Class Warfare Blog

November 22, 2017

How the Media Keep Failing Us

The Nation published an article under the miswritten title: How the State Can Make Inequality Worse by Steven Teles and Brink Lindsey. The subhead was “From zoning and licensing boards to bank bailouts, the state has often been captured by corporations and the wealthy.”

I have not read the article. (I used to subscribe but I had to trim back such expenditures.) But I am writing about the piece’s title and the mistaken impression it gives.

For one, why “can”? Why not “does.” There are myriad examples that show that the rules of our government, “the state,” have been manipulated to benefit the elites and disadvantage ordinary citizens. Can implies possibility, does implies certainty.

For another, the use of the term “the State” makes it sound as if some collective institution is responsible for the activities described. This is in the same vein as when conservatives use the word “government” as if it were some alien system imposed from outer space, instead of a stand-in for “us.”

Allow me to re-write their title to make it more clear as to what is going on. How about?

“How Corporations and the Wealthy use the State to Make Inequality Worse”
“From zoning and licensing boards to bank bailouts,
the state has often been captured by corporations and the wealthy.”

That seems to be much closer to the truth. And you can use the same subhead.

The media seem to be oh, so polite when addressing the elites. If this keeps up, soon it will be mandatory. Speaking against the elites will be made a crime. (It has been done before and is currently in use in religious hierarchies).

I hate to bash The Nation as it seems to be one of the few newspapers dedicated to publishing the truth, but if such obfuscatory journalism establishes a beach head there, we are probably all doomed to being citizens of an oligarchy.

 

 

 

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November 21, 2017

We’re No. 1 … We’re No. 21! Wait … WTF?

The new 2017 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report helpfully calculates median net worths of countries. Switzerland and Australia top the global list. (Reminder: a median is the value in the middle, not an arithmetic average.) The median Swiss adult has a net worth of $229,000. The typical Australian, $195,400. And the typical American? A mere $55,876. Twenty nations in all have higher median adult net worths than the United States. So, we are No. 21.

Wait, we’re the richest country in the world, how come we are 21st in median wealth?

The really rich, those with at least $50 million in net worth, have multiplied five-fold since the year 2000 globally. About half of these, 49 percent, reside today in the United States. Credit Suisse counts 72,000 of these ultra-rich Americans. In context: China, the host to the world’s second-highest collection of $50 million-and-up personal fortunes, has only 18,100. The United States hosts more ultra-rich individual fortunes than the nations with next nine highest ultra-rich totals combined.

So, here in the U.S. the rich are getting richer, but the rest of us are falling very far behind.

Let’s consider the Australians, as we have a bit in common.

Australians used to see their nation as a relatively equal society. They don’t anymore. Rising inequality has become a major Australian political issue. But Australia remains far more equal a society than the United States. The top 1 percent in Australia only holds an estimated 15 percent of the nation’s wealth. (In the US, it is 38.6%.) So we are the wealthiest country in the world but we don’t have the wealthiest citizens as most of the wealth has flown into the pockets of a very few people.

And this is not a matter of that they are wealthy, it is what they do with the wealth they have accumulated. Basically, they don’t spend it. Poor people spend all of their money. Middle class people spend almost all of their money. That money goes to buying things from companies who provide jobs for people. The rich don’t spend anywhere near as much of their income. If they buy anything, it is investments which increase their wealth even more. None of that activity positively affects the economy.

Teachers Unions? Bah, Who Needs Them?

Six years ago, the state of Wisconsin passed the highly controversial 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, which virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights for most public-sector workers, as well as slashed those workers’ benefits, among other changes.

As Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) argued, “We no longer have seniority or tenure. That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance. That means we can put the best and the brightest in our classrooms and we can pay them to be there.”

Well, did they?

What do you think will happen to an employer who slashes wages and benefits? People will leave their employ. Who leaves first? The people who have the most confidence they can find another job, that is the best workers. Who stays. The sluggards, the unimaginative, the fearful … not all, of course, but a higher concentration of these stay. (Studies have shown this to be the case.)

Action Reaction
An analysis of the effect of Act 10 has found:

  • In the year immediately following the law’s passage, median compensation for Wisconsin teachers decreased by 8.2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, with median benefits being cut by 18.6 percent and the median salary falling by 2.6 percent. Median salaries and benefits continued to fall during the next four years so that median compensation in the 2015-16 school year was 12.6 percent—or $10,843 dollars—lower than it was before the passage of Act 10.

