Class Warfare Blog

November 7, 2017

Shocking News! White House NRA Spokesman Lies

White House NRA spokesman Donald J. Trump added that if “Good Samaritan” Stephen Willeford had not had a gun, “instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead” in reference to the latest mass shooting in Texas.

Uh, this doesn’t quite add up. At the scene and in the perpetrator’s vehicle, authorities found at least 15 empty 30-round ammunition magazines along with two handguns, a Glock 9mm and a Ruger 22, found in his car.

I do not want to diminish the bravery of the two gentlemen who distracted the shooter, but if he still had enough ammo to shoot “hundreds more” why did he run from two guys, one of whom was unarmed? No mention has been made of any full ammo clips fitting into his AR-15 clone being found, so was he going to shoot down “hundreds” with the Glock and Ruger .22?

As usual the NRA spokesman told these lies in a easy, comforting, reassuring manner, as all NRA spokesmen do. Later he added, “There’s nothing to see here. Move along” and “In lieu of actual legislation, people are urged to send hopes and prayers that this won’t happen to them. In God we trust! he can protects us! Except, well, in schools, and churches, and music concerns, and movie theaters, and … well, you know.”

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October 20, 2017

We the … Government

Filed under: Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:09 am

The next time you hear a conservative talking about “the government,” or in political parlance “the guvmint,” I want you to try a little experiment. Our government, a vast experiment in self-governance when it was first started, is a mechanism by which “we the people” act collectively. As our representative for collective action, the word “government” is a stand-in for “we” or “us.” So when you hear some conservative stalwart saying “I don’t want the government taking responsibility to feed the hungry,” they are actually saying “I don’t want us taking responsibility to feed the hungry.”

Apply this little rhetorical device when you hear things like:
•  Government is inept and most government policies fail.
•  Government only interferes with the efficient operation of a market economy. Capitalism would be better off without government.
•  Government is the problem. Its programs create more problems than they solve.
•  The main threat to our civil liberties comes from big government.
•  Most Americans dislike government and would like to reduce it.
•  Churches and private charities could take the place of government in addressing many social problems.
•  Only a liberal would think that government is good.
•  Government is the enemy of business.

When translated we find what they are actually saying is:
•  We are inept and most of our policies fail.
•  We only interfere with the efficient operation of a market economy. Capitalism would be better off without us.
•  The main threat to our civil liberties comes from us.
•  Only a liberal would think that we are good.
•  We are the enemy of business.

The anti-government politicians are basically asking us, as citizens, to sit down, shut up, and not interfere is their sponsor’s private affairs. Unfortunately their “private affairs” are polluting the commons, aka the land, the air, and the waters we all need to live, as well as profiting greatly from human misery. We, the people, have banned prostitution. If that ban were not in place, what do you think would happen? We, the people, have banned child labor. If that ban were not in place, what do you think would happen? We, the people, have banned slavery. If that ban were not in place, what do you think would happen? We, the people, have banned selling liquor to minors. If that ban were not in place, what do you think would happen? Need I go on?

What is most ironic is that those politicians who wail against the evils of government enabled all of the ones they point to. Politicians decry the “bloated federal tax code” which, if you were to remove all of the special interest provisions, written by businesses themselves, would shrink the code by three quarters. The politicians who decry massive government regulation of business don’t seem to notice that most of those regulations were sponsored by businesses trying to get a competitive advantage over other businesses. Politicians don’t sit around trying to think up new regulations; they don’t know enough to come up with but a few. Most regulations are promoted by think tanks (supported by the wealthy and by businesses) and by lobbyists (paid for mostly by businesses). The number of “do gooder” lobbyists is miniscule in comparison.

These are people who have selectively breed sheep to docility for generations and then offer them up as a metaphor for spinelessness. I am surprised there is a single mirror in the Congress because those people need to take a good look at themselves and, if they did honestly, wouldn’t like what they saw. (Unless they did and then we would know they are truly despicable.)

 

October 16, 2017

The Political-Economic Elites

I made the point in a recent post (It All Is Starting to Come Together … and It Does Not Look Good, October 15, 2017) that civilization was created by elites coercing “citizens” into doing work that then supplied the elites with enough food and more. The methods of coercion were by means of physical force and through religious threats and promises. In our current world, the physical threats are less often delivered by thugs/warriors and more often delivered through politics, that is through rules, laws, and the threats of legal and police actions. For example, the rich think nothing of lowering their own tax burdens and shifting that burden onto the farmer class. What are we for, otherwise?

