Uncommon Sense

March 31, 2020

The Class War is Over

The Class War is over. What we have left are crumbs tossed our way in a system ruled by savage class-rule capitalism.

Let me ask you this—here is a passage from the gospel we call “Luke” (in Chapter 4):”

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable Year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.

Do, you know what the Year of the Lord refers to? Isn’t every year a Year of the Lord? (As a child I saw many, many documents dated as such and such a date “in the year of our Lord XXXX.”)

Do, you know what this was?

It was what is often referred to now as a Jubilee year and Jesus just proclaimed this to be one (along with all of the other succor) promised but Jubilee years were usually only proclaimed by kings, often at the beginning of their reign. In the story, this proclamation supports the argument that Jesus thought of himself as a king, which the Romans preferred to exterminate, rather than work with.

In a Jubilee year, all public debts were canceled. This practice came about, not through any largess by the elites but for a practical reason. If private debt was allowed to continue without limit, compound interest, even ordinary interest would result in many people defaulting on their debts. If that debt were held by a private person, the person defaulting was obligated to pay of the debt with their land, and then their labor. well, and the labor of their wives in the bedroom of the debt holder, you know what I mean. But people in debt bondage didn’t pay taxes and they were available to be drafted for public works projects. The elites recognized that the primary debt holder almost everywhere in the region was the central government and the debt was because of unpaid taxes. A crop failure meant someone couldn’t simultaneously feed their family and pay their taxes, so. . . .

So, rulers would start their rule with a debt jubilee, thus making themselves popular and making their economy viable. It was not unusual to need one of these every so often. The Bible even speaks to debt forgiveness.

Now the Pharisees tended to be from the more prosperous segments of Hebrew society, so if Jesus had his way and a debt jubilee were proclaimed, how do you think they would respond? Hmm?

My main point is what Albert Einstein referred to when he was asked what the most powerful force in the universe was and he answered “compound interest.” Our system, however is no longer an autocracy, but an oligarchy. the debt holders are running the country. Do you think for one minute they would sit still for any kind of debt jubilee, even if just for college education debts? Do, you know understand why Bernie Sanders presidential campaign was deep-sixed by the powers that be in favor of a barely comprehendable Joe Biden? (If they would take it from Jesus, Bernie had no chance.)

These idiot oligarchs are acting out the parable of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and are smiling through the entire thing, reflecting on their own cleverness.


February 24, 2020

Why the “Bernie’s a Socialist! Bernie’s a Socialist! Campaign Will Fail

Quite a few establishment defenders are claiming that if Bernie Sanders is nominated by the Democrats to run for president, that the GOP will wage war based upon Bernie being a Socialist! A Commie! and wipe the floor with him.

That approach really would have worked in this were the 1950’s or the 1960’s, maybe even the 1970’s. Back them everyone knew that capitalism was the best system and the USA was the champion at capitalism. (U . . . S. . .. A . . . U . . . S. . .. A . . . !) But right now, there are huge swaths of this country who have been decimated numerous times by “capitalism.” For example, the big banks caused the largest economic recession in the history of the world in 2008 and who gets bailed out by the capitalist government of the U.S.? Answer: the big banks, which are now bigger than when they were just “too big to let fail.” ordinary people lost their homes and jobs in the millions.

So, the old aversion to socialism is just not there. Conservatives seem to conflate socialism with communism, which is why they are the same thing but have different names . . . ? If Bernie were a communist, he might have a problem.

Bernie is not even really a socialist. A more accurate categorization would be he is a social democrat. I think Bernie has clung to his self-description as “a socialist,” which he might have been at one time but is not now, because it is a clear way to say “I am not like those other politicians.” This will actually help him in the general election.

Think about this. when Donald Trump entered the race for the GOP nomination (with the other dozen and a half plus candidates) how many people thought his chances at the nomination were “good” or even “possible”? If you think back, most people, even while enthralled by the chaos and hijinks of his campaign, thought his chances of getting the nomination were “slim to none.” But win the nomination he did and then, what did people think his chances were of winning the general election against a seasoned, experienced campaigner like Hillary Clinton? Most thought he had no chance, his campaign was too disorganized (at least it appeared to be so). But Ms. Clinton couldn’t have been a more stalwart defender of the status quo and she lost.