  • The percentage of teachers who left the profession spiked to 10.5 percent after the 2010-11 school year, up from 6.4 percent in the year before Act 10 was implemented. Exit rates have remained higher than before, with 8.8 percent of teachers leaving after the 2015-16 school year— the most recent school year for which data are available.
  • The percentage of teachers with less than five years of experience increased from 19.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 24.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Average teaching experience decreased from 14.6 years in the 2010-11 school year to 13.9 in the 2011-12 school year, which is where it remained in the 2015-16 school year.
  • Interdistrict moves—when a teacher leaves one Wisconsin district to teach at another the next school year—has increased from 1.3 percent before the passage of Act 10 to 3.4 percent at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

Are you surprised?

The False Narrative
The core of the false narrative is in plain sight; it is “That means we can hire and fire based on merit, we can pay based on performance.” This is a business model. The problem is that in a business, the “boss” owns the company (or the boss’s boss or the …). The owner has the right to hire and fire inherent in his ownership. In a public school, the “owner” is the public, the taxpayers of the school district. There is no mechanism by which those owners can fire anyone (by state law). Prior to Act 10, the “owner” of each school district elected a school board which carried out negotiations with the employees to determine wages and working conditions. In no school district of which I am aware are teachers getting rich. When you think of employees getting rich, you think of doctors, lawyers, stock brokers, high level executives, but teachers … not so much. Having high educational attainment did not result in abnormally high wages for teachers, but there were tradeoffs: instead of higher salaries, better benefits and working conditions were offered and accepted, through negotiation. Act 10 chopped the head off of local control and took it over at the state level. (Republicans in favor of local control? Not so much.)

So, how did the minions of the schools (principals?) do in hiring the best and the brightest? How did they do in paying for performance? How did they do with getting the bums out of the racket? Aren’t these business types always talking about how important good management is? Was there any effort to improve the quality of the people in charge? No? (No.)

As usual, the actual motives for Act 10 was not in the bullshit offered by proponents. The Koch Brothers-fueled politician, Scott Walker, was executing a typical anti-union action for the billionaire class. Unions are the only organization with enough power to resist the oppression of workers by employers, hence they have to go. (Plus they tend to vote Democrat.)

But actions have reactions. Too bad Scott Walker doesn’t feel any of the reaction … just the teachers and the students and the “owners” of the school district. The Koch Brothers, in reaction, kept pouring money into Scott Walker’s presidential candidacy and into his gubernatorial re-election campaign coffers. If you want quality workers, you gotta pay them!

November 12, 2017

God, Jesus, and Vietnam

The NY Times is running a history of the Vietnam War series, highlighting the experiences of individuals. In a recent piece a gentleman told of how he went to Vietnam with his faith and came home without it (God, Jesus, and Vietnam).

The story is quite poignant and I recommend it to you, but the author’s main point was that one couldn’t go out and sin for six days and then ask God for forgiveness on the seventh and then go out and repeat that cycle again and again, something had to give. (There was more, but that was the crux of the matter.)

What struck me as just as fascinating were the comments. Here are a couple:

… there is in fact a Judgment Day, I have no doubt that this man will get off the hook of his own conscience and that Christ will intercede for him.

So, this gentleman is convinced that there will be a judgment day and Jesus will “intercede for him.” Intercede with whom? Christians who are trinitarians (the bulk  of them, actually) seem to facilely switch between “Jesus is God” and “Jesus is the Son of God” states, often it seems when there is bad shit happening that they don’t want Jesus to get the blame for. So, Jesus will apparently intercede with this poor slob who lost his faith with the Judge on Judgment Day. And who is the Judge you ask? Of course, it is Jesus. Why is it that the Christians who are oh, so sure, of what will happen because scripture, never seem to know what it is?

A second commenter included this as part:

But knowing the Lord is the incommensurable good: no trouble, no loss can be compared to the good of knowing him. Furthermore, we will be with him forever.

So for this gentleman, his god is so good, no thing, no body compares with him. Let’s look at the “Good God’s” track record. According to the Christian time line. the entire universe was created and the first man in a matter of a few days. After a few more days woman is created and after a few more, they are banished from the Garden of Eden and cursed, along with all of their children … forever (circa 4004 BCE).

