Class Warfare Blog

May 24, 2017

A Picture is Worth …

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:53 am
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Which of these men is happy to be there and which is not? Which stands off to the side so as to not be too closely associated with the others? Which of the women looks happy to be there?

Joy, oh joy, is only felt by the vacuous one.

May 22, 2017

Terrorism: A Battle Between Good and Evil?

Filed under: History,Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:13 pm
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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 18, 2017

GOP Gives Lie to Their “Small Government” Goal

The GOP has clamored for smaller government, mostly at the federal level, for many decades. “Big Government” was a term said only as a slur. In particular, the GOP has advocated that the federal Department of Education should be dispensed with as education was the responsibility of the states. (I do not argue with that point.)

But, well, times have changed. In particular, the GOP is in power and positioned to do almost anything they want to do. So what do we get? According to a press release from the American Association of School Administrators:
“Alexandria, Va. – May 17, 2017 – Legislation pending in Congress would create new opportunities for corporations and successful investors to earn huge profits by transferring public funding to private schools, according to a report released today by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
“The legislation—the Educational Opportunities Act—would put two new federal voucher tax shelters within reach for many more Americans and lead to an explosion in funding for private schools. It would also keep in place an existing federal loophole that permits savvy taxpayers to benefit from ‘double dipping’ practices, where they receive a federal deduction and state tax credit on the same donation to a private school entity. At present, high-income taxpayers in nine of the 17 states offering voucher tax credits can turn a profit using this technique.

So, apparently, federal meddling in the state’s business of educating the next generations is now okay now, because … money.

May 15, 2017

We Don’ Need No Protection Cause Racism Ain’t No More

According to The Nation magazine:

“On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. A month after that decision, North Carolina – where 40 counties were previously subject to that requirement – passed the country’s most sweeping voting restrictions.

“The state required strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cut a week of early voting and eliminated same-day voter registration, out of precinct voting and pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. On July 29, 2016, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated these restrictions, which it said targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision” in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment.”

If I remember rightly, the Supreme Court argued that singling out those states for “special treatment” under the Voting Rights Act (basically requiring any changes to voting laws to be screened for approval by the Justice Department) wasn’t needed any more because, well those states had reformed and were no longer what they were. Besides there’s racism everywhere.

So, here we are just under four years later addressing racist voting regulations which “targeted African Americans ‘with almost surgical precision’ in violation of the Voting Rights Act and 14th Amendment”  in one of those very states. I am sure glad their ain’ no racists no more in No’th Carolina.

Three cheers for the Supreme Court … uh, no?

May 8, 2017

Twenty Questions—Plus Four

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:14 am
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Remember the game of 20 Questions? Here are twenty-four commonsensical questions about our stance in the world that, if answered, would clarify our relationships with all other nations greatly.

I strongly recommend you read “Andrew Bacevich: What Obsessing About Trump Causes Us To Miss”.

May 5, 2017

Negotiating 101: Big Budget Victory? Hah!

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:06 pm
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Scientific American magazine crowed with an article title “Science Wins Reprieve in U.S. Budget Deal.” They, of course, used the word “win” more than once, e.g. “The biggest winner is the National Institutes of Health (NIH)….”

Winners, right …

It is a standard negotiating ploy to threaten to take something away and then elicit concessions to be allowed to keep that thing. This is a no cost ploy as nothing needs to be traded for those concessions, only threats need be made (and, boy, are they cheap).

Was any progress made? Was any action taken against Climate Change, or the infant mortality rate, or any action taken for any scientific effort?

No.

Not a victory, folks.

For you science-types out there, it is called Round 1.

 

 

Egad, Economic Uncertainty is Real!

During the recent Democratic administration, Republicans often ranted about “uncertainty” with regard to investment. You see, the economy tanked in 2008 and the recovery was feeble (still is). Banks were given huge amounts of money at zero interest with the hope they would loan that money, cheaply but profitably, to businesses looking to expand. The key word was “hope” in that the government attached no strings to those zero interest loans. Consequently the banks bought securities with the money, causing the stock market to “recover” rapidly but no one else. When upbraided about this anti-social behavior, the Republicans countered with there was “too much uncertainty” in the market for business to expand. They rather should have stated there is too much bullshit in politics; that would have been closer to the truth.

The real reason businesses did not expand with all that cheap money around, is that they possessed even cheaper money (U.S. businesses had $2+ trillion dollars in cash reserves at one point.) and they weren’t spending that either. The reason? Simple: no demand. This is shockingly self-evident for people who know nothing about economics other than “supply and demand.” If there is no demand, supply is irrelevant (even though some economists tried to claim the opposite—see Say’s law). There was no demand because those business’s customers were broke, still are.

So, when Mr. Trump was elected and the GOP captured both houses of Congress, well … “Happy days are here again, the skies …” uh, no? No. Even though gasoline is quite cheap now, no one is buying much. Retail business are offering lower and lower pricing and still no surge in buying.

People are sitting on the sidelines economically because, well, they are uncertain about the future. When a person’s future is potentially very bad, they hunker down, save their money, and prepare for the worst the best they can.

Mr. Trump’s policies have never been particularly coherent, which was by design. When Mr. Trump claimed he was going to deport 11 million “illegals” from the country, many people translated that into “I will have more job opportunities.” (Right, by picking crops and doing day labor out of the local Wal-Mart?) When Mr. Trump claimed that he was going to transform Obamacare into something better, people applied their own definitions of what “better” meant. But healthcare is a complicated subject (“Who knew?”) and Mr. Trump’s party’s first effort at it was horrifically negative. (Hunker, hunker, hunker,…) Then there was the “tax reform” promised. People thought “my taxes will go down” and “I could use the money.” What they didn’t think of was that rich people’s taxes would go down much more, thus reducing government tax receipts, causing many government programs to be terminated, government programs that ordinary citizens are dependent upon, of course, not the rich. (Hunker, hunker, hunker,…) Then the current administration launches missiles in Syria and threatens nuclear war in North Korea. (Hunker, hunker, hunker,…) and….

