Class Warfare Blog

September 21, 2017

Wealth Concentration Has Consequences, Severe Ones

I guess I can’t recommend to economic good sense of Yves Smith enough. In her latest post, Insanely Concentrated Wealth is Strangling our Prosperity she makes the simple point, and backs it up with irrefutable evidence, that the biggest problem with wealth concentration is that the wealthy don’t spend their wealth. As they accumulate more and more, that is wealth taken out of circulation, and becoming idle it does no one else any good. Job Creators, my ass.

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September 19, 2017

Drowning in a Sea of Bullshit

William Mathis is Vice-Chairman of the Vermont Board of Education and Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center. He recently wrote “Losing our Purpose, Measuring the Wrong Things.” Here are a couple of quotes from that document:

Having high test scores was falsely linked to national economic performance. In hyperbolic overdrive, the 1983 Nation at Risk report thundered, ‘the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.’

After 35 years of this same Chicken Little jeremiad, the nation is still the premier economy of the world, leads the world in patents, registers record high stock prices, and is second in international manufacturing. (For the nation as a whole, the independent Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that we do not have a math and science shortage).

By declaring schools ‘failures,’ public monies were increasingly diverted to private corporations. Yet, after a half-century of trials, there is no body of evidence that shows privatized schools are better or less expensive. Large-scale voucher programs actually show substantial score declines. The plain fact is that privatization, even at its best, does not have sufficient power to close the achievement gap—but it segregates. It imperils the unity of schools and society. This proposed solution works against the very democratic and equity principles for which public systems were formed.

Spot on. How many truth tellers will it take to get people off of the current set of false narratives? I cannot answer that question, except to say “more.”

September 9, 2017

NRA Quietly Backing Democratic Presidential Candidates

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:43 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

The NRA has been quietly funding some Democratic candidates for president for the 2020 election, noted an inside source. The election of Donald Trump has been a disaster for the guns and ammunition manufacturers. Without the threat of a progressive administration “taking away our guns,” there has been no impetus to stock up and guns and ammo sales have plummeted.

While Mr. Obama was president, gun sales soared as repeated NRA campaigns focused on plans of the Obama administration to confiscate Americans’ guns. During Mr. Obama’s time, of course, no such plans were made, neither were there actions taken, with only a few mild suggestions to Congress for reforms. Mandatory background checks at gun shows or universal background checks were recommended, even a one gun per month limit on sales was suggested but none of these were acted upon. Still the threat of confiscation was a constant topic in the circle of gun owners.

Since the election of Mr. Trump, the sales of guns and ammunition have fallen dramatically. While the NRA will not admit it publicly, privately officials are saying that a Democratic president will be much better for business, hence the attempts to support candidates now. Early money is like yeast, our source told us.

August 12, 2017

I Don’t Get It

If you look at the updated somewhat notorious graph below, you can see that worker productivity has been detached from worker wages starting in the 1970’s. This was the result of a concerted campaign by the very wealthy to suppress wages by suppressing labor unions, getting tax code changes in their favor which transfer tax liabilities off of them and onto other Americans, even by suppressing voting.

This has created a great deal of economic distress in the bottom 90% of economic Americans and will result in a backlash. What I do not understand is the strategy. Going from astonishingly rich to fucking rich changes the lifestyles of those rich people exactly how? Is it just getting their way, at least for the while until the backlash, that makes this worth doing?

Even Henry Ford understood that if you paid better wages, you would get much of that back through one’s employees becoming one’s customers. Hell, these rich people invented the company store, where laborer’s wages got sucked back to the employer through required purchasing of the goods to survive. Those stores are no longer allowed, but Henry Ford knew that his employees, once they had the wherewithal to purchase a car, were going to buy one of his because of loyalty generated through his paying better than normal wages to his workers. (It is called gratitude.)

But, the current crop of rich bastards would rather strip away the ability to buy the goods their companies produce and, what, sell those goods overseas? When the pitchforks and torches finally end up circling their gated communities, will the plutocrats wonder why their employees aren’t more loyal to them? Are they that stupid? Do they think we do not see what they are doing?

August 9, 2017

A Modern Quandary

I have been reading “Sociology is a Martial Art: Political Writings by Pierre Bourdieu.” This is puzzling to me because I haven’t been having any trouble sleeping, so why would I want to read a sociology text? (Sorry, old joke.)

In a context different from the one I will address in this post ( his was the impact of television), Professor Bourdieu wrote “How can I reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number?” His concern was that the primary function of television seemingly was to dumb down even simple discussions. Here I want to address the topic of the anti-evolution crowd and the anti-climate change crowd.

Without specialized training, it is hard to follow the science in these fields. I have a graduate degree in chemistry and I am not versed in the nuances of either subject (although I guess I could create a small summary of each). So, without esoteric training, how are the citizens in a democracy supposed to assess the validity of such concepts.

