Uncommon Sense

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.

August 6, 2022

Remember Republican Claims of Death Panels?

Not that long ago (2010), Republicans were claiming that if Obamacare were implemented, it would result in governmental death panels, meaning panels who would decide who would get needed healthcare and live and who would be denied that care and die. And those panels would consist of guvmint flunkies.

Well, we did implement Obamacare, and any sign of “guvmint death panels?” No? Not even a sniff? (Of course, the GOP was ignoring the practices of insurance companies, which regularly denied care, but hey, they were making profits for their shareholders and so were off limits.)

Apparently, Republicans were so disappointed that government death panels didn’t spontaneously form, that they waged a campaign to ensure that they did. By getting Roe v Wade overthrown, Republican dominated states are passing laws by which politicians will determine whether a woman gets an abortion or not, even in cases in which an abortion is the only way to save the woman’s life!

Even in states in which their laws include “No exceptions to abortion bans, except for the life of the mother,” who gets to decide if the mother’s life is in danger? Republican Guvmint Death Panels, that’s who.

Way to go, Republicans! Be sure to mention “Republican Guvmint Death Panels” when you list your accomplishments for the upcoming elections.

August 1, 2022

Christian Anti-Abortion Zealots

So much about Christianity is incoherent, and the anti-abortion stances of many Christians is probably at the top of the list.

Ask yourself what do Christians believe about birth, life, and death. They claim to believe that fetuses are “ensouled” at some stage in their development. I have to say “at some stage” because various Christian groups are all over the place as to when this happens. (The people who say that this happens at conception are undermining their own point. Estimates are all over the place by a typical one is “The proportion of fertilized eggs that produce a live full-term baby (in the absence of contraceptive measures) is not known precisely, but is probably only 40%.” So, if that is the case, then over half of the souls implanted end up being recycled . . . normally! I am sure God wouldn’t make such an inefficient system. Surely ensoulment occurs at a later, less precarious, stage.)

So, we are ensouled, we live and hopefully find Jesus, and then we die, at which point our soul leaves our body and for our body, well, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, discarded like so much trash. Our soul is what goes to Heaven.

So, if one accepts this Christian worldview, what happens during an abortion? If it happens before ensoulment (the old folks called this quickening), what is lost is a small amount of tissue. No harm no foul happens to the soul. If the fetus is ensouled, when the abortion occurs, what happens to the soul? Does the soul die? Apparently souls are immortal, so the soul doesn’t die, just the body being grown for it wasn’t able to full receive the download, so the soul has to go back into storage. (For science fiction fans, this is like stories in which one’s personality can be downloaded into a computer, and then a clone grown and the personality downloaded into it, and voilà, immortality ensues.)

So, that “aborted soul” goes back into storage (or the loving arms of God, whichever is your preference), and gets its chance another time with another mother.

So, where is the harm?

Harm would occur is the soul was forced into a body distorted by disease and disablements. You can argue all you want about all the lessons to be learned by the disabled (think Steven Hawking) but if you were to give them the options of their malformed body and a sound and whole one, which do you think they would choose? How about if the family (were there one) was unable to care for the child, to feed and clothe it and provide medical care, and love? No, these zealots claim that that soul has to go into that body, even if the body is ectopic, that is dead already, though it is still in the mother.

If these Christians were at all the people of the faith they claim, they would see that abortions are in no way damaging to the souls they claim are the real us.

So, why are they so anti-abortion? It all comes down to power. When people who have no observable power, get an opportunity to wield some, they tend to go whole hog and not think about what they are doing. So, “forgive them, they know not what they do” is right on point. They are viciously against abortions, even though their faith says there is nothing wrong with them.

July 31, 2022

Deep in the Pockets in Texas

The above title is the title of a CNN Special Report, now available on YouTube. I watched it last night and it is truly alarming. (If you have any interest in the future of American politics, I recommend viewing this—it is 42 minutes or so long.)

