people in unions were iron workers, construction workers, garment workers, auto workers, many, many men and women who worked with their hands. They needed those hands to support their unions because their oppressors brought clubs, knives, even guns to union rallies. There was literally blood in the streets.

The gains made by unions were made by sheer insistence, yes with a threat of violence, but typically in response to violence. A lot of luck was involved. World War 2 happened with Franklin Roosevelt in office was the biggest stroke of luck. (Roosevelt was called “a traitor to his class” for his pro union efforts and high taxes. His “class,” of course, was the “wealthy.”)

From my youth I remember picket lines, strike funds, strike kitchens and food sharing, shoving matches, dirty tricks, and this was well after the major battles had been fought (which were pre-1960). I had colleagues I was trying to recruit into our teacher’s union who told me they could not because they remembered their father coming home from Detroit union meetings bloodied as if from war. There was indeed some memory of what had been fought over and for.

I was anti-union myself until I experienced a work-related problem I couldn’t solve alone and I received unsolicited help from a union member, who was a colleague, not a “union thug.” I decided that something was wrong there, so I read several books on union history and I was stunned at what the union movement was about. The rapacious greed of the “industrialist” class. The disdain they had for working people. The tactics employed by the people in power (got a strike, have your friends in government mobilize the National Guard to protect your company and brutalize the strikers, or if you didn’t have friends in government hire “strikebreakers” who did just what their name implies).

I also found out that every time a state’s unions urged that labor history be taught in high school, an immense backlash from the rich and powerful occurs. They know that if people knew the real story, unions would be perceived very sympathetically. Instead there has been an unrelenting anti-union propaganda campaign resulting in ordinary American workers being quite anti-union. And we in the union movement have allowed this to happen.

It will be a long slog to get anywhere near back to where we were. And I wonder if people who don’t get dirty from their work are up to the task.



July 11, 2018

Lies, Damned Lies, and History

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 11:00 am
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I was perusing a book on the history of Australia and it seems that nary a one can avoid mentioning that Australia was “settled” by convicts. Here’s one example:

Digging deep into the dark history of England’s infamous efforts to move 160,000 men and women thousands of miles to the other side of the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Hughes has crafted a groundbreaking, definitive account of the settling of Australia.

Imagine this being read by the guy who does all of the voiceovers for movie trailers. Dramatic, eh?

The facts are that the initial British invasion fleet carried over a thousand “settlers,” including 778 convicts (192 women and 586 men). A few days after arrival at Botany Bay the fleet moved to the more suitable Port Jackson where a settlement was established at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788. This date later became Australia’s national day, Australia Day.

What people do not seem to realize is that this took place well after the American colonies were established (we were working on our constitution at this time) but people here rarely comment that England felt that the American colonies served a purpose as they were a place to rid England of their “trash,” also known as “excess population.” At the time, all of Europe was overpopulated and the quality of life for the vast majority was quite low. Consequently the upper crust of society looked down its collective noses at the vast majority of their countrymen. They were expendable.

So, Australia gets labeled with its convict émigrés, seemingly forever, but the U.S. doesn’t get smeared with our beginnings from the poor white trash of England. Could it be that this reticence is fueled by our reputation for invading or ruining the economy of any country who disrespects us? Hmmm.

I think the difference between the “convicts” of Australia and the American “colonists” is a matter of degree, a small matter of degree. And later when we accepted the gift of the Statue of Liberty with the inscription referring to “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses,” my guess is that this is how a poet describes “poor white trash.”

Postscript I put the word settled in quotes because I am convinced it is a term created by oppressors. What about Australia or the American West in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was unsettled? There were numerous people living in both places. In our case, our “settlers” were exterminators, exterminators of Native Americans, killing them and stealing the land they were living on. I understand that some of you will say, that I am applying a 21st century ethos on 18th and 19th century people, but I suggest that all of the “ethos” from that time was just window dressing to justify what they wanted to do. The common law of the time allowed for possession of a property and continuous occupation as evidence of ownership (remember the battles over “squatters” in the cowboy movies of the mid-1900s, squatters, if not removed, established ownership). So, since the law didn’t allow for forcible confiscation, we just made the Native Americans non-people, just as we justified slavery by making Africans non-people. As non-people, they didn’t have any rights, you see.

