Class Warfare Blog

December 13, 2020

The Atheist Secret of Christmas

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 9:11 am
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Have you heard the phrase “the first Noel” or the French “Joyeux Noël?” Did you know that the word Noel is a hidden message for atheists? Think about it . . . Noel means “no El,” El being one of the many names for Yahweh.

So when people refer to “noel” which they think is a synonym of Christmas, they are signally to atheists that there is no god! Ha!

Okay, yes, I am messing with you. There is no truth to this. But . . . but, I think it might be fun to use when messing with those who claim there is a War on Christmas. Those folks already have a persecution complex, so this would fit right in with their existing paranoias.

Enjoy the holidays!


December 8, 2020

Chuck Yeager Has Died

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 12:41 pm

General Yeager’s wife, Victoria, announced the death late yesterday from his Twitter account. He was 97 when he died.

I actually got to meet the man as he gave several talks at our sportsmen’s club in California as fundraisers for our club. He was generous with his time. He was not physically imposing, but oozed charisma with a healthy dose of humility. He certainly led a “larger than life” existence.

His passing at 97 belies the saying “only the good die young.”

December 5, 2020

An Error of Extrapolation

Filed under: Culture,History,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 12:29 pm
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It was a simple error, made long ago, but I have kept it up all of these years. It started from the factoid that the life expectancy of human beings (of the American kind) at, say, the first decade of the 20th century, was roughly 45 years. This was interesting to me because this was close to when my parents were born (1912 and 1919). By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the life expectancy of American females was well over 80 years and American men almost 80 years, so one can conclude that, well, things just keep getting better.

The extrapolation that was in error in my thinking was that from now back to about 1910 there was this large increase in life expectancy and that if one went farther back from 1910, similar changes were expected. Going back to our prehistoric ancestors, their lives must have been nasty, brutish, and short, as claimed by Thomas Hobbes. But in doing so, I made a major error, one of a statistical sort.

What do you think was the life expectancy of our hunter-gatherer modern human ancestors? If you say “fairly short” you will be somewhat right but let me ask another question: at what age did those human relatives usually die (essentially of old age)? This is an interesting question and it has an answer. Our hunter-gatherer forebearers lived well into their sixth or seventh decade, not much different from what it is now. How can this be so?

This will involve a little math, but I used simple numbers to keep everything simple, and well… sheesh, relax, you don’t have to do the math, just read it. Okay, consider a population of 100 humans who all grow up and die at an average age of 60 (some a little younger, some a little older). This means their life expectancy, at birth, was 60 years. What would happen to that life expectancy, though, if 10% died at birth? It drops to 54 years, even though 90 live to die at about 60. And if the infant death rate were 20%, the life expectancy would drop to 48, even though 80 live to die at about 60.

It is clear that the survival rate of infants was much lower in prehistoric days, and so their life expectancy, from birth, was dragged down. But if you survived for five years, better 10, you could expect to live into your 60s or 70s.

Okay, let me now go back to life expectancy in the early 1900’s. It was about that same as it was for our prehistoric ancestors! So, roughly 5000 years of civilization brought what in terms of progress? I think what we got were broader bell curves. The rich did very well indeed, but the poor did very poorly indeed . . . again, the curse of averages. So, the big question is what did civilization give us in the way of progress? For the vast majority of us, it was diddlely squat.

And yet, we have this impression of the inexorable movement toward “greater progress” to come. Things will “keep” getting better! Right . . . !

When people are asked what they want from their jobs, they invariably put close to the top of the list “greater autonomy” in their work, that is the ability to shape what it is that they do. Some degree of control is desired, instead of being told by a supervisor what to do and when to do it. So, what did hunter-gatherers have? Almost complete autonomy. Plus they lived, and still do in remote places, in quite egalitarian societies, and do “work” for only a small part of their days. All this was sacrificed when people were forced into becoming agricultural workers. Plus the poorer diets and close proximities of other people and domestic animals led to human beings being shorter, lighter in weight, being more disease ridden, including dental problems, and having shorter life spans.

Yet we continue in our delusion that being civilized is “better,” even morally so. (“What a piece of work is man …” Shut up, Wil!)

More on this later.

Addendum My mother lived to be 86 and my father 80. Your life expectancy goes up the older you get! There are estimators available on the Internet.

December 4, 2020

Of the National Security Complex, by the …

Our wonderful National Security Complex, which evolved from the national military-industrial complex we were warned about by Dwight Eisenhower, seems to be the tail wagging the dog in this country. While the rich are calling the shots, almost completely, the menu of shots available to be called is controlled by the national security cabal.

