Class Warfare Blog

September 11, 2017

Let’s Bring Back Public Humiliations

Every school child can tell you about an Early American tradition of public humiliations in which people were locked into stocks and pillories with a small sign indicating how their behavior was detrimental to the community. People would then through words and actions (pelting the miscreants with rotten vegetables, spit, etc.) share their disgust with the miscreant so displayed.

While I don’t know if I want to go that far, I do think it is past time we bring back public humiliations. I would start with Rush Limbaugh. Mr. Limbaugh shared with his greatly shrunken radio audience that he thought about Hurricane Irma. Here’s a taste:

“So there is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced.
“Well, the TV stations begin reporting this, and the panic begins to increase. And then people end up going to various stores to stock up on water and whatever they might need for home repairs and batteries, and all this that they’re advised to get, and a vicious circle is created. You have these various retail outlets who spend a lot of advertising dollars with the local media.”

Much of what Mr. Limbaugh says is implied rather than spoken outright (he does have lawyers advising him), so he didn’t outright say that the authorities and news media are lying to you, but he heavily implied just that, which leads to people having less respect for the recommendations of those very same authorities.

So, Hurricane Irma was blown up by the desire of media outlets (boo, hiss) to bolster the sales of bottled water and the like sold by their advertisers (Limbaugh). This, of course, is side-by-side with satellite photos showing Irma to be four times the diameter (8X the area!) of the incredibly destructive Hurricane Andrew, that created billions of dollars of destruction in Florida as well as quite a number of deaths.

Shortly before the hurricane hit, Mr. Limbaugh exited the state of Florida to safety, making him the biggest hypocrite on our airwaves. Mr. Limbaugh will not own that he was wrong, or that he might have cost people their lives through his “advice” which he claims is based upon “data” from the National Weather Service and other reputable sources (… right …).

I suggest that Mr. Limbaugh be the inaugural subject to a new public humiliation ritual for the sin of feeding his fat ego at the expense of his fellow citizen’s lives.

 

Advertisements

August 28, 2017

Put a Fork in It … Forever and Ever, Amen

Just as I was falling asleep last night, my bedroom was brilliantly lit by an actinic flash of lightning which was followed closely by a titanic blast of thunder. I was instantly awake with my heart beating a tattoo in my chest. I do understand why primitive people created a thunder god (which they eventually lost, which makes them Thor losers … sorry, I’ll get back on point). I do understand why we created invisible creatures to take responsibility for the epic natural forces that seemed so vast compared to our puny existences.

I have a harder time understanding how we got to where we are now with an incomprehensible god explained through a series of incomprehensible narratives. At least I was until shortly ago. The book I put down just before being flashed awake last night was “Jesus: Mything in Action, Vol. III” by David Fitzgerald—the author of “Nailed: Ten Christian Myths that Show that Jesus Never Existed”) has worked a small miracle; it has shown fairly conclusively how Christianity came into being without the messy details of actually needing an historical character named Jesus. That’s right, the reason the search for “the historical Jesus” has come up with so many different results is that since there was no such person, the results simply reflect the needs and wants of the searchers.

Most people, including myself, assumed there was a real person at the core of all of the narratives, but these books, written for lay people, but referenced for those wanting to follow up on references, seal the deal, slam the door, close the book, end the discussion. It is finito; put a fork in it.

The primary source of the ammunition used to bring down the tottering edifice which is modern Christianity is NT scripture itself, with a bit of OT scripture thrown in.

Even after finishing the first two volumes, in which the case was made that the narratives in the NT cannot possibly support a real person at the core of the fairy tales, I was still wondering, well, how the heck did it come to be so widespread, then? Here is a sketch of what might have happened. I wish to point out here that in a court of law, if one prosecutes a legal case based upon a theory of how things must have happened, that a defense can be made that provides a competing theory that is at least equally probable, thus showing that it didn’t have to happen as the prosecution claims it did. Since the “traditional” narrative surrounding the creation of Christianity has no hard evidence to support it, one only needs to provide a counter narrative to, in effect, win the case. The author admits his counter narrative is fictional, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense out of what facts we do have than the traditional story.

This is just a quick sketch, mind you. The amount of data and arguing points are book-length worthy, so this is just a taste. (Do go read the books, highly recommended if you are into the topic.)

