Class Warfare Blog

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?

December 5, 2016

Reduce Business Taxes!!

So, President-elect Trump wants to reduce business taxes to keep businesses here in the U.S. Actually I am in favor of that. But for that to be reasonable, there must be an understanding. If we reduce business taxes to 20% or 15% on profits, then there must be an understanding that businesses will actually pay those taxes. Currently, the highest business tax on profits is 35%. That sounds like a lot, but if you look close enough you will see that hugely profitable companies in the U.S., like G.E., either pay no tax at all or actually get a refund from the government. Not only that but the average tax paid by companies is in the low teens of percents. Plus getting a refund for an individual is getting money back from taxes you already paid (that’s what “withholding” taxes are), but if a business get a “refund” it is not their own money coming back, it is money they never paid coming to them, otherwise known as a subsidy or gift of public funds. (Yes, some businesses pay “quarterly taxes” but if it ends up at 0% for the year, I suspect it si 0% for each quarter, too.)

I am willing to consider a lower business tax, even a “flat tax” (that should start conservatives drooling) if it is also a minimum tax, that is it is the very least a corporation will pay, no matter what other perks they get through Congress.

The current system encourages companies to lobby Congress for special tax perks just for themselves and this is where the ridiculous “refunds” come from. In fact, in the “bloated IRS tax code” that conservatives are constantly railing against, the “bloat” is due to special favors for businesses, not for you and me. (Congress creates the tax code and then blames the IRS for it. Now that is chutzpah!) Our section of the code is miniscule compared to the special sections designed to help single companies and industries.

If you are not convinced of the reasonableness of my idea, go back into history and see the fraction of federal income that was due to taxes placed on businesses versus taxes based upon individuals. During several, very rosy periods of U.S. history, the bulk of federal receipts came from corporation taxes, not individuals, so low corporate taxes is not magic juju that makes the economy expand. Due to corporate lobbying (lobbying has a tremendous return on investment; a dollar spent on lobbying generally returns over $20 of perks) the fraction of federal government receipts from individuals has risen (a lot!) and the fraction from corporations has shrunk (a lot). Note Check out the first two columns in the table here.)

Corporations no longer pay anything near to their own fair share.

Please, please do not get confused. Corporations pay taxes based upon profits; individuals pay taxes based upon income. Imagine what your taxes would be like if you, like a business, could “deduct” housing costs (all of them including maid services), food costs, transportation costs, utility costs, bookkeeping costs, etc., etc. before you started “doing your taxes.” Hubba-hubba!

Also, having a “flat tax” on business profits would not harm “Mom and Pop” businesses. All of those businesses end each fiscal year with no profits and would pay no tax on such, unless they are incredibly stupid. At the end of the year, the owner should pay themselves bonuses adding up to all of the leftover funds of the business. They will then pay what we pay on our personal income, but their business had no profit, so it would pay no tax. If they wanted to expand their business, they could then lend their business a sum of money (nontaxable) and then the business could deduct any interest it pays back to the owner and again, no business taxes are paid.

But in order to issue dividends to stockholders in a corporation, there must be a profit. If there is no profit, there is no money to pay dividends. If there are no dividends there are not many stockholders, so dividends are paid, profits are therefore declared to be able to pay them, and if there were a flat tax on profits, taxes would be paid (unlike now).

November 7, 2016

Finally, Election Day

Now the next campaign can begin.

Seriously, I am wondering what the Republicans are going to do about the Supreme Court if Mrs. Clinton wins. If they rush to confirm President Obama’s nominee, who is quite a centrist, they will expose themselves for the political manipulators they are. Their reasoning for blocking confirmation of the current nominee for a record number of days was that the American people should have a say in this appointment through whom they elect as the new president; it should not be a “lame duck” appointment of President Obama.

If they stick with their faux narrative and wait to see who Mrs. Clinton will nominate, it might be a nominee even more progressive than Judge Merrick Garland, then they will have to trump up outrage that such a person would be nominated, when they have cast their lot on the wisdom of the American people to make a choice for president who would nominate justices for them.