All of this comes from greed on the part of the elites. Greed causes the amassing of great wealth and then the wealth is used as a status symbol, even a symbol of cultural superiority. The old saw was that the rich were born on third base, thinking they hit a triple.

A classic example is available to us now in the form of our current federal Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Like all such secretaries, she was appointed by a rich and powerful person, and then confirmed by another set of rich and powerful persons (just barely, being confirmed in a “tie-breaker”).

You can find much of what you need to know from Mrs. DeVos’s Wikipedia page:

Elisabeth Dee DeVos (/dəˈvɒs/; née Prince; born January 8, 1958) is an American businesswoman, politician, and the 11th and current United States Secretary of Education.

Her credentials as a rich person are also evident:

DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, the former CEO of the multi-level marketing company Amway, and is the daughter-in-law of Amway’s billionaire co-founder, Richard DeVos. Her brother, Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, is the founder of Blackwater USA. Their father is Edgar Prince, founder of the Prince Corporation. In 2016, the DeVos family was listed by Forbes as the 88th richest family in America, with an estimated net worth of $5.4 billion.

Since, when describing her wealth they refer to her relatives, we suspect that it was acquired through inheritance and/or marriage, but there is a reference to her being a “businesswoman,” so maybe she has acquired some of her wealth through skill, so back to Wikipedia:

DeVos is chairwoman of the Windquest Group, a privately held operating group that invests in technology, manufacturing, and clean energy. DeVos and her husband founded it in 1989.

An investment group, not a real business, and with her rich husband … so, her wealth was not acquired through her own skill, but like all rich people of this ilk “her” wealth translates into an attitude of wanting to reshape the world to their liking, in this particular case, through education.

So, politics provides the physical force to coerce the “farmer” class into doing what the elites wish … still. I wonder about whether the religion coercion will be there, too. Ah … again according to Wikipedia:

DeVos in 2001 listed education activism and reform efforts as a means to “advance God’s Kingdom.” In an interview that year, she also said that “changing the way we approach … the system of education in the country … really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run.”

Apparently God’s Kingdom on Earth involves many, many serfs working frantically to make wealth for the already wealthy.

And the agenda being promoted by Secretary DeVos? It seems to be the defunding and/or destruction of our current public schools system, which despite the current massive negative propaganda campaign, is working better than ever (the corporate media won’t run a story counter to the narrative that the schools are failing) and replacing those schools with charter schools and educational vouchers. The public schools are being run by the, well, public, so are not really under the control of the elites, so, reform is necessary (Sarcasm alert!). The charter schools can be large profit-extraction businesses, even when run as a non-profit (by paying large management fees to corporations owned by the charter operators to supply “management” and through real estate scams, amongst others) and the vouchers can be used to funnel public funds to religious schools.

There seems to be this hesitance in this country to provide tax revenues to support religious schools. Apparently it has to do with some vague church-state separation principle. So, if the outright support of religious schools (to, you know, “advance God’s Kingdom”—I wonder if she has a particular god in mind, hmmm …) through the front door won’t fly now, then maybe funding them through the back door will work (it is not public money, it is just a voucher).

Also, it has been a stick in the craws of the rich for a long time that they send their children to private schools but still have to pay taxes to send the unwashed children to public schools. The fact that they can afford this without stint is irrelevant; it is the principle of the thing. School vouchers is a way to get the public to pay for their children’s private educations.

And, as good Christians, there is no limit to the lies they are willing to tell, as long as it advances their religious jihad. At least the Muslims had the decency to put this rule in writing for their adherents. Yes, it is allowed to lie to infidels in Islam (taqiyya) and “allowed” in religions is a euphemism for “recommended.”

October 6, 2017

Supreme Court Takes Up Gerrymandering

Filed under: Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:20 am
Tags: , , ,

There was an article in the NY Times today with the title “How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science” which coincides with a Supreme Court case regarding hyperpartisan gerrymandering of voting districts. The two are related; I will explain.