If the Dems were to nominate another icon of the status quo, Joe Biden maybe, they would lose again. But if Bernie and Mr. Trump go head to head, who do you think will capture the “anti-status quo” vote this time? Mr. Trump often tackles the status quo but in strange ineffective ways that maybe affect one at the gut level, but don’t really effect positive changes. Bernie promises changing the status quo in favor of the down trodden. He has all of the favoritism Mr. Trump has bestowed upon the rich (tax cuts, environment deregulation, oil drilling leases on public lands, etc.) and the well connected (pardons for his friends, loosen rules for his friends, etc.) to show that Mr. Trump has proven that he has no poor or even middle class friends and that we can expect no favoritism from him.

Bernie is not some shy, wilting flower that will wither under a Trump attach. If Trump thunders “Bernie’s a socialist!” Bernie will respond, “Yes, and you are a liar and you are fat. So what?” End of controversy.

Hint: Trump already has locked up all of the voters who would not vote for a milquetoast socialist, so the Bernie is a Socialist! Campaign will win him no new voters.

December 21, 2019

Is It Time to Say “Okay, Boomer” to Barack Obama?

During his Presidency, Barack Obama was as temperate and centrist as one could ask a U.S. president to be. Except that people did not want a temperate or centrist president. Apparently Mr. Obama missed the point of why he was elected. One can give all kinds of reasons but for this still very racist country to elect its first black president, it took a confluence of events. First, people were very fed up with the status quo. The rich kept getting richer and the middle class and poor kept getting poorer, significantly so. So, in an election between a representative of the status quo (John McCain) and a transformative candidate promising “Hope and Change” people decided, well we haven’t tried this yet, let’s see if a Black man can break up our log-jammed politics.

In the next election, the GOP put up Mitt Romney, another icon of the old status quo, so he wasn’t too hard for a sitting president to dispatch. This was even though the federal government went to extraordinary lengths to bail out bankers and shareholders of insurance companies, and little to nothing for homeowners losing their homes. All the while, of course, refusing to jail fat cat bankers who caused the problems and were clearly breaking the law. (And, my pet peeve, supporting the despicable Arne Duncan’s attempts to dismantle public education.)

While I happen to like Mr. Obama and his family, he doesn’t have the high political ground to stand on to tell us that we need to avoid real agents of change (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) when he himself did not deliver the changes that were so desperately sought.

It is time to tell Mr. Obama “Okay, Boomer.” as the phrase fits perfectly: he is a Baby Boomer (born in 1961) and he is pontificating on issues he clearly doesn’t understand.

February 28, 2017

Moving On Politically

Now that the Democrats have doubled down on their current corporatist party structure by electing Tom Perez as Chair of the Democratic National Committee, we have a definitive moment in the history of that party. President Obama and some of his team actually called DNC voters to make sure Mr. Perez got elected and not Keith Ellison, a representative of the “new wave” Democrats symbolized by Bernie Sanders.

It should be clear to Mr. Sanders now that the Democratic Party is not interested in its old base (unions, working people, people of color, …) and is committed to its new base (white collar folks, professionals, the wealthy, …) the very base that lost them the most recent election in a most embarrassing way. There will be no healing of the rift as the current Democratic Party is living in denial that there is one.

It is time for a new party, one committed to ordinary people and not subservient to the very rich.

Please Senator Sanders, throw your weight behind such a move. Surely that would mean there will be a splintering of the opposition to the Republicans, but the sooner it occurs, the sooner people can make known their choice as to which way they want to go. Three major parties will probably not exist for long, and the two we have now have been captured by the plutocrats. It is time for another choice.

Addendum Ian Welch puts it more bluntly here.

November 11, 2016

Like a Good Story? (You Shouldn’t)

We are all primed by evolution to enjoy a good story and stories are one of the primary ways we learn. Unfortunately, such stories need not have anything to do with the truth.

For example consider the Christian narrative about the history of Christianity. They refer all of the Bible stories and then basically indicate that the power of the ideas in scripture were so potent, that Christianity grew strongly, even through a period of persecution. Uh, hunh.

It makes a great story but there are a few holes in it. For one Jesus was clearly killed by the Romans occupying Palestine for criminal behavior. The “persecutors” of Christianity then turn out to be … Romans, of course. And then we end up with … wait for it … the Roman Catholic Church by the end of the fourth century. WTF?

The actual history of Christianity is that it didn’t spread like wildfire, in fact it barely survived the first couple of centuries and only did due to immense efforts to create new scriptures to support the movement. Early Christianity also was comprised of many, many sects, none of which agreed over much of anything.

The breakthrough came when a Roman Emperor saw that Christianity was a tool that could support the failing Roman empire, by supplying a narrative of hope for the future that none of the pagan sects did. Christians then began fighting tooth and nail to get as much as they could in the way of perquisites from the Roman administration and at the same time were warring with other sects to see who would have the Emperor’s ear (and bend it they did).

