Uncommon Sense

November 26, 2021

Another Example of “Corporations Would Never . . .”

We have been told for years by staunch business defenders that corporations can be trusted, that they don’ need no stinkin’ regulations because “they would never, ever do anything underhanded that would damage their reputations.”

Here is yet another example of corporations and their executives lying and even placing servicemen’s lives at risk, to make even more fucking money.

32 Years of Fraud
At hand, capitalism is great and profitable, but it does create a greedy society that forces people into taking fraudulent actions just to beat their competitors. I have seen many cases but this must be the worst by far. For the past 32 years, the Director of Metallurgy at Bradken Inc. in Tacoma has been falsifying the test results that measure the toughness of steel used to produce the hulls and other parts of U.S. submarines.

During the investigation to identify the source of poor quality steel the Department of Justice had identified at fault Bradken Inc. which has been the main supplier of steel for the U.S. Navy. The company is the one producing the hulls for ships and submarines as well as creating steel based on the strict requirements of the U.S. Navy. If a steel bach fails the metallurgist’s test then it cannot be used to produce anything for the U.S. Navy.

Elaine Thomas has been the Director of the metallurgy lab at Badken Inc. for the past 32 years and during her whole time, she had falsified the results for over 240 productions of steel. Getting that high quality of steel required by the Navy is difficult and it’s normal to have a few batches fail. Of course, this costs the company a lot, therefore someone ended up making a lot of money in the process. (Source: historyofyesterday.com)

November 24, 2021

Archeology and Propaganda

Filed under: Culture,History,Morality,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 10:29 am
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I am told, in an article in The Guardian, that a new book telling the story of the painstaking process to preserve the 1,200-year-old Faddan More Psalter is coming out.

Imagine a book dropped into an Irish bog and then being dug up 1200 years later. Yes, it was more than a bit of a mess, but some of it survived, and a conservator took years in finding what could be found. For example, the leather cover had a papyrus lining, which means it was probably created in Egypt.

Not mentioned in the article I read is that this book was a propaganda tool of an invading religion, working to destroy all of the native Irish religions. Not mentioning this is like writing a review of Mein Kampf and not mentioning WW2 or the Holocaust.

Christians have felt justified for millennia in invading foreign countries and “proselytizing,” that is setting up their religion to vanquish the religions already in place. We look at these invaders, who are “on mission,” as being good people doing good things. But ask the Native Americans how they felt about invading “settlers” taking over the land and instituting Christianity in exchange. African Americans were brought to this country in the millions and then systematically stripped of their families, their cultures, their religions, and their dignity, and of course their freedom, and were paid with “the Baby Jesus.” The devotion of present day African Americans to their Christian Churches is perplexing, considering those churches supported their ancestors enslavement (and Jim Crow, and . . .).

As an archeology fan boy, I like to see antiquities recovered from their supposed graves, but they always need to be placed into their contexts, to the best of our ability. That psalter was a weapon of an invading army of Catholic Christians. Tell it like it was, not how it is now.

November 6, 2021

They Just Don’t Seem to Want to Work

The pandemic has made it obvious and clear that there is a whole stratum of our society composed of individuals who just don’t want to work.

Yes, I am talking about the idle rich.

The idle rich, living on unearned income/capital gains don’t produce anything, and therefore do not contribute to society. Instead they leech off of those of us doing meaningful work.

We need to curtail these sources of unearned income, so that the “job creators” will get back to work producing jobs and goods and services the American people value. Speculative market activities need to be reduced through transaction taxes or some such mechanism to reduce the speculations that are at the core of the incomes of the idle rich. About 100 years ago there was a sentiment that unearned income needed to be taxed at greater rates than income earned via the sweat of one’s brow. That sentiment has been reversed though the machinations of the idle rich by their bribing of politicians to make rule changes on their behalf. These changes need to be rolled back, and unearned income needs to be taxed at higher rates, so the idle rich aren’t being induced to waste their talents outside of the world of work.

Now, I am not going to draw conclusions about the idle rich regarding their behaviors, although some have, calling them lazy and slugabeds. But they have been seduced by easy unearned money and for the good of their souls and our society, that has to be stopped, and the sooner the better.

September 28, 2021

King Croesus, er, Gates

Filed under: Business,Culture,Morality,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 1:58 pm
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One of my favorite authors was extolling the virtues of Bill Gates for all of the philanthropic great things he has done.

