Uncommon Sense

June 24, 2022

Freedom!! Freedom!!

The GOP advanced their Freedom Agenda today, when their hand-picked Supreme Court Justices overturned Roe v. Wade which established abortion as a valid option for pregnant women everywhere in the country.

By voiding Roe, the GOP’s minions have established their small government, freedom loving vision upon the country. The government is expected to stay out of the private lives of citizens . . . , uh, well, except when a woman gets pregnant and the state steps in and exercises control over that woman’s uterus.

No other organ is thus “protected” by the state. The state (federal or local) cannot require you to accept an organ transplant, nor require you to donate any of your organs to another (even blood). The state cannot require you to protect your heart and lungs by not smoking. But uteruses, well, they’re special, you see.

And while the SCOTUS justices may have been correct that the constitution right to privacy may not be the shield Roe needed, there is this small matter of . . . the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which provides that “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” So women are secure in their persons, except when the anti-abortion states step in and exercise control over their uteruses. And determining that a woman is pregnant, how is that not an illegal search? How does that make any sense at all? And what about “equal protection” of the law? The Fourteenth Amendment states that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” but that apparently doesn’t apply to the United States collectively. So, in the United States, a women will get an abortion in one state and be arrested and tried for murder, but another woman, just on the other side of the state line, will get an abortion, paid for by her insurance company. This will happen because the U.S. itself doesn’t provide equal protection under the law.

Clearly the current crop of SCOTUS ne’er-do-wells were just looking for legal-schmegal language cover for what they wanted to do for their religiously inspired agendas.

The Republicans orchestrated this. The only solution is to vote them out, vote them all out.

May 12, 2022

Roe v. Wade Politics

I say fuck the GOP, and fuck the current SCOTUS. I also say fuck the Democrats because they decided that having a woman’s abortion rights in play was too important of a political football to be fixed, which they could have done long ago.

Lodging the Roe v. Wade decision in the privacy rights vaguely attested to in the Constitution was a mistake. They should have been lodged in the 4thAmendment to the Constitution, which begins “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

The states considering laws making anyone who leaves their state pregnant and returns not so to be a criminal will be violating the 4th Amendment. “Alright, lady, turn out your uterus.” Similarly any search of a woman as to their pregnancy is protected from government intrusion. Any ban on abortion pills involves the same problem. To prove their case, they would have to search for a pregnancy before and after the event, which is not allowed. People are to be “secure in their persons.”

May 11, 2022

Judicial Activism Unchecked

In the 1960’s, the real conservatives of the time railed against “judicial activism” which basically meant that courts were legislating from their benches. Well, if that were true, those prior justices were pikers compared to the current Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS).

There are a number of checks on judicial power, the Congresses ability to legislate, etc., but one of the foundational checks on judicial power is the principle of stare decisis.

Stare decisis is a legal doctrine that obligates courts to follow historical cases when making a ruling on a similar case. Stare decisis ensures that cases with similar scenarios and facts are approached in the same way. Simply put, it binds courts to follow legal precedents set by previous decisions. Of course, following this principle, like so many things involving the SCOTUS, is voluntary. (Unlike all lower courts, for example, SCOTUS has no ethics code.)

Just to be complete, a precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive without going to courts for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. (Source: Wikipedia)

Now, here’s the kicker: if the wording “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” in the leaked Alito opinion remains intact in the final opinion, it basically creates a precedent that precedent no longer exists. It would effectively kill off the legal doctrine of stare decisis as a check on judicial power. All that would be necessary for the court to take off in any direction it wants is to declare that all of the precedents are flawed.

This is not a scare tactic. The court has been blowing off precedents in droves lately. In the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which declared that corporations had the right to donate unlimited amounts of money to political entities, but not candidates or parties, and that money was a form of political speech and so is protected under the First Amendment, the court actually sought out such a case and ignored a great many precedents in ruling on it. Same goes for (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) which added to the concept that corporations are legally people with the right of free speech, to include that they have religious rights.