Then. their god decides he has made a mistake want wants to wipe the slate clean, and so about 1550 years later, he creates a big flood and kills off almost all of the animals on the planet (I used to say land animals, but the volume of water involved is so great, that if it were fresh water (no reason for it not to be), it would have changed the salinity of seawater drastically, right where all of the oceanic life forms were, so basically all animals were killed, including tens of millions of men, women, and children along with the deer, zebras, koalas, and dolphins.

From the eight surviving humans, a new crop of humans was grown, this time under more (better?) guidance from Yahweh (it is hard to tell). A little under 2500 years later, Jesus comes, dies, and saves us all. So, apparently it wasn’t going so well with the second crop in that it took massive divine intervention to fix the problems.

So, where is this “incommensurable good” demonstrated? The history, according to the Christians, shows a bumbling god who can’t get it right, who makes mistakes, piled one atop another. Again, Christians seem to be making it up as they go.

The fact that this soldier’s religious faith put him in a quandary in which the only way out was to reject his faith is quite telling. That his religious leaders were supporting him on a mission that made no sense to anyone, that involved atrocious behavior being required under the penalty of one’s life being ruined (court martial, dishonorable discharge, conscientious objector status all ruined lives) but was okay with god, shows that the army had chaplains as part of the secular and religious control mechanism entrapping these poor soldiers.

I used to be puzzled about the Garden of Eden stories. A key question I had was why did god punish Adam and Eve for making a decision that couldn’t be made correctly as they had no knowledge of good and evil (that was what the fruit gave to them). It makes sense now, now that I see religion as it truly is; it was not a decision that Adam and Eve were to make, they were to obey, just obey, and the price of disobedience was the wreck of the entire human species. The message is “obey or suffer.” Is there no better statement of the true motivation behind that religion?

It is all there in the Bible. Yahweh’s point over and over is “obey me, properly, or else.” And for the sniveling sort who say, “but that is the Old Testament god, Jesus is different,” these folks seem to forget that their faith, almost always, says that the Old and New Testament gods are one and the same … and even if they were not, Jesus had Hell invented on his watch (Hell is not in the Old Testament). Obey or burn in Hell is a New Testament twist to the Old Testament threat.

 

 

November 10, 2017

Boy, I Love Ian Welsh

But unlike most of the rest of the world, China is actually trying to tackle problems, to think decades ahead, to plan and to do big important things. Some of what China considers important, like its expansion of a truly oppressive surveillance citizen which will include a public score for every citizen, I don’t like, but China does big things, good, bad or flawed, while we watch approaching catastrophes and gently hum to ourselves, then check our phones.

Follow the brilliant mind of Ian Welsh at his blog.

Economist’s Grasp of Reality (or Lack Thereof)

Many economic theories focus on the tendency of markets to create states of equilibrium. They say these states occur “naturally.”

Economists are also keen on making their studies seem scientific and they can and do point to many physical systems that naturally come to equilibrium. If you drop a ball, it falls, bounces a few times and then stops. The force on the ball at that point is the force of gravity (the attractions things have for one another because they have mass) and the counterforce (keeping the ball from moving downward by opposing the force of gravity) is the floor pushing up because its shape has been changed by the weight of the ball as it is made of resilient materials (materials that return to their original shapes when distorted .. a little). Voila, an equilibrium state created naturally. The downward force of gravity is exactly balanced by the upward force exerted by the floor and an equilibrium of forces exists.

Physics literally abounds with such examples: bathroom scales, child’s swings (pendulums), heat transfers, etc. But these are simple systems and economic systems are not simple (although they can be passed off as such, they are not). A better source of examples of scientific equilibria would be biology, which has more complex systems. In biology, if an organism achieves something like a state of equilibrium there is one thing you can know about it: it is dead. (Hey, this does happen … naturally!)

In complex organisms, these organisms are near states of equilibrium but never get too close to being in one. If, for example, we lose enough heat from our bodies to affect our skin temperature, we are moved to action: our hair stands up (goose bumps) to trap air to insulate us, our metabolism kicks in to generate more heat internally, and if those don’t work, we get up and put on a sweater, or turn on the heater in our house/apartment. Our temperature stays pretty much the same because we are always correcting it.

If we get too far from equilibrium, we usually are quite ill, but actually being at equilibrium means we are room temperature, aka dead.