In short, it is a documentary about how two billionaires who have decide to run the State of Texas as their little fiefdom. And they are pulling it off. Texas is basically a one party state. Democrats don’t get much traction down there. And so Republican primaries are critical for state office holding. And these two guys, and the political action committees (PACs) they have created, and special interest groups, etc., etc. dominate all of those elections and many local ones, too. They even keep a scorecard on the Internet telling people how “conservative” the various office holders are, but that is basically a rating that determines whether they will get monetary support in the next election or a challenger that will be lavishly funded.

Oh, by the way, Texas is one of a dozen states that doesn’t limit how much a candidate can take from any one source, so some of these candidates get 60, 70, even 80 percent of their “donations” from the two of them. To claim there is no quid pro quo involved is more than naïve. This part is not shocking. This is becoming the norm in red states.

What is shocking is that these two billionaire buddies are Christian Nationalists and Christian Dominionists. Neither believes in the separation of church and state (and even claim that that is not part of our Constitution or traditions). They want Texas to run on the basis of a Christian Worldview.

Based on the Christian Bible, political matters are decided by men, wealthy men, and priests. Women are second-class citizens with few rights, and children have no rights at all. There is no democracy, no voting, no public polls, no representative government, no government of the people, by the people, for the people. There is no balance of powers, it is Yahweh or the highway with these folks. Can you spell oligarchy, boys and girls?

Apparently one of the two got his start in state politics stumping for public funding of religious private schools. When that effort failed he found his current partner and they have decided to remake the politics of the entire state. And, of course, what is good for the State of Texas is good for the entire country. Yes, they have dreams to go nationwide.

There is a stop gap measure that will slow these assholes down, but probably not stop them. Currently, for example, outside money can support candidates for your current school board and, when they take over, tell your schools how and what to teach your children. So, should “outsiders” tell us how to run our schools? This is currently happening in Texas, and many other places in our country. A simple corrective is to restrict fundraising to within the districts that are being served. So, for a school board election, funds could only be raised from people who live in the school district. Why should anyone outside of that district have a say in how we school our children? The same should go for all elections. If you are running for state senate, you should only be able to solicit funding from people who live in your senatorial district. If you are running for the Federal Senate, to represent the State of Texas, you may collect donations from anyone who lives in the state. Why should anyone outside of Texas have any say as to who represents the citizens of the state? Now, we all still have free speech, so if you want to go to Texas, rent a hall, and give a speech, you may. You just can’t send cash, material goods, or material support to the candidate or issue you support.

This would not stop the rich assholes out to destroy our country, but it would slow them down. Basically it is drawing a simple distinction between honest political advocacy and influence peddling, which is illegal already.

Addendum Of course, their interpretation of our governmental founding and structure is flawed and so is their theology. That doesn’t even slow these people down. And now that they have allies on the Supreme Court, we are in for a rocky ride.

July 24, 2022

No, It is Not Just About Abortion

“. . . the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required equal pay for women and prohibited workplace discrimination against women by any company with more than twenty-four employees.

“The Biden administration proposed updating the expiring Equal Pay Act of 1963 with the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2021, which passed the House on a 217–210 vote but is now blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

“In the House vote, only one Republican voted “Yes”; every other Republican in the House voted “No” to reauthorizing and expanding equal economic rights for women, with the GOP providing all 210 of those “No” votes.

“Men controlling and regulating women to maintain male supremacy in this country has a long history.”
Thom Hartman

There is a long history of male domination of women’s rights in this county, longer than the country itself has existed and it is still occurring. I remember when my first wife applied for a credit card and it came back under the name “Mrs. Stephen P. Ruis.” She wanted the card to be in her name so she could start creating a credit history. This was not allowed. This was the norm in the 1960’s.

Earlier, women didn’t even have a right to their own children, they, in essence, belonged to “the husband.” (And children had even less rights.)

This is what the GOP is doing to “Make America Great Again,” subjugating women and racial minorities, like in the good old days.

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