Uncommon Sense

October 19, 2021

What is a Corporatist Society?

(Sorry this is so long. It seemed warranted. Steve)

If you live in the U.S., just look around, you are living in such a society right now.

This country was founded as a republic, not a democracy, a republic being a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president with powers limited by law rather than a monarch. We created a government in which each of us was no longer the subject of some monarch; we were citizens, not subjects.

That is all fine and well, but we lost all of that a while back. We are now back to being subjects again. While there is no monarch there is a ruling clique of corporatists, meaning that our governments are run for the benefit of those corporations and subject to their desires and whims, rather than our own.

Consider the fact that our national government only pays attention to the needs of what is called “the donor class,” which you and I know as the filthy rich. If you are a substantial donor to a political party, your needs are attended to. If you are middle class or poor, you have zero chance of getting any attention, even from those elected to represent you. And “zero chance” is not hyperbole, that’s what the research showed.

So, the very rich are running the federal government and most of the state governments in the same fashion. So who are these “very rich” people? We used to think of the very rich as those with inherited wealth, but those days are past. Sure, there are a few very wealthy people who inherited their money and they got inheritance taxes reduced to zero so they can pass it all onto their children, but they are a small minority now. The very rich are now typically corporation executives. And they have corporatist mindsets.

A corporatist mindset is believing that corporations are the best structures to govern human activities. Did not a corporation recognize their personal qualities and reward them mightily. How could they be anything but perfect? You will have heard from these people that “government should be run like a business (aka corporation)” and “schools should be run like businesses/corporations,” etc.

These people have gotten the courts they purchased to establish that corporations have the rights of citizens, making the transition from imaginary person for business purposes only to political person in one court ruling. The rights of “corporations” to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns was established recently. Oh, and if you thought that the employees or even the shareholders of a corporation got to determine where its “campaign donations” went, dream on. Those decisions are made by the executives of those corporation, aka the filthy rich.

Now you may be thinking that this is all a bit much, but if you take a step back and look at the life experience of just any old citizen, you will see what is involved. For example, when a child is born, whether their mother got good medical care depended upon whether they had good insurance. Poor pre-natal medical care is part of a pattern that results in skimpy lives for the children. And good insurance is a fringe benefit associated with a shrinking number of jobs and are controlled by the employers (aka corporatists). So, you are born and grow up and then attend school. So, what are you taught in school? Increasingly, and all the way up and down the ladder, that education is focused on acquiring a “good job” when you become an adult. Recently education reformers wanted you to be asked to read more “informational texts” and less classic literature. My home state of California used to have a series of “readers” for each grade level. The works to be read were challenging and included extracts from Mark Twain, the Bible, James Fennimore Cooper, Nathanial Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and more of their ilk. Obviously those California State Readers tended be supporters of the status quo, patriotic, and so on but none of them, to my recall, involved a shop manual for a Ford pick-up truck or a treatise on writing contracts. But now that the corporatists are in charge they want to make sure you can fix the department’s printer when it jams. They have no need for humanist texts that allow us to see one another more clearly and see the virtues that make a society that makes for happier and safer citizens, no need at all.

The corporatists now in charge have a Taylorite view of humanity that makes each of us a cog in their mechanism. So, if our growing citizen goes to college they will find that more and more the programs there are tailored, pun intended, to jobs they might get. If you ask students what their goals are, the majority will respond with “to get a good job” or “a job that pays a lot of money.” They are not stupid, they got the message.

So, they graduate, or not, and they seek and acquire a job. Who in that job has the bulk of the power: the employer or the employee? Analyzed economically, there should be a 50:50 power balance there. This is what free markets create, or so say the corporatists. The corporatists absolute hate free markets. But they recognize the propaganda power of the word “free.” The markets they like are those they can manipulate and dominate, and dictate to. A “free market” is a level paying field and only chumps play on a level playing field.

The corporatists used their political power to not only expand their own power but to limit the powers of their opposition. Labor unions, for example, were quite powerful after WW2. Have you notice them lately? No? That is because the corporatists used the political power their money bought to crush them. While the private sector used to have about 33% of its jobs covered by a union contract, that is now about 6%. Crushed. The only remaining institutional power that can oppose the wills of the corporatists is government and the corporatists have bought enough politicians to make that source opposition neutered.

So, who has the power in the employee-employer relationship? The employers. And they use it. They arbitrary transform their employee’s pension plans into plans that cost them much less and pay their employees much less in the process. They change work rules as they see fit. They ship entire factories overseas and if they keep you on as an employee, it is only to train your less expensive replacement.