Some basic impossibilities are involved here. In the Hobby Lobby decision, the religious beliefs of a corporations owners were decided to be in play. While this may be the case for private corporations, what about pubic corporations? Are not all of the shareholders co-owners of the corporation? Would not any action in this arena therefore require a poll of the shareholders? Have you heard of such a thing?

In Citizen’s United decision, what is this “person” who has these political rights? Is it the owner(s) or just the CEO? Is it the Board of Directors? And, wouldn’t those people also have personal political rights? So, they are creating a class of citizen that isn’t in the “one man, one vote” class. These citizens have multiple votes and multiple channels of free speech. Could not the corporation grant the CEO a “bonus” (for performance, of course, wink, wink, nudge, nudge) which then gets donated to this or that candidate (which the corporation cannot do directly)?

Talk about creating an unnecessary nest of snakes. A fiction created in the 19th Century to facilitate corporations (actually to privilege them) is being turned into an über-citizen creation device. The SCOTUS has been pro-business in the extreme for a long time and we have no reason to believe they will not continue on that path. So, this is by far not the limit of their activism; they are just getting warmed up.

Freedom!

The rats are scurrying to follow-up on the pending gutting of the long-standing Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision. Some states passed legislation restriction abortion severely, only to be triggered by the voiding of Roe v. Wade. They were thinking ahead. Other states are contemplating new legislation. For example, one state is considering legislation that if you leave the state pregnant and return not-pregnant, that you would be arrested and tried for murder. Other legislation is in the works to ban the sale of the abortion pill (the most common form of abortion currently). Laws making it illegal helping someone across state lines to get an abortion have already been passed. Laws making doctors susceptible to murder charges were they to perform an abortion, too have been passed.

All of these laws were promulgated by the Freedom Caucus of the GOP, you know the people who think that requirements to wear a mask or get a vaccination are infringements upon their personal freedoms. They also seem to believe that voting is not a right but a privilege, hmm.

Apparently “freedoms” are only to be supported if you are white, male, Christian, and vote Republican. And these are not people who believe in “freedom” just what they happen to believe in, the rest of the world be damned.

And whatever happened to “equal protection under the law”? Oh, Justice Alito doesn’t like the 14th Amendment, either? Well, I guess the clock is ticking on that, too.

May 3, 2022

Voters—Is This What You Want?

The consequences of voting Republican are becoming more and more obvious. It this is what you want, then keep voting Republican.

Voter Suppression
Republicans do not believe that “all men are created equal” not even close. By that, by the way, it does not mean that all mean are created with equal abilities, far from it. It means that all people want a decent life, want to have a family and protect themselves and their families from harm, etc. Basically, it means that at a ground level, we all want the same things. Beyond that, for example, only men seem to want to be “the baddest dude in town” and “the richest man in the world.” I have yet to see a woman espouse those desires. But regard the basics, we all want the same thing.
And, like I said Republicans do not believe that, at all. They think some are way better than others: they think White people are better than Black people, they think straight people are better than gay people, they think Christians are better than non-Christians, and they think that people should be treated differently because of those differences.
Do you think voter suppression would be “a thing” if the votes needing to be suppressed were White person votes and not Black and Brown person votes?

Diminishing Women’s Reproductive Rights
The Republicans staged a disingenuous process to pack the Supreme Court with shallow, doctrinaire, political thinkers, meaning the Court’s reputation will continue to sink until people will have lost any faith in its role in our government. (This undermines our democracy, because the courts were supposed to be one of the “checks and balances” on the other branches.)
There is a reason the Republicans have resisted the elimination of the filibuster in the Senate. When the Supreme Court has gone rogue, cutting its ties with prior courts and dumping precedents right and left, then legislation must be passed to make up for that. But a minority in the Senate controls whether anything gets passed and thus we will stagger forward into rule of the minority.