In Judaism, prophecies form a one of the three legs of its tradition. The fulfillment of prophecies is used as evidence for the existence of their god, for example, so they take them very seriously. So, one particular OT prophecy implied that a savior, a warrior messiah, would come and deliver the Jews from their oppressors. Unfortunately this prophecy fell flat and didn’t even come close to coming true. This was actually not a rare occurrence but having literally hundreds of spin doctors working, most of these failures were spun away. But this prophecy seemed so important than another prophecy was made in order to redeem the first. This prophecy, too, fell flat. Instead of a Messiah rising up and leading the Jews to throw off the yoke of Rome, with Yahweh’s help of course, the Romans once again crushed the revolting Jews. The spin doctors went to work immediately to try to salvage what they could. Allow me to quote Fitzgerald here so I do not screw this up.

So Daniel’s prophecy, originally created to 1) salvage Jeremiah’s botched prophecy, 2) explain why Onias III was killed and 3) encourage the Maccabees’ uprising, inadvertently allowed later generations of Jews to re-interpret it again (and again); including certain groups of first century Jews looking for reasons why God failed to send his messiah to save Jerusalem in the War with Rome. The idea that there could have been a secret, spiritual messiah caught on among these Jews. The evolution of this spiritually victorious-in-defeat Jewish messiah is only half the story, however.

The key phrase is, of course, “The idea that there could have been a secret, spiritual messiah caught on among these Jews” (my emphasis). Yeah, that’s the ticket! The Messiah did come and He did triumph, it was just in secret. That’s why we still have Romans climbing up our asses. Really this means that Christianity was a typical mystery religion (the other half referred to). Again, quoting Fitzgerald:

If you were to ask someone in the Hellenistic world, “What would a Jewish version of the mysteries look like?” They’d say something like: you’d have a religion whose savior was a son of Yahweh, whose passion and death atoned for sins, and who now lived in the hearts of his followers, celebrated with typical mystery rituals like baptism and a sacred meal, whose initiates regarded one another as brothers and sisters, born again into a new life here, and awaiting a blissful afterlife in heaven. In short, you’d have Christianity.

All of those aspects are typical of the myriad mystery religions in the surrounding regions, promoted first by the Greeks and later by the Romans.

All of the early literature of Christianity, the letters of Paul, etc. do not mention an earthly Jesus. They do not mention a “second coming” but a “first coming.” Paul does not name or mention any disciples. He refers only to apostles, who are people who have communicated with Jesus spiritually, have received guidance (actually quotations from the OT), and proven this by having performed miracles (healings, etc.). Paul does not mention any relatives of Jesus or quote Jesus, or refer to any of his teachings. For Paul, Jesus is a spiritual being who exists in Heaven and who is promised to make a first appearance on Earth.

No actual references to Jesus being on Earth are made until the first gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is written. The Gospel of Mark has the structure of a Greek play as well as all of the markings (no pun intended) of a mystery religion. The subsequent Gospels, written later, bring in additional narratives, and change the tone of Mark until there is enough variation that one can shape any interpretation one wishes.

The observation that Christianity has all the structures of other mystery religions was made long. long ago and immediately denied by church fathers, who were, and are still, selling a completely different narrative. But the denials are weak and tepid because there is no basis for them.

Mystery religions were really popular, for very good reasons; the primary one is they promised a happy afterlife to all believers, not just pharaohs/kings/heroes. And all you needed to get this was an indoctrination into the mysteries, which of course, brings a source of motivation for the spreaders of the doctrine. Just as primitive farmers spread manure on their fields so later they could eat and feed their families, the religious promoters spread a different king of bullshit to support themselves and their families. The support for this “new” narrative is huge. Details such as Mark’s clueless disciples (representing the nation of Jews) stand in for people who do not understand the mysteries. How could his disciples be so daft when they had Jesus right there to explain things (magically, if necessary); plus things in that other narrative are rather simple, are they not? Well, the disciples could be so daft because there was no Jesus and they are fictional characters, providing a Greek chorus of those who do not understand the mysteries.

It all holds together, it makes sense of most of the NT scriptures, and since Christianity has all of the trappings of a mystery religion and all Christians know that the “other mystery” religions were made up, fictional, foundationless, etc. each of those religions (The Mysteries of Isis, the …) is further proof you can make up a religion and promote it with no factual basis whatsoever.

