Uncommon Sense

January 1, 2023

Questions to Ask Christian Nationalists

When someone espouses the belief that the U.S. should be declared a Christian Nation, here are questions to ask them.

  1. Why do you want the Catholics in charge of the country? Is the Pope going to be running the government? (Catholics are the most populous denomination of U.S. Christians.)
    Note If they answer “Catholics aren’t True Christians™!” ask “Who gets to determine who are True Christians™ and who are not?
  2. Will you make laws against atheists, as being unpatriotic or whatever?
  3. Will you create tax laws based upon religious status?
  4. Where in the Biblical Worldview is the concept of “one man, one vote” supported?
  5. Where in the Bible is democracy (representative or direct) addressed or even described?
  6. Will religious arguments be allowed in our courts?
  7. Will religious arguments be allowed in our state houses?
  8. What will happen if a state becomes majority Muslim?
  9. If states adopt a state religion as was the case in our early days, will there be a process whereby one religion can supplant another as the state religion? What is that process?
  10. If the Bible is to be used in court to support legal positions, which Bible will be considered definitive?
    Note This is especially important as the OT was written by Jews and the NT was written by people becoming Christians. The OT should be disallowed because it is non-Christian. (This will disappoint many evangelicals.)
  11. Will the Quran and Scientologist and Mormon and Vedic scriptures be allowed as evidence in courts? If not, where is the line drawn between what is allowed and what is not?
  12. Will religious instruction in public schools be mandatory? Will children of non-Christian religions be exempt from those lessons?
  13. If the number of Americans claiming to be Christians drops below 50%, then what happens?
    Note From the 1970s until the 1990s, for as long as Pew tracked it, about 90 percent of Americans identified as Christian. Then in just one generation, that number plummeted. By 2020, only 64 percent of Americans identified as Christian.
  14. Will marriages be required to be religious ceremonies and will non-Christian marriages be void?

Summation You know, I don’t think they have thought this thing through.

December 30, 2022

Getting Stressed Over Stress

The stresses of modern life are being touted at a high volume right now, including using terms like megastresses and permastress.

It is the case that one can talk oneself into an emotional state that is quite unnecessary based upon circumstances and this is one of those cases.

I am not trying to diminish people’s struggles with long COVID or unemployment or not having decent healthcare services available. All of those stresses are real. But politicians have been running the Fear Machine on overdrive for years now. For example, are you worried about the immigrants seeking asylum on the Texas border? If you are and you don’t live in Texas, you are being manipulated. Texas’s neighbor state New Mexico has a high population of Hispanics next to their border and the flow of people across the border is quite high, typically dominated by Americans going to Mexico to shop or to get cheaper dentistry, etc. They all seem to get along there in New Mexico and across the border in Mexico.

Gosh, do you think that the politicians in Texas are using the asylum seekers as grist for their Fear Machines to grind?

What other stressors do you focus upon? Cryptocurrency? Well, fools and their money are soon parted, so just ignore them. How about Antifa gangs? Again, made up nonsense from Fox “News,” in fact anything you hear on Fox “News” can be considered a false flag operation. Are you worried about your children being taught Critical Race Theory? If you are you should take them out of law school as that is the only place that theory is taught. Are you worried about LGBQ (whatever) folks recruiting your children? Relax, they don’t do that. Are you worried that teaching real American history will lead your kids to “Hate America”? If so, you would rather have patriotism based upon lies than upon truth and have you considered what happens when your children find out they were lied to? (My sister is still pissed that our parents didn’t tell her that Santa Claus was made up, and she is 80 years old now.)

There are stresses associated with modern life. In fact, a life without any stress may be unhealthy, but you do not need a load of bullpucky in the form of bullshit stressors added to your load. Ask yourself “How does this affect me?” in order to figure out what your response needs be. If you are worried about the war being waged upon Ukraine, maybe donations to the International Red Cross for Ukraine are in order. Maybe a letter to your Senator or Congressman stating support for relief being sent to Ukraine is your response. But sitting in front of your TV at night and wringing your hands does no one any good, especially you.

December 20, 2022

Jan 6th Committee Punches Up!