Economist are full of shit if they espouse natural equilibrium creation by economic markets. It is one of those signs that you know they are spouting bullshit, like when their lips are moving. The reason they allow themselves such delusions is they do not check their theories against reality. They aren’t even expected to! Unfortunately for those folks, their end is coming soon. While they were not looking, behavioral economics has sprung up with a behavioral economist having won a Nobel Prize recently. These folks apply economic reasoning to actual experiments and actual people’s behaviors! That is, they check their theories against reality. (Gasp, wow!) It will not be long before the movers and shakers start noticing the progress being made by the behavioral economists is not being matched by ordinary economists and then, the jig will be up.

Imagine, if “trickle down economics” had ever been required to be validated against reality, it would have been exposed as a bullshit argument used to mask increased benefits for the elites long before it was. Think of all of the political bullshit that could have been prevented.

If this were to become SOP, we might actually find out what the last refuge of scoundrels really is.

November 9, 2017

Step by Step, Inch by Inch, We Get Closer to Seeing What is True

I read the following quote in one of my favorite blogs, Religion Dispatches, today:

“Friedrich Nietzsche argued (I think it was in Ecco Homo, but don’t count on it as my Nietzsche readings were fifty years ago. Steve) that theological claims are actually expressions of ressentiment—envious hatred toward those we believe have oppressed us. He thought people created ultimate value systems, involving good and evil and heaven and hell, in order to put their enemies in their place. It’s a form of “imaginary revenge,” a self-consolation in the face of inevitable human limitations like powerlessness and death.”

Ah, just one step short. People may have invented the idea of settling scores in the afterlife, but the elites are the one’s that not only allowed it to be spread, but encouraged it (if they didn’t come up with the idea themselves and planted it in the first place). They saw that if people really believed that “their oppressors” would truly be punished in this fictitious afterlife, that it would inhibit the oppressed from trying to rush it along and do something while they were alive. So, it doesn’t matter why it was created in the first place, but why it survived.

I guarantee you, if the elites didn’t think it was useful, it would not still be part of “scripture.”

We Are Waking …

Check this out “Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires?” by Thomas Frank of The Guardian. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Mr. Frank says, for example, “In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person’s freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire’s freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours.

He is not quite there, though, as you can see from this “I don’t want to go too far here. I know that what the billionaires and the celebrities have done is perfectly legal. They merely took advantage of the system. It’s the system itself, and the way it was deliberately constructed to achieve these awful ends, that should be the target of our fury.

Mr. Frank, with all respect, it is not some disembodied “system” we need to contend with. You must realize that the elites created the system. We do not need to take the system down. we need to take the elites down.

At least the mainstream media are starting to see reality.

November 7, 2017

The Real Cornerstones of Christianity

I have been claiming that religion exists only as a mechanism to control the great masses of people so they continue to serve the interests of the elites (both religious and secular). In this post I take a look at the concepts of Christianity (mostly, as being the religion I know the most about) that further this end and no other. (For Christians who feel they are being picked on, ask yourselves if you want other religions being taught to the same degree as is Christianity or do you want to be the dominant religion here? If you say dominant, then, well, you have to expect to be the only religion people know well enough to be able to critique.)

Your rewards come in the afterlife.
You will be rewarded and the people who did you wrong will be punished after you all are dead. So, whatever you do, don’t act up while you are alive. Stay passive. (Judgment is mine, sayeth the Lord!)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth.
Of course, your inheritance will be worth almost nothing by the time the elites are done with it. But, if you stop being meek, you will get written out of God’s will. So, cultivate meekness, no?

You must believe in Jesus to be saved.
This mobilizes the “flock” to spread “the word,” creating a self-propagating propaganda campaign. This aspect mobilizes basically good people to deliver a crooked message.

The rich have no chance of getting into heaven.
Right. Since the rich have heaven on Earth and there is no heaven or afterlife, this is a sop to the poor bastards toiling away to make the rich richer. If being rich paves your path to Hell, why are the rich not giving their wealth to the churches? They seem only to give enough to polish their reputations, but not enough to cramp their lifestyles.

God is outside of time and space.
So, don’t go looking for Him, other than in your own imagination, because he is nowhere to be found. This is why the atheists can’t find God, the fools!

God works in mysterious ways.
If there is something you do not understand it is because you are a dumb fuck. Allow your betters to act on your behalf. They are smart and know better. And if they are dumb fucks, too, and do not know, this lets them off of the hook.

“God, in His own words, is a murderous sociopath
whose primary message is:
Worship Me, Properly, or Else
(Commandments 1 and 2 of the infamous ten).”

