Class Warfare Blog

November 21, 2019

Stupid Watergate II

Comedian John Oliver has tagged the current goings on in the White House as “Stupid Watergate II” and it seems fitting. I mean, if you get conned by an expert, there is some respect for the finesse used to con you. Being conned by idiots allows no such ego protection.

In any case, I remember the televised Senate Watergate hearings (begun May 17, 1973 . . . remember Nixon resigned August 9, 1974, so this was a long process). What I do not remember is the denigration of the process and character assassinations that we are now hearing. It seemed that the hearings were run with some effort to simply discover the truth. The committee chair, Sam Ervin of North Carolina and ranking member Howard Baker of Tennessee seemed not to be at loggerheads all of the time, but worked together quite well.

(Possibly that four of the seven members were from the South may have brought some Southern manners to the affair, but . . . or that those were Senate hearings while we are now watching House proceedings . . . or . . .)

Are my memories just really cloudy or was there just more decorum back then?

November 17, 2019

Are “Young People Ignorant of Socialism”?

In a recent column on the ArcaMax network . . . well, here it is: Young people ignorant of socialism “From the Right” by Walter Williams on Nov 13, 2019
“A recent survey conducted by the Victims of Communism and polled by YouGov, a research and data firm, found that 70% of millennials are likely to vote socialist and that one in three millennials saw communism as ‘favorable.’”

As you might expect, the columnist decries the ignorance of young people with regard to history that they have never seen nor been taught, but . . . he also misses the point by a mile. To him, socialism and communism are bad, bad, failed ideologies, etc. And that young people do not recognize this indicates their ignorance. What he is missing is that these young people, in spite of all of the positive propaganda in its favor, are disenchanted with capitalism.

What he is missing is that these young people, in spite of all of the positive propaganda in its favor, are disenchanted with capitalism.

Hell, I am disenchanted with capitalism, because of all of the bullshit that was claimed for it that turned out not to be true. In addition, there has never been a “pure” socialist, communist, or capitalist state (or any other economic system) in the history of mankind. One look around the world shows this to be the case. Take Finland, often held up to be a “socialist” state (or democratic socialist). It is neither. Socialist activities account for a little over one fifth of Finland’s GDP. The rest is capitalist. Take the U.S. (Please!): the military is socialist, as are parts of the postal service, and any other government-owned enterprise (as the government represents “the People”). And then there is Medicare, Social Security, etc. The U.S. is not a “pure” capitalist country. It is part socialist, so what is being debated is actually just how much of each should there be?

The U.S. is not a “pure” capitalist country. It is part socialist, so what is being debated is actually just how much of each should there be?

And, really, the right wing of this country has been claiming that any collective approach to problem solving is “Socialism!” for centuries now, and now they are blaming young people for not understanding what socialism is. Another case of blind “blame the victim” politics.

Is it really shocking that young people are against the current status quo, being that they are one of the first generations in a very long time to have prospects dimmer than their parents’?

And, it is not just the young who are disenchanted. Consider that this very racist country elected a Black president . . . twice . . . in a “well, we haven’t tried this yet” manner. In each case, the opposing candidate was much more of a representative of the status quo. Then we had the election of the current president. Which of the two candidates represented the status quo more: Trump or Clinton? And which one got elected?

It is not just the young who are fed up with the status quo. The bottom 95% of us socioeconomically are, too.

September 26, 2019

In the Beginning . . .

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:31 am
Tags: , ,

No, not that beginning, the beginning of this current iteration of the Class War, silly!

There have been many prior iterations of class wars, but the focus of this blog is on the one currently going on in the U.S. (There are others going concurrently, but they have different parameters.)

Some Background
This class war has its roots in World War 2. We were still climbing out of the Great Depression (a feature of capitalism, so you just have to take it on faith that our version of capitalism is the bestest, mostest of all economic systems). The mobilization for WW2 expunged the last remains of the depression, but that depression was still in the minds of our leaders.

