Uncommon Sense

January 24, 2023

Modern Day Villains

We, as a society, consume a great many entertainments, many of which are visual: videos, shows, concerts, etc. In the “movies” many plots require some dramatic tension and a good guy-bad guy axis. Someone to root for, someone to root against. And the villains fall into somewhat nice categories: we have sociopaths and psychopaths, whose thinking is bizarre to us, but fascination, currently we have quite a few zombies who have no personality but pose an existential threat nonetheless. (Nobody tries to figure out why the zombies are doing what they do, they just run.) And the usual coterie of “bad guys” includes drug dealers, people who cheat on the spouses, etc. It is rare that a new bad guy, like Hannibal Lecter comes along.

By far the most common bad guy in today’s videos is . . . drum roll, please . . . corporations, evil corporations, not just corporations that run over you because they didn’t see you in their driveway. Corporations that are driven only to make profits and to Hell with any opposition to those efforts.

Here is Bernie Sanders chiming in on one such corporation (Cal-Maine Foods):

Bernie Sanders (Twitter)
Corporate greed is the producer of Egg-Land’s Best, Farmhouse Eggs & Land O’Lake Eggs, increasing its profits by 65% last quarter to a record-breaking $198 million while doubling the price of eggs & reporting no positive cases of avian flu. Yes. We need a windfall profits tax.
11:37 AM · Jan 15, 2023·

And these corporations haven’t exactly been subtle about their machinations: the CEOs of America’s largest companies got on their quarterly investor calls and chortled about the willingness of “consumers” to blame inflation for the prices they were jacking up . . . because they could.

Republicans stickered gas-pumps up and down the country with Joe Biden “I Did That” stickers, even as gas companies declared record profits and boasted to investors about how they were able to tap directly into drivers’ wallets under cover of inflation.

It doesn’t look like any other villain will knock corporations out of their #1 spot at all soon. They just can’t help themselves, reinforcing their “bad guy” image over and over and over.

As I had said often enough, the Achilles’ Heel of capitalism is that it places no restriction on greed.

January 12, 2023

A Complete Misunderstanding of Religion

In a post on Medium.com, an author who calls himself “B,” stated the following:

Religion Viewed from a purely rational (mental) perspective religion makes no sense. In fact it is full of self-contradicting claims. This view however leads to a complete misunderstanding of religion, downplaying its role in human existence. Viewed through a Mythic lens though, it provides a moral compass and hope in a incomprehensibly complex world cursed with a dismal outlook for its participants.

The part I wish to address is the latter half, namely “This view however leads to a complete misunderstanding of religion, downplaying its role in human existence. Viewed through a Mythic lens though, it provides a moral compass and hope in a incomprehensibly complex world cursed with a dismal outlook for its participants.”

I have heard this argument numerous times before. And I will comment focused on Christianity as that is the religion I know the most about.

This “moral compass” referred to here has some aspect of truth to it in that religions address ethical issues as part of their regular programming. If that is considered against an alternative in which there were no discussion of ethical issues, it might be considered a positive thing. But if you look at the raising of children, we harp on ethical issues that have nothing to do with religion. Children are taught to share food and toys, clean up after themselves, and how to live “a balanced life” of work, play, and learning. Children are taught to not hit or bite other children or abuse pets, and much more, of course. This is done primarily by parents and by kindergarten and grade school teachers. Children are not threatened with Hellfire for their errors of judgment (actually some are and that is child abuse in my book), and none of the usual adult Christian “sticks” (of carrots and sticks fame) are employed either.

If one searches the Holy Bible for ethical/moral lessons one finds truly profound lessons and absolute horror stories (parents killing their own children to “honor” their god, fathers offering up his daughters to be raped by a crowd to protect “angels,” etc.). At best it is a moral wash. At worst it is a field manual for controlling populations by elites.

As to the latter half of my focus, “hope in a incomprehensibly complex world cursed with a dismal outlook for its participants” as an atheist I have never found life to be a dismal prospect. And complex? Who cares? When I need to travel by city trains, the system is incredibly complex. But I can consult the Internet which simplifies it for me and helps me navigate that system. There are many other complex systems embedded in a large modern city, like Chicago where I live, but I pay no heed to those that do not affect me now. So “incomprehensibly complex”? Taken as a whole, yes, broken down into manageable bits, no. Most people seem to navigate life’s complexities with some aplomb. And, yes, I know that a great many people live precarious lives, where life and death decisions get made daily. And their religions protect them how? Actually their religion may make them a target of spiritual warriors from other religions.