When it comes to taxes, universal health care, climate change legislation, and other manifestations of threats to wealth accumulated, the wealthy don’t get much guidance from the national security folks. But in foreign policy, the military, the Pentagon, etc. it is the national security people who call the shots.

In a culture steeped in fear and guided by that fear, having an entire segment of our government, much of which may be black budgeted (How could we tell?), that is in charge of identifying threats, monitoring threats, and countering threats to our “national security” may not be the best idea ever promoted. Obviously, to hammers everything looks like a nail. And, if their existence depends upon their ability to find, monitor, and counter threats, boy do they find them. (I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!) But what constitutes a “threat” is not very well defined. In fact, a definition of national security is not very easily found. What makes one person feel secure can be vastly different from what makes another person feel secure.

There are people who live in “gated communities” so as to be more “secure” and others are perfectly comfortable living in open communities without the “security” of gates and guard gates with guards. As a complete aside I have to tell the story of my partner’s rental property. It was in a gated community which is a bother getting in and out to service the property, but even assuming the property was “more secure” there was a reason to monitor the goings on in that community. Apparently, we found out, that gated community had the highest crime rate of any similarly-sized community in the area. Those living in the community with a criminal bent found it easier to commit a crime within the community than without, exacerbated by young people who didn’t want to show up on the logs at the gate as having left and returned (and at what times). It seems that often the appearance of security passes for actual security.

In any case, a recent “national security official” in the Trump administration (John Ratcliffe, the US director of national intelligence) said China was bent on world domination and the US needed to prepare for an “open-ended period of confrontation.” Apparently, China is the new Russia. It seems that the national security community needs to have a “big threat” to hold over our heads now that “terrorism” no longer seems to hold anyone’s attention.

The “terrorist attack” of 9/11 led to the “Patriot Act” (Really? Such a name. What does that act have to do with patriotism? Oh, if you were against its passage, you were being unpatriotic … I see.) which is still with us. That act involves a loss of personal liberties on the part of all Americans and anyone who comes into contact with our national security agencies. (Remember when Habeas Corpus was an almost sacred legal principle?)

As another example, consider the existence of aliens who might have visited the Earth. (I know, I know, just keep reading.) This is an open question, being one interpretation of the undeniable existence of unidentifiable flying objects, UFOs. UFOs are flying objects that could not be identified. This may be due to any number of causes, for example, the evidence may be slim, or our ability to identify is weak. Something that shows up on radar screens moving at high speed is a UFO … if it could not be identified by eyewitnesses, or by fighter pilots scrambled to assess the “threat,” etc. (I saw one from the window of a vehicle taking us to a basketball tournament. It turned out to be a rocket launched from Vandenberg air Force Base. My UFO became an IFO.)

Now many people automatically equate UFOs with “alien space crafts” but I do not for the simple reason that there are thousands of UFOs every year. If all of these were alien space crafts, then the Earth would have to be the most popular vacation spot for aliens in the universe, a must see destination!

But, the only actions of the U.S. government, at least of those made public, with regard to this topic has been to consider those potential alien visitors to be a threat. Investigating the possible existence of alien spacecraft has been given only to the military. But, what part of the federal government would you assign this task, one that had some expertise in, say, spacecraft? NASA? Nope, NASA has never been tasked with investigating UFO’s. In case you have forgotten, NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Sometimes the only way you can get some money or attention for something is to describe it as a threat. This is why I am surprised that climate change action advocates haven’t played up the Pentagon’s assessment of climate change as a significant threat to national security, well, at least to our military.

Also, I do not doubt that China regularly acts in their national interests and that includes spies and “influencers” living here in the U.S. From the point of view of other countries, the U.S. is more likely to intervene in their country economically or militarily than any other country. If I were them I would say “Keep an eye on them, they are crazy!” (“Them” is us.) I assume China has a healthy technology monitoring agency, including the ability to steal attractive technologies and create counter technologies, etc. I don’t see why they should not, because we do.

So, is China a threat to our national security? No. Only an idiot says “Hey, gang, I have an idea! Let’s kill off or cripple our best customers!” While China may not be an existential threat to the U.S. are they a threat of any kind? Oh, you say they threaten the hegemony of our global business interests and thereby they threaten the profits and incomes of the very rich corporations and people here? Ah, I see now.


November 25, 2020

Not a Fan of Civilization?

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 11:53 am
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I am currently working my way through Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress by Christopher Ryan and I find the going slow . . . not because it is difficult but because it is impactful and I have to digest it a few pages at a time. I will be providing a full read review but I thought I might tantalize you with a few excerpts (italics all mine).