Of all of the major participants in WW2, our country was the only major country which didn’t get bombed back to the nineteenth century. Russia, England, France, German, Japan, and Italy featured mostly smoking ruins as industrial areas. So, economically, we were poised for good times. Then, when you realize that we lost far, far fewer men than other countries (Russia still sees a demographic hole from their WW2 losses) we also had more able-bodied workers available post war. Happy days were, indeed, here again.

And Then . . .
So, for Americans the post-war period was boom time in Levittown for quite a while. But, of course, things couldn’t continue to go that way forever. The other countries would recover. So, from 1959-1969 manufacturing corporations (remember them?) averaged a fantastic 24.6 percent profit. But, over the next decade (the 1970’s) their average profit margins would “fall” to 15.5%.

Now, if you were offering a stock portfolio right now with a built-in 15-16% profit margin, do you think you would get an “takers?” You bet your bippy you would! You’d have people lined up to sign up to buy shares in that fund.

So, what was on the minds of corporation executives, movers and shakers, of that time. Obviously they did not want profits to slide further. It was clear that there was foreign competition where they was little to none post-war. It didn’t take a genius to see what was happening was coming. But many U.S. corporations had gotten fat and lazy over the period and they needed to get a better game on. (Think about the cars being produced, telecommunications (such as they were), etc. We were soon to be left in the dust because of all of the bad habits we had picked up.)

What To Do, What To Do . . .
So, what were these business people to do? Should they seek out union leaders and enroll them in partnerships? Should they call up W. Edwards Deming and consider his ideas for producing goods? Should they modernize their production processes? They did none of these things as a major directional effort. Instead they decide a class war was a good idea.

This was launched/amplified by two major contributions. One was the infamous Powell Memo. (If you are unaware of the Powell Memo, Google it up and read it. It is a war plan.) Ronald Reagan passed out copies of this memo to his cabinet members at his first cabinet meeting, although by then the memo had already had a considerable impact. Lewis Powell, the author, was rewarded with a Supreme Court seat. Not bad for a former corporate lawyer for the tobacco industry. As a consequence of the Powell memo, between 1968 and 1978 there was a fivefold increase in the number of corporate public affairs offices in Washington, D.C. In 1971, only 175 corporate lobbyists were registered as representing corporations. By 1982, that number was 2500. Do realize that just prior to this point, engaging in politics was considered a distasteful practice by most CEOs.

Then there was the economic foundation laid for the Theory of Maximizing Shareholder Value, with increasing the value of a corporation’s stock being the only true purpose for the existence of a corporation. Before this ridiculous assertion, corporations had multiple raisons d’être. Sears Roebuck, for example listed three major stakeholders in their corporation: “the customer, the employee, and the stockholder.” The holders of stock were considered to be last, not because they were not important, but because the value of their investment in the company was dependent upon there being satisfied customers, which could only be created by satisfied employees.

This was considered “normal” in business circles in the 1960’s, for example. Labor unions were looked upon with something less than disdain, some were even considered to be an asset to the corporations their workers served.

The rather bogus argument made for “shareholder value” being the only valid goal of a corporation grew by leaps and bounds because the plutocrats decided that the way for this to grow was to ensure that CEO’s were compensated with stocks. That would result in CEO’s paying attention to their stock listings above and beyond anything else. This was “sold” as giving the CEO a stake in the game, so he would serve the interests of “the company” better. (Right. Look of the Law of Unintended Consequences and then consider the Law of Intended Consequences.) What this did was it tied the remuneration of the CEO to that of the shareholders to the exclusion of everything else.

All of this fueled the financialization of the American economy, which elevated an activity that produces nothing tangible to the most important part of our economy! Recent studies have shown that the stock market, and all of the other aspects of the financial sector, is a negative drag on the economy. Surprise! Producing nothing and extracting rents from “the system” have no positive benefit to the country. Who would have thought?

Consequences of this “decision” to wage a class war rather than deal directly with the shortcomings of American corporations are many and important. For one, our manufacturing sector has been sliding lower and lower for decades as we export more and more manufacturing jobs to cheaper wage countries. We are still a major manufacturing country, but we have fallen far, indeed.