The Constitution requires there to be a census every ten years (the first was in 1790 and there were almost 4 million citizens) and immediately after each, the lines of all federal voting districts need be adjusted because our political representation is weighted by population. The House of Representatives districts are both by state and by population, but basically the current situation is roughly that the US population is divided by 435 and that gives a number of people that are needed to make a congressional voting district. Currently, there are five states that have only one congressman (but two senators!) while California has 53 congressmen (I think). In the states that have more than one congressman, voting districts are designated. A number of states have just two congressmen and allow the entire state to be the voting district for each (as it is for all senators). In states with many congressmen, geographical districts are created and the voters in those districts decide who they want to represent them, which is where gerrymandering comes in. There is very little in the way of guidelines for this process, so the political parties have developed more and more clever ways of redrawing districts to their advantage. This the GOP did after the 2010 census. It actively focussed on winning over state legislatures, which control the redistricting process and then invented new ways to create districts which create more legislative seats for them. Basically, if a state were divided 50:50 between the two major political parties, the thinking of the founding fathers was that each party would get 50% of the representatives. But, with sufficient information, one can draw districts in which one’s opponents are heavily concentrated in a few districts, but quite diluted in many, resulting in something nowhere near the 50:50 split desired by the system.

This is the source of both the Supreme Court case and the Times article.

The information to do this district manipulation has been available for a long time but the ability to process it and draft districts to ones advantage has been quite rudimentary with the ability to see many maps from which the most advantageous can be selected has only been available recently, with the advent of computer processing. This manipulation of the process has been used not just to advantage political parties (both are guilty of this) but to disadvantage voters of color, for instance.

This new level of district drawing abilities supplies us with a solution to this problem. Instead of handing the redistricting process every 10 years to the political parties in control of each state’s legislature, resulting in political and legal battles lasting the entire decade, we can have the entire process computerized. We only need to define the algorithms by which the computer draws it’s maps and these are basically principles, principles of fairness, principles of expediency, principles of geographic location, principles of continuity, etc.. So instead of a city of Democrats being lumped into a single district and the entire rest of the state carved up into Republican districts, the city can be segmented into districts, mixed with suburban votes, resulting in a distribution of legislators close to the distribution of voters in each party, what was originally intended.

When the Constitution was drafted this wasn’t possible. In fact the political parties didn’t exist per se and many of the framers did not want them and their influence in the first place. Well, we do have them and we need to curb their anti-democratic urges and now we have the ability to do this, easily, without resorting to bipartisan commissions, etc. This is something that should be as regular as the posting of the annual schedule of a sporting league and not a running political battle decade after decade, requiring the frequent intervention of the courts. This is a bureaucratic task, not a political one.

 

August 3, 2017

Why Are Americans So Afraid?

I was reading an article over at AlterNet with the title above. The subtitle is “Facts Take a Backseat to Deeply Ingrained Fears.” That article takes a fact-based approach in that they point out that violence has been and continues to be on a decline (for a very long time, even including world wars). That is per capita violence, not necessarily total violence as the population is still growing rapidly. That article’s author concludes that the fear people possess is a belief rather than a conclusion from the facts. A bit of discussion of fear mongering and they were done. I am using the same title, but they were asking the question; I will try to answer it, in part.

They didn’t quite go one step farther and they really need to. Why is America so afraid? That is the emphasis they missed. What might be the basis of American fear? We have experienced far less terrorism than much of the rest of the world, yet we seem to be more afraid, for example. The connection that they missed is that the U.S. is also one of the most religious countries in existence. If you compare our church going rates to, say, Great Britain or France, we are way out in front. It may be the case that not even a majority of Britons believe in a god.

And what is the foundational basis of the form of religion we currently espouse? Fear and belief. And what has been happening in the world of religion in the U.S.? Currently there has been a major increase in market share of the “nones,” those who respond to polls, like the Pew Poll on Religion in America, that their religion is “none.” The Nones have doubled as a percentage of the population in the Pew poll for instance. Atheism is spoken about and written about widely. Conservative religion in this country, in response I believe, has upped the drumbeat. The standard message has always been “we are a sinful nation” and “we need to repent our evil ways or God will punish us.” “If we only were to accept Jesus as our Lord, we would be ‘saved’ from eternal torment when we died.” That sounds like a fear-based campaign if I have ever heard one.