The Bible is the word of god.
If you read the Bible you will find this god, in His own words, to be a murderous sociopath whose primary message is: worship me, properly, or else (Commandments 1 and 2 of the infamous ten). This, coupled with keeping the Bible in a language none of the Christians could read for centuries (and killing people who translated) facilitated the elites being able to tell us what the Bible said, whether it said that or not. (Many people believe things like “God helps those who help themselves” are in the Bible when they are not. Since they know they haven’t read the thing, I wonder where they got that idea?) Oh, and they are still doing this. In other words, the elites are the word of god.

Belief is more important than knowledge.
And they will tell us what to believe and even what to know.

Those who cannot see what clearly is not there are fools!
This turns a delusion inside out. One is not foolish because one has been deluded, the others are fools for not being deluded. The helps build distrust in what can observed oneself and bolsters what they tell us to imagine. (The emperor’s new clothes are real, trust me, I know the tailor.)

There are no contradictions in the Bible.
There are hundreds of contradictions in the Bible but they don’t want you to go looking for them, just take this “fact” on faith … and don’t listen to anyone who points these things out as they are the tools of the Satan.

God listens to you and answers your prayers (sometimes, kinda, sorta).
Again, no action is required except inaudibly petitioning their god to do something you could do something about yourself. People so want to believe this is true they make up instances in which their prayers were “answered” and share them with their friends. Again, this is part of the self-propagating propaganda campaign. There has never been any evidence that prayers work (amputees getting new limbs, starving children becoming well-fed overnight, etc.).

You need to give liberally to your church.
After all they are doing “God’s work.” Yeah, like an all-powerful god who created an entire universe with hundreds of billions of stars and planets in just a couple of days, needs church officials to do what He cannot. Yahweh: all-powerful, all-knowing, and always in need of money. If being rich paves your path to Hell, why are the rich not giving their wealth to the churches? They seem only to give enough to polish their reputations, but not enough to cramp their lifestyles.

On the Sabbath, neither you, nor your kin, nor your slaves shall work.
If you aren’t supposed to do any work (some observant Jews think that turning on a TV is work), what are you supposed to do? Use the day to work your own little garden so as to be able to feed your family better? No, that’s work. Create a new business as the Republicans are always saying we need to do? No, that would be work. You are supposed to spend the day praying and studying scripture, in other words, reinforcing your own programming.

You may not be aware of this, but every time your computer reads something off of a hard drive it rewrites the files being read, thus reinforcing what is a very weak magnetic signal. The Sabbath is a day of reinforcing your religious programming (aka propaganda) so it doesn’t weaken under the strain of a seven-day work week. You can even go to temple or church to get reinforcement. You can’t work, but you can donate food and money to the church on this day … of course. This is pitched as a “day of rest” and made to sound like a vacation, but the faithful do not treat it as such.

By controlling what you do one day out of every seven, the control is reinforced strongly. Ever time you are controlled, it becomes more commonplace, more ordinary.

A woman shall cleave to her husband (etc, etc.).
There are so many diminishments of women in the Christian religion I had to narrow the list it to just this one example; there are many. many more. Basically the Bible offloads the responsibility to oppress women onto men. This lightens the load of the elites while giving a false impression to men that they are in control of their lives.

Controlling the reproduction of the species is a primary goal of the elites. There need to be enough workers, but not too many mouths to be fed. (Desperate poor people often try to rob the rich.) And sex has power over men’s minds which could equal the power of religion or the state, so men need to be warned off and taught that consorting with women is evil. Our current Vice-president will not go out for a drink with a woman not his wife. Now, that is control. Many Muslims wallpaper their women in cloth so they can walk on the streets, lest men be tempted by the evil wiles. And on, and on, and on, there is much more to this topic alone.

Conclusion
My hope is that if you see things as they really are, rather than as they are claimed to be, you will be able to see all of these controls in operation. You, then, can decide whether you want to go along.

Me, I like being asked. I tend to respond to reasonable requests very positively. If you try to (or actually do) manipulate me into doing something, I am done with you. You are out of my life. (If you don’t believe me, ask my dearly departed second wife. She isn’t dead, just dearly departed.)

November 6, 2017

Live Off of the Land? Move Along, Nothing to See Here

The empire keeps striking back, as this article about the legal foundation of the common use of the land to sustain oneself shows. This battle is still being waged today.

The elites do not want us to use common land to sustain our lives. They need to be able to coerce our labor to their benefit, not ours. And their efforts continue to this day.

Read it and weep: Why You’ve Never Heard of a Charter as Important as the Magna Carta

 

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