So, “settlers,” my ass.


June 21, 2018

Parsing Romans 13

Many people have chimed in on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ claim last week that separating children from their parents was a biblical gesture, citing Romans 13 of the New Testament supporting his administrations policy of separating parents from children when people cross our border without permission. Some critics claim to prove that Sessions’ use of Romans 13 is theologically incorrect. What most people seem to ignore is the question of why Romans 13 exists at all, being an unnecessary theological statement, and a purely political one.

“Romans” was written in the late 50’s CE as best we can figure such things. This was well before Christianity was adopted as “a” state religion of Rome in the early 300’s CE and then as “the” state religion of Rome in the later 300’s CE. After Christianity was adopted by the Roman Empire, the greatest persecutor, by far, of Christians was other Christians. Prior to that point, there were occasional persecutions of Christians by the Romans. These persecutions were exaggerated by the early Christians for effect, but they did occur. (Please keep in mind that the Roman empire was not a glitter and glitz parade that it is often portrayed as in movies, but a rather brutal authoritarian regime, one in which a blow to the face was the expected result of questioning authority.)

So, Christians of the time of the writing of Romans were trying desperately to not be singled out by the Romans for more extensive persecutions, examples of which abounded. So, the attitudes of Christian leaders were basically: keep your head down, obey the rules, pay your taxes, etc. not because the Romans had the right to rule but that they had the might to rule and exercised it regularly.  The only way Christians could be convinced to do this was to establish that they had the right to rule given to them by the Christian’s god, hence Romans 13 (which was a novel invention with no prior support in scripture … and before you start writing comments, consider that the Israelite and Judean rulers were “authorized” on as extensions of their god and only as long as they did God’s will; piss off the priests and you might be an ex-king in just a few days; the Romans were a pagan run civilization). Christians, however, had some real problems trying to fit in under this scheme as their religion forbade them from worshipping the Emperor, pagan cults, etc., all of which made them “trouble makers.”

It is not unfortunate that we are finally beginning to get a real grasp on the well-established conservative Christian view that modern government has outgrown its natural boundaries by usurping both the family’s role as educators and caregivers, and the church’s role as social service agency. This is bullshit, of course, because when you look back at how schools developed, they developed out of groups trying to provide a better education for their children than they could provide themselves. The bucolic view of fathers teaching their sons and mothers their daughters is all fine and good as long as all of these people were in the same place, but when fathers started leaving the home for work, as opposed to farming their own piece of land, this system no longer worked. Dad was “at work,” son was at home (and, of course, the girls didn’t count) so how much teaching could be done? So, groups of people, often springing out of church relationships found “teachers” and solved their problem by division of labor. These schools were “government” as much as anything was governmental when they were created but they weren’t governmental as we now look at things. They were merely collective. (This practice continues today, by the way.)

As warm and fuzzy as things sound, this system founded upon “the family’s role as educators and caregivers, and the church’s role as social service agency” would be about as well received today as a fart in an elevator. Basically, this is the libertarian view that we are all alone in this world, that we cannot depend on anyone else. Under this viewpoint, doctors are busybodies who should mind their own business and public transportation (buses, streetcars, trains, run by the government) is anathema. (Hey, if the Koch brothers are against it, you know it isn’t part of the Libertarian future.) Under this viewpoint collectivism is a dirty word.

But, then Christianity isn’t democratic in any way. It is the most authoritarian of systems, and all of the effing plutocrats want in on the power involved as recipients of the authority as middle men.

These people are dangerous, dangerous to any idea of collective behavior. It is astonishing that they even approve of church bake sales. Basically I think that religion is the horse they rode into town on and they will ride it until it drops, so anything goes when it comes to religion as long as it toes the line with regard to the authority structure in families and society in general (power needle points to men, white men, unquivering).

All hail the Libertarians!



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