The hapless Republicans keep shooting themselves in the foot. When the House of Representatives decided to investigate the “Attack on the Capitol” the Republicans decided to play ball, the Republican Way. They nominated clear Trump loyalists/fan boys but those appointments were nixed by the Speaker of the House. Then they decided to not play ball at all and told their caucus to not serve on that committee. But the Committee was formed and it had two Republicans on it! Of course, there were consequences to those “rebellious” Republicans; neither will have seats in the next House.

But that didn’t deter the Republicans. They labeled the effort as a “partisan witch hunt” (and continue to do so to this day).

So, the Repubs refuse to appoint honest Republicans to that committee (maybe they couldn’t find any) and then claim that the committee’s work is political and biased and “partisan.” Brilliant. Trump even whined after one of the hearings that none of the committee members were defending his viewpoint. (Duh!)

The Committee held hearings on TV with the vast majority of those being heard were Republicans, including officials in the administration and Trump family members. (Trump declined to testify and the Committee declined subpoenaing him.)

Five Republican members of the House were asked to testify and when they declined, subpoenas were issued. All five spurned the subpoenas and so the committee referred them to the House Ethics Committee as such is a violation of House Rules, and well, you know, the law. (Only four were referred as one of the five had already left the House.)

Since the committee was investigative in nature, they could only make recommendations: recommendations for changes in governmental policy, the election laws, etc. And they recommended that the Department of Justice consider criminal proceedings against the main perpetrators. Many of the little perps are already in jail, but none of the masterminds are. If the DOJ pursues those cases, that may change.

One of the charges recommended by the committee is that of aiding or abetting an insurrection and that was leveled at former President Donald John Trump (all major criminals are referred to with their full names, e.g. Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, John Wilkes Booth, etc.) and potentially many others. And a provision of the Constitution is that anyone convicted of insurrection-related crimes is no longer eligible for public office. This is being called into dispute, I presume by Trump loyalists. They claim this provision may be unconstitutional.

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 3:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Now that is a hoot. The Constitution may be unconstitutional! The Constitution states all kinds of restrictions as to who can run for office. These involve age (you must be this old to ride this ride), to being a “natural born citizen” (we don’ need no stinkin’ immigrants). (Being white and male weren’t explicitly stated but were unofficial qualifications early on.) Why disallowing oath breakers and insurrectionists would conflict with the other parts of the Constitution seems bizarre, but with the current version of the Extreme Court, aka the Rogue Supreme Court, I guess anything is possible. The Repubs worked like beavers to get those political hacks installed on the SCOTUS bench and they seem to be betting that they will do their bidding no matter how ridiculous.

December 9, 2022

Good Ideas Coming Out of the Walls

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 1:03 pm
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It is often that conservatives suggest things like drug testing for welfare recipients, and means testing for Social Security benefits, and identification papers to be able to vote. They think the “takers” should be branded with a letter T on their foreheads so we will know whether they are worthy of respect. (Well, they haven’t gone that far yet, but I also haven’t read much of the alt-right literature.) They should therefore like the following offering regarding means testing for federal government leadership positions.

On Quora recently the question was asked “Has the US taxpayer been subsidizing European welfare states, as conservatives increasingly proclaim?” Which drew this response:

No. We have been subsidizing conservative welfare states, the poverty leaders in the U.S., Kentucky for example. It is downright sordid that a senator (Moscow Mitch McConnell) from the biggest leach state in the union has had as much power as he’s had.

There should be a rule that when a state’s snorting of tax payer dollar lines exceeds how much they contribute in taxes by a reasonable amount, the state’s senators and reps can’t have leadership positions in our government. It’s not fair to the productive states. If you’re freeloading off the rest of us like Kentucky, you should be disqualified from leadership.

November 29, 2022

The Education Voucher Program Scam

Filed under: Business,Education — Steve Ruis @ 9:04 am
Tags: , , , ,

There is a rule of thumb I apply when researching over-the-counter drugs and medical devices. I do an Internet search basically asking “does XYZ really work?” or the equivalent. If the top ten hits are mostly websites clearly sponsored by the creators, I know it is a scam. Those sites are part of their marketing plan. If the reviews by the general public are largely negative, these “positive” reviews dilute them down. They basically are guaranteeing that positive “reviews” are the first thing that comes up in such a search.