Oh, and why did Christianity triumph over those other mystery religions? Irony of ironies, Christianity got fortuitously adopted by a Roman emperor who made it the state religion of Rome, by imperial order. As we all know, it isn’t what you know but who you know that determines whether you succeed or fail.

August 27, 2017

Correct Religious Belief … or Not?

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:31 am
Tags: , , , , ,

All three Abrahamic religions seem to be worshiping the same god, just in different ways, so why is there strife between them? Why doesn’t one see any “Isn’t that cute?” attitudes or attitudes of “Isn’t that interesting, they do it differently.” Such attitudes abound in cooking, fashion design, home design, and myriad other endeavors such that “cultural appropriation” has become a topic being discussed because people borrow so much.

Why do religions condemn other practices as incorrect beliefs? On the surface they seem to be warning others that (a) those beliefs are wrong and will get you in trouble and (b) our beliefs are right and will lead you to salvation. But even fundamentalist Christian sects who believe that all you need to be saved is to “accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior” and voila! you are saved have this same behavior. Those sects have differences with other sects making the same claims.

These differences have led to and continue to lead to wars and war-like attitudes and activities. Wars broke out between Catholics and Protestants (kind of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance of Christianity) in the sixteenth century and the Sunni-Shia battles continue to this day and have lasted for over a thousand years. (The Catholic-Protestant wars lasted only a paltry century and a half for comparison.)

These facts seem to suggest that the differences between disputed are really important, but are they? If such differences were something other than the squabbles of small-minded people, that is they were really important, would not modern churches have education programs explaining the differences and why they are important to their own parishioners as well as to prospective new ones? I do not see a whole lot of “why we are different” or “why we are better” campaigns being voiced by churches. At the other end of the spectrum, I don’t see a lot of local programs addressing how “we are all one” or “we are all in this together” either. It is as if, all of these religious sects were in … wait a minute …

… it seems as they are all in competition with one another.

Competition for membership, competition for wealth, competition for political power. As in advertising, you never mention the name of your competitors (although that rule is breaking down a bit now) because you don’t want to bring other options up in the minds of potential customers. These sects don’t make comparisons, at least not often, with other sects because one would have to explain who they were, what they believed, how many of them there were, etc. Usually the are just dismissed out of hand (They are not True Christians™!). The goal is definitely not to convince others of what the right beliefs are so that we all will be saved, their goals are much more parochial.

I suggest that if these myriad religious sects were to actually try to convince people openly of the rightness of their beliefs, the differences being focussed upon would rather quickly become equivalent to the discussion regarding how many angels might dance on the head of a pin. They would appear silly and small-minded. It would bring ridicule into play and rather quickly.

The religious sphere seems to be drifting inexorably into postmodernism in which all beliefs need to be respected because they are all “sincere” and equally valid thereby. Each sect has it’s market share and the promise, false or true, of more membership in the near future.

If actual competition for “who has the correct beliefs” were to occur, who knows how that would go? Better to stick with the safe present rather and a possibly dim future, they think. (This thinking is the same as the thinking of the churches debating whether there should be separation of church and state during the debate over the U.S. Constitution. The evangelicals, including the ones calling for a Christian Nation designation now, were all for the separation because they could see themselves being losers in the battle for state recognition as the “official religion” of this or that state or the U.S. as a whole.)

Currently, the religions in this country enjoy tax relief (even the fucking Scientologists!), they are mostly respected (why I am not sure, other than it is traditional), and the know the rules of the game they are in. It would be a hard sell to get them to shove “all in” to try to win the biggest hand they would ever play.

Anybody can open a church with little forethought, and if they can garner enough support from those who live nearby, can make a go of it. Some of these entrepreneurial churches then seek affiliation with larger bodies for the same reason unions and other collective efforts affiliate with “parent organizations.” But a quick trip to perdition awaits those who do not play by the rules. They will be hassled to death by other sects and by the governments we have created. There is a definite “don’t rock the boat” message implying a “we have a good thing here, don’t mess it up” attitude. Even so, there seems to be a lot of room in the Abrahamic god’s tent, because otherwise, how does one explain “prosperity gospel” churches. (“Sure, Jesus said rich people don’t have a hope in Hell of making it into Heaven, but join us and we’ll explain what He really meant!”)