And as churches close or they see large reductions in their numbers of parishioners, the pressure gets increased on the standard message. We are more sinful that we were in the past! We are in even more need of belief! The world is descending into a miasma of degradation! Church going rates are decried as being at all-time lows when, in fact, the church-going rates a little over one hundred years ago were a small fraction of what they are now. They mean a “recent low” but that doesn’t have the impact of “all-time low.” Often this message isn’t all that overt, but it is there. And it provides a base for the feeling of fear from the purveyors of violence. There are secular fear mongers, too (Republicans), but I won’t mention their names (Republicans).

This is not accidental. The cadre of very rich people who are trying to subvert democracy in this country, like fear. They also prefer fear that is not based in fact because real fears have real causes that must be addressed. False fears can be “solved” by the same magic that created them in the first place. You may wonder how long we can be kept in a state of fear. To me, the answer is clear: centuries. If you look at how long many in the South have feared the reprisal of Blacks for how they have been treated by the white community, you will see a history of fear management. During the slave period, whites were ever fearful of slave revolts and any hint of such a revolt produced a vicious backlash. After emancipation, vagrancy laws and sundown laws were used to keep Black Americans in a state of near slavery. Jim Crow laws kept Blacks and Whites from interacting and developing any real relationships. It also kept Blacks weak in that in this country money = power and if you don’t have any money, you don’t have any power. The term “poor Black” became almost an oxymoron in the postbellum South.

The latest manifestation of the fear campaign is to make sure that white Americans saw Black Americans, primarily males, as criminals. By jiggering the laws, a large percentage of the Black male population ended up behind bars. Even when they got out, they were ex-cons and had trouble getting jobs and, well, money = power. This stereotyping campaign has been so effective that many police officers are so afraid of Blacks that they shoot 11-year olds with cap guns and even shoot White women because they don’t take the time to really look at the situation. The laws have told them that if they feel fear, they can shoot. And we have made damn sure they feel fear, a lot of fear.

Feeling fear without reason is the tool of the cadre of very rich folks who are trying to capture our democracy. Trying, hell, they basically have captured our democracy. When was the last time Congress passed a bill that the American people supported? Polls showing 60%, 70%, even 80% public support for legislation which then fails to pass. For example, we cannot seem to deny convicted felons, or people with restraining orders, or the mentally deficient the right to bear arms! That would contribute to people feeling safer and where’s the upside in that? People are so in favor of reasonable gun laws that a majority of NRA members support some of them. But … nah, they really don’t want you to feel safer. People want government-supported health care? Too bad, that would contribute to an overall sense of well-being and safety, so, nope, can’t be done.

The politicians are running the show, but it is religion, American religion, that has provided the base for their fear mongering actions, and, interestingly the religious still support them. The minor fact the Evangelical Christians supported Donald Trump in droves tells you all you need to know. And if you think I am exaggerating read the book Democracy in Chains.

The money = power equation works quite simply. By accumulating a large fraction of this nation’s wealth, the people in this category can have a small cadre with enough wealth to exert more power than the rest of the country can. If you wonder why unions have become powerless. If you wonder why wages have been suppressed for so long, start thinking about money = power. It works both ways. Since we do not have it, we have no power. Since they have it, they have the power, enough power to get their money declared a form of “free speech” by the fucking Supreme Court. Now their expenditures to keep democracy in chains is protected by the Constitution!

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?

March 15, 2017

Apparently It Is Never Enough

The oligarchs running our government could just rest on their laurels as they have won on every front, but apparently that is not enough. If you think things could not get worse, read this “Right-Wing Billionaires Have a Project to Rewrite Our Constitution, and They Are Shockingly Close to Pulling It Off.”

January 23, 2017

The Constitution and American Foreign Affairs

Filed under: History,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:36 am
Tags: , ,

There is almost a constant cry about what the U.S. should “do” about China, or ISIS/ISIL, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or … or …. Quickly, what does the Constitution say about conducting “foreign affairs”? Go ahead, look, I’ll wait <waiting …>.

So, you found out it says very little. According to one source:
The Constitution., has certain explicit passages dealing with the foreign affairs power. Specifically, the President is given authority to make treaties, to which the Senate is given the authority to advise and consent (Article 11, Section 2). The President is made Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy (Article II, Section 2); but the Congress is given the authority to raise and support armies, and to provide and maintain a Navy (Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 12 and 13). The Congress alone is given the power to declare war* and—in a much overlooked provision—the Congress is given authority to define offenses against the law of nations and to set punishments for them (Article I, Section 8, Clause 10).
Source Thomas J. “An Understanding of Constitution’s Foreign Affairs Power” (here)

So, the Constitution says very little about foreign affairs. In fact, the founders wanted us to have very little interaction with other countries except in the form of trade. They saw Europe’s intermingling alliances and treaties as a source of almost continuous conflict and war. They felt that if we were “neutral” and treated with one and all the same in trade (no “special nation” scheme status for them), that we would escape the trap of “foreign entanglements.”