This process went on for decades and through several emperors until the Christian bickering just got to be too much (if you consider false testimony, beatings, murders, and lies bickering) and a bull was issued “Nullis  Haeriticis” (No Heretics). This sounds like something a pope would issue but this was issued in 380 CE by the Roman Emperor. This followed close on the heels of the Emperor defining true Christians as those who believed in the holy trinity, the fact that as many as half of all Christians were Arians not very long prior to this point notwithstanding. Arians believed Jesus to be the son of god and not god himself, just like it said in scripture. So, they had to go. The Roman emperor outlawed all heretics and defined Christian orthodoxy. (I guess the Catholic Church sold naming rights to the empire.)

So what did all of the “good Christians” of the time do … bleated like sheep I guess, because they let their former arch enemy define who they were and what they would believe. I turns out that the biggest persecutors of Christians were other Christians.

Now consider the election ordeal we all just suffered through. Yes, there are false narratives galore, but not the ones you think. The underlying narrative that no one is paying any attention to is the meme that states that the U.S. is a classless society, that we acknowledge no classes. This narrative has never been true and is not true now.

Americans tend to snigger when we are told that Australia was colonized by criminals. We don’t then turn to look at who was “sent” to the American colonies. We are “told” in school, that those people were fleeing religious persecution and came here to be free. Bullshit. The vast majority of the shiploads of English to America were considered, well, today, we refer to them as “white trash.” We were sent England’s “surplus population,” the indigent, the lazy, the criminal, “rubbish” they were called, human refuse. For them they were told the streets were paved with gold kind of things, while the elites were receiving reports of swamps and disease and hardships, the kind of place you want to send your refuse to.

We are told that the first settlers were fleeing religious persecution but they actually came as apart of a corporate effort (yes, there were corporations and all on the Mayflower were signed on to one) designed to exploit the natural bounty of the New World. (Yes, send gold back, please.) That a very large percentage of these “colonists” died from exposure, hunger, disease, etc. was sloughed off back home in England because their lives weren’t all that valuable. For Pete’s sake, look at the skill sets possessed by those on the Mayflower manifest; few had any practical value in surviving in a wilderness. America’s underclasses have been with us ever since.

So, in this day, we have the “deplorable” supporters of Donald Trump. (Jeez, Hillary, where did you learn politics? You just had to come up with your own 47% tag.) Guess who they are? They are the U.S. under classes … and a great many more. Several decades back the Democrats decided they didn’t need “working people” as the core of their constituency and so dumped them. The consequences? After unions helped get President Obama elected, for example, he couldn’t be bothered to help the unions with an effort to restore the old perfectly legal recruitment card system that conservatives in Congress had eliminated to undermine the unions. The GOP hasn’t done anything substantive for any of “those people” for decades and, instead, chose to fling social wedge issues their way as sops (without actually making any “progress on them, mind you) while supporting effort after effort to give huge benefits to the rich.

The Tea Party was unable to jar the GOP out of its rut and the Democrats were clueless at to what was wrong in their camp, and so the result is: a presidential candidate who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat gets elected. The sad thing is Mr. Trump was mistaken for a populist when there was a true populist available, one who had almost no baggage and a flaming passion to help America’s under classes, Bernie Sanders.

If a flaming Molotov Cocktail thrown through your front window doesn’t get your attention, what is going to happen next time if the needs of America’s under classes continue to be not met? (I will take bets at any odds that those needs will be ignored in the mad rush to get more and more benes for rich individuals and corporations over the next four years. Any takers?)


May 19, 2016

Our Broken Electoral System

As we are currently enmeshed in a process to select candidates for national elections, including for a new President, and people are often shocked to find how undemocratic the processes are.

Take, for example, that the rules for the various primaries and caucuses that are used to inform the party’s choices of candidates are made up by the parties themselves, and not by the national party, but by the state parties. This means that every state has a different set of rules, rules that candidates can run afoul of for no good reason other than not having piles of money to pay political operatives in each of the 50 states. Before you go off with a full head of steam, realize that political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. The word “party” shows up five times in the Constitution and none of them is a reference to a political party. Political parties are private organizations and are not affiliated with the government, state or federal.

Our electoral system is often referred to as a “two party” system which is not correct. There are myriad parties, but only the two major parties have sponsored elected presidents. There have been significant “third party” runs for president, attracting significant fractions of the final votes, but while none of these has been successful as to electing a president Bernie Saunders, for example, is a successful third party candidate for both the House and Senate offices he has held (representing Vermont).