Then we have decimated the middle class of Americans over and over, which has created a lessening of demand for the goods and services it could have been clamoring for, if it had the disposable income. The middle class has shrunk and shrunk, not in its “size” as that is adjusted with the population, but primarily by the attributes one could claim for being in that segment of the economy. Middle class wages have been stagnant for over forty years, yet the costs of housing, health care, and a college education have skyrocketed. Conservatives boast that a new, large LED flat panel TV set is far cheaper than a CRT tube TV set of forty years ago, so the poor and middle class have “nicer things” than they did before. These arguments are true, but they are almost irrelevant. Families have less disposable income now than they did in the 1950’s, even with a second major wage earner being added to the family since then. (Elizabeth Warren pointed this out in a book written in 2003 “The Two Income Trap.”) Conservatives had been adroit at making huge tax transfers onto lesser earners. While Ronald Reagan got a large tax decrease for the wealthy, but the decrease the middle class folks got was offset by an increase in Social Security taxes. President Trump has continued the GOP parade by giving large permanent tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations and small, temporary tax cuts to the middle class. Democrats and Republicans alike have contributed with similar efforts in between those two events. Since both major parties have their hands in corporate pockets, they have been serving their interests rather than “the people’s” for quite some time.

But Where Does It All end?
So, that’s how it began and we are left to figure out how it will end. Right now the monied elites have won the Class War and can choose to just sit on their position for quote a long time. Soon, all of this will become “normal” to those born in this century. I do not see the plutocrats doing only this, as they seem to continue to try to press their advantage, as they see it. This tendency to step on the necks of the defeated may just be enough of overplaying their hand that the backlash, and there is always a pendulum swing coming back, will be more vigorous that they figure.

We can only hope.

 

September 15, 2019

More on Meaning

In a recent post I said this: “I suggest that ‘meaning’ doesn’t really exist. Whenever someone asks ‘But what does it all mean?’ they are asking for a comforting story to wrap around events that makes them feel ‘better.’” That this opinion irked John Branyan is to its credit, I think, although I may have been too subtle; “doesn’t really exist” refers to the common understanding of the term. I offered a better definition of the term in my quote, so it “exists” to that extent.

People make good money dispensing “meanings” and I am not just referring to the religious. Our current political commentariat is riddled with people who are constantly telling us what really is going on, what this or that really “means.” We end up feeling as if we understand the political situation and thus feel more in control of our lives.

“Wishful thinking spill cleanup on Aisle 8, Please!”

As further evidence for my opinion, please consider . . . dreams. For all of human history (and I must assume the rest of human existence), people have felt and claimed that dreams “mean” something. Kings and other potentates took major actions based upon their dream interpreted meanings. An entire cottage industry, sometimes breaching over into academic psychology, was created to help people decipher the meanings of their dreams (and has done so for thousands of years).

But we have come to the realization that dream sequences are cobbled together from our very own memories. People have actually exerted some control over what occurs in their dreams (I have done this myself). Dreams seem to play a role in reinforcement of the memories we feel to be important and the pruning away of memories not thought to be important. A hypothetical process for this is for memories to be replayed in a dream and our emotional state is monitored by a subsystem. If there is a significant emotional reaction, the memory is kept, if not it is pruned. Pruning is quite important as it provides capacity for future memories. (Memory pruning has been observed as has memory reinforcement but this entire process is not fully understood as of yet. We are also aware that memories are very, very malleable and change more often than not.)

So, what do dreams mean? They mean absolutely nothing. The fact that people did and still do think they have “meaning” is evidence that “meanings” are what computer science calls “vaporware,” which is software for which there is marketing material, but there actually is no code operating.

If you want there to be meaning in your life, you need to create it. (You certainly do not want to leave this exercise to others, just as those who fear the biographies that might be written about them, often rush to get an autobiography into print.) This is a fiction writing exercise which creates a comforting story that you can wrap around the events of your life. It also has to ring “true” to your inner ear, so you can’t bullshit yourself in a major way, but minor exaggerations are always acceptable.