If you do a similar search for information on educational voucher programs, you will get a similar response, all heavily positive data and reviews. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of the “data” and reviews are bogus, paid for by the rich assholes taking financial advantage through such programs. (It sure isn’t the students because independent research shows that students using vouchers perform more poorly that students who do not. “There is credible research on one side—that vouchers are largely a negative force for student outcomes—and politically oriented reports on the other. That’s it.”—Josh Cowen)

If this is a topic that interests you, here are the specifics:

Josh Cowen: A Citizen’s Guide to the Researchers and Funders Behind Vouchers

November 26, 2022

All You Need is Love, Wait . . .

Christians of the evangelical sort are told frequently that all they need is faith, but actually that is not true. They are also told that they need to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior — that if they didn’t they weren’t “saved,” and they would go to hell. (Someday I am going to have to write about accepting someone as one’s “lord.”)

Then I ran across this statement on my Quora feed:

Christianity is a set of incentives that erode our own internal resources. And minimizes our access to them. In return, the only “resource” we are provided with is faith. Faith to me is something much more toxic even than a faulty epistemology. It is a gateway drug to an addiction to being right. (Vincent Downing)

Wow! “Christianity is a set of incentives that erode our own internal resources. And minimizes our access to them.” I should have realized this before, that Christianity of the evangelical sort is a system that makes people dependent upon the religion by reducing their own abilities. The phrase “Jesus take the wheel” sums up this belief. Jesus never passed his driver’s test, so this is not meant literally. It is meant that Jesus is to take control of one’s life and steer it, brake it, speed it up, etc. It means that control over one’s life is to be placed elsewhere. (Of course Jesus is nowhere to be found, so the church steps in as his general factotum.)

If you look at the skills a modern adult needs to thrive in our culture, they are myriad. One needs patience, resilience, grit, persistence, intelligence, intuition, reasoning ability, logic, . . . , compassion, love, empathy, hand-eye coordination, a sense of direction, etc.

But these Christians are taught that when then need a little help that they are to trust in God/Jesus for that help, and they need not learn and practice the life skills needed to thrive.

It is all about creating a dependence upon the church.

The church, of course, cannot be seen to be unreliable or untrustworthy, or even incorrect, which is why they deny vehemently any wrong doing, even when caught with their pants down (literally), and this is where the second part of the above quotation comes in “It is a gateway drug to an addiction to being right.”

So, churches need to emphasize why they are “right” and the others are “wrong” otherwise they could lose adherents, aka paying customers. They just cannot say that other faiths/religions are okay as that would be marketing suicide. This explains why there are between 30,000 and 40,000 different sects of Christianity. Each one has to insist that about some point, be it minor or major, they are right and the others, all of the others, are wrong.

For example, evangelicals have a hard time calling Catholics “Christians.” According to them, Catholics aren’t “saved.” Apply this thinking to the vast number of Christian sects and you arrive at only one of them being “correct” and all of the others are leading their congregants to Hell. Imagine that, the vast majority of Christians are going to Hell, and that is according to other Christians.

Outside of theological matters, we can see what this level of thinking is doing to our (American) politics. Rather than seeking out compromises as was done for generations, modern pols insist they are right and that the others are not only wrong, but they are evil and should be destroyed. Egad! Where did this extreme political rhetoric come from? (You know now, don’t you.)

November 22, 2022

Which Issue is the Newly Republican House Be Most Focused Upon?

Republicans were elected to office promising to do something about crime, inflation, high taxes, etc. but the first thing announced to be at the top of their agenda, is . . . well, you guess, from this list:
1. crime
2. inflation
3. high taxes
4. abortion
5. Russian war sanctions
6. the new IRS hires
7. the President’s son, Hunter Biden.

Well, what do you think? Yes, it is Hunter Biden! If you correctly guessed that is the case, your winner’s prize will be shipped to you within the next 30 days. This is the greatest issue on the Republican political radar facing this country.

But Republicans are multi-taskers! While they are busy investigating a private citizen, they will also be busy trying to rescind the funding for the 87,000 new IRS agents recently authorized. So, their first crime legislation is making it easier for tax cheats to evade paying taxes. (And since those new agents were to specifically target rich tax evaders, we are not at all surprised, are we?) I am sure those rich criminals will be grateful and pony up campaign donations with the money they save from cheating on their taxes.