But it is key to note that to open a new church, you have to be offering something different from the competition, so this current system encourages increasing diversity in the religious message, so rather than bringing us all to the same correct belief, it is expanding the possible number of beliefs, each of which is almost guaranteed to be at least partly wrong.

Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue if a church or denomination were to announce a conclave to determine which beliefs are indeed correct and lead to salvation? Who would get a seat at that table? How many representative voices would each entity get? (Giving one seat to the Catholic Church and one seat to the Church of What’s Happening Now would seem to be not balanced.) How would decisions be made? (Voting doesn’t seem very religious. Maybe on each item each stakeholder could light a candle and the one that burned longest would indicate God’s will? This is a tough one.) And, the really big one: if this conclave actual determined what the correct beliefs were, how many regular people would be convinced? I suspect there would be a wholesale retreat to the hills by guerrilla churches to continue the war. (Imagine them ending up going: “Dang, Islam was right all along.”)

Even if the correct beliefs have already been listed somewhere, what is the chance they would be recognized as correct? Since every danged sect has its adherents, it seems that there is no set of beliefs that will get some people to sign on to. There seems to be no way out of this trap, except for a lucky few, who I am sure when they got to Heaven would say, “Hey, where is everybody?” Maybe this is just another reason not to believe at all: there is no way to determine if what you believe is effective. In most cases, we don’t even know why it is we believe what we believe, so going the next step in correcting our beliefs, that is to make them more correct until one has perfected them, seems a hopeless task. (Hint: it is.)

August 17, 2017

Moving from Making War For the People to Making War On the People

As the Republicans are busy shrinking government until it is left with just two functions: making war/protecting borders and protecting contracts (especially corporate ones, but not labor ones), we would do well to understand how they got to their current position.

In 1994 John Ehrlichman, President Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and a Watergate co-conspirator, confessed this to the author Dan Baum:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

The strategy, particularly of locking up Black people for drug offences, continues to this day. Convicted criminals lose the right to vote in many states. Convicted criminals lose most if not all job opportunities. Convicted criminals lose their voice. All good for Republicans, who are making war on the people, not for the people.

The Republican Party:
Systematically Disenfranchising Black Voters Since 1968

(Actually much earlier, but that didn’t make for a snappy slogan. S)

August 3, 2017

Why Are Americans So Afraid?

I was reading an article over at AlterNet with the title above. The subtitle is “Facts Take a Backseat to Deeply Ingrained Fears.” That article takes a fact-based approach in that they point out that violence has been and continues to be on a decline (for a very long time, even including world wars). That is per capita violence, not necessarily total violence as the population is still growing rapidly. That article’s author concludes that the fear people possess is a belief rather than a conclusion from the facts. A bit of discussion of fear mongering and they were done. I am using the same title, but they were asking the question; I will try to answer it, in part.

They didn’t quite go one step farther and they really need to. Why is America so afraid? That is the emphasis they missed. What might be the basis of American fear? We have experienced far less terrorism than much of the rest of the world, yet we seem to be more afraid, for example. The connection that they missed is that the U.S. is also one of the most religious countries in existence. If you compare our church going rates to, say, Great Britain or France, we are way out in front. It may be the case that not even a majority of Britons believe in a god.

And what is the foundational basis of the form of religion we currently espouse? Fear and belief. And what has been happening in the world of religion in the U.S.? Currently there has been a major increase in market share of the “nones,” those who respond to polls, like the Pew Poll on Religion in America, that their religion is “none.” The Nones have doubled as a percentage of the population in the Pew poll for instance. Atheism is spoken about and written about widely. Conservative religion in this country, in response I believe, has upped the drumbeat. The standard message has always been “we are a sinful nation” and “we need to repent our evil ways or God will punish us.” “If we only were to accept Jesus as our Lord, we would be ‘saved’ from eternal torment when we died.” That sounds like a fear-based campaign if I have ever heard one.

And as churches close or they see large reductions in their numbers of parishioners, the pressure gets increased on the standard message. We are more sinful that we were in the past! We are in even more need of belief! The world is descending into a miasma of degradation! Church going rates are decried as being at all-time lows when, in fact, the church-going rates a little over one hundred years ago were a small fraction of what they are now. They mean a “recent low” but that doesn’t have the impact of “all-time low.” Often this message isn’t all that overt, but it is there. And it provides a base for the feeling of fear from the purveyors of violence. There are secular fear mongers, too (Republicans), but I won’t mention their names (Republicans).