If the meanings most people think are real actually were real, the odds are we wouldn’t recognize them anyway. In a fit of retrospection I reviewed all of my speculations regarding why “so-and-so did what.” Somebody at work, for example, did a thing. On the way home or at home I would speculate upon why they did that thing. In reflection, I could not remember a time when my speculations were right (and I do enjoy being right so if I had been I am sure I would recall that). I was “oh-fer . . .. many” in this regard. After that, for many years, I continued to speculate as to why “so-and-so did such-and-such” and to date I have been oh-for-a-zillion, I think. I also tried to check on how good others were on determining the rationale or motivation for others’ actions and I didn’t find anyone any better at that than I was, which was abysmal. “Meanings,” as others claim them to be, seem much like reasons to me and as such are as opaque to others as I found them. This means we have no way to check whether another’s “meaning” is valid or even coherent. No fact-checking here, so I have very low expectations regarding what anyone says about the “meaning” they find in X, Y, or Z. I accept that they said something. What they believe and what is actually the case is not readily available.

 

August 19, 2019

Book Report—Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?

Filed under: History,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:10 am
Tags:

This book, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William G. Dever addresses the actual archaeological evidence for the existence and behaviors of the early Israelites. I was drawn to this book by a couple of things that have troubled me regarding the “history” of that region. First, is the escape from bondage in Egypt. The story has been dramatized a great many times, even in movies, and so we are all familiar with the story. In the later 1800’s and early 1900’s “biblical archeologists” swarmed all over the Holy Land to discover all of the evidence for these “historical” events. What they actually found were two things: wish fulfillments and <cricket, cricket, . . .>. There is basically little to no evidence to back up the biblical story of the “escape from Egypt” or the “conquest of Canaan.” But then, over and over again, Yahweh states that he was the deliverer of the people from Egypt. So, does Yahweh lie? Actually there is linguistic evidence that indicates that the words used could mean “delivered from Egyptian (or just foreign) rule.”

You can see where this is going: the Israelites were never in Egypt in the numbers claimed, nor did Moses lead them to the Promised Land, nor did they spend 40 years in the desert, etc. But a god claim to have delivered the ancient Israelites from Egyptian rule, could easily be attached any time Egypt weakened their grip on their surrounding provinces. (Religions are well known for taking credit for things they did not do.)

But, then, this means that the Israelites were there all of the time and, in effect, they were Canaanites (people who lived in Canaan). Which creates a whole storm of other questions, beginning with “is there any evidence for this claim?”

The answer provided by Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? isn’t definitive but of all of the possible scenarios hypothesized so far, this is the one most supported by the evidence. So, way back when the Israelites were basically indistinguishable from what are called Canaanites (even in the Bible). The Canaanites worshiped many gods (as did the Israelites), the foremost of whom was El (Sound familiar?) whose consort/wife was Asherah. Some claim that they had 70 god-children, one of whom was named Yahweh. Over a period of time, a subculture of Israelites grew up as Yahweh worshipers. Over a considerable amount of time, these people were pushed into the hill country where the “first Israelites” were evident. The proximate causes for this migration seem to have been wars along the coast that caused the coastal cities to descend into anarchy and a number of other causes. The dwellings built by those early Israelites in the hills used Canaanite designs, as did the pottery, etc., etc.

When monotheism was being promoted, the Yahwists had to get rid of all of the other gods who they and many of their neighbors worshiped. Yahweh replaces El as the god most high. Asherah becomes Yahweh’s consort for a short period, and then even she had to go. There are references in the Hebrew Bible to these processes. The “old worshipping ways” were condemned over and over. The old gods were condemned over and over. This has all been supported (not confirmed per se, but supported by more evidence that the other “scenarios”).

Then the biblical narrative process began. People remember lessons better when they are attached to a story, e.g. Aesop’s fables, Nursery Rhymes, other examples ad nauseum. So, all of the Yahwists’ spiritual conquests (they drove out the other religions from their regions) were transformed into quasi-historical stories. The subjugation by Egypt became being enslaved there. Their freedom from Egyptian rule became the escape and journey to the Promised Land. the triumph of Yahweh worship over the old Canaanite religion became Joshua and the mighty Israelite host which conquered all of those other cities and slaughtered and enslaved their occupants. (See what you get if you don’t worship the right god! They got what they deserved.)