The economic uncertainty of businesses as a reason for why they weren’t investing in their own businesses was pure political spin. They were anything but uncertain, in fact they were absolutely sure there was no demand, so no expansions. But the economic uncertainty of individual citizens is palpably real. We are not spending much money right now because we don’t know whether we will have affordable healthcare available, whether Social Security will still exist, or Medicare … all of these have been threatened by the GOP.

All of these threats are coming home to roost. We are in line for another recession, possibly as early as this summer. The ordinary tools used to combat recessions are not available (cut interest rates … why? … how?) and the GOP is dead set against deficit spending (the tool that really works) unless it enriches the rich or the military industrial complex.

Buckle your seat belts, folks. If you think things are uncertain right now, well, winter is coming.

Democracy? Naw, Can’t Have That

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:55 am
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For a recent article in The Guardian, a blurb writer came up with the teaser “Theresa May’s Brexit Britain can no longer be considered a serious country.” WTF? Apparently the criticism is being directed at the U.K.’s political leaders, for not having properly husbanded the Brexit voters in the first place and then not adopting enough of a “woe is me” attitude in preparing for the coming event. Those leaders should be preparing the Brits for all of the nasty consequences of the exit of the U.K. from the European union, they say.

Of course, these very same people were ones who believed the best thing European governments could do in the face of the greatest recession since the Great Depression was (is!) to cut government spending and go full austerity, against everything that has worked in the past (primarily government deficit spending to get the economy up and running again). You always need to “consider the audience” if you are the speaker and “consider the speaker” if you are the audience.

Apparently, also, democracy is déclassé. The people should just shut up and let the experts decide things. Populism is now a dirty word. Voters are seen as “politics consumers” who need to be moved to do the “right thing” by modern marketing, big data, and propaganda efforts. Consequently, I believe that even if the U.K. voter’s decision was wrong, I think they were right to bitch slap their political class, if only to show them who is in charge. Politicians should be scurrying around looking for the best way to execute their master’s wishes, not decrying their lack of good sense.

If only the people in this country would do something similar.

I admit to some trepidation that, in our current state of powerlessness, we elected Mr. Trump as our Brexit vote. I guess time will tell. I do not see the election of Mr. Trump having any effect on the normal politics of Washington, D.C. Maybe the midterm elections will tell.

May 3, 2017

The Ann Coulter Brouhaha

Filed under: Culture,Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:25 am
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I don’t get it. Ann Coulter is taking umbrage at being denied a speaker’s platform at the University of California’s Berkeley Campus. Commentators are going some what berserk over this as being part of a trend in which well-known conservatives are being shut out of liberal bastions, the universities. Issues of free speech are being bandied about.

In the case of Ms. Coulter I must ask:

  • Has she ever inventing something?
    • Has she ever discovered something?
    • Has she created ideas that are new?
    • Has she ever done anything important?
    • Does she have anything to offer but her own opinions?

Our universities are places in which we educate people, should not these invited speakers have done something, created something, or discovered something that would enable them to pass on their wisdom to newer generations? Is our only criterion an “invitation” from a campus club?

Is having provocative opinions now “enough” in the way of societal credentials to have a platform at a major university?

May 2, 2017

Please Stop with the “Trump This …” and the Trump That …”

Recent articles have crowed about the GOP cave-in on the budget by talking down Mr. Trump’s vaunted “negotiation skills,” as if the President actually negotiated budget agreements (none do). These headlines are part of a long series of headlines claiming the source of this or that activity by “Trump …” when clearly they are not Mr. Trump’s ideas or initiatives.

To wit: can you name one idea that is Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Trump’s alone? The Wall? Remember John McCain’s campaign stop in Arizona at “the Wall?” Heck, it was being built before Mr. Trump even mentioned it. How about tax reform? (Please, this is as common as there are people with tax axes to grind.) Money for the military? Get tough on NATO … the Chinese (currency manipulators?) … the Russians? All pre-existing ideas.

Can you name one initiative of the GOP that Mr. Trump has tried to husband through? (Hint: There is only one.) The GOP health care initiative? (Got it in one! Good job!). Mr. Trump actually picked up the phone and called some fence-sitting legislators about this one, but clearly this was not Mr. Trump’s plan, it was a mishmash of whatever the GOP thought it could get away with and call it “health insurance reform” or rather “The Repeal of Obamacare!” Mr. Trump did blurt out that he was releasing a tax reform plan within a week, which resulted in that bizarre one page memo that was anything but. Where is the vaunted organizational skills of the GOP on display. Can’t they enroll their usual allies in the Think Tank World to crank out some of these plans, on topics they know they want to address? How could they not come up with a decent tax reform plan? (I can understand the health care miasma (It’s complicated; who knew?), but tax reform is low hanging political fruit.)

I know it is traditional to put the president’s name on all initiatives of his administration, but this is giving our president too much of what he clearly craves: attention. If he deserves it, fire away. Otherwise direct your comments where they belong, at the people leading the charge.

I can’t wait for some foreign leader, when asked to respond to one of Mr. Trump’s tweets or one page memos, to say: “Mr. Trump says many things. We will wait until he actually does something to comment.”

What he has done so far can be described as “a number of things done in the last administration have been undone.”

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