As to hope, uh, does he mean hope for a life unending? That promise is clearly a false hope. Ask yourself, if someone claims you can live forever, but then tells you that you need to die first, isn’t there a bit of a sniff of a scam? Especially when, after your death, you are not resurrected as an immortal being your “Earthly remains” are placed in the ground to rot. Of what help to anyone are false hopes? I consider them cruel and inhumane. And false hopes have real consequences. The promise, hope, of never-ending life, encourages people to devalue their lives as they know them, instead longing for the “hereafter.” Whether one lives forever, after dying, or not, wasting the life one has yearning for the afterlife is a major mistake, especially when the living conditions of the “afterlife” aren’t explicitly stated.

A “complete misunderstanding of religion”? I don’t think so. If religion provides ambiguous moral/ethical lessons, and false hopes, I can’t imagine finding better alternatives cannot easily be found. For example, if we were to invest as much energy in studying philosophy as we invest in our religions, we would be much better off.

November 5, 2022

How Can You Atheists Be Moral Without God?

Catholic Diocese Totally Screws Up Handling Sexual Abuse

Get back to us when you have figured out how to be moral with your god.

October 2, 2022

This Sounds Harsh, But . . .

I recommend to you this post

We Shouldn’t Be Sending Federal Relief to Florida Because of Hurricanes

If this is pay walled, the author’s basic point is that “these 100 year storms” seem to happen every couple of years and therefore, since this is a known characteristic of the places that are affected, like Florida, that the state should establish its own relief fund. He also points out that wealthy people are flocking to Florida because it is a “low tax state,” so their tax burden isn’t so great that they cannot afford to do this for themselves.

He also points out that, well “I live in Northern Wisconsin. Every single winter, it gets very cold. We get destructive ice storms. It can be -30 for as much as a week. Sometimes we get several feet of snow.

“When was the last time this was national news? When was the last time people said, ‘Think of the poor people in Wisconsin! They’re dealing with daytime highs of -36! Let’s send them some federal aid!’

“Nobody ever says that. The president has never declared a national emergency and sent people to help me shovel my driveway.”

He’s got A Point there!

September 20, 2022

You Don’t Need a Ladder to Get Off Your High Horse

Filed under: Business,Culture,Morality,Sports — Steve Ruis @ 8:31 pm
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I was watching a televised MLB baseball game the other night and I realized that in large chalked letters running up the first base side of the field was the name of an online gambling site, an “official gaming partner” of the team.

Apparently now that all major sports in the U.S. have endorsed gambling we know what had kept them biased against gambling was that they were not getting a cut of the action (now they are). Of course, the purists will talk about how gamblers were at the fringes of their sport, trying to bribe players to affect the outcomes to favor their bets, but, that no longer seems to be a problem, now that the sports are getting a fair share of the loot involved and, well, the players are making more than the gamblers are.

So, can MLB and the Baseball Writers Association (and the Veteran’s Committee) stop blocking Pete Rose’s entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Yes, I know the HOF is a private organization, which has its own rules, but being flaming hypocrites shouldn’t be one of them. The man accumulated more hits than any other player in the history of MLB, for Pete’s sake.

September 11, 2022

How Would He Know?

Filed under: Culture,Morality,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:26 am
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Ex-president Donald Trump is back on the stump branding the FBI and Justice Department as “political monsters” and has labeled President Biden as an “enemy of the state.” All of this is based upon his interpretation of the search warrant legally and quietly executed at his tacky Florida “mansion,” Mar-a-Lago. Part of his initial claims was that the FBI planted the documents in his rooms. (Note—It was Mr. Trump who announced this news item to the world, not the FBI; they were being discrete.)

The question I suggest we need to ask and keep asking is “How would he know?” Mr. Trump was not present when the search warrant was executed. His lawyers were, so he could have gotten some information from them as first-hand observers . . . and we all know how competent Mr. Trump’s lawyers are. You know the brilliant legal minds he has on retainer, including the one who signed an affidavit that all of the government-owned documents had been surrendered, before the raid, and the ones who keep filing law suits getting thrown out of court because they are incoherent.

As the frenzied Mr. Trump lashed out against the FBI, he didn’t explain where the FBI was supposed to have acquired the top-top-secret documents they supposedly planted. Mr. Trump, apparently, assumes people can pull all kinds of things out of their asses, since he does regularly. (And apparently even those empty folders have tracking numbers on them, so they are traceable as to where they were last.)