The Rich Getting Richer at the Expense of Everyone Else
The Republican Party used to known as the party of the wealthy, but they have actually franchised the whole party out to its rich donors. The only laws that get past are those favoring the rich. Consequently, the rich have more and more money with smaller and smaller tax bills and the rest of us end up paying for anything we collectively want to do. And the only things the GOP wants to fund are the courts/justice systems and the military. So, they keep giving the military more money than they ask for while our schools are starved for funds and our infrastructure crumbles.

No Separation of Church and State
The GOP wants to give Christians special privileges and many exemptions from our laws, becasue they are so special. If you are a Buddhist, or Muslim, or atheist, or just “spiritual, whatever the fuck that means, well get in line, behind the Christians flying first class.

The Suppression of Unions and Worker’s Rights
They have been grinding away for forty years or more and now we are seek real negative effects. If this continues, we gonna hafta tug our forelocks and address our corporate masters as “massa” and give them no lip or feel the lash.

So, if that is what you want, then continue to vote Republican. Polls of the public and voters in particular show that those things are not what they want. So, let’s take down the Republican Party. If they want our votes, they will have to change their evil ways. If they do not, there are plenty of defunct political parties in the history books they can join.

And, if we reject the Republican Party, that means we are stuck with the Democratic Party, and that is no prize. The Dems dumped their historical foundational groups: working people, minority groups, teachers, and labor unions in the late 70’s, early 80’s. They, like the GOP, only serve their rich donors now. Well, they will have an opportunity. If we take down the GOP, the Dems could wake up and reform from within, and go back to serving all of us . . . in proportion. If not, then it is time for a new party. Yes, I know some people will suggest we go back to the Republicans, claiming everybody deserves a second chance. Well, the GOP is on it’s seventeenth chance, and doesn’t deserve another. Same with the Dems. Reform now. Serve us all, proportionately (No, Repubs, not proportionate to our wealth), or enjoy the view from the dustbin of history.

April 26, 2022

Separation of Church and State or Separation of the Rich and Poor?

I am just finishing “. . . And Forgive Them Their Debts” by Michael Hudson which is about what its subtitle proclaims “Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year.” This is quite an academic tome and I don’t recommend it to those of you who do not enjoy reading academic works. (They can be tedious.)

After reading about our millennia long battle between the accumulators of wealth and various governments, secular and religious, opposing them, it seems clear that the U.S. founding fathers, who were so deathly afraid of religion corrupting politics, and vice-versa, that they erected a wall of separation between church and state, should have been equally concerned with separating the rapacious wealthy from the wealth of ordinary citizens.

Professor Hudson shows in meticulous detail how throughout history the wealthy have leveraged their wealth into vast holdings of land and people’s lives. The pattern is usually simple: the rich lend money to the poor, and the poor who from time to time cannot repay their loans and so their land becomes forfeit. Often enough the labor of the original landholder goes with it, including spouses and children, which is effectively slavery.

Early governments tried one solution, a royal proclamation forgiving all such debts. Originally these were debts to the government (taxes, etc.) and often enough excluded businessman to businessman debts, but these “Jubilee years” were proclaimed often enough to point out the problem. And as nongovernmental lenders became dominant, the debt forgiving included private debts.

The Bible is full of attempts to prevent the wealthy from taking control of most of the land of Judah and Israel. (Note If your version of the Lord’s Prayer includes “. . . and forgive us our trespasses . . .” realize that it originally read “. . . and forgive us our debts . . .” Uh, guess who objected to the original wording?) In fact, it is implicit in Jesus’s claim that the Kingdom of God is nigh, that there would be such a Jubilee declared (often enough these were declared every time a new king took over). So, all of the “money changers” who were also money lenders and were looking at their loan debts being canceled with no repayment had a massive reason to get rid of Jesus ASAP.

This “cycle” has happened over and over and over, yet the current powers that be are exerting themselves to make sure that the tool of “forgiveness of debts” is forgotten and stays forgotten.

