Uncommon Sense

January 10, 2022

The FED Fights Inflation by Making Illegal “Loans” to Big Investment Banks

Filed under: Economics,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 11:23 am
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Read it and weep.

https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/01/michael-hudson-what-is-causing-so-much-inflation.html

“But the Fed isn’t saving the real economy. It’s saving the gamblers.”

January 1, 2022

We Need to Fix Capitalism . . . Now!

Capitalism is quite flawed, but so are all of the other economic/political systems. Some countries have been good at reining capitalism’s excesses . . . this country isn’t one of those.

As I have said, often enough, capitalism’s Achilles’ Heel is that it doesn’t place any limits whatsoever upon greed. I suggest that a good start at reining in the greed woven into the warp and woof of capitalism is to eliminate speculation. There is no inherent good associated with speculation, although there are many associated evils in it; for example, people try over and over to manipulate prices, markets, whatever to make their speculations pay off, legally and illegally. Those are not what might be classified as productive labors.

We need to eliminate speculation as something that doesn’t contribute anything to our society, nor does it contribute anything to individuals. It is a form of gambling, pure and simple.

There is something called the “futures markets” in which prices are set now for sales that will take place in the future for various commodities. The buyers are hoping the prices go up and they will get a deal when that sale is triggered and the sellers are hoping the prices are going to go down, so they will get a fatter price for their goods. In an ideal world this process helps to moderate price changes, but in the world we live in, it is just another form of gambling.

The stock markets are dominated by secondary sales, making the story about the role of such markets in our economy we are taught in school to be a very, very minor form of providing capital for businesses. Instead these markets are very close to just being casinos where rich people gamble.

Let me explain how these capitalistic devices have taken over. If you go to the store and buy, say, a shirt in most states you will pay a sales tax, up to almost 10% of the price of the item (although a small number of states charge nothing, but I think there are just five of those). But if you buy a share of stock, what “sales tax” to you pay? The answer is nada, zip, zilch, no tax at all. Some items, such as alcoholic beverages, include what used to be called “sin taxes.” Extra taxes are levied upon alcoholic beverages to discourage their consumption (Get behind me, Demon Rum!). We do the same for gasoline in which there are substantial taxes, both federal and state, paid and then sales taxes added on top of those! We could do the same for stock transactions. This would discourage speculation, certainly the practice of buying a stock and selling in when its price went up a few cents, often just seconds or minutes after the buying transaction. (Amazing what you can do with computers!) If the profits from the sale didn’t cover the sales taxes, those sales wouldn’t be made.

Plus people who buy and sale and trade stocks contribute nothing to our society. Extensive studies show that stock markets are actually a drag on our economy (they extract funds from the economy without producing anything in exchange). We, at least, need to slow their roll.

Currently we have a patent system, a flawed system but it works . . . kind of, sort of. Drug companies have become adept at acquiring patents and then jacking up the prices for the goods produced under those patents. A current example is insulin. One vial of insulin lispro (Humalog), which used to cost $21 in 1999, costs $332 in 2019, reflecting a price increase of more than 1000%. The cost of manufacturing that drug has barely changed over that same time period. We could change patent laws to prevent such abuses. “What the market will bear” is not a limit upon greed. These same pharmaceutical companies have also taken to making very, very (very!) minor changes in their drug’s formulations to apply for new patents, extending their “right” to make as much money as they want. Patents were supposed to, were designed to, expire so that those things end up belonging to the commonweal. Often the public has already paid to research that drug in the first place through public universities and federal institutions and research funding. The same thing is woven into our copyright laws with written works and others eventually ending up in the public domain.

We have tools to rein in greed in capitalism but the current greedy class has acquired so much wealth that they are blocking access to the political gears of government to make such reforms. If we do not act soon, it will be too late. The only result of extreme wealth inequality is armed strife.