This is not accidental. The cadre of very rich people who are trying to subvert democracy in this country, like fear. They also prefer fear that is not based in fact because real fears have real causes that must be addressed. False fears can be “solved” by the same magic that created them in the first place. You may wonder how long we can be kept in a state of fear. To me, the answer is clear: centuries. If you look at how long many in the South have feared the reprisal of Blacks for how they have been treated by the white community, you will see a history of fear management. During the slave period, whites were ever fearful of slave revolts and any hint of such a revolt produced a vicious backlash. After emancipation, vagrancy laws and sundown laws were used to keep Black Americans in a state of near slavery. Jim Crow laws kept Blacks and Whites from interacting and developing any real relationships. It also kept Blacks weak in that in this country money = power and if you don’t have any money, you don’t have any power. The term “poor Black” became almost an oxymoron in the postbellum South.

The latest manifestation of the fear campaign is to make sure that white Americans saw Black Americans, primarily males, as criminals. By jiggering the laws, a large percentage of the Black male population ended up behind bars. Even when they got out, they were ex-cons and had trouble getting jobs and, well, money = power. This stereotyping campaign has been so effective that many police officers are so afraid of Blacks that they shoot 11-year olds with cap guns and even shoot White women because they don’t take the time to really look at the situation. The laws have told them that if they feel fear, they can shoot. And we have made damn sure they feel fear, a lot of fear.

Feeling fear without reason is the tool of the cadre of very rich folks who are trying to capture our democracy. Trying, hell, they basically have captured our democracy. When was the last time Congress passed a bill that the American people supported? Polls showing 60%, 70%, even 80% public support for legislation which then fails to pass. For example, we cannot seem to deny convicted felons, or people with restraining orders, or the mentally deficient the right to bear arms! That would contribute to people feeling safer and where’s the upside in that? People are so in favor of reasonable gun laws that a majority of NRA members support some of them. But … nah, they really don’t want you to feel safer. People want government-supported health care? Too bad, that would contribute to an overall sense of well-being and safety, so, nope, can’t be done.

The politicians are running the show, but it is religion, American religion, that has provided the base for their fear mongering actions, and, interestingly the religious still support them. The minor fact the Evangelical Christians supported Donald Trump in droves tells you all you need to know. And if you think I am exaggerating read the book Democracy in Chains.

The money = power equation works quite simply. By accumulating a large fraction of this nation’s wealth, the people in this category can have a small cadre with enough wealth to exert more power than the rest of the country can. If you wonder why unions have become powerless. If you wonder why wages have been suppressed for so long, start thinking about money = power. It works both ways. Since we do not have it, we have no power. Since they have it, they have the power, enough power to get their money declared a form of “free speech” by the fucking Supreme Court. Now their expenditures to keep democracy in chains is protected by the Constitution!

July 28, 2017

The End of the Debate

Well, at least part of it. There is an ongoing debate in this country over who was our best president, with Lincoln, Washington, and Franklin Roosevelt leading candidates. There was the flip side of that in the debate over who was the worst president, with James Buchanan, Warren Harding, and Andrew Johnson leading that pack. (For perspective G.W. Bush barely makes the top ten on the worst list.)

But this debate, at least the second half, is over for the foreseeable future. Donald J. Trump, even with his term of office barely half of a year gone, is on a trajectory to swamp any consideration of another for the “Worst President of All Time” honor.

As Diane Ravitch put it recently “Put together Trump’s vulgar, crude performance at the Boy Scouts Jamboree with the vulgar, crude language and behavior of The Mooch (the new Communications Director), and at some point you have to ask, like the line in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, ‘Who are those guys?’ No dignity. No class. No decency. No honor. No sense of propriety. Just plain old fashioned bullies and loudmouths. Know nothings. Vulgarians.

Yep, we are talking a slam dunk here. Can’t wait for the award ceremony. I suspect Mr. Trump will choose to speak while accepting his “honor.”

July 27, 2017

R.I.P. G.O.P. Part 2

As far as I am concerned the entire Republican Party has gone RINO (Republican in name only). The ideological base of the party has been captured by a cadre of very rich people who not only do not like democracy, they are actively working so that there shall be less of it.