Mr. J. continues:
In addition to these explicit provisions, there are also certain powers that flow merely from the fact that the United States is a sovereign nation. Justice Sutherland, writing in United States v. Curtiss-Wright E2Mort Corp., 29 U.S. 304, in 1937, observed that “The investment of the federal government with the powers of external sovereignty did not depend upon the affirmative grants of the Constitution.”

Uh, oh.

In essence the “law” gives the President the power to meddle in “foreign affairs” to their heart’s content as long as he doesn’t start a war or enter into a treaty without Congressional approval. And the Congress passed the War Powers Act and then looks the other way when it is violated. Oh, and President Bush declared a War on Terror (never authorized by Congress except in that it keeps allocating funds for it) and President Obama didn’t change that “policy” with the minor fact that the battlefield is the entire globe.

And … Trump.

OMG….

January 5, 2017

When Did Women Become Property?

The Code of Hammurabi goes back to about 1750 BCE, and this code was basically a list of the ways King Hammurabi would decide disputes, and was to be used by others as a model of how they should, too … because Hammurabi was such a just king, and he had the PR department to prove it.

In any case, here are a number of provisions in “The Code:”
209  If a superior man strikes a woman of superior class and thereby causes her to miscarry her fetus, he shall weigh and deliver ten shekels of silver for her fetus.
210  If that woman should die, they shall kill his daughter.”
211  If he should cause a woman of commoner class to miscarry her fetus by the beating, he shall weigh and deliver five shekels of silver.
212  If that woman should die, he shall weigh and deliver thirty shekels of silver.
Of course, abuses of slaves drew cheaper fines.

Hammurabi's Code (part) in the Louvre, Paris

Hammurabi’s Code (part) in the Louvre, Paris

The division of society into three basic categories: superior men (property owners and nobility, i.e., the wealthy), commoners (free men who worked for others), and slaves was apparently god-given, otherwise, I am sure, the slaves and commoners would be continually pissed-off by the “superior” class. This is but one use of religion for the betterment of those claiming power.

Women seem little better than cattle, since “if you kill one of my women, I get to kill one of yours” was built into The Code (see #210). Also the first mention of “an eye for an eye” was in this code.

But my question is “when did women become property?” I can remember in my life when there were still vestiges of children still being the property of their parents in the law, some of which, I am sure, remain today.

Back when we were in hunter-gatherer troops that were a single family, relationships were probably clear cut. Who had sexual privileges with whom was probably quite clear. Maybe when troops grew to include two or more families in size did “connections” between breeding pairs of humans become necessary or desirable. Obviously in other great apes, breeding rights might be assumed to belong only to the Alpha Male, and this may have been the case with hominids as well.

Whenever this occurred, we still have vestiges of these behaviors in our current society. We even have a President-elect who has bragged about the sexual liberties he has taking with unrelated women because he is of the “superior class” and he can get away with it.

January 4, 2017

Which Am I?

Filed under: The Law — Steve Ruis @ 8:09 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The Arbourist reposted an excerpt from a post by Michael Schwalbe on the Counterpunch web site (What We Talk About When We Talk About Class). Here is a quote from that post:

Part of the problem is that some of the conceptual language useful for unpacking these matters has been stigmatized. The language exists but using it carries a high risk of being dismissed as an ideologue. To speak of a growing gap between productivity and wages over the last thirty years is acceptable. To speak of wage stagnation as a partial result of declining union membership is okay. To speak of ever more wealth accruing to the richest 1% is now within respectable bounds. But to speak of an increasing rate of expropriation enabled by capitalist victories in the class struggle is to invite trouble. Or invisibility.”

So, on this blog, I have addressed the growing gap between productivity and wages over the last thirty years, that wage stagnation is a partial result of declining union membership, and ever more wealth accruing to the richest 1%, as well as pointing to who is waging this class war and how.

So, I would like to know: am I inviting trouble or am I invisible? When the FBI shows up, knocking on my door, will they be able to see me?

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