Oh, remember the rapid anti-communists of the GOP’s past? The “New Republicans” will also try to prevent any more aid being provided to Ukraine in its defense against invading Russian armies. I guess they learned that “Aid to Putin” was a good thing from Donald Trump.

Really?

I just saw a post in The Guardian with the title: “Amy Coney Barrett urged to step away from gay rights case because of faith affiliation” and subtitle: “The US supreme court justice’s history with the People of Praise raises questions about her impartiality in upcoming case.”

I understand the effort, but really? Does anyone expect Justices Alito or Thomas to be “impartial” in such matters? Consider the majority opinion in the Dobbs case, that overthrew the Roe v Wade decision, which was largely incoherent, stating thereby “We are going to decide this the way we want because we want to” and had nothing to do with impartiality or even precedents.

Note—I was under the miscomprehension that recusals were rare at SCOTUS, when in fact they are very, very common, so this “request” is not at all bizarre. I suspect that it will not be granted because if it were, then that Justice would have to recuse herself from a great many issues upcoming that she would rather not.

November 20, 2022

What Freedom Did We Fight For, Exactly?

The MAGA/Freedom nuts keep referring to the Revolutionary War and the “freedom” that was at the heart of it. And they claim the freedom they want is to get the government off of their backs so they can do what they want, without interference.

Is that the freedom that our American forefathers fought for? I don’t think so.

Phrases such as “no taxation without representation” come to mind and some of the early requests of the American colonists were to have Americans added to Parliament to give the colonies some say, at least an ability to argue, about the policies the British government enacted for the colonies.

The final break was a contest for the ability to govern ourselves, and not be subject to an autocratic king or, for that matter, a parliament in which we had no say.

So, we fought for our freedom to create our own government. And the resulting government is a manifestation of the freedom we won.

So, how could the current MAGA/Freedom nuts get it so wrong? According to them “government is not the solution; government is the problem.” They, in fact, have been polled to be wanting an autocrat, preferably Donald Trump, but any MAGA Autocrat would probably due. They are admitting that they are not freedom loving and that they would rather kiss an autocrat’s ass, than go about the work needed to make sure the government is as we want it to be. They are basically saying “Scrap our representative government, give us a king.”

Appalling.

November 16, 2022

Won’t Voters Ever Ask Government to LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE?

The above question was used as a title for a online column by a Mr. John Stossel on Nov 9, 2022. I assume he is a right-wing commentator as he states that he is “the author of Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”

His post doesn’t have much to say about answering that question, it was more about wanting Republicans to defeat Democrats and “take control.” And, as we all know, Republicans are renowned for getting government to leave people alone.

The passion shown in the question, indicated by all caps being used (which is shouting in print), indicates a heartfelt desire to be left alone by government. But that is rather stupid. Allow me to explain.

We are what biologists call a social species. We bunch together in groups to our advantage. So, over the years we created things like fire departments to assist us when fires attack our homes or places of business. We created police departments to handle sociopathic members of our societies. We established rules under which people can do business so that people aren’t cheated or businesses unfairly competed with. We established . .  . I think you get the idea.

The “government” has been turned into some sort of bogyman that came from Mars to attack us by these very same people, or they are trying to convince us that is so. Instead, government is “We the People” acting collectively. None of us would survive more than a few weeks entirely on our own. Without using banks, paper money, credit cards or any of the other systems created by “government,” how would you acquire food to eat? Would you try to barter with the clerk at your local supermarket? Would you go hunting in your nearby national park? Would you gather nuts and berries from your local parks? Fish in the local streams?

How would you get around? Surely you wouldn’t deign to use “government roads” to drive on, besides how would you pay for gas to operate your vehicles?

The “government,” aka We the People, is interwoven in our culture and society. The people bemoaning this fact are actually bad actors who want to take advantage of the absence of government. Business are hell-bent on creating monopolies, so that they will dominate the markets they are invested in, and thus make all the money they want screwing over their “customers.” They don’t want government anti-monopoly functions interfering. They want “free markets,” which is code for markets free of government manipulations, so that they are the only ones manipulating them. They want government to “leave them alone,” but are working assiduously to get government officials to grant them special privileges, subsidies, special tax statuses, etc.

We are a social species. We thrive when we take care of one another. The only discussion should be “how” and not whether to do that or not.

These people are telling us who they are. We need to listen to them and act accordingly.

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