Here is one of the last paragraphs in this book:

“Mainstream ideology now denies a positive role for government policy to constrain the large-scale concentration of wealth. Purporting to explain the history of inequality since the Stone Age, for instance, Stanford historian Walter Scheidel’s 2017 book The Great Leveler downplays the ability to substantially reduce it without natural disasters wiping out wealth at the top. He recognizes that the inherent tendency of history is for the wealthy to win out and make society increasingly unequal. But the only “solutions” to inequality that he finds that work are the four “great levelers”: mass warfare, violent revolution, lethal pandemics or state collapse. He does not acknowledge progressive tax policy, debt write-offs or return of land to smallholders as means to prevent or reverse concentration of wealth in the absence of external crisis.” (. . . And Forgive Them Their Debts” p. 460

Gosh, now who would benefit from the long history of debt forgiveness not being known to many? Is it the poor people? No. Is it the middle class? No. Is it the rich? Got it in three, Bubba. If the wealthy don’t like a word or term it is gone, like unearned income, or changed, like liberal and socialist. They even decry “redistribution of wealth” when they are getting richer by doing exactly that. They just don’t want their wealth to be redistributed. They don’t mind your wealth being redistributed.

The rich buy economists like candy bars and once bought they say what the rich want them to say. So, when an economist claims that wealth inequality is inevitable and “the only solutions are mass warfare, violent revolution, lethal pandemics or state collapse” and otherwise we are helpless, you now know who paid for that message. There should be a statement attached to such books with a photo and the statement “I am a wealthy person and I approve this message.”

April 25, 2022

Wanna Know What’s Wrong with the American Economy?

From “Life in the Real Economy” by Harold Meyerson, April 19, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Chrysler devoted 27 percent of its 1960 revenues to its 105,000 employees, and just 10.5 percent to its 192,000 employees in 2019, while the share going to holders of Chrysler stock increased seven-fold. The pressures presented by non-union automakers in the South and imports from lower-wage countries greatly weakened the United Auto Workers over the ensuing 60 years, which clearly is a major factor in the falling employee share.

Union Pacific Railroad had almost an identical number of employees in 2019 as it had it 1960, but the share of company revenues they received plummeted from 47 percent in 1960 to 21 percent in 2019.The share going to stockholders, by contrast, rose from 7 percent to 39 percent. The amount going to reinvestment (new equipment, R&D, etc.) fell from 6 percent to -11 percent (that’s negative 11 percent).

As more Americans traveled by air, the number of United Airlines employees rose from 22,000 in 1960 to 96,000 in 2019. The share of revenues going to employees, however, dropped from 47 percent to 21 percent over that time, while that going to shareholders rose from 7 percent to 39 percent, with a decline in reinvestment identical to that at Union Pacific.

What went wrong is American corporations became solely focused upon increasing “shareholder value.” Oh, and did I mention that CEOs began to be paid in stock and/or stock options during this period, making them shareholders? And I must note that what they were really talking about was “share value” as in shares of stock. Shareholder value would be to provide value to the holders of the stock, which is best served by a strong corporation organized to last a long time, providing benefits to the shareholders for that long time. It is relatively easy to manipulate share prices, it is very difficult to manipulate share value. Guess which ones the CEOs practice the most? (examples are rife: consider stock buybacks (which used to be illegal manipulations of stock prices but are no longer consider to be so due to helpful politicians) being used to manipulate stock prices, and corporations like the Enron scandal, a major con based upon artificial inflation of stock prices, by the simple expedient of lying.

Basically American corporations have spent decades redistributing wealth from their workers to their shareholders. And here I thought conservatives were opposed to redistributions of wealth.

What’s wrong with the American economy is that we are not part of it. It is being run by the rich, for the rich, and politicians get rich facilitating that process.

April 15, 2022

What American Conservatives See

Filed under: Culture,language,Politics,Race,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:18 am
Tags: , ,

American conservatives are flocking to demagogues because of what they see happening to their country. They say:

  • Their religion is under attack! Atheists and secularists taking away their religion.
    • Politicians taking their tax monies and giving it away to the unworthy.
    • The American (aka Christian) family is under attack! What if you have a transgender kid and they can’t carry on the family name, etc.
    • Schools curricula emphasize the theory of evolution over the Bible, and CRT, slavery years over patriotic education.
    • The American (aka Christian) family is under attack! Gay marriages, etc.
    • Cancel culture is attacking the core institutions of our lives.
  • Liberals/Democrats stole the last presidential election!