Mr. Trump’s tirades are inciting many, many more threats and attacks on law enforcement agents. When does this become illegal incitement to violence? Our Constitution guarantees that political speech is free in this country, but there are limits, e.g. yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire is not speech that is considered free. So, when do Mr. Trump’s bald-faced lies become illegal incitement?

September 5, 2022

Ex-President Accidentally Throws Gasoline on Fire in Attempt to Put It Out

Filed under: Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:06 am
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In a recent speech ex-President Donald Trump said “The FBI and the justice department have become vicious monsters, controlled by radical-left scoundrels, lawyers and the media, who tell them what to do.”

“The FBI and the justice department have become vicious monsters . . .”

This was immediately after offering to do anything asked of him to “bring the temperature down.” He wasn’t referring to the current heat wave temperatures, but the threats of violence from his supporters surrounding the investigation of him breaking numerous laws regarding official records being stolen and hidden away at his Florida home.

And, don’t forget, the GOP is the “Law and Order Party.” Or at least they used to be.

August 26, 2022

So, You Have These Beliefs . . . BFD

Beliefs are in the news. Can we believe anything Donald Trump says, for example.

And our Supreme Court Justices (current set) are focused upon historical beliefs as if they meant anything or actually applied to anything.

And, of course, sincerely held religious beliefs are being elevated in court rooms to the status of legal trump cards.

So, you have beliefs; we all do. So what? Beliefs have existed for all of history, at least that’s what the written record shows.

So what?

In English, belief did not originally really mean belief, but something more related to beloved and people do love them some beliefs.

Again, so what?

If one were to make a list of all of the things people have believed over our history (just our history), the list would be so long no one would live long enough to be able to read it. And, well, they would probably fracture a rib laughing before they got very far.

If these things were just aspects of parlor games, we would be okay, but people seem to be hell-bent on imposing their beliefs upon others. “I believe this and so should you . . . or else!”

One of these beliefs going around is that human life begins at a conception. This nonscientific scientific pronouncement was dreamt up to support a political position based upon a religious belief that has very, very little religious support. I have posted on this recently so will not belabor the point.

You have what you think are very profound beliefs, some of which you believe are sacred. (Beliefs piled upon beliefs, oh my!) So what? People believe all kinds of things. For example:

Well, I believe in the soul … the cock …the pussy … the small of a woman’s back … the hangin’ curveball … high fiber … good scotch … that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent overrated crap…. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a Constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.” (The Immortal Crash Davis)

Currently there are millions of people who believe Donald Trump was a good president. There are other millions who believe that Donald Trump was a disaster of a president. So what?

Beliefs are a dime a dozen and that is overpaying.

If you have sincere religious beliefs . . . I don’t care. Actions speak louder than words. If you want to lead a Biblically-centered or Christ-centered life . . . I am watching what you do, but not listening to what you say you believe.

August 24, 2022

The Life Begins at Conception Folks are Ignoramuses

Note—The word ignoramus has Latin roots being the first plural present indicative of ignorare “to be ignorant of”) which it is how it is being used here.

As a law professor, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett signed a statement that life began at fertilization, an embryo being a fertilized egg. This opinion alone should disqualify someone from any important office in government. It is a claim, based upon personal political desires, which are based upon personal religious beliefs (often not supported by scripture), that has nothing to do with reality.

Fertility clinics discard thousands upon thousands of abandoned embryos every year. That’s because a single round of in vitro fertilization treatment typically involves collecting 10 or more eggs with only one or two being implanted in the mother. Many countries actually require that these surplus embryos be destroyed after a certain period.

Shouldn’t states declaring embryos to be people require the clinics to preserve all unused embryos or close down? The cost of storing frozen embryos can exceed $1,000 a year.

In the opinion overturning Roe, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that abortion destroys “potential life” and the life of an “unborn human being.” Foes of contraception make the same argument, that sperm and eggs are potential life, even before they meet.

According to these people, a man masturbating is a serial killer (scattering all of those potential lives into oblivion), as are all women trying to become pregnant, because around half of all embryos don’t implant on the uterine wall and are naturally and normally aborted.

In fact, when born human females contain approximately 1 million eggs; and by the time of puberty, only about 300,000 remain. Of these, only 300 to 400 will be ovulated during a woman’s reproductive lifetime. So, God himself designed the system in which 99.96% of all human eggs are destined to be flushed.