So, you work and you work, then you are fired so they can hire a cheaper replacement. Corporatists are so addicted to that power that they often fire people critical for their corporations or fire so many support staff that their critical people look for other employment because of that. Basically, if they meet their stock market goals and retire before it all falls apart, corporation executives are good with that. Golden parachutes make for soft landings.

So, you skimp along or are “comfortable” in your retirement and are no longer of interest to the corporatist, other than as a voter. Old people vote, so the corporatists have massive propaganda machines that use fear and other levers to get you to vote in alignment with their interests. They also trump up phony issues to keep you riled up and distracted.

Then you die, your whole life having been dominated by corporate interests. You served “your country” well, were a good provider for “your family,” and a pillar of “your community.” Now replace all of the parentheticals in that sentence with “your corporation(s)” and you will have it about right.

Please do not mistake my intent. I am not claiming there is a cabal of corporations or some Big Brother Corp. running the show. No, it is people with corporate mindsets, acting independently and occasionally in concert who are doing this.

And we let them and continue to let them by buying into the way they see the world.

The COVID pandemic is showing the corporatists what is in their future. People are not returning to the bullshit jobs the corporations created. People are figuring out different ways to live. People are starting their own businesses which are not part of the cabal.

It is a start but a lot more needs to be done.

If you are interested in this topic please read “The Unconscious Civilization” by John Ralston Saul. I dog-eared so many pages that I gave up on a book report. I will just weave what he saw into my writing more and more.

October 18, 2021

Are We Animals or Spiritual Beings?

Filed under: Culture,History,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 12:36 pm
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Honestly, this was a question I encountered on the Medium.com site. The question seems to preclude being both an animal and a spiritual being, but let’s not quibble. Animals are clearly defined as having: a multicellular body, specialized sense organs, voluntary movement, responses to factors in the environment and the ability to acquire and digest food. The root of the word focuses on the motion aspect, animals are animated, that is they move voluntarily.

So, no confusion there.

Now, a spiritual being? Whoa, a whole lot of definitions here. One is: an incorporeal being believed to have powers to affect the course of human events.

So, incorporeal, not having a body. Well, question answered. Humans have bodies, so they cannot be spiritual beings.

But human beings have souls, no? So, we could be both an animal and a spiritual being.

Human beings have souls, no? Human beings have souls . . . no. The existence of a soul is a conjecture that lacks any kind of proof or even supporting evidence. Lots of speculation, no proof, so this is not a path to an answer to the question.

The evidence is clear that we are animals. Whether we are also anything else is open to question, but spirits and ghosts should not be high on anyone’s list of component parts of human beings.

It is clear where the idea of ghosts and spirits came from. When we were very primitive, we experienced the deaths of members of our family or tribe. We might have buried their dead bodies so they would not attract predators. But at night when we dreamed, those loved ones came back to us. And when we woke they were gone. So, somehow our loved ones were still with us. Over time, however, their nocturnal visits shrank and shrank as memories of them faded. When they stopped coming at all, the question became “where did they go?” Wishful thinking had us suggesting and then believing that they left “here” and went to some sort of happy place, one in which their aches and pains were no more, they didn’t have to work, food was plentiful and good, etc.

And we told stories to our tribe about what happened in our dreams. Sometimes those stories helped us either to remember old solutions to new problems or suggested new solutions to new problems, making the spirits of the ancestors helpful. As we continued to bury our dead we began to include “grave goods” special items identified with the deceased or helpful on their “journey” to the Happy Place.

When tribes congregated to trade, swapping stories would be a safe way to interact with those “others.” If their stories aligned with ours, the elders in our tribe would nod wisely stating that our beliefs were true, were even universal. The “others” were not automatically assumed to be wrong. When they were right, it reinforced one’s beliefs and made trade a little easier, made intermarriage a little easier, and had positive effects.

Spiritual beings are made of spiritual whole cloth. They existed to explain things that were not otherwise understandable by primitive beings. That we struggle to define such things today is a sign that they are invented, imaginary things, not real things. They were invented by people who asked the question “Is this all there is?” before they were capable of answering it. The people who continue this belief are either too lazy to actually investigate it or to invested in their answer to want to do so. Having “special knowledge” always has made one special in the eyes of others, which leads to people inventing their special knowledge, rather that earning it the old fashioned way.

October 13, 2021

They Just Make This Shit Up

Filed under: History,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:57 am
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From an article in Politico:

The archbishop of the U.S. military said on Tuesday that Catholic troops could refuse the mandated COVID vaccine on religious grounds.