I look at things quite a bit differently.

Bill Gates overcharged us for years for often shoddy products. He, however, had captured much of the market for his software so we had few choices. (I tried many of them) He did produce softwares that were quite helpful to many of us (Word, Excel, etc.) but made the bulk of his money selling his operating system, Windows. How a computer could be sold without an operating system is a bit bizarre, exposing the topsy-turvy growth of the PC market. Imagine buying a car and then having to shop for software that would allow you to use it. Actually, imagine a car manufacturer that would allow someone else’s software to run it’s products. (Not going to happen.)

In any case, Mr. Gates charged so much for his products that his personal worth got to exceed one hundred billion dollars. Nobody needs that much money. To spend a billion dollars, you would have to spend $532,000 per hour, for every hour of every business day . . . for an entire year. Even Mr. Gates couldn’t spend that much money, so he collected way more money that he could possibly use. An alternative was to collect less money, allow us to keep some of our own and see what we could do with it. He still could be filthy rich with a few billion dollars in his pocket, but. . . .

So, Mr. Gates is now being lauded for what he is doing with the Money Bin full of money he has collected. I have written about this before using the phrase “Bill Gates ideas are better than yours.” He and his ex-wife run the Gates Foundation and decide what gets funded and what does not. The ideas he likes get funded. Others do not.

Imagine if they had, instead, set up a public trust with the mission to make people’s lives better and just shoved all of the money their way. But that would involve letting go, letting go of the control over that money. That would also involve not being a person everyone wants to suck up to. Imagine that, you’d be able to tell your real friends from the friends of all that money!

Personally I kind of like Bill Gates. I am a bit of a geek, he is definitely a geek. But “professionally” I like him not at all.

September 27, 2021

Aw, Poor Rich Babies

Filed under: History,Morality,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:34 pm
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I was watching a show on the National Geographic Channel recently. I think the title was “Lost Treasures of Egypt—‘Pyramid Tomb Raiders’.” The gist of the show was to point out the elaborate lengths the builders of the Egyptian pyramids and tombs of all kinds took to prevent the tombs being robbed of the treasures they held. Poorer people were buried with bowls of beer and food and prized possessions that had only personal value. Robbers wouldn’t bother such tombs as there was nothing of value to steal by the time they got around to being able to rob them (certainly not enough to copmpensate them for their labor, digging up the ‘treasures”). But the really rich people included jewelry, death masks of silver and gold and other valuable goods that had considerable value when sold. Those tombs they would rob and rob them they did. The robbing proceeded to such an extent that finding a tomb that has not been robbed has been a very, very, rare occurrence (Tutankhamen’s tomb being one of the exceptions).

So, the wealthy hired architects and engineers to design clever ways to keep the robbers out, but the robbers beat them every time, through grit and determination (and insider information).

Part of the protections was, of course, religious. The tombs were declared to be sacred and “defiling them” would be punished by the gods. Ah, the elites, they love to put on airs and the religious officials love to help them. The officials performed ceremonies declaring the sites to be sacred and established curses to inflict anyone who had the temerity to disturb those graves.

Effing elites.

They got robbed any way. Poor babies.

I have a sure-fire scheme to eliminate grave robbing: don’t put anything worth stealing in your grave. Instead give away all of your gold and silver and jewels to the poor. And instead of building immense mausoleums, far bigger than is needed to house your earthly remains, build something modest, and the money you save could instead be used to built public works that benefit the people. Such things would make your name live on longer than the elaborate (and soon to be robbed) tombs.

My mother and other ancestors possessed fairly common wisdom, part of which she taught me. One part of that was “you can’t take it with you.” Those Egyptian elite assholes tried to take it with them, so they got robbed. Served them right. I am still amazed at the archeologists and such, modern tomb raiders who should know better, siding with elites, declaring all of the preserved bodies they find as being sacred remains. Sacred to whom? They don’t even believe in the gods that made them sacred in the first place any more. Such is the deference to the elites they drum into us.

September 12, 2021

If God Does Not Exist, Everything Is Permitted

Filed under: Morality,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:30 am
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“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” This quote from The Brothers Karamazov (by Dostoevsky) is frequently invoked by those who believe in God. Without faith in a god which lays down the rules, their argument goes, we are doomed. “How could we possibly know the difference between good and evil without God,” they ask. (Apparently they haven’t read Genesis 1-2)

But . . . is it so?