Possibly the first audiences for these “narratives” understood they were fictional, but over time and space that feeling was lost, so now we have millions upon millions of people who believe those stories are true. (I would love to see a Pew Religion Survey question, regarding the flight from Egypt (True or False or MC).)

Now, these archaeological efforts (once the biased Biblical Archaeologists were gotten out of the way) finally provide a coherent picture of what might have happened. But the really scary part is that the priests or scribes, whoever, who crafted these stories with all of their horrific details, who believed that those atrocities were a good way to introduce the True Nature™ of the One True God™ to one and all. (“I know Shechem, let’s have the soldiers kill all of the babies and rape all of the women!” “Good idea, let’s go with that!”)

Now, for those of you who say “Oh, that can’t have happened,” consider that the whole process was replicated in the formation of the New Testament. Prior to the writing of the gospels (at least 40+ to 100+ years after the events claimed to be being described), all of the epistles never mention an earthly or historical Jesus, not . . . one . . . mention. The Jesus of the epistles is a spiritual being who resides in Heaven (and their concept of Heaven wasn’t clouds and harp music, but a world just like this one, but perfected). So, the gospels are fictional “wisdom literature” crafted to teach the lessons needed by the flock. And, once again, non-historical events are front and center of these writings . . .. but millions upon billions of Christians accept them as being historical, if not every word being holy truth.

Postscript For any who feel that “once the biased Biblical Archaeologists were gotten out of the way” was too strong of a statement, it is clear now that the vast majority of these “scientists” went to their research sites knowing that the events in the Bible were true (had to be true) and they were just looking for confirmation. Do you know what a scientist who assumes a thing to be true and then goes looking for confirmation is called? An abomination, that’s what they are called.

August 17, 2019

He’s Right, You Know, If Only By Accident

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:37 am
Tags: , ,

From an article in The Guardian:

“The party of “family values” is at it again. On Wednesday, Republican congressman Steve King, tried to justify banning abortions even in cases of incest and rape by arguing that rape and incest are good, actually. Without them humans would go extinct!

“’What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?’ he opined at a breakfast meeting in Iowa. ‘Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillage that has taken place … I know I can’t certify that I was not a part of a product of that.’”

He’s right, you know.

If we were actually to go back in time and prune everybody’s family trees to exclude all those born of rape and incest, we might just eliminate the human species.

This is a statement of the widespread nature of sexual rape and incest throughout our history. But, it is not and should not be an endorsement of those activities, except possibly in the fevered mind of Representative King. We also have had innumerable sufferers from a wide variety of diseases. Does that make those diseases good? I mean where would we be if it had not been for smallpox or the bubonic plague? Shouldn’t we be trying to eliminate these poxes?

Representative King is known for making incredibly stupid statements. I can only hope that, in this case, he was using this one as a coded signal to his “support base” of rapists and incestuous men.

And, btw, he is being, you know, counterproductive (see my next post).

August 16, 2019

A New Slant on the Second Amendment Debate

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
(Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution)

Quite a few people are unaware that until quite recently most people and most Supreme Court Justices viewed the Second Amendment as addressing other than an individual right. Since its ratification, Americans have been arguing over the amendment’s meaning and interpretation. One side interprets the amendment to mean it provides for collective rights (of militia members), while the opposing view is that it provides individual rights.

Until quite recently, this was considered mostly a collective right, not an individual one, with few Supreme Court cases addressing that matter (in effect, they were hiding from an definitive decision). That all changed with District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. (Yes, 2008, eleven years ago, peeps! Pay attention!) The case centered on Dick Heller, a licensed special police office in Washington, D.C., who challenged the nation’s capital’s handgun ban. For the first time, the Supreme Court ruled that despite state laws, individuals who were not part of a state militia did have the right to bear arms. As part of its ruling, the court wrote, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” (Empahsis mine. SR).

So now the Second Amendment addresses the government’s ability (inability, actually) to control an individual right. And that will be the case until a reversal of this opinion is had, so basically forever.