December 29, 2021

Only In the American South

Filed under: Culture,Education,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 1:10 pm
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I just read a news tidbit regarding legislation pending in Oklahoma: “You know how Texas has turned everyday folks into anti-abortion bounty hunters? Oklahoma saw that and thought, why not do the same thing, but for books? The state’s Senate Bill 1142, if passed, would allow any public school parent to demand that a book they don’t like be removed, assuming the book relates to, as the bill states, ‘the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature.’ And if the book isn’t chucked within 30 days? The parent gets $10,000 … per day until the book is removed.” (source: The Morning Heresy)

Trying to see both sides of this “desire” on the part of parents (if any were actually involved in the creation of this legislation) to have some control over what their children are exposed to in public schools, I could envision a system in which a parent could supply a list of the books currently available in their child’s library which could then be flagged whenever their child seeks to check out a book, so that they could not check out books objectionable to his/her parents. This legislation, however, seeks not to control just one parent’s kid’s reading choices, but all kid’s reading choices. Control your own children’s reading all you want, but this legislation denies not just your child’s choices but my child’s choices, too.

This sounds like just another Trojan Horse issue dreamt up by Republicans to distract their state’s citizens from what their real mission is (to make the rich richer).

December 16, 2021

Equal Protection Under the Law

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 11:32 am
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Conservatives, especially conservative SCOTUS justices, would like nothing more than to repeal Roe v. Wade and turn the issue over to the states.

They are claiming this is the “democratic” thing to do.

Political cartoonists are our modern court jesters, but that doesn’t mean they play fair.

But this is not the issue. The issue is whether there is equal protection under the law. If this issue is detailed to the states the following scenario is very likely to happen. In one hospital, a woman receives a safe abortion, paid for by her medical insurance, and is released into the care of her family. Twenty miles away, a doctor giving a woman an abortion is arrested and charged with murder. So is the woman who hired the doctor to do the procedure, so is her husband for driving his wife to her medical clinic.

The difference? In the twenty miles separating the two facilities is a state border.

The federal government has stepped in over and over . . . and over, to make policies consistent across state lines to ensure “equal protection under the law.”

There are only a few issues over which it has demurred, e.g. capital punishment, although it has restricted the methods by which capital punishment can be imposed.

Surely the legality of the procedure is a matter of interstate commerce, no? Can a legal procedure in one state carry a death penalty in another?

Instead of turning it over to the states, we would be much better off to do what Canada has done; it forbade legislation on the matter, declaring it a personal matter, not a public matter. Canada has no laws, other than the health and safety laws governing all medical procedures, on the topic . . . none. And I just can’t believe that all Canadians are going to Hell because of their sensibility.

December 5, 2021

Decisions Have Consequences

Filed under: Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 8:45 am
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It now looks like the current majority on the Supreme Court of the U.S. has its wish, a case that will allow it to set aside almost forty year old precedent and eliminate the guideline of Roe v. Wade. The basis for this decision will more than likely not be made clear, as the Roe decision simply limited the ability of the states to restrict abortion to prior to a certain time in a pregnancy. It is not about abortion per se, but is about limiting the ability of state to declare medical procedures as legal, illegal, etc.

If they return this power to the states, what happens to the Federal requirement to provide “equal protection” under the law.

States will then be allowed to declare this or that medical procedure as restricted or even illegal, while in a neighboring state it could be perfectly legal, as surely will happen if they return control over medical procedures to the states.

The objections to abortion are almost solely vested in religious organizations and beliefs. What happens to freedom of religion and from religion is a dominant religion in a state gets laws passed that support their religious position and not the others. Do, we just let the religious wars begin?

And why are conservatives so hell-bent to restrict the personal freedom of couples making serious medical decisions in consultation with their doctors? Apparently they want the “freedom” not to wear masks and social distance themselves in a deadly pandemic, but don’t want people to have the freedom of choosing a safe medical procedure for family planning.

November 21, 2021

Kyle Rittenhouse Redux

Filed under: Culture,The Law,The News — Steve Ruis @ 9:28 am
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So, the criminal trial is over and Kyle Rittenhouse is off the hook, right? Well . . .