If you look at European culture as it has been spread around the world as “western civilization,” has any act of depravity not been observed to have been enacted by Christians? I could have asked if any act of depravity not been enacted by Christians in service to Christianity, and the argument would have been no weaker, but I am sticking to generalities.

Those who “fear God,” as Christians claim, seem to have committed the most egregious acts, so where did the permission come from to do those things? (I can hear the apologists lining up to claim “No true Christian would have . . .” but that is clearly not true.)

Well, maybe it is not so much a matter of kind but of extent. Maybe far fewer atrocities have been committed because of this god’s restrictions. Here we have a lot of good data from around the world: basically, the more religious a country is, the higher the rate of crime, including assaults, murders, etc.

What about states within the United States? Again, when it comes to nearly all standard measures of societal health: homicide rates, violent crime rates, poverty rates, domestic abuse rates, obesity rates, educational attainment, funding for schools and hospitals, teen pregnancy rates, rates of sexually transmitted diseases, unemployment rates, domestic violence, etc. the correlation is solid: the least religious states in America tend to fare much, much better than the most religious.

Correlation is not causation, of course, but there is no evidence for the contrary opinion that those who do not accept god belief are less moral, because all of the data points the other way.

I guess I should point out that Dostoevsky was writing fiction and he was putting those words into a character’s mouth for a reason. If the character were a naïve, young, newly-converted Christian, they would mean one thing. If they were in the mouth of an authoritarian government official, they would mean another thing, no? (Authoritarians love them some authoritarian religion, as it removes blame off of them and onto some deity.)

On top of this, consider Yahweh’s list of permissions. No such thing? Okay, then Jesus’ list of permissions. Again, no such thing. Drat this is hard.

They did say “do unto others what you would have them do unto you,” but what if you are a masochist and like being humiliated and beaten with whips? And most cultures do not list the “golden rule” this way, they list it as what has been called the “silver rule:” do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. (The assignment of precious metals here was obviously done by a Christian as gold is universally held in higher esteem than silver.) But, the majority of the cultures favor the silver rule formulation. They are telling us what is not permitted, as opposed to telling us what we are permitted.

If only permitted things could be done, we would still be living in caves or grass huts. The operative principle in our culture is “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.” Basically, if you try something that hasn’t been “permitted” and it works, you will automatically be forgiven, so it is better to not ask for permission as it might be withheld.

And, think about it. If one is only allowed to do “permitted” things, one is a totalitarian subject. Again, this is part of the control mechanism which is this religion, part of the “obedience above all else” ethos embedded within it.

How would you like to have to solicit permission before doing anything? Would you resent that? I think you would, as it is an enforced child-like position you are forced into. You have no personal autonomy. (I remember refugees coming from Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet Union, and they showed zero initiative. They had been trained to wait for orders. They were nice young people by the way, just trained differently.)

Of course, there is still the debate over what is permitted in Christianity and what is not. Go back a couple of hundred years and slavery is permitted, even supported by various Christian religions. Today, slavery still exists but is considered illegal everywhere. Did Yahweh/Jesus change his mind as to what is permitted? If this happens again, how will we know? Are we supposed to accept the word of Christian officials? They do not exactly have a good track record.

The statement above is either vacuous or no longer has any meaning, if it ever did. It is being used as cannon fodder, being fed to Christian soldiers as if it were real ammunition, rather than blanks.

August 29, 2021

Learning from Others

I just learned that little Costa Rica has handled the COVID-19 pandemic very much better than we have here in the U.S. How is this? Costa Rica made a commitment to public health and through various initiatives has created the situation that Costa Ricans have a longer life expectancy that do Americans.

Costa Rica also had the uncommon sense to add a fourth branch of government to the one they modeled after ours. This branch, which is non-partisan, runs all of the elections. They schedule debates, set the rules, etc. No gerrymandering in Costa Rica.

But we don’t learn from good example or bad examples, because they are from other countries (Others, shoot them, shoot!) and they are trumped by American Exceptionalism. (We’re #1, we’re #1!)