Interesting boxes the Republicans seem to be fond of jamming themselves into. This is what happens when a political organization adopts a policy of “Logic, smogic, phht, who cares?”

September 13, 2016

Why Sense Isn’t Common

If you have gotten any serious news lately you have probably heard about the Wells Fargo Bank debacle. Basically, over the past five years, Wells Fargo created more than two million checking and credit card accounts that weren’t authorized by its customers. Employees, who had strict sales quotas to hit, would secretly open and transfer money in and out of those fraudulent accounts, costing thousands of customers millions of dollars in fees.

So WFB had to fork over a fine of $145 million but none of its officers went to jail.

The reason none of its officers went to jail? Simple, they were no longer working for Wells Fargo Bank.

Since when did where you work become a criterion for whether or not you did something illegal? WTF? How about “I’m sorry, Mister Brown, we can’t prosecute the person who murdered your wife, he is no longer a murderer, he is now in the protection racket.”

Find the bastards responsible, drag them out of their new plush offices, wherever they are, and throw them in jail. Who cares if they left WFB? They did something wrong (otherwise why was WFB paying such a fine) so they should be held accountable.

At least put the sick fucks in the stocks out in front of WFB headquarters so we can rub rotten vegetables and excrement on their faces and then post their photos on SnapChat.

July 18, 2016

Original Intent, My Ass

There are many in our society who feel the Constitution should only be interpreted with regard to the “original intent” of the Framers of the Constitution. Most notably the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the entire Southern Baptist Convention of the U.S. are of this ilk.

This choice of a “guide” is merely an exercise in blowing smoke into the eyes of the American public, by claiming a source of knowledge to which they are not privy. It is beyond us, so “move along now, nothing to see here.” Then those people can make up anything they choose to represent the actual intent of the Framers.

I have just started reading “Genius of the People: The Making of the Constitution” by Charles L. Mee Jr., who states in the prologue to his book regarding the various ways of interpreting who the Framers were and why they did what they did:

Even so, in the end, these schools of interpretation fail to convince in one common respect: they all tend to simplify the particularities in search of generalizations – and, in the process, miss the essence of what occurred at the convention. They all come down to a view that the framers of the constitution belonged more or less to one class, and they had more or less one common set of intentions – or one set of biases or goals or interests – and that their labors in the summer of 1787 can be seen as the careful codifying of that set of common intentions into a body of laws.

And yet, when one actually looks at the day-to-day debates during that hot, humid, insect-ridden summer in Philadelphia, such a view simply won’t hold up. Far from there being one set of intentions, there were as many intentions as there were framers. What one sees, in fact, is a group of men who, despite their common background and broad class interests, had myriad diverging appetites, ideals, and interests. They set about disputing with one another, wrangling, losing patience, lashing out, attacking one another, accusing one another of ignorance and inconsistency, or worse, of lack of principle and even of treasonous intent; erupting in anger or simply packing up and leaving town altogether, never to return; warning that certain provisions only could lead eventually to civil war or bring down upon the country some even more calamitous judgment of heaven. By the end of the convention, none of the delegates, not one, was entirely happy with the constitution they had written. Some refused entirely to sign the completed work, and those who did sign signed in varying degrees of reluctance, dismay, anguish, and disgust.”

The key sentence is the last one.

 “By the end of the convention, none of the delegates, not one, was entirely happy with the constitution they had written. Some refused entirely to sign the completed work, and those who did sign signed in varying degrees of reluctance, dismay, anguish, and disgust.”

The Framers had a message for us and a clear one. What they did, as opposed to what they wanted to do, was to compromise, compromise to the point that some thought they had failed, compromise to the point of quitting.

And what is it the advocates of “original intent” want least of all? What is it that conservatives think is treasonous?

Compromise.

The next time I heard someone claiming to being guided by “original intent,” I will reach for my wallet to make sure it is secure and sincerely request the speaker take his original intent and shove it up his ass.

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