Mr. Rittenhouse is off the hook for jail time, but now, one would expect, the civil suits should begin. I believe “wrongful death” cases will be brought, one for each victim, and I do not expect Mr. Rittenhouse to win all of these or even one of these.

The penalties in wrongful death suits can sometimes be discharged in bankruptcy courts but that is not a done deal. The amounts of money in such penalties are often tied to the amounts of money the dead people could have made had they lived, so Mr. Rittenhouse is looking at a future of being a very poor person, or . . . if the right wing assholes of this country embrace him, he could have a decent life but, of course, his notoriety will follow him.

October 8, 2021

They Made it Acceptable

Recently a New Hampshire state government meeting was disrupted by rowdy protestors. The meeting was halted after Department of Health and Human Services employees felt threatened and left the building under State Police escort, something that has not happened in New Hampshire before.

New Hampshire politics has always been passionate (their state motto is “Live Free or Die” for Pete’s sake) but has always been civil until now. Similarly it’s happening across the nation: Angry anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers are undermining democracy, science, and civil society. They are disrupting school board meetings, town council meetings, any gathering where a loud minority can shout down elected officials.

Why this outbreak? Why now?

As I understand it, it is because of the January 6th raid on the Federal Capitol by Trump insurrectionists. The key point is: they got away with it. Just like the Abu Ghraib torture incidents, a few underlings are thrown under the bus, but the people in charge get away scot free. Anytime an outrageous outlier occurs, it empowers people to fill the gap between the former “most outrageous thing possible” and the new “most outrageous thing possible.”

This is the true danger the Trump administration posed and poses to our political system. People self-limit their behaviors, but when someone ignores norms by such a degree, something half as bad seems acceptable. One act of an extremist creates new spaces to fit in lesser activities that exceed former boundaries but are now not considered the worst thing that could happen. And the people doing those things would never have gone that far before.

Trump has empowered all of these people to act this way with little fear of punishment. We need to bring back the stocks and public humiliations.

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?

It’s All About Me and My Freedom to Choose

The current meme expressed in the title of this piece is killing our democracy. I will endeavor to argue that it is not all about you and your freedom to choose anything, really.

Herds of people are declining to get vaccinated from a lethal disease because “it’s all about them and their freedom to choose.” Similarly, many people are supporting often iffy charter schools and voucher programs because “it’s all about them and their freedom to choose.”

Backing up this position, they say that the Christian god has given them freewill which they interpret as the “freedom to choose.” What they forget is that the vast majority of commandments in the scripture are about living together amicably. The Hebrew Bible tells the Jews that they are to live with other Jews, eat with other Jews, marry other Jews, raise only Jewish children, worship with other Jews, eschew relationships with non-Jews, etc. Those commandments even tell them how to live together, how to do rituals together, how to raise their children, how to worship together.

“If you think your god gave you free will then I assume you also believe your god gave you a brain to think with. Think before you act. Your actions have consequences for us all, not just you.”

Gosh, do you think that Yahweh believed in your “freedom to choose?” Many of Yahweh’s commandments tell you what will happen to you if you choose other than Yahweh wishes. Most times, the punishment is death. Have a rebellious teenager? Take them to the city gates and have your “neighbors” (“neighbors” always means fellow Jews in the Bible) stone them to death. If a bride turns out not to be a virgin, the penalty is death (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). And on and on. Does this sound like the freedom to choose to you? It sounds like it is Yahweh’s way or the highway to me. The primary focus of all of the Christian literature (Yes, New Testament and Old Testament) is obedience, thinking and doing what the Christian god wants you to think and do. The ultimate punishment for failing to do just that is post-death torture for all of eternity.

So, I ask all of these “personal freedom advocates” in the above circumstances—are you a Christian? If so you are being disobedient to your god’s will and will burn in Hell forever and ever, amen. (Hey, you chose to abide by those rules; I did not choose them for you.)