But, consider this. If you strip out all of the militia verbiage (which creates the collective vs. individual brouhaha) and just look at the rest of it, it says:

“. . . the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Keep and bear. “Keep” refers to people who already have an “arm” and that they are to be allowed to keep (store, house, etc.) those arms and “bear” means to carry and, in this case, use the arms involved. But it says nothing about the government infringing upon the right to acquire firearms. (None other than Antonin Scalia stated in that 2008 decision the opinion that for him, “to bear” was simple enough, meaning “to carry.” And “arms” were just weapons. He conceded that there was an idiom, “to bear arms,” which meant to belong to an organized military force. But this was only a possible import of the phrase, not its core meaning. So, while establishing this new individual right, he also established with the terms “keep” and “bear” were in this amendment.)

So, while the government cannot infringe the right to keep and bear arms, it is free to legislate who can acquire arms and for what purposes. We can limit what arms can be acquired, how many, how much ammunition, etc. and the conditions that need to be met to be able to acquire them, which includes having a license, passing a training program, being sane, providing insurance against criminal use, etc.

Well, what do you think?

August 13, 2019

Have You Ever Heard of Unearned Income?

How do you describe “pure” socialism? For most people it is “the government” (aka “We The People” in the US) owns the “means of production.” So, the government owns all of the businesses, factories, etc. and we all work together to benefit one another. Unfortunately, this ideal too often became totalitarian socialism, in which a political elite took over the system and it served the elite much more than it served the people as a whole. In some modern countries, the idea of democratic socialism seems to be working better.

What brought this to mind is I was reading an interview of an author on the Naked Capitalism website and the interviewer, John Siman, stated and asked the following:

John Siman: You have got me thinking about what economics—political economy—was originally supposed to be: a liberation from feudalism, from greedy rentiers and so the freedom for the common man to enjoy the fruits of his own labor and for the enterprising man to undertake great business projects. We should tax only unearned income!—that’s what the classical economists taught, right? So my deep worry: Are our academic neoclassical economists really latter-day medieval theologians, using arcane learning to uphold the privileges—specifically, to protect the unearned income—of a corrupt elite? After two or three centuries is the Enlightenment over as we enter a new feudalism? (It seems to me that we are already in a new Gilded Age.)

To unpack this (there is a lot going on) you need to know a few things. For one “rentiers” are not “renters” or even landlords per se, they are “people living on income from property or investments.” A good example of such are shareholders in a corporation. They receive dividends or profit on sales from that stock and that money was, for a very long time, referred to as “unearned income,” money earned by means other than the “sweat of one’s brow.” And, “political economy” was the original name for the study of economics, politics referring to interactions of people and economy being “involving money.”

You probably learned about feudalism in school. This was a system whereby “royals” owned the land and, basically, the people who worked it (serfs). They didn’t claim absolute ownership, but serfs were not free to pack up and leave, they were “tied to the land.” And even if they did pack up and leave, there were no “jobs” to be had in nearby locations. It strikes me that feudalism was a form of socialism. “The government” absolutely owned the means of production (including the serfs). This was not benign socialism, this was totalitarian socialism. (Not that the “rulers” didn’t ever do anything for the “ruled.” There were limits to what the “rentiers” could extract. Abuse your serfs/slaves too much, e.g. starve them by confiscating too much of the crops they raised, and they wouldn’t be able to work. And, please, do not try to convince me that having a local “central committee,” as in modern socialism, is substantially different from having a local earl or duke, the “government” in feudal times. “Remote and autocratic” describes both.)

So, as feudalism broke down, capitalism was created. And so was “economics” whose first fruits, apparently, were to craft a “liberation from feudalism, from greedy rentiers and so the freedom for the common man to enjoy the fruits of his own labor and for the enterprising man to undertake great business projects.” (Merchants were the first members of the “middle class,” that is between rich and poor, and widely despised by the elites.) And one of their first ideas was that “We should tax only unearned income!”