We are also being dumb and lame when it comes to public policy. That is not by accident. Those who have gotten fat off of the current system do not want any competition, nor do they want any opposition, so more liberal voting laws? Nah. More sensible public health policies? No way! Honest elections! No chance, it will put too many party employees out of work.

August 22, 2021

Make Earth Sacred Again

Note—It is Sunday Sermon Time again, boys and girls! S

The title above is a proposed solution to greedy capitalists processing everything we need to live into profits. The Medium.com post was “Make Earth Sacred Again” with the subtitle “Reverence for Nature could stop Big Money’s destroying the world.” (Note I wish these people would stop saying “destroying the world/planet.” It is us they are destroying, not the world. The world will still be spinning on this same path long after humans are all dead.)

I have to assume that some sort of Native American religion is going to be involved in such an effort, because the dominant religions in the U.S. today don’t seem to possess this attribute.

Devout Christians often do say foolish things like this, “the Earth is sacred; we have the stewardship of the entire planet on our shoulders” and, my favorite “life is sacred.” (No, it is not.)

First “life is sacred.” Really? Says who? Certainly not the God of the Bible, responsible for killing millions upon millions of humans and at one point 99.99999+% of the plants and animals in the entire world.

To show you how far we have come from our hunter-gatherer roots as a family or at most a small tribe (<100 humans), consider this: is your life sacred? Sure. How about your spouse and children, your immediate family? Yeah, right on! How about your neighbors on your block? Well, kind of, I guess. How about all God-fearing Americans? Yeah, damned straight. How about Canadians? Well, I guess? How about Mexicans? Hell, no! The Taliban? The Chinese?

Basically, the farther a person gets from being a part of your family, by being adopted or born into, the less sacred their lives seem, no? So, since our hunting and gathering phases, we have changed not at all in this, other than in the capacity to know that other people exist quite a few kilometers away (and farther away). They are still “others” and are categorized as such, and they are not on the same level as you and your family. Moving back to the “Make Nature Sacred Again” bit . . . was it ever sacred? Certainly not to any of the imported Americans. One could argue that many native Americans had a concept like this but that also might just be a way of expressing what they knew to be pragmatic: take care of your environment and it will take care of you.

In my native state of California, archeologists dug up immense mounds of mollusk shells near the S.F. Bay. What they finally concluded was that a tribe of Native Californians would move to the area and eat everything in sight and then would move to another location to do the same there. While they were gone, the oyster beds and mussel beds recovered so that when they came back years later they could do it all over again, and being pragmatic, they always discarded the shells in the same place, which grew to the size of small hills. Not exactly careful husbanding of nature, but not totally destructive, either.

In the New England states, the Native New Englanders were careful to husband their crops. They would burn off the weeds and shrubs in controlled burns which encouraged grass and trees to grow and deer and other game to congregate to eat their produce. The Native Americans and the deer and whatnot ate a lot of mast, nuts from the trees, and whatever grew in the layer at the base of the tree (mushrooms, etc.). By being careful, they could make it through even a harsh winter, by losing a few pounds before things harvestable started to grow again and deer and other game came looking for the grasses and mast they could gorge upon in their hunting grounds.

Then came the “new” Englanders. Told that the streets were “paved with gold,” usually in the form of being able to hunt deer and moose out your back door, and harvest nuts and wild fruits a short walk away, more than a few “Christians” set up lodgings there. They didn’t do controlled burns and objected when the natives did. They over hunted, over fished, and over harvested and, within just a year or two, the entire regional system collapsed.

And the reason they did this is they believed their fucking God “would provide.”

The Native Americans new that the land was to be taken care of if they wanted it to take care of them. They thanked their prey when they shot a deer and used every tiny bit of it to honor the sacrifice of that animal. The Anglos, on the other hand, slaughtered millions of bison to provide lap robes for rich English people.

This solution to our existential problem will not work because the concept of sacred doesn’t exist in the American mind, especially the Christian mind. And there is no vehicle, that is no religion, that enough people subscribe to that can implement that concept. And, even if there were, the fucking greedy capitalists would allow it free rein, as it would hurt their bottom lines. They would mobilize the Evangelicals against the “pagan religions” that could save our asses and that, would be the end of that.

Whatever happened to the inventive capitalists who looked to the future and anticipating change, embraced it to make new profits. Today’s capitalists have no creativity, no imagination, and are sitting where they are like the buggy whip manufacturers when automobiles began to take over, wringing their hands and using their fortunes to prevent anything from changing. They, like the buggy whip makers before them, will have no luck in those endeavors. The future belongs to the prepared.