* * *

Historically, in settlements where the surrounding environment offered opportunity for subsistence living, people had to be coerced into joining civilization. Scott describes the brutal subjugation as “anything but a benign, voluntary journey toward civilization.” In fact, large portions of these early civilizations were not participants; they were property, “taken en masse as prizes of war and driven back to the core or purchased, retail, as it were, from slaving expeditions selling the state what it most needed.” What these early states “most needed” was cheap human labor to keep the wheels of civilization turning: workers to plant and harvest crops, armies to conquer and hold new land, slaves to dig canals and cut roads. This insatiable hunger for human labor also helps explain why most major religions so insistently and violently oppose nonreproductive sexual behavior—a major source of human suffering in civilized societies.

* * *

Seen as a way of compelling rapid population growth in order to fuel the growth of civilized populations, this otherwise bizarre prohibition of nonreproductive sex begins to make sense. Humans are in effect being bred as a source of cheap, disposable labor, like horses, oxen, or camels. Forcing the reluctant to join expanding empires wasn’t restricted to biblical or classical times. In The Invention of Capitalism, economic historian Michael Perelman explains how the economic noose was tightened around the necks of anyone who tried to opt out of the civilizational enterprise in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. “Rather than contending that market forces should determine the fate of these small-scale producers, classical political economy called for state interventions of one sort or another to hobble these people’s ability to produce for their own needs.” It wasn’t enough merely to be civilized yourself; everyone else had to be civilized, too.

* * *

This state of affairs could not be permitted. Men had to be made poor enough that they’d be forced to join the desperate throngs in the mines, armies, and factories. A London police magistrate named Patrick Colquhoun articulated the widespread view that poverty was integral to the health of civilization: “Poverty… is a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society, without which nations and communities could not exist in a state of civilization. It is the lot of man. It is the source of wealth, since without poverty, there could be no labour; there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth.”

* * *

And make no mistake, people are still being dragged into the market economy. Multinational corporations routinely expropriate land in poor countries (or “buy” it from corrupt politicians), force the local populations off the land (so they cannot grow or hunt their own food), and offer the “luckiest” among them jobs cutting down the forest, mining minerals, or harvesting fruit in exchange for slave wages often paid in company currency that can only be used to buy unhealthful, industrially produced food at inflated prices at a company-owned store. These victims of market incursion are then often celebrated as having been saved from “abject poverty.” With their gardens, animals, fishing, and hunting, they had been living on less than a dollar per day. Now, as slave laborers, they’re participating in the economy. This, we’re told, is progress.

* * *

From foragers being forced off land they’ve lived on for centuries because they cannot produce deeds of ownership, to eighteenth-century Scottish Highlanders who preferred to tend their sheep, to today’s college graduates saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt before they’ve landed their first job, nonparticipation in the market economy has consistently and effectively been eliminated as a viable option. To those who suggest we should “Love it or leave it,” I’d suggest that neither option is—or has ever been—a realistic possibility. It’s as if people are being forced into casinos at gunpoint, where they lose everything, generation after generation, and then they’re told they’ve got a gambling problem.

PS All of these came from just a three page segment!

November 20, 2020

The Grassy Knoll

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:44 am
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As I have mentioned, I am old. I am so old I was in high school when President Kennedy was shot. Being of a curious sort, I have read magazine articles, books, etc. and watched numerous documentaries on the topic as it sounded as if there were more than met the eye. Having said that I also felt that we had learned as much as there was to learn about this matter, so case closed.

Boy, was I wrong.

The documentary “The Grassy Knoll” published in 2020 is available on Amazon Prime streaming service. It is long and it drags in the middle third, but if you have to skip something, skip that middle third, do not skip the beginning and end.

I learned so many things from this documentary. First, the sources aren’t just some muckraking book writers. The people featured were ex-FBI agents, ex-CIA assets, and ex-legal staff who actually played a role in the investigation. These are not some quick “make a buck” types. They showed primary documents and got people to speak who had remained silent for decades.

I will give you one tease. Have you ever felt that Lee Oswald was set up as a fall guy? Outwardly it looks so, but looks can be deceiving. One of the things this group dredged up is the original examination of the gun found in the school book depository. When the officials in Washington, D.C. opened their investigation, they requested all of the physical evidence be sent to them from Dallas. With the gun came a report. The report clearly stated that there were no fingerprints found on the gun, on the gun’s telescopic sight, on the magazine in the gun or on any of the remaining bullets in the magazine. Clearly they were thorough. The physical evidence was examined and sent back to Dallas in 24 hours. When the Warren Commission made its report the FBI’s report showed the gun had Oswald’s fingerprints upon it. Interesting point of fact, by the time the gun got back to Dallas, Oswald was dead, never having been charged officially as the assassin. Either you have to believe in miracles or . . . well, two FBI agents got a private interview with Oswald’s corpse in the Coroner’s Office, which apparently was the case.