The biggest sore spot in our “let the parties decide their own candidates” processes is that neither of the two major parties has a plurality of voters in is ranks. A larger percentage of American voters identify as independent (39 percent of the electorate, according to Pew) than as Democrats (32 percent) or Republicans (23 percent). Consequently, we allow a quarter of the registered voters decide who the Republican nominee will be and a third of the registered voters decide who the Democratic nominee will be. That means 45% of the nation’s registered voters have no say. Which is crazy.

Some states have decided to have open primaries, which is to allow anyone to vote in any one of the categories of a primary election, regardless of stated political affiliation. While this allows some independent voters a voice, it also allows for some manipulation by party stalwarts crossing over to confuse the ballot of other parties when their candidate is a shoo in otherwise.

This madness must stop. For national elections, we need an independent branch of government to set the rules and run the primaries and caucuses for all national offices (President and Vice-president, Senators, and Congressmen). Why should minority parties get to choose who has any chance of winning?

And, if there is any doubt about the declining influence of political parties, realize that the parties used to control the bulk of the funds involved in campaigning. Now the candidates do (or their SuperPacs, etc.). The parties have taken various steps to exclude outsiders from swooping in and taking a nomination. Politicians are supposed to work their way up the party ranks to “earn” the next level of support for higher office. Now, we have Donald Trump, a Democrat Independent Republican for the purposes of this election (there are no qualifications for party membership other than the ability to sign your name) and Bernie Saunders, an Independent Democratic Socialist as two of the last three standing viable candidates.

That there are no qualifications for party membership other than the ability to sign your name and no dues, no meetings with required attendance, no required duties, and so on it makes the unpopularity of the major parties more stark. Basically all you have to do is check a box when you register to vote and you are in, but more and more people will not do even that. Apparently there is something … loathsome about being affiliated with either of those two parties.

I think we would be better off without political parties right now, an opinion I share with more than a few of the Framers of the Constitution.

May 8, 2016

Why Both the GOP and Dem Establishments Do Not Want Bernie to be President

The whole purpose of the major political parties now is wrapped up in a quest for power. The power is not wanted because they have ends in mind, they just want power. That power for the last 40 years has been primarily to execute the will of the “masters of mankind” as Adam Smith put it.

Since the plutocrats and corporations have pushed the cost of elections so high, enormous amounts of money are needed to run a successful campaign for political office. So the plutocrats get to control who runs by providing funding them … or not. Then once someone is elected, they are beholden for millions upon millions of dollars to those donors, another form of control. Then there is the promise of donations for the re-election campaign…. I think you get the idea.

But Bernie Sanders is not playing their game. Bernie has not taken their money and, because of that, he is not controlled by them, so he is a threat. It would not be a disaster for them were he to be elected President but it would slow the implementation of the plutocrat’s plans. Blocking anything Bernie wanted to do as President would be relatively inexpensive, but it would mean a delay that would not further the plutocrats plans. So, it is more expeditious to not have Bernie win and a few million here and a few million there and a bit of pundit hand wring, a whisper of this and that Senator Sander’s campaign is close to being marginalized.

Did you not find it interesting that the Democratic National Committee had already geared up to make Hillary Clinton its nominee before they knew who was running, before they knew who the rank and file Democrats preferred? It is simply that Hillary Clinton had already been vetted and paid for and would make a good candidate for the 0.1% who would be paying for her to run. It wasn’t necessary that she win, of course, because to make sure all of the 0.1%’s ducks were in a row, as the saying goes, both candidates of the major parties were supposed to be bought and paid for. Why take the chance of having someone you do not want having even a chance of winning.

It is Mr. Trump, a trump card in the political deck, who is upsetting the “normal process.” They fear that, like Franklin Roosevelt, Mr. Trump may also be a “traitor to his class.”

March 28, 2016

The Answer is Easy, Once You Know the Question

The primary season voting data we have so far clearly shows that Hillary Clinton is more popular with the old, while Bernie Sanders is substantially more popular with the young. Hillary Clinton’s message of slow, incremental, don’t rock the boat change appeals to an older audience. Bernie Sander’s message of “the system is broken, and we do need to fix it; we need a revolution” resonates with people whose lives haven’t yet solidified, the young.

So, the question is: do you want to vote for the past or the future?

This is a serious question. Those of you of a more conservative bent prefer to preserve the status quo; you are not that amenable to change. Change may be good, but…. Those of you of a more liberal bent, are more accepting of change. The only constant is change….

So, is the current status quo worth defending? Or is “better” still possible, possible enough to overcome your fear of change for the worse?