This practice balances the playing field, economically, between the rentiers and people who worked for a living. Selling one’s labor is a fine idea, but there is a limit: you only have so much labor to sell. But rentiers are unlimited in the amount of property or investments they can accrue. The well-to-do can become wealthy, the wealthy can become rich, millionaires can become billionaires and I assume we will soon see billionaires become trillionaires. Since wealth can be converted into political power, the scales of politics are tilted heavily in favor of the wealthy. To balance the scales, the early “political economists” established the idea of only taxing that rentier income and not taxing honest labor.

I have written recently (at least I think it was recently) on the disappearance of the term “unearned income” from public economics discourses. (Economists may still use it privately; I don’t know.) The term has basically vanished. And, out of sight, out of mind. The term is obviously connected to the core idea of those early economists, to only tax unearned income, and it flies in the face of the narrative of the wealthy that “they built it,” that they earned everything they have. My favorite example of this thinking was Mitt Romney, who claimed to have earned everything he owns, while at the same time his rich and powerful father (George Romney: chairman and president of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962, the 43rd Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973, etc.) gave him two $2,000,000 “to get started” and access to his influential and wealthy colleagues. (I remember this figure because during my almost 40 years of work as a teacher, I earned about $2,000,000 (both numbers are uncorrected for inflation). If I had been given $2,000,000 to “get started” I would not have had the gall to make the claim Romney does.)

The disappearance of the term “unearned income” from public discourse was no accident. And, if you use the term now, most people will be confused by it. The elites have scammed the system so well, that they have managed to get earned income taxed at a higher rate than unearned income (through the capital gains tax and others)!

So, capitalism was created to protect us from “feudal socialism.” What now can we get to protect us from capitalism and its captive economists? (Economists aren’t evil people, but their field has been captured by the rich. Oppose the rich strongly enough and you will no longer have either a reputation or a college professorship. Economists do know which side of the bread the butter is on.)

August 10, 2019

Book Report—The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American

I am trying to catch up on reporting on books I have read and can recommend to you. The latest is The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American by Andrew L Seidel.

I highlighted all kinds of paragraphs to use in this review, but there were just too many of them. I’d end up quoting the entire book. So, I decided to offer you just a bit of the concluding chapter. The author starts by explaining that he had taken an elderly relative to a Catholic mass. The quote beings with some ruminations on that event.

“The last mass I witnessed was during a full Catholic wedding. The priest mentioned the happy couple about sixty times—a respectable number, given that we had gathered together to celebrate them. But the priest was also able to mention his church and god more than 235 times. This four-to-one ratio of church over couple has held at the two other Catholic weddings I’ve attended. The Catholic Church is co-opting the prestige of more illustrious events, people, and moments for itself. Two people dedicate their lives to each other, and religion injects itself in the middle. Christian nationalism excels at this type of piracy and imposition. It attempts, like the Catholic priest at those weddings, to bask in unwarranted glory. It seeks to co-opt undeserved greatness, accolades, and credit. It claims a nation dedicated to the freedom of and from religion, for one particular religion. It insists that a nation with a godless Constitution is dedicated to one particular god. A religion that demands fearful, unwavering obedience takes credit for a rebellion and revolution in self-government. It declares that that revolution was the brainchild of a few Christians rather than of a group of unorthodox thinkers testing Enlightenment principles. It even claims universal human morality as its own invention. Christian nationalism also contends that the United States of America is exceptional because the nation was chosen by a god, not because the founders’ enlightened experiment was successful. Christian nationalists sometimes misconstrue a 1983 Newsweek quote: ‘Historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document.’ Ken Woodward and David Gates’s full quote is more interesting, and, as one would imagine, more reflective of reality: “Now historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document: the source of a powerful myth of the United States as a special, sacred nation, a people called by God to establish a model society, a beacon to the world. Biblical America is indeed a myth, a powerful one (emphasis mine SR).