If you are still interested in getting closer to “what really happened” this documentary will get you closer, much closer. (Hint: they actually interviewed the guy who made the kill shot.)

Addendum Before accusations of “conspiracy theory” get flung around. A follow-up investigation by the federal government concluded that there were more shots than the Warren Report claimed and they came from different directions, so there had to have been at least two perpetrators. Two perpetrators in an assassination is the definition of a conspiracy. That a conspiracy was involved in Kennedy’s assassination is the official position of the federal government.

November 11, 2020

Getting It Straight

Filed under: Culture,Education,History — Steve Ruis @ 11:08 am
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I am currently making my way through a book “Origins: How the Earth Shaped Human History” which I am finding quite enjoyable. I reached the point in human history at which agriculture had been developed in multiple sites around the world. Here is a snippet of that discussion:

“The development of agriculture offered huge advantages to the societies that adopted it, despite the continuous labor involved in working the land and nourishing the crops. Settled peoples are capable of much faster population growth than hunter-gatherers. Children do not have to be carried long distances and babies can be weaned off of breast milk (and fed with milled grain) much earlier, which means women can give birth more often. And in agricultural societies, more children are an advantage for they can care for more crops and livestock, mind their younger siblings and process food at home. Farmers beget farmers very effectively.

Even with primitive techniques, an area of fertile land can produce ten times more food for humans when under cultivation that when used for foraging and hunting. But agriculture is also a trap. Once a society has adopted cultivation and its numbers have grown, it is impossible to revert to a simpler lifestyle; the larger population becomes entirely dependent upon farming to produce enough food for everyone. There’s no turning back. And there are other consequences, too. High-density, settled populations supported by farming soon develop highly stratified social structures, resulting in reduced equality and a greater disparity of wealth and freedom compared to hunter-gatherers.”

This is the standard patter on this topic and it is all true . . . but, oh, my there are so many carts that have been placed before the horses, so many it is hard to know where to start a critique.

I will start with “Settled peoples are capable of much faster population growth than hunter-gatherers. Children do not have to be carried long distances and babies can be weaned off of breast milk (and fed with milled grain) much earlier, which means women can give birth more often.” Does anyone actually think that early hunter-gatherer human beings thought about population growth beyond their own family? Even within their own family, women continued to nurse their children for quite a while because it did give protection against pregnancy. We know this because one of the actions when one tribe of humans “conquered” another tribe, was that they often killed the children, so that their mothers could become pregnant with their babies sooner.

Plus this “birth control” happened naturally, and “milled cereal grains” was not an effective substitute for mother’s milk. First of all “milled” grain didn’t exist then, only coarse, stone ground cereal did, which was harder to digest, required longer cooking, and was nowhere near as nutritious as breast milk; all of which was easily observed.

So, who benefited from having a larger population? The argument is there would be more hands to do work, but also there would be more mouths to feed. And a larger population guaranteed that all the prey animals in the area would be hunted into oblivion, as would the shellfish, fish, and other contributors to a healthy diet. (Think about what happened to the Lewis and Clark Expedition in Oregon. Hint: they ended up dragging a dead elk for three days back to their encampment to have something at all to eat.)

I do not think there was much of a society to make such decisions. Which brings me to: “The development of agriculture offered huge advantages to the societies that adopted it.” Societies didn’t adopt agriculture; people did. Before there were the first cities, there were many, many, many small villages which supported small populations of humans who mixed in a little agriculture (you had to hang around to tend/protect your crops) with hunting and gathering. Usually these were near a stream or river, which supplied fresh water as well as fish, shellfish, etc. Agriculture happened through the accumulation a small, family level efforts. It was never “adopted by societies.”

Which brings me to “High-density, settled populations supported by farming soon develop highly stratified social structures, resulting in reduced equality and a greater disparity of wealth and freedom compared to hunter-gatherers.” Excuse me but high density populations could not form until extensive agriculture was under way. This means irrigation controls, crop land controls with protections from foraging animals, and all of this over many, many hectares of land. This only happened because of “highly stratified social structures” existing first. Kings, viziers, priests, et. al. were the designers and organizers of “high density populations.” The archaeological evidence for this is overwhelming. Agriculture didn’t cause the stratification, large-scale agriculture was caused by the stratification.