And, well, they aren’t exactly wrong . . . but they are being played. Let’s unpack a few of these, shall we?

  • Their religion is under attack! Atheists and secularists taking away their religion. Unfortunately they are mistaking shooting themselves in the foot for unfriendly fire. The reasons they are losing meat in the seats is their corruption and unwelcoming nature which offends the young they so desperately are trying to attract.
  • Politicians taking their tax monies and giving it away to the unworthy. Welfare is destroying this country! Actually, the shrunken “welfare state” is still but a tiny fraction of the governmental expenditures on corporate welfare. Plus, when people use the phrase “the unworthy” in this context they usually mean Black and Brown people. The majority of welfare moneys in this country are spent upon white people (the bulk of SSA payments go to old white ladies, for example).
  • The American (aka Christian) family is under attack! What if you have a transgender kid and they can’t carry on the family name, etc. This is a classic fear born reaction to any social outcaste coming out of the closet. Predictions about the dire consequences if Black men were allowed to vote, women were allowed to vote, women to be members of the armed forces, gay people to be married, women to run marathons, etc. were numerous and . . . unfounded.
  • School curricula emphasize the theory of evolution over the Bible, and CRT, slavery years over patriotic education. As a matter of fact CRT is only taught in some law schools, so it is not being taught in “their schools,” but the theory of evolution is being taught in Biology classes, where it belongs. The Bible is taught in comparative religion classes, which many schools don’t have because parents haven’t asked for them. (Classes on strictly the Bible violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, so schools cannot offer those, unless they are a private, non tax-supported religious schools, then they are perfectly legal.)
  • The American (aka Christian) family is under attack! It is claimed that same sex marriage, pre-marital sex, and contraception are weapons being deployed against the American family. Actually, none of these are being forced upon families and most families are completely unaffected by such things. And one cannot help but notice that the Bible Belt states have the highest unwed mother birth rates in the country.

And, well, they aren’t exactly wrong . . . but they are being played.

  • Cancel culture is attacking the core institutions of our lives. (Unfortunately cancel culture was enshrined in the Bible and is one of the favorite weapons of the religious, They are objecting to it being used against them instead of by them. They are perfectly happy when their opponents get canceled and outraged when their supporters get canceled.
  • Liberals/Democrats stole the last presidential election! Some many dead people in Georgia voted for Biden to swing the state. And all of those phony votes change our congressional elections, too. Wait, they didn’t? So, they voted for Biden, but no other Democrats? Strange.

* * *

I remember, back when I was still watching TV news, a story about a bus accident in India in which some number of students were killed. I don’t remember the number. And then I was struck with the thought “Why is this news . . . here?” I could understand that it would be news, probably local news in India, but why here? The odds that any listener would have a relative or a friend on the bus had to be close to zero (very close). And I don’t think there was a school bus safety standards issue, since I can’t imagine their school bus standards and ours are aligned. The only thing I could figure was the propensity for “news organizations” to follow the rule “if it bleeds, it leads” when it comes to news. And if there isn’t any bleeding closer, then faraway bleeding will have to do.

Shortly thereafter, I stopped watching TV news. (I still watched TV political commentary, but MSNBC’s coverage of the 2016 presidential election cured me of that.) My point was “Why am I importing misery, negativity, etc? When I stopped watching TV news shows, I noticed, almost immediately, that I wasn’t seeing anything like the events they had been feeding me. For example, I now live in Chicago and while the news was raving on and on about the murder outbreak in my city, I hadn’t seen a single dead body, nor heard a single gun shot. (Oh, I did see one dead body, but it was washed up on our adjacent beach, it was someone who fell off of a boat and drowned.) Yes, I understand such things are concentrated in “certain neighborhoods,” neighborhoods in which gang activity is rampant, and I do know that there are such neighborhoods close by and I appreciate the fact that my partner volunteered in one of those, but the level of concern generated by the “news” programs was much greater than that generated by newspapers and neighborhood gossip.