“The sad irony of the myths of the Christian nation, biblical America, and Judeo-Christian principles is that they are born out of a misplaced zeal to revive or extend American exceptionalism. Trump and his Christian nationalist brethren want a return to a Christian nation; they want to “make America great again.” But religion did not make the United States, let alone make it great. ‘We the People’ make America exceptional. Religion is the millstone around the neck of American exceptionalism because religious faith denies experience and observation to preserve a belief. It is for this reason that it is unlikely to contribute to progress, though it will take credit for what science, rationality, experience, and observation have accomplished. America succeeded as an experiment because it was based on reason. If we abandon reason in favor of faith—or if our elected leaders commit this sin—we are asking to regress. Not to some golden age, but to a time ‘when religion ruled the world . . . called the Dark Ages . . .’”

It is abundantly clear that the idea of a Christian Nation is a power play, an attempt to grasp power for a “special” group of people. Unfortunately, the thinking behind this movement is roughly: Christianity good, America good. Christian America . . . double good. Christianity has no elements in it that are at all democratic. If you believe that it does, please explain that to the Pope. Declaring this nation to have an official religion would gut the Constitution and create religious strife like no attack from our enemies could conceive.

This book dismantles all such claims and efforts in this vein and is high recommended to those of you who wish to preserve the Constitution and the Grand American Experiment in self-governance.

August 6, 2019

The Effing Elites, Part . . . I’ve Lost Track . . .

I am reading a lot of history of the Biblical era and I ran across one very interesting take on the elites we refer to as “royals” today. It is from the Book of Samuel in the OT/Hebrew Bible. (I know the two are not identical, the HB being hijacked and edited by Christians to make the OT, but close enough here.)

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

So, ole Samuel understood rightly that kings were bad news, but was overruled by Ole Yahweh. Yahweh certainly is in favor of totalitarianism, so why would he have an opposition to kings? And in this case, Yahweh is clearly issuing a punishment on his people for being disobedient to their true king, himself. And, as an exercise, consider what would have happened had Yahweh thundered “Absolutely Not!” At least a human king gives a bit of cover to a totalitarian theocracy (aka someone to blame other than Yahweh).

Any way, my point is this: royals are a pain in the ass and should be dispensed with. They are relic elites at best. Think about how they came about. (Really!)

Typically, some local bully accrues enough muscle to confiscate anything he desired. Part of the crops were confiscated. The most attractive mates were confiscated. The best property was confiscated. And if anyone complained they got hit in the mouth if not worse.

Over time, one or more of these bullies became ambitious and gathered together a war band and took over the other bullies in their neighborhood. Not wanting to actually stay in place and do the work of oppressing the locals, the resident bully was sworn to fealty to the overbully, or if his fealty was suspect, his head was lopped off and another promoted to that office, with the fear of that happening to him supporting his fealty. The local bully then paid tribute to the overbully.

Now, I am not saying that these overlords served no purpose. They did, on occasion, defend the people under their oppression from invading other bullies, but their record in doing this was mixed at best. And, over time, the divine rights of bullies got amplified. The bullies claimed to own all of the land, without purchasing it or establishing ownership by working the land, or . . . just “Mine!” And if anyone complained they got hit in the mouth if not worse. Many also claimed to own the people residing on the land, who became de facto slaves, again by no other expedient than “Mine!”

Collusion between the religious elites and the secular elites gave ordinary people no place to go for alternatives.

Effing elites.

Today’s elites are money enabled. Their power is not divine, although they bribe religious elites to support their secular notions. They bribe politicians to make sure that governmental power is theirs and not “the people’s.” The jigger the rules of wealth acquisition so that their money/power ever increases. For example, Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy and businesses? Capital investment has dipped to a new low just recently. So much for the argument that businesses would invest that money in expanded productivity, jobs, etc. Oh, yeah, jobs were eliminated by those businesses, too. Those businesses did exactly what was predicted: stock by-backs to enrich their shareholders and executives, and more money injected into politics to improve their lot even more.

Effing elites.

My fear is that the only option left to ordinary people involves torches and pitchforks. We seem to be closer and closer to such responses.

Even that old troglodyte Henry Ford knew that enriching his workers just a bit gave him more customers, but the modern elites aren’t willing to share any of their ill gotten gain. They believe they earned it. The divine right of the rich is to believe that they are rich because they are better than you or me. They even have a prosperity gospel now. Effing religious elites.

 

 

 

 

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