“No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” Timothy Broglio, archbishop for the military services, said in a statement.

Since Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a military-wide vaccine mandate this summer, Broglio said, some service members have requested a religious exemption through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While he said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had determined that being vaccinated was “not sinful,” the church valued its teachings on the “sanctity of conscience.”

“This circumstance raises the question of whether the vaccine’s moral permissibility precludes an individual from forming a sincerely held religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience,” he wrote. “It does not.”

Broglio has expressed support for President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for the military in the past — citing guidance from Pope Francis, the Holy See and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that the COVID shots are morally acceptable.

According to Merriam-Webster the noun conscience refers to “a state of awareness or a sense that one’s actions or intentions are either morally right or wrong, along with a feeling of obligation to do the right thing.”

So, the Pope and all of the Catholic hierarchy have declared that being vaccinated was not only “not sinful” meaning that it does not go against their god’s will, but that it is moral, too. (Could it be immoral and not sinful both? I don’t think so.”) But an individual Catholic can trump those positions and say that his “conscience” forbids getting vaccinated.

WTF?

These people making this claim need to be required to explain and support their “religious exemption” since their religious leaders are claiming there is no such thing. And, of course, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not just some vague voice in their head or vague “feeling.”

Conscientious objectors to military service, if their status was accepted, were required to do public service. Maybe we need these “conscientious objectors” to do the same; maybe helping to dig graves for the COVID dead or clean hospital wards, etc.

And, the archbishop of the U.S. military should know better. His church only supports individual’s consciences when they are in line with Catholic doctrine or pronouncements. If you doubt this, look up “Catholic liberation theology” as it played out in Central and South America. The individual consciences of those priests and nuns amounted to nada and they received no support whatsoever and many were killed for their principled stand.

October 12, 2021

Why Even Trump Doesn’t Believe in the Stolen Election Claim

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 11:40 am
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I can conclude the above from the simple fact that Trump declared ahead of time that if he lost, it could only be because of voter fraud. Inquiring minds would want to know things like “How could Mr. Trump have known this to be true?” and “How could anyone know that this were true?” but our so-called news media didn’t pick up on this, they were too busy rubbing their hands over the visions of profits dancing in their heads from all of the craziness to report upon.

Allow me to use a scenario to explain why Mr. Trump’s declaration being ahead of time being telling. The scenario is a Sunday night poker game at your neighbor’s house. One game, your neighbor had some out-of-town relatives in  who got seats at the table. All night long, the newcomers seemed to win most of the pots and all you did was lose. The next day while you were at work, bemoaning your luck at the game you realized that your neighbor’s relatives were card sharps and you just got taken in a crooked game.

That is a somewhat normal expectation as to how things would go.

Now consider this. Before that Sunday game, you got a phone call from your neighbor explaining his out-of-town relatives were card sharps and had been run out of another town for their activities. He told you that the game would be rigged, so if you came and played, you should expect to lose. He was calling because his reputation for running a fair game was at stake and he didn’t want to lose his neighbor as a friend.

So, would you play? No? Yes?

You would play only if you were a complete idiot. After your money was lost, complaints to law enforcement officials might get the card sharps run out of town, but it wouldn’t get your money back.

So, Mr. Trump is claiming that that election was rigged against him and he went ahead and played anyway. Were he a true believer, he would have decried the rigged election and given the inside evidence he had that it was so to the election authorities, so that a fair election could be had.

This, of course, was not what happened. Mr. Trump lost quite handily, then whined about losing, then claimed victory, then election fraud and filed lawsuits, made claims of interference, etc. none of which actually played out in court. These are the actions of someone who knew he was going to lose and wanted to have excuses why that was so. Only a sucker would say, “The American people have chosen” and then ride off into the sunset.

Now it seems that he is coming back for another round, which is the equivalent of taking a seat at a known crooked poker game a second time, and making the same kinds of claims as he did before, also ahead of time.

Donald Trump is not smart enough to be the Mafia Boss his actions suggest him to be. His idea of a protection racket is an ego protection racket, guaranteed to not make him any money nor win him enough votes.

Equally stunning is how many Republican leaders willingly follow along in this farce.

October 8, 2021

Driving the GOP into an Early Grave

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 11:27 am
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The navigator-in-chief of the Republican Party sure seems to be Donald J. Trump. Let’s see how he has prompted the growth of the GOP since his elevation into that position.

  • The GOP has gotten tied ever more closely to Evangelical Christianity.
    • The GOP has become more anti-science based.
    • The GOP has become tied to alternative facts that they just make up.
    • The GOP has become tied to news media that are estranged from decent journalism.
    • The GOP has sought out voter suppression instead of expanding their base.
    • etc.