August 20, 2021

We Lost in Afghanistan?

I see article after article using the phrase that “we lost in Afghanistan.” Apparently they are using a different definition than I use for the word “lost.”

Consider a playground scenario: some kids are playing pick-up basketball and the kid who owns the ball says, “I have to go home.” The other kids, disappointed, ask if he could leave the ball or if a friend could bring it over to him later. I never heard anyone say “Sure, take your ball and go home, that means you lost and we won!” The reason I never heard that is it doesn’t make any sense.

So, when we arrived on the scene in Afghanistan (the first of a long string of mistakes we made), the Taliban fought back a little here and a little there. Once their leaders realized we were assholes who would take out an entire wedding party to kill someone we thought might could be a Taliban leader, they suddenly became very hard to find. They would occasionally engage in a little action, but only when the odds were very much on their side and only to send the message “Don’t forget about us.”

So, the U.S. (Us!) finally realized that the Afghani government was playing us for the cash we provided, and we got out. (It only took twenty years when it was obvious after six months . . . because Bin Laden was in Pakistan and there wasn’t much of anything in Afghanistan.) President Trump cut the deal (he did do a few things that were correct) and President Biden pulled the trigger, honoring the deal. That the Taliban just walked back into the seats of power showed that the whole thing was just the milking of a cash cow and that the “good Afghani government” never was a serious entity; they were just in it for the money.

So, we took our marbles and went home (making more mistakes as we went—the Taliban punishes screw-ups and replaces them; our military and government promotes them).

So, did we “lose?”

If so, what was the game? I still don’t know what our objectives were/are. G.W. Bushes “democracy making” was a joke, the Quran doesn’t allow democracy. Did anyone know what the game was other than a dick swinging exercise for American politicians and our military? (They punched us in the nose and we kicked their ass!) Of course, many of the 9/11 perps were Saudis and I didn’t see any sanctions there.

And which were the teams? On this side we have the American military, occasionally supported by foreign partners . . . er, team members. And on the other side? The Taliban did not play the game of war with us. They played a little Hide and Go Seek. They played a little Find the Bomb We Left for You. They played a little Firefight in the Desert Night, but there were no battles after the earliest phases; there were no set pieces from which we might be able to determine what the effing game was.

This is called asymmetrical warfare, and it was definitely asymmetrical, although I am not sure of the warfare. If it had been a chess game, one player would see all of his pieces on the board, but his opponents pieces are not visible and neither is the opponent. The Players I saw were Swinging Dick Politicians and war profiteers. The money spent in Afghanistan was a pittance compared to the money spent inside of our borders to the military industrial complex. And now that there are no official wars on the books, I am expecting those greedy whiny MIC bitches to be whining about getting our next adventure in Foreign Diplomacy—Arms Style under way.

There was a loss in Afghanistan. We lost the respect of many servicemen soldiers for spending their lives so uselessly.

August 9, 2021

Republicans Outraged, Threaten to Take Immediate Climate Action

Filed under: Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:43 am
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comprehensive assessment of climate science was published on Monday, the sixth such report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chane (IPCC) since 1988, has been eight years in the making, marshalling the work of hundreds of experts and peer-reviewed studies. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change, and found that human activity was “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to the climate, including sea level rises, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts.

Temperatures have now risen by about 1.1°C (2.0°F) since the period 1850 to 1900, but stabilizing the climate at 1.5°C (2.7°F) was still possible, the IPCC said. That level of heating would still result in increasing heatwaves, more intense storms, and more serious droughts and floods, but would represent a much smaller risk than 2°C (3.6°F).

Hearing this reported on Fox News made it all sound as if it could be true, so Republicans trumpeted their outrage. “Why weren’t we told?” they bleated. “If we had known we could have taken action sooner.”

Republicans introduced a bill in the Senate to withdraw U.S. financial support of the IPCC, “an agency that clearly has failed in its job,” claimed minority leader Mitch McConnell and scheduled an appearance on Fox News to explain the GOP’s position on this matter. McConnell also promised swift legal action from the DOJ against the “woke,” CRT spouting, left-wing terrorists who were responsible for the documented rapid changes to the climate.

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