The creators of the Fox News channel recognized this effect: that if properly staged, the news can be a powerful tool for generating fear and that fear can be turned into a political weapon.

And, as another example, would die hard Christians even notice that “atheists” were undermining American’s belief in God? How many of them actually have spoken with an acknowledged atheist? If you look at online sites, you can find sites devoted to atheism, but you have to look for them, they aren’t being pushed to the fore, that is they aren’t being promoted greatly. On one site, Quora, a question and answer site, I see a great many atheists responding to questions. Virtually all of those questions come from theists (in the U.S. that means mostly Christians) and they come in great numbers. If those Christians weren’t asking those questions (mostly “gotcha-type” questions, that have been answered decades if not centuries ago) there would be hundreds of thousands fewer atheist statements on that site. The zeal of those “Christians” is producing exactly the effect they do not want.

What Christians are actually noticing is that the number of people in the pews is diminishing. In many churches the “oldsters” and “youngsters” are so at odds that they are given separate Sunday services. The oldsters cannot stand that modern church music (Electric guitars, for Pete’s sake!) and the youngsters cannot stand the old folk’s boring services with droning music. One would think that this real, noticeable effect would generate some introspection and an attempt to bolster the desirability of church attendance. But the churches don’t stand a chance because the political hate machine which is Fox News was declared at top volume that there is a War on Christianity. They even took images from the Near East where there is actual religious warfare and used them to illustrate that here in the U.S. Christianity is under attack, from atheists! Right here in River City!

We need what used to be called a “voice of reason” right now to lower the temperature of our political and religious discourse, but Fox News and right-wing extremist organizations have waged a war upon reason. So, apparently what we need now is a “Voice of Sanity.” Any suggestions as to who could fill this void?

April 10, 2022

Proof that Jesus Was White!

Filed under: Culture,Race,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:02 am
Tags:

You have read here, and I am sure other places, that religious apologetics, especially Christian apologetics, is in a very sorry state. Currently poorly educated apologists are making arguments that were disproved centuries ago yet they are unaware of that. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Then I saw this argument made: “Jesus is white . . . because he went into a heavily occupied commercial district in Jerusalem, overturned working tables, scattering wealth in the form of coins of all denominations. He even whipped a number of the merchants with a corded whip. Did Jesus go to prison? No. Was Jesus arrested? No. Was Jesus even questioned by the Temple guards? No. If that wasn’t a manifestation of white privilege, I don’t know what is.”

Now, that is a solid argument.

But in the comments, a responder said: “No, no, no . . . Jesus was a black or very brown brother and I can prove it. Jesus got arrested, tried, convicted (without an offer of a public defender, mind you), then was physically brutalized, humiliated, then executed . . . for a crime he didn’t commit. Was this even investigated? No. Were the police questioned? No. Jesus was a brother, man.”

Now that is an argument that is hard to counter.

At least some of this new generation of Christian apologists are showing some chops!

March 22, 2022

Holy Moley!

Our political disputes have become what the Founders feared most, a religious war. With the forces of “good” pitted against the forces of “evil.” And all because we let evangelical Chrsitians play politics. Thanks Republicans, for taking their ideas seriously (albeit just to feather your nests)!

What is most alarming is the underlying ideology that leads so many on the right to consider Democratic victories invalid – even if they concede there was nothing technically wrong with how the election was conducted. It has become a core tenet of the Republican worldview to consider the Democratic party as not simply a political opponent, but an enemy pursuing an “un-American” project of turning what is supposed to be a white Christian patriarchal nation into a land of godless multiracial pluralism. Conversely, Republicans see themselves as the sole proponents of “real” America, defending the country from the forces of radical leftism, liberalism and wokeism. (The Real – And Far Scarier – Reason Republicans Think Biden Is Illegitimate by Thomas Zimmer, The Guardian, 3-21-22)

Good, but scary, reading.

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