Who benefits when “Farmers beget farmers very effectively.” It is not the farmers so much as it is the elites who are confiscating the “excess grain” to support them and their lifestyles. Grain is at the heart of most of these high-density populations because it can be dried and stored and so protect the community from the vagaries of weather and climate, infestations, and diseases. Since it can be dried and stored, it can also be taxed, that is confiscated. All of this requires a stratified society. The elites started in charge and they have stayed in charge, by hook or crook.

What was left out of the “standard patter” above is slavery. The elites took advantage of their confiscation of the “excess labor” (nice euphemism, that) of the masses to expand the number of elites (people who did not grow food or hunt for a living) in the form of “soldiers’ who raided nearby villages for slaves. Slaves did not need to be paid, just fed and only minimally at that and well, slaves beget slaves very effectively. The development of large scale agriculture also lead to the development of a large scale slavery.

Only the elites benefited from the growth of this “society.” The elites got lives of physical ease and even wealth and all the farmers and slaves got was . . . trapped. (It is a well-known fact that when agriculture became widespread, human beings became shorter, lighter, and more disease ridden. It is presumed this was due to the switch from a rich, varied diet to a vastly more narrow one.)

It is much easier on our egos to say “look at what agriculture did to us” as opposed to admitting that the greed of elites drove the whole process.

* * *

I do not blame the author for this lack of precision, there is only so much one person can know. I am, as I said, enjoying this book, and will report on the whole thing later.

October 16, 2020

They Will Have to Pry the Money Out of My Cold, Dead Hands

Filed under: Economics,History,Politics,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 1:01 pm
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You may remember when Charlton Heston was president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). He is famous for delivering, quite theatrically, the old saw “They will have to pry my gun out of my cold, dead hands.” Basically he was stating that he would defend, even violently, his right to “bear arms.” But physical violence is on the decline and now it has been replaced by economic violence. The rich have acquired more wealth (as a percentage) than they possessed in the previous greatest episodes of U.S. history. The Robber Barons had less, the Gilded Age tycoons had less.

A major book by Walter Scheidel, The Great Leveler, claims that there are but four causes of reversals of this trend: mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues. These are the only thing that have reversed the “normal” trend of wealth accumulation by the wealthy, by the simple expedient of repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich and, well, the rich themselves.

The 20th century, with two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the immense communist revolution created the greatest redistribution of wealth (and power) ever seen. Unfortunately, all of the wealth redistribution that occurred after WW2 has been reversed at this point and the “normal” state of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer has been reinstated.

What is at work here is greed, pure and simple.

Before you start to believe that there is some “invisible hand” at work here, there is not. What is at work here is greed, pure and simple. The dynamics at play here are these: the rich are few and the rest of us are many. This gives the rich a large advantage in organization. The power of the rich’s money is leveraged by buying politicians. I am sure that you have seen the studies that show that the rich get the attention of politicians to a very large degree, despite they being few and the poor get zero attention from politicians despite they being many. Apparently votes do not matter and money does. This is because money buys votes and the system is biased toward the elites. The two party, winner take all, system requires that the rich only need to influence, aka bribe, the two leading candidates for any office. Both current candidates for President, for example, are both acceptable to the rich as they have been vetted and supplied with suitable leashes. (Those of you who think that Mr. Trump’s wealth insulates him from their greed need to examine his tax returns. Mr. Trump only appears to be wealthy. There are lots of people, as Chris Rock says, who are rich, but few who are wealthy. Basically, star athletes and star performers, are rich . . . the people who sign their paychecks are wealthy.

The only way to solve this problem is for the many to tax the few: that is tax the rich so that they do not accumulate distorting amounts of wealth. The problem, of course, is this is a political solution, and they are few and we are many. Of the four actual forces that affect the wealthy the only that is even mildly attractive is “transformative revolutions.” Maybe we can learn from South Africa and do this bloodlessly, with a “forgive them they know not what they have done” attitude. But I suspect they know full well what they are doing, certainly the Koch Brothers did, so this will be a hard sell at best. Maybe lynching the uber-wealthy is the way to go, but that isn’t exactly non-violent.

October 6, 2020

Everchanging Evangelicals

Filed under: History,Politics,Religion,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:53 am

If you were to inform American Evangelicals from the past about what their brethren are doing now, they would be appalled.

During the debate over the adoption of the new Constitution, guess who supported church-state separation? Evangelicals.

During the abolistion period prior to and after the civil war, who was anti-racism, and anti-slavery . . . vigorously? Evangelicals.

What’s that rumbling sound, you ask? That stems from those evangelicals rolling over in their graves at the Chrsitian nationalist, racist Evangelicals of our age.

September 28, 2020

When it was ’54 …

Republicans are often characterized as wishing our country would be restored to what it was like in 1954.

So do I.


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