Class Warfare Blog

February 16, 2018

The “Right-to-Try” Scam

There seems to be a movement to disrupt or remove “regulations” on pharmaceuticals. I mean why should those poor companies have to jump through all of those hoops to get a drug to market? This is called the “right-to-try” movement. Even President Trump has heard of it (ergo Fox (sic) News reported on it).

So, would people who are in need of some medical help be given the right to try unproven pharmaceuticals? This has been on option for richer citizens for quite some time. At the peak of the AIDS epidemic, people who could afford the effort were heading for Asia and Mexico to try all kinds of “therapies” to save their lives. I am unaware if any of these proved a source of drugs that ended up actually helping people so afflicted.

Or, is this just a cynical scam of “let’s try out drugs on desperate poor people?”

I’ll guess I’ll believe it when these assholes suggesting this shortcut to the clinical trials needed to verify a drug’s effectiveness line up to test out those drugs themselves. I suggest that what they see in this future is unproven pharmaceuticals are “tried” and then anecdotal evidence of cures is available (or fabricated) and sales soar through the roof. When problems occur (ineffectiveness, horrific side effects, deaths, etc.), the companies can pleas “How could we have known? They had a “right-to-try” and exercised it. We thought it would work. It is sad; our thoughts an prayers go out to the afflicted.” Typical of plutocrats it is: heads I win, tails you lose.

Assholes.

(Try a key word search for thalidomide.)

 

 

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More on Civilization

In recent posts I have been parsing the claim that, if I may use Karen Armstrong’s words again, “… historians argue, without this cruel arrangement that did violence to the vast majority of the population, humans would not have developed the arts and sciences that made progress possible. Civilization itself required a leisured class to cultivate it, and so our finest achievements were for thousands of years built on the backs of an exploited peasantry.

If one accepts this argument as being valid, then I must ask: why is it necessary that the coercion and exploitation of the masses continue as it has? Isn’t it time to say, well now that we have civilized societies all over the globe and extended the benefits to all people, poorer people should no longer be exploited.

Basically, I am asking if this coercion/oppression is the driver of civilization, will it ever end?

Will it? Will we say “Enough!” loud enough to get the elites to drop the whip? Or do we need to, as Charleton Heston once inferred, “Pry it from their cold dead hands.”

The answer to this question may revolve around crafting a new role for the elites. If we, for example, were to laud “Stewards of Humanity” enough, might it become attractive enough to elites to have them stop the exploitation and start helping people instead or would people, like the Koch brothers, think “that’s what we have been doing all along.” Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt any more, and I suspect that we would need to be very, very clever to pull something like that off.

Have any ideas about what attributes someone would have to have to qualify as a Steward of Humanity?

February 15, 2018

Why Fundamentalist Christians are More Likely to Be Political Conservatives

I won’t be coy here; fundamentalist Christians and Conservatives find themselves in bed because they share an ad campaign. There are areas in this country in which Christians cannot believe one of their fellows is a registered Democrat, that is how closely the two categories have become entwined. This is not an accident either. This also tends to go unnoticed by the coastal elites who are in pretty much the opposite polarities.

Both fundamentalist groups, Christians and Conservatives, proffer a “the world is going to hell in a hand basket” worldview and blame their fictitious accelerating slide into mediocrity, immorality, and doom on the failure of us, their audience, to embrace their values and beliefs.

There is only one thing wrong with this: they couldn’t be more wrong … both of them. Not just wrong, but Titanically wrong. (Unfortunately, there is no iceberg to show them how off course they are.)

The thing I find amazing is how willing these people are to lie to establish that these memes of theirs are true. Lying and politics go hand in hand, so I guess that is not surprising, but the religious lying through their teeth, when the message is a slackening of morals, is rather jarring.

A recent book by Steven Pinker shows that violence has been declining for centuries … not total violence because the population has been increasing, but per capita violence. The earliest memory I have of a mention of the U.S. population was when I was in high school and the number was 148 million. Currently we are somewhere near 325 million, so I suspect everything has more than doubled since then. The number of cars on roads has doubled, the number of miles of roads has probably doubled, too. The number of postal workers, the number of pet dogs, all of those must have grown substantially. But when we are talking about social issues, the frequency is more important than the absolute numbers because of this population growth. The incidents of per capita violence have been dropping for centuries … even including the world wars and killing fields and all of that. This is one of the main topics of Professor Pinker’s book.

Crime in the U.S. has diminished substantially over the past 50 years, even in absolute terms. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, there is just no support for the declining morals/values whine from these two groups.