There are some consequences to this. Here are just a few:
• Since 2006, white evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation, shrinking from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020. That proportion has generally held steady since 2017 (15% in 2017, 2018, and 2019). There are some that argue that the politicization of churches has accelerated this drop in evangelicalism.
• But supporting anti-vaccination and anti-mask fringe groups, the GOP has put more of its members at risk, especially since currently the GOP constituency is quite old. These policies are disproportionally resulting in Republicans getting sick and/or dying. The GOP is killing off its own members.
• By refusing to expand their bases and focusing on voter suppression more, the GOP is undermining their future. As their membership gets older, whiter, and less connected with reality, joining the GOP seems more and more like joining a cult, so they are losing traction with young people.
• By undermining trust in societies institutions, the GOP is undermining their own ideology. And its members are trusting their doctors, teachers, local officials, etc. less and less, creating more and more disharmony.

As I watched this unfold, I though Mr. Trump was driving the GOP into a ditch. Now it looks as if, by doubling down, he is driving the GOP into an early grave,

R.I.P. GOP.

October 3, 2021

Religious Exemptions

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason,Religion,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 9:47 am
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The State of Missouri is in a state of turmoil right now looking much like a COVID-19 battleground. Missouri is not just in the Bible Belt (in some areas there is a church at every intersection), but also where my two sisters and many of their children live, so this is personal as well as a public issue for me.

When I hear people claiming a religious exemption to mask mandates or vaccination urges, the only thing I can think of is this:

Romans 13:1-7
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same.

1 Timothy 2:1-3
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.

Titus 3:1
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.

1 Peter 2:13-14
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

Mark 12:17
And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

Hebrews 13:17
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

1 Peter 5:5
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Source: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Obedience,-To-Human-Authorities

Why is it necessary for atheists to remind Christians of their own scriptures?

October 1, 2021

Rationalizing for Jesus

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:50 am
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I have always wondered why the religious, Christians mostly, are often trying so hard to prove the existence of Jesus or Yahweh. And if the going gets tough they retreat behind a shield of faith. (“You have to respect my beliefs, my faith! Really? Why is that?) The religious experience seems not to be a rational one. (People always take this as a slam, but it is not.) This means they didn’t arrive at their faith through reasoning and reasons.

In a recent Medium.com post Benjamin Cain said this:

Alas, Christian apologists can’t afford to go all the way with an existential appeal to faith. If we’re all just taking shots in the dark, how could God justify punishing anyone for rejecting the Christian’s shot in the dark? If there’s no such punishment, the New Testament can’t be taken at face value. That way lies something like subversive Gnosticism, which the Church rejected for being incompatible with the aim of building a sustainable Christian institution.
(Benjamin Cain on Medium, 9-26-21)

This is the crux of the matter for Christians (pun intended?). They are stuck. If they just use a faith argument, it undermines their entire worldview. If they use reasoned arguments, they run up against an appalling lack of evidence. On Q&A sites, like Quora, atheists are often asked what sort of evidence would convince us of the existence of their god (not just any god, it has to be their god). As I have said, even recently, if Jesus were to appear on the White House lawn, floating on air, and asked to have scientists and people needing healing to be gathered around him, and then answered questions that science had not yet answered, which could then be verified, and healed those who were afflicted, including the regrowth of amputated limbs, then I would be somewhat on board. This is something such a god could do and do simultaneously at many sites around the globe, no?

The reason that I would not be 100% on board with the god concept is Clarke’s third law: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Is this god merely a very advanced alien (think of the character Q on the STNG series) or a supernatural being as is claimed? Possibly it makes no difference. I don’t think I would be inclined to worship either kind of entity. (What worthy entity would desire worship? Ewww.)

 

September 29, 2021

Logic, People, L–O–G–I–C

Filed under: Culture,Medicine,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:39 am
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Consider the following photograph.

The Young lady’s tee-shirt is implying that since Jesus wasn’t vaccinated, then she doesn’t need to be either.

I think this person needs a lesson or two in logic. According to her, Jesus wasn’t vaccinated, but then he wasn’t exposed to COVID-19, either and, well, vaccinations hadn’t been invented, yet.

Would it have not been better, instead, to ask “What would Jesus do?” And then answer “In order to love my neighbor, I will get vaccinated.”

In addition, Jesus, she claims, is a god. Gods don’t get sick unless they want to. Is she a god? No? Just an ordinary human? I wonder if she thinks that all of the rules that apply to gods also apply to her.

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.

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