At this stage of my life (I will be 70 this year) I am inclined to cede to the will of the young. It will be their world shortly and no longer mine. They do not like what we have done to their country. They want something quite different from “you are on your own, get what you can.”

Vote for the future—vote Bernie.

March 19, 2016

John Locke Was a Socialist, Like Bernie Sanders!

While I have been researching a post on the claim that we were created as a Christian Nation (We were not; in fact the Constitution was a repudiation of all of the Christian States that had been formed, the details of which are a nightmare, but that is for later.), I ran across this quote of John Locke’s (in summary as those folks were even more wordy than I):

… that no man can have such a “Portion of the Things of this World” as to deprive “his needy Brother a Right to the Surplusage of his Goods…. As Justice gives every Man a Title to so much out of another’s Plenty, as will keep him from extream want where he has no means to subsist otherwise….”

For those of you who do not recognize the name, John Locke was the political theorist most influential on the Founding Fathers as well as many, many other politicians around the world. The quote above runs counter to American acquisitiveness/greed and hence the book it was taken from, after having been published in America in 1773, didn’t see another edition for 164 years.

Many now alive would not recognize the rights that were being discussed then. Property rights were not absolute as they are now. If one owned a large amount of land, but didn’t “improve” it by planting crops or orchards, etc. others had a right to go onto that land and use it. Others could go onto your land to collect firewood or to graze livestock, just not the parts you had “improved.” The “freedom of speech” was nothing like it is now, etc. I will write more on this later.

For now, Locke’s quote establishes him as a socialist to the left of Bernie Sanders which is not surprising as Senator Sanders isn’t much of a socialist. He is a democratic socialist which means all aspects of sharing the “Surplusage” require approval by a majority of the people’s representatives.

Locke would be appalled by the modern amounts of wealth subverted by the few. I say subverted, rather than accumulated, as Locke would have a man’s wealth determined by his own labor. The idea of the growth in a man’s wealth being determined by the amount of his wealth was an idea still in its infancy. Hereditary “lords” had been able to pull this off by basically enslaving large swaths of the population (as serfs) but they were a very, very small population and could be considered an aberration. Great wealth accumulated by others was even more rare. (Hereditary lords had a practice of picking off such wealthy commoners. They often encountered legal problems or, gasp, were accused of treason and, ‘poof,’ there went their fortunes.)

Locke would be likewise appalled at the plutocrats blaming the poor for their state (Lazy! Get a job! Start a business! Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Look in a mirror.)

So, the most significant political influence on the Founding Fathers was inclined to policies that “share the wealth,” now known as “redistribution of wealth.” He was in favor of governmental welfare (not just church-based charity). This opinion was based upon both the Bible and natural Law, two sources lauded by the plutocrats. I am surprised they haven’t banned his books.

March 17, 2016

You Will Be Hearing a Lot Less About Marco Rubio

On the N.Y. Times Opinion Page (Internet Edition) there is a sidebar entitled “Latest from the Opinion Blogs.” On this list you will find links to “recent” posts by Times columnists. Today’s list (March 17, 2016) list posts from March 17, two from March 16, March 15, March 11 as one would suspect, but as one nears the bottom of the list one encounters “You Will Be Hearing a Lot More About Marco Rubio” by Frank Bruni, dated March 11, 2015. That’s right … 2015. How a year old column could be considered “latest” is a question. In fact I wrote the editors a couple of months ago about this and received no reply. I wondered if they would take it down on its one year anniversary (obviously not). And now that the motivation for the post, Marco Rubio’s presidential run, has become moot, I wondered if it would be taken down, or at least replaced by a column on Senator Rubio’s future prospects as he is not running for re-election to the Senate, but no. (Senator Rubio may run for President again in 2020 but that is not the subject of this post.)

In an era that has had the Fairness Doctrine removed from television news and newspapers having been gobbled by large corporate owners there are complaints that the biases of news outlet’s owners are “showing.” Breitbart’s online organs have been roiled by resignations of several of its reporters over a pro-Donald Trump bias they perceived in management and Brietbart is hardly a paragon of journalistic integrity. The Times, itself, was queried regarding a perceived bias against Senator Bernie Saunders and the Public Editor responded with a yes, there appears to be an unevenness to the coverage of Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton, in Mrs. Clinton’s favor. (The top listing in the Latest from the Opinion Blogs today is “Were Changes to Sanders’ Article “‘Stealth Editing?’” for example.)

So why is a year-old blog post feature the name of a prominent Republican candidate still on a “Latest From …” list? Why, indeed?

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