If you want to read more about the state of the world as it actually is, I recommend Dr. Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature. I am about to open his most recent book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, which is in the same vein. You can continue to listen to the utterances of President Trump, but I consider them to be worse than noise at this point and only pay attention to the official actions of his minion horde, drawn from the dregs of the Republican Party. Those actions aren’t noise and should be kept on lists so they can be reversed (better: improved upon) as soon as the clown and his circus are out of office.

There is one message and one message alone that the election of Mr. Trump demands be heard: people are fed up with the status quo. Mr. Trump is acting against that state, but in the direction opposite to how the people want to go and in the direction dictated by the wealthy elite in this country.

Addendum R.I.P. GOP, there seems to be nothing left of that party’s integrity, morals, and values.

February 2, 2018

Do You Buy This Argument?

Clearly our educational system is failing, heck it has failed. In the last 100 years, the average IQ of Americans has been stuck at 100 and if we are going to solve the problems of the future, we need to get smarter!

Is this a valid argument?

Do you accept it?

You should not.

IQ tests are “re-normed” every year, that is the average IQ test score, whatever it is, is defined to be a score of 100. Studies have shown that actual IQ scores are 10% higher now than they were 100 years ago, which means that a tester with a score of 100 (aka “average”) now would have had scores 110 back then or a tester back then who scored a 100 would score a 90 now.

So, this “complaint” about “the system” is taking what is actually a positive result and making it sound negative. This is not a new practice. People have been cherry-picking evidence since the dawn of making arguments. Often this is exacerbated by ignorance but possibly as often this is done with full knowledge of such distortions. The unfortunate thing for us is this practice is becoming acceptable to large swaths of the American people.

We see it in politics and we see in religion. For example, Christian apologists keep trotting out arguments that were disproved centuries ago as if they were new. I can’t believe all of them are ignorant to the facts, so some of this is done deliberately. What happens to an apologist who is caught out, basically telling an “untruth”? The answer: nothing. Similarly, in politics, politicians who lie and are shown to have known the truth ahead of the lie suffer no ill effects. We used to have a joke from many, many years ago that went: Q: How can you tell a politician is lying?, A: His lips are moving. This was considered funny and was based partially upon the fact that politicians are not allowed to tell the truth in many cases due to security issues (it is illegal to release “top secret” info) or they have been ordered by political superiors to not tell the truth yet (timing issues), etc. Now, lying is so commonplace that politicians don’t even bother responding to journalists who catch them lying. It is almost as if they are saying “Of course I was lying … didn’t you see my lips move, fool!”

If we are to save our democracy, we need to become better participants as citizens. We need to make sure there is a penalty for lying. To do this we need to stop trying to be universal experts in every political issue that comes up as that is a Herculean task and we are not demigods. Pick a topic (climate change, dark money, gerrymandering, whatever) and set out to become educated about that topic. Heck pick two topics, but whatever topics you pick, learn about the nuances. Then fire away.

In the absence of an educated citizenry, we will fall victim to arguments that sound valid, such as the one above, created by those wanting to manipulate the process and do not care for the truth, the people as a whole, or democracy in particular. We are many, they are few. No matter how many of us chose to become “experts” in a particular topic, we will still be many and they will still be few. But if we continue to flounder and, watching the “news,” bounce from topic to topic we really know nothing about, we will fail. We are many and they are few … and it is easier to organize a few than many.

Oh, and the answers you seek are not available on the “news.” In fact, I am not sure there is anything of value any more in the “news,” so if you think you are keeping up on current events because you watch “the news” on TV, you are being duped. I never watch TV “news” and when I stopped, I became much better informed on the issues I care about.

January 21, 2018

Why Can’t Atheists Just Shut Up About It?

Filed under: Culture,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:24 pm
Tags: , , ,

There is a pervasive feeling among many Americans that there is a war being made upon Christianity, when in actuality Christians are part of a class of people called theists, people who believe in the existence of a god or gods so that includes Christians, who are making class war against those who do not so believe, atheists. This has been going on since there have been religions so it is nothing new. For example:

  • Plato, in his construction of the ideal state, made “impiety” a crime punishable by five years imprisonment for the first offense and death upon a second conviction.
  • Jesus, who is offered as the fount of love and compassion, threatened nonbelievers claiming they will be thrown “into the furnace of fire” where “men will weep and gnash their teeth,” just as “the weeds are gathered and burned with fire….” (Matthew 13: 40– 42).
  • Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval theologian, taught that “the sin of unbelief is greater than any sin that occurs in the perversion of morals,” and he recommended that the heretic “be exterminated from the world by death” after the third offense.
  • Our political waters have been so poisoned against atheists that in 1958 a mere 18% of Americans could abide the idea of an atheist president. (Recently that number has climbed to 58%, possibly due to atheists speaking out?)