The Christian god wants us to live together in peace and harmony. The only way to do so is to balance personal choices and responsibilities with collective choices and responsibilities. By living in this country you are agreeing to live this way. We voluntarily agreed to a set of rules to live by. If you do not like those rules you are allowed to lobby to get them changed but you are not allowed to just ignore them or violate them willy-nilly.

By placing you “personal freedoms” above our agreed upon collective freedoms, you jeopardize the entire society. By insisting upon your own schools, your own medicine, your own science, your own religious beliefs you are denying your responsibility to living peacefully with all of the rest of us and are opposing your god’s will.

If you think your god gave you free will then I assume you also believe your god gave you a brain to think with. Think before you act. Your actions have consequences for us all, not just you.

July 23, 2021

Are Religious Exceptions to Vaccination Requirements Valid?

According to the LA Times:

“Many universities, including the University of California, are requiring vaccination for all students, staff and faculty returning to campus. Many employers, public and private, are doing so as well. These policies are essential to protect public health. The virulent Delta variant of the Coronavirus has made it imperative to ensure vaccination of as many people as possible.

“Unfortunately, though, many of these policies have an exception for those who have a religious objection to vaccination. These are neither required by the law nor are they desirable as a matter of policy because they make it possible for anyone to circumvent the vaccine mandate.

“The UC’s mandatory vaccination policy, for example, has an exception for those who object on religious grounds. It states that this is because the law requires such an exemption, declaring: “The University is required by law to offer reasonable accommodations to . . . employees who object to vaccination based on their sincerely-held religious belief, practice, or observance.”

“This is simply wrong as a matter of law. No law requires such a religious exemption. In terms of free exercise of religion under the 1st Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago in Employment Division vs. Smith that the Constitution does not require exceptions to general laws for religious beliefs. In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court said that as long as a law is neutral, not motivated by a desire to interfere with religion and of general applicability to all individuals, it cannot be challenged based on free exercise of religion. In June, in Fulton vs. City of Philadelphia, the court reaffirmed this legal test.

“Laws that require vaccination are the epitome of a neutral law of general applicability: a requirement that applies to everyone and that was not motivated by a desire to interfere with religion. Even if this were not so, the government can infringe on religious freedom if its action is necessary to achieve a compelling interest.”

Okay, now let us consider the “religious” basis for such objections. Most of the objectors in this country are Christians, so I will comment from that viewpoint.

Do you see anywhere in the New Testament, or even the Old for that matter, where it says “Thou shalt not vaccinate”? or “Thou shalt not take medicine of any kind?” or “Thou shalt not befoul your body, the temple of your soul?” Anything? No? Hmm, interesting.

Religion is the third rail of American politics, not Social Security or any other policy. (For those not getting the reference to a “third rail” it comes from electric trains in which the wheels of the cars travel on the normal two rails but a third rail is added to supply the electric power needed to make the train go. Touching either of the two and the third rail results in a massive amount of electricity coursing through your body and usually death. S)

Religion is such a hot button issue, if someone claims a religious basis for and exception to law or rules, we accept that without comment. We do not require people to fill out a form explaining the source of the objection with appropriate references and citations. Nope, we just accept what is claimed as being valid. (What can you expect from a government that accepted Scientology as a legitimate religion?)

Basically what we have here is people who are saying “Neener, neener, neener, you can’t make me! Uh, ‘cause, ‘cause . . . the Bible says so!”

No, it does not and we have to stop pretending that thousand year old documents, especially those which claim that diseases come from demon possession are fit guides to modern life.

There is a long history of “religious exemption” claims from fundamentalist theists. They opposed smallpox vaccination because it was against God’s will. They have opposed many other medical treatments as being “against God’s will” without showing how the heck they know what God’s will is. And endangering many of the rest of us. I think they are opposing modernity as a whole because they are losing an understanding of how they fit into our culture. Instead if white neighbors being the norm, now they neighbors “of color,” and . . . gasp . . . people of different cultures. It just offends their sense of the way things s’posed to be.

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