Members of this ruling cadre aren’t conservatives, nor are they liberals. Basically they are capitalists. Their ideology harkens back to the time in our past in which southern slave holders, the major ones anyway, saw democracy as an infringement on their “freedom,” their freedom to own people and profit from them and their “freedom” to do with their money only that of which they approve. The ability for the unwashed “majority” to pass taxes, which were seen as illegal confiscations of property by these ideologues, all the way up to determining whether slavery was allowed was just unacceptable. The only acceptable solution was to allow capitalism to lead us where it may. Consequently, these people are opposed to “collective action” on the part of, well, anyone but themselves.

And, now they are in charge.

If you think I am referring to Donald Trump, think again. As I have stated before, Donald Trump does not possess the intellectual horsepower to wage such a campaign. Mr. Trump is just a distraction, one that allows cover for the real work being done, so he does serve their purpose, as do all of the bought and paid for politicians.

I miss the old GOP, the real GOP as it were. They were stodgy types, mired in the status quo, but they had their points. They were in favor of local control of things like schools and whatnot. The current Whatever Party is not in favor of local control of anything. In states in which the Whatever Party is in control, statewide legislation is being enacted at a furious clip, legislation that bans local minimum wages, local control of schools, local control of fracking efforts, you name it. Anything that concentrates power in the hands of a few is good with them, as they control the few.

The real GOP was in favor of democracy. The Whatever Party is not. They are against unworthy people (non-white, non-rich types) voting, so they are moving on broad fronts to restrict the ability of citizens to cast votes. If they could bring back the poll tax, one of their previous efforts, or literacy requirements, they would.

The old GOP was in favor of responsible business practices. The Whatever Party is in favor of the ability of business to scam their customers unfettered and in favor of a ban on bilked customers suing such companies collectively. (Collectivism bad, Hulk smash!) They are acting on the removal of a federal rule that forbade mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts (mandatory arbitration = no suing), for example.

The old GOP was in favor of institutional processes, the Whatever Party is in favor of corners being cut whenever it is to their benefit. Need a healthcare bill? Go into a closet and write one (Step 1), don’t show it to anyone before demanding an up-or-down vote on it (Step 2). Committee hearings? Public hearings? Requests for expert or general comment? Pssht, who needs that stuff?

It is a measure of how bad things really are that someone like me misses the old GOP. If the plutocrats behind this “movement” keep pushing their agenda, the only solution is going to be torches and pitchforks and that is the road to banana republic status for this country.

Sad.

If you want to learn more, read the book “Democracy in Chains.” Think about that title and the slaveholder roots of this ideology.

June 25, 2017

American Principles or ?

Filed under: History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 7:01 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I am finally getting around to reading Gordon W. Prange’s wonderful history of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 (At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor). There is an incredible amount of detail in this book, less than was actually available as the book was written for a lay audience.

One detail jumped out at me regarding a meeting between Cordell Hull, our Secretary of State and the new Japanese ambassador, Adm. Kichisaburo Nomura. The plans for the attack on Pearl Harbor were well under way but the Ambassador was ignorant of that fact as he could have been a security leak. Japan was, however, very aggressively pursuing a larger sphere of influence and had its eye on the oil and other resources of Southeast Asia. The two men decided to meet informally to see if they could improve the relationship between Japan and the U.S.

On April 16, 1941, Hull presented Nomura with a set of principles that Hull felt had to underlie any such negotiations. Here are those points:

  1. Respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each and all nations;
    2. Support of the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries;
    3. Support for the principle of equality, including equality of commercial opportunity;
    4. Nondisturbance of the status quo in the Pacific except as the status quo may be altered by peaceful means.

When I read those points, they seemed an innocuous set of points, a definition of how a free democratic state should behave … and then I realized that I couldn’t recall any point in our history in which we ourselves exhibited those behaviors.

We are constantly using economic and military force to meddle in other country’s affairs. We put the Shah of Iran back on his throne in 1953 after destabilizing the government of a democratically-elected progressive president of Iran. We have assassinated politicians all over South and Central America. We trumped up a reason for war in Viet Nam (The Gulf of Tonkin episode) and trumped up a reason for war with Spain in Cuba (Remember the Maine!). We are currently pursuing a global assassination campaign using drone aircraft (Thanks, President Obama!) and we wage economic warfare almost continuously.