So, those thinking that atheists should be silent are saying that we should suffer their iniquities in silence. But, by not being silenced, we are fighting back, and as the poll result above shows, making progress. We should have learned to fight long ago but it is hard to think when you are being burned at a stake.

January 12, 2018

Oh, If Someone Else Will Pay For It, Sure

Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, said on Thursday that it would raise its starting wages, give bonuses to some employees and vastly expand maternity and parental leave benefits for its army of more than one million hourly workers. The retailer said that it would use some of the money it expects to save under the recently passed Republican tax bill to pay for the raises and enhanced benefits.

Walmart said it would increase its starting hourly wage from $9 to $11, and provide one-time cash bonuses of up $1,000 to hourly workers, depending on how long they have been with the company. The wage increase brings Walmart in line with some of its other retail-industry rivals amid a tightening labor market. Target raised its base pay to $11/hr last fall.

So, Walmart is struggling to keep up with Target? WTF?

Within hours of its self-serving announcement, Walmart undercut its triumphal message when news leaked that it was closing 63 of its Sam’s Club stores.

So, was the wage increase a smoke screen? Some “good news” to cover the “bad news” to follow? Otherwise why make the announcements on the heels of one another?

And, since Walmart is using its “tax cut” to pay for some of these employee benefit increases, how much of it we do not know, are they saying “Gee, now we can afford it?” Walmart has made huge profits for its owners and investors for decades, large enough that they could have been a leader in how to treat their employees. But no, Walmart would rather their primaries get to become billionaires than their workers to have a living wage.

And if anyone claims that Walmart is paying the “market price” for its labor, I will scream! The “market” is not magic, in fact it is a political construct that has been manipulated to create the lowest possible labor costs for its participating companies. The “market” is something that is a lousy guide for any endeavor. Worse are “free markets.” Any decent economist can tell you that unregulated markets doom the sectors they serve. In fact markets cannot thrive without regulation. So, why is one of our major political parties campaigning on a “regulations are bad, we must get rid of them” plank? Ask the people who are paying for those opinions to be espoused and actions taken. (Hint: it ain’t you or me.)

As to who will actually pay for those raises, look forward shortly to the Repubs to cut benefits to poor people. Why? Because the tax jiggering they have pull off is going to lower federal tax receipts and “we won’t have the money” to pay for such frivolous expenditures. Look for Walmart employees, a class of workers who benefit from the government programs lined up for haircuts by the GOP, even with their raises and bonuses to be less well off a year from now than they are now.

Three Billion = Not Enough

Today, Carrier, the profitable heating/ventilation/air conditioning company, owned by United Technologies Corporation, a federal contractor whose climate, controls, and security division, of which Carrier is a part, reported three billion dollars in operating profit in 2016—is letting go of more than two hundred employees in its second and final wave of Indiana-based layoffs, which began last July. In total, the company will be laying off more than five hundred employees as it moves manufacturing jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. Many of those employees voted for Donald Trump, who made saving Carrier’s “big, beautiful plant” one of his most repeated campaign promises. It was part of his broader pre-election claim that “A Trump Administration will stop the jobs from leaving America.”

Do realize that careful analyses of such moves often show the savings are minimal. Because the jobs are no longer near the U.S.-based managers, another level of managers has to be hired. Then there is transportation costs, and…. One thing you can be sure will be affected is their stock price. “Shareholders” love these moves, why no one knows. I suspect it is the choir praising the minister as both managers and shareholders belong to the same church, the Church of Greed.

Three billion dollars in profits in just one year and a sterling reputation for quality and … oh, we have to move to save the company? WTF?

January 8, 2018

Pigs at the Private Trough

I have written before about CEO compensation, mainly that it is being manipulated by the CEOs themselves and their hand-picked boards of governors (often made up of other CEOs). This largess isn’t supported by history in this country and now a major study by Bloomberg researchers has driven a stake into any argument that these overpaid CEO’s are worth what they are paid. A post on OurFuture.org stated: “The Bloomberg researchers looked worldwide at major corporations of similar size and heft. In all, the researchers examined corporate pay records in 22 nations. In not one of these nations, Bloomberg found, do the executives of top-line firms make anything close to the paychecks of America’s corporate execs.

“In fact, America’s top corporate executives are taking home, on average, quadruple the average CEO pay that comparable top execs in the rest of the world are making.