Potential life my ass. These are people who claim life is sacred when nature abounds with myriad examples of life being disposable. Many animals birth hundreds of young which then get eaten by predators, often the males of the same species. Herd animals travel in groups so that when, (not if, when) members of the herd get brought down (and eaten alive!) the bulk of the herd survives. Trees often scatter their seeds far and wide, most of them getting eaten by birds and rodents and much of the rest either rots or gets dehydrated. As a simple conclusion, life is profligate because there is no protection, none whatsoever. If you don’t die sooner, you will die later. Where’s the fucking sacred in that?

And “unborn human being” is a bit like getting “unsweetened ice tea” in a Southern diner. Tea cannot be “unsweetened” as that would imply it was sweetened and then the process was reversed. Similarly a qualification for a human being is to be born. If you ask how old a human being is, that length of time is determined starting from the day of their birth. A one year old child is not one year and nine months old because it became human at conception.

Having Supreme Court Justices this ignorant and this unable to think clearly puts us all in peril.

August 7, 2022

Evil, Part XYZ

Filed under: Culture,language,Morality,Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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There is an article on Medium.com entitled The Problem of Evil and Suffering, with the subtitle of “Is There a Solution?” These things usually drift into theological realms but here I want to address language instead. I have used the metaphor of a number line to describe various states of good and bad. Of course, I start from the beginning with “the opposite of good is not evil; it is bad. Since evil is at the extreme, its opposite must also be at the extreme, and “good” just doesn’t hack it as an extreme.

Okay, let us lay out our number line. In the middle is 0, which is neutral, that is neither bad nor good. Running off to the right are the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. representing various states of increasing good, and running off to the left are negative numbers, -1, -2, -3, -4, etc. representing various states of being increasingly bad. Here . . .

Just off center, we have states which we might describe as “fortunate” (to the right) and “unfortunate” to the left, maybe a 1 or a 2 in those directions. We don’t hear a story about how someone got wet on the way to work because they forgot their umbrella and scream “Oh, how evil!” or “So joyous!” We would be looked at very oddly were we to do so. Such responses are not appropriate, but “Oh, how unfortunate.” is just about right, no?

A little further out are things like, “I stubbed my toe and I have to go to the doctor” and “I think I am in line for a promotion at work!” Even further out are “I fell and broke my ankle” and “My company has had a huge windfall and is sharing it with us!”

I assume you can see where this is going. Concentrating on the bad side we go further and further out, getting to natural disasters, like floods, sinkholes in your back yard, forest fires threatening your home, etc. And even further out, you get things like “The police mistakenly thought I was some kind of major criminal and actually fired bullets at us!” And farther out than that are accidental deaths or wars that happen in your neighborhood, a la Ukraine.

So, where does the line establishing a demarcation between a really, really bad happenstance and a truly evil occasion get drawn?

Here is where I think there needs to be an additional element. I don’t think hurricanes are ever evil. Horrible, terrible, awful, yes, but evil, no. Evil requires human intent, in my opinion. Something has to be perpetrated with intent and be really bad to be evil. A baby is snatched to replace one that died. Someone deliberately kills a guard while robbing a store, for the thrill of it. Gangs having a requirement that an aspiring member must kill someone randomly on the streets to gain entrance. Now we are talking evils.

As humans, we are for whatever reason attracted to extremes. It is like fish stories, every time they are told, the fish gets bigger and bigger. We exaggerate everything. We use phrases like “I could have died!” when we were merely embarrassed, or “I wanted to die” when in a merely uncomfortable meeting.

Evil events are really quite rare, but not if you were to take people’s claims at face value. A boss, denying a workforce’s request for a raise might be called evil, or a judge putting your spouse in jail for a crime, the same. We push things to extremes, we think there are things like absolute truths and objective morals when all of human experience says otherwise. We live in a grey world insisting that things are black and white.

So, the problem of evil could begin by using more accurate language. When you don’t get that hoped for raise, you are “disappointed” not “Someone should kill that motherfucker!” When a car splashed water on your leg, it is unfortunate but not an act of evil.

It is hard to have discussions like “The problem of evil and suffering: is there a solution?” when our language is hyperbolic and far from accurate.

Addendum I think lumping evil and suffering together (as in the article mentioned) is somewhat disingenuous, as one can suffer from a cold and it is not an existential thing. It also pulls evil back away from the extremes when you have to lump it together with mere suffering, which stretches over the entire negative arm of the number line, while evil does not.

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