The irony of these “negotiating points,” is I read them in a book centered on events in Hawaii, an independent country that we took over based upon phony claims by wealthy businessmen, for whom the coup would be financially very beneficial. The overthrow of the legitimate government of Hawaii violated all four of the principles, laid down by Secretary Hull.

Is that what the U.S. stands for? Bullshit and smokescreens for doing whatever the Hell we want? Seems like it is. President Trump is not an anomaly in this case.

May 22, 2017

Terrorism: A Battle Between Good and Evil?

Filed under: History,Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:13 pm
Tags: , , ,

Recently President Trump characterized the terrorism surrounding the disputes between the West and Muslim countries this way: “This is a battle between good and evil.” I guess I should confess that I do not believe there are such things as good and evil, other than as amorphous words we use to vaguely describe how we feel about events.

And terrorism is not such a battle, terrorism is a tool used by the weak against the strong, just like guerrilla warfare. In the American Revolutionary War, we Americans used Guerrilla warfare because we were weak and England was strong. You use the tools you have.

Terrorism is not something used by the strong. Strong entities use overwhelming force (Shock and awe, baby! Shock and awe.) and even brutality to impress their will. This is not an option for weaker countries or weaker groups. So, they use terrorism and guerrilla warfare to intimidate and dissuade. The Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War was a clear indication of the threat that no one could be safe anywhere in the country, a brilliant tactic by a weaker country against a more powerful one. “You have B-52 bombers, Agent Orange, and Vulcan cannons; we have soldiers with a rifle and a few rounds of ammunition and you will never be safe.”

So, is terrorism a “battle between good and evil”?

No.

Actually, anyone who uses that phrase, “a battle between good and evil,” is being manipulatory and disingenuous. They are trying to lay the mantle of “good” on their shoulders and the mantle of “evil” on the other guy’s. They are inviting simplistic thinking in the extreme. Me good, you bad; that kind of thinking.

When you hear that phrase, hold on to your wallet and back away; the person uttering it is not to be trusted.

May 20, 2017

An Argument for a Minimum Wage

There have been myriad studies about the impact of having a minimum wage. Some indicate that there is no particularly strong linkage between creating a higher wage for low wage workers and some indicate that a rise in the min wage causes unemployment.

The politicians arguing against a min wage use a very simplified argument: namely that if employers have to pay their workers more, they will only be able to hire so many workers, mostly fewer. This is way too simple in thinking this. For one, if people are paid more money, they then spend more money (what goes around, comes around) which is good for business. There are many more facets to this issue.

If labor costs go up, and they have myriad times due to labor contracts, etc. how, oh how, do companies cope? (Yes, I am being sarcastic.) The amount of money that goes to labor in any company is not a fixed amount or even a fixed percentage of the company’s budget. There are many, many ways that those increased labor costs can be offset. For one, you can raise prices for the goods created. You could decrease profits. You could find other ways to reduce operating costs (reduce energy costs by going solar, etc.).

Knee jerk responses to these actions abound, of course. “If we raise prices, we will reduce sales!” Really? Companies never raise prices, then? C’mon, get real. Just raising prices alone, of course, is the lazy way to deal with increased labor costs; a combination of actions would be better.

Most of these minimum wage discussions are shallow and politically motivated. Basically, the opponents of min wage increases give minimal arguments and only add to them if we don’t accept (aka we reject vehemently) their overly simplistic argument.

Let me explain a real reason for min wage increases. Minimum wage increases are justified for the simple reason is that business interests (aka the plutocrats) have conspired to suppress wages for a long, long time. This involves bribing politicians to undermine union powers and privileges, delaying minimum wage increases, changing the laws in favor of employers over employees, etc. They have been particularly effective over the past 40 years (see the chart below as to the effectiveness of wage suppression over the past 40 years). The only power source of ordinary people to oppose these powerful business interests is government. The cabal wants wages low (too low) and so government must set a floor on wages. It is not simple but at least that is the political dynamic.

If you want to see this playing out right now, consider the current stance of the GOP. The GOP has been the champion of local rights for a long time. Education, for example, should not be a federal issue, but should reside in the states, with the states deferring to local communities and their school boards. So, what has been the GOP response to cities who have enacted their own min wage increases? GOP dominated states are passing laws to roll back those democratically achieved minimum wage increases and to bar such local increases in the future. Local control doesn’t mean a fig when the GOP’s paymasters issue directives (You will keep wages down, or else).

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.