“If this huge pay difference simply reflected a “marketplace” judgment on the sheer talent of America’s top execs, top U.S. corporations would be totally dominating global markets, outselling their foreign rivals by wide margins in everything from cars to computers.

“U.S. corporations are doing no such thing, of course. In one key global market sector after another, foreign corporations that pay their CEOs much less than U.S. CEOs are running neck and neck with their U.S. counterparts — and often leading the pack.”

CEOs and their cohort (business executives) are the largest growing segment of the 1% and are major drivers in the efforts to establish even greater wealth and pay inequality through manipulations of the government. If they were insects we would not hesitate to spray them out of existence for the pests they are.

I have suggested a way to dial back these bloated CEO salaries. It is relatively simple. If you like your current CEO, renegotiate his contract around a salary 50% of whatever they are currently making. If they say that they will “take their ball and go home,” say “fine.” Go to the Vice-CEO and offer them the job at 50% of what you were paying your current CEO. In all likelihood they will jump at the opportunity to improve their resume, but if they do not, go to the next most senior executive and offer him/her the job. You will find a taker and your company will not suffer much if at all. If you are in favor of a “kinder, gentler” process, you can make the reduction to 75% or whatever you deem appropriate. If the subordinates to your current CEO are also making bloated salaries, the same process should be applied to them. We certainly would not want the top executives making less than their subordinates! (Hey, the top guys used this to ratchet their salaries up, we can use it to ratchet the others’ salaries down.)

The fact the foreign companies that are doing as well or better than our companies are “getting by” with CEO pay one fourth of what we are paying says something. Heck, if you can’t find anyone in your corp who will take the job at 50% of current CEO pay, offer it to one of those foreign executives. To them the job will come with a pay raise.

Just Plain, Or Not So Plain, Ignorant

I was reading Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens” last night and came upon this. (Despite my occasional cavils, this is a brilliant book, highly recommended.)

The Scientific Revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge. It has been above all a revolution of ignorance.

Shortly after came this:

Premodern traditions of knowledge such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism asserted that everything that is important to know about the world was already known. The great gods, or the one almighty God, or the wise people of the past possessed all-encompassing wisdom, which they revealed to us in scriptures and oral traditions. Ordinary mortals gained knowledge by delving into ancient texts and traditions  and understanding them properly. It was inconceivable that the Bible, the Qur’an or the Vedas were missing out on a crucial secret of the universe – a secret that might yet be discovered by flesh-and-blood creatures.

If something couldn’t be found in scriptures then it was, by definition, trivial.

So, I have to ask: has anything changed? The power of religions is based upon their traditions and scriptures, so they reinforce that power every chance they get. They weave that power into our cultures and politics to sustain it.

And, it is clear that very, very, very important things were left out of scriptures as they were unknown at the time of their writing.

So, has anything changed?

 

 

January 7, 2018

If the Elites Might Benefit, Then Sure, They are For It

In today’s NY Times an article (Medical Research? Congress Cheers. Medical Care? Congress Brawls by Robert Pear) states that there is some bipartisan support for science in our Congress. Here’s the introduction:

“WASHINGTON — They cannot agree on subsidies for low-income people under the Affordable Care Act or even how to extend funding for the broadly popular Children’s Health Insurance Program — two issues requiring urgent attention as Congress returns to work.

“But a more exotic corner of the medical world has drawn rapturous agreement among Republicans and Democrats: the development of new treatments and cures through taxpayer-funded biomedical research.

“For the third straight year, lawmakers are planning to increase the budget of the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion. In the process, they have summarily rejected cuts proposed by President Trump.

“The push for additional funding reflects a fascination among legislators with advances in fields like molecular biology, genetics and regenerative medicine, even as they wage bitter battles over just how large a role the government should play in financing health care and providing coverage.”

When the shade the politicians have thrown is illuminated, it is clear why this support is bipartisan. New medical procedures, even those which prove to be very costly, will help keep the elites alive longer. The elites have told us over and over that “America affords us the finest medical care in the world.” What we didn’t focus on was the use of the word “us.” They were referring to the elites as only they can afford the finest. The fact that our medical care system only ranks somewhere near the middle of first world countries is irrelevant and they know it. Those results are based upon average health outcomes and the elites are paying for treatments and health outcomes that the top 1% get. They do not care much at all about the poor health outcomes that the poor and middle class can afford as those do not affect them directly. But there are many of us and few of them, which means they are more than willing to take our tax dollars to pay for their cures.

Everything you need to see is right in front of your eyes. We only need to believe what they are saying, what they actually are saying and not what we wish to hear.

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