We could start with having better basic education, explaining that a scientific theory is a mechanism that explains a great many facts as well as makes predictions available to expand out knowledge. Currently people use the word theory as a synonym for “wild ass guess.” “I have a theory about that …” they will say. No, they don’t. At best they have an hypothesis and more likely they have a guess that is poorly substantiated at best. To say one has a “theory” makes one sound better than to say “I have a guess as to….”

It also does not help that each topic has a cadre of sociopolitical opponents. If the Theory of Evolution is correct, all of fundamentalist Christianity and most of doctrinaire Christianity is off to a rubbish heap somewhere. Basically, if God didn’t created humanity magically, we couldn’t have “rebelled” against his authority, so there was no original sin, and hence nothing for the human sacrifice that was Jesus to absolve. (Bye, bye!)

Climate change has political opponents who have economic stakes at risk. The Koch brothers fund anti-climate change efforts to protect their oil refining, oil pipeline, and other industries, while David Koch supports NOVA science education programs on PBS, including programs on climate change (possibly as a suppressing maneuver?).

So, ordinary citizens are left to evaluate what appears to them to be a propaganda war. “Scientists” have lied to them before as have businessmen, so it is hard to decide which side of either of these debates is trustworthy.

I find the argument that climate change was invented for scientists to be able to secure grants for their work (It is a hoax!). Whoever invented this red herring obviously has never interacted with scientists, each of which has a big ego, and the first of them to discover such a plot would gleefully expose his colleagues to shame and humiliation for participating in it. Most scientists minored in gloating in college.

So, what’s a citizen to do?

I think part of the problem has to do with the evidence not being on display. I hear Christian apologists often ask the question: Where are the transitional fossils? This questions goes back to the time of Charles Darwin when there was a very sparse fossil record. The key facts that the public needs to know is that fossils do not form all that often, so are passably rare and that with regard to transitional fossils, fossils that show one species transitioning to another, there are large numbers of them available. Maybe a video (to reach the masses) needs to me made of the amount of evidence underlying the Theory of Evolution. The amount of evidence, from many, many different and unrelated fields of science is incredibly vast. Just a list of peer-reviewed articles supporting the theory scrolling on like the credits of a Hollywood movie (like they do on TV, at super high speeds) would take hours. Flashing photos of all of the fossils that apply to animals no longer in existence but which fit into the evolutionary family tree of Earth, would also take quite a long time (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 3008, 3009, …).

The same could be true for Climate Change. We could run publicity shots of the smiling faces of the scientists in the field who support the tentative conclusion that humanity is contributing to the current round of climate change (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 178, 179, …). Then the photos of those reputable scientists who oppose the current consensus on climate change could have their photos flashed (blink, blink, blink).

There is no way ordinary citizens could be brought up to speed on these topics through educating them, because even with the head start in such training I have, I do not want to put in the effort. Instead, I trust the scientists in their field to represent their findings correctly (to the best of their ability) and I trust the egos of their colleagues to prick any intellectual bubbles that are flimsy or unfounded.

Another route might be to create an independent evaluation board to provide basic explanations of science topics to legislators and citizens. The Town of Brisbane, Australia did this a while back (don’t know whether they still do) when they created the office of Town Scientist whose job it was to explain scientific topics to the town governing board and citizens of the Town of Brisbane. For the longest time the State of California had an independent political official whose job was to explain issues voters needed to address and that office was never politicized or demeaned, and it worked really well for quite some time (don’t know whether it still does).

This is a modern problem, because back when “governance” was by autocrats/monarchs, they didn’t give a fig about whether the people understood or not. Ironically, it was the advent of merchants (aka business people) who accumulated wealth (aka power) enough to make it important that a wider swath of a country’s population be made to understand governmental decisions. With the advent of modern democracy, issues are now submitted to the ballot and candidates for office are voted upon, too. We need to figure out how to “reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number” and we need to do it fast. Life ain’t gonna get simpler.

August 8, 2017

So What?

There is a major climate change report out (and it ain’t good news) that is awaiting approval by various agencies. The draft document has been leaked to the NY Times, if not other sources, and in a NYT report the following was stated: “The E.P.A. is one of 13 agencies that must approve the report by Aug. 18. The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.”

“The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.” Interesting. My response is “So what?”

Is Mr. Pruitt even qualified to have such an opinion? Let’s see … Mr. Pruitt was trained as a lawyer before he went into politics. Well, he might have specialized in environmental law, so … according to Wikipedia Mr. Pruitt “entered into private practice in Tulsa where he specialized in constitutional law, contracts, insurance law, labor law, and litigation and appeals.” Hmmm, no mention of environmental law. Maybe he has undertaken an extensive review of the scientific literature on climate change, you know, read a few thousand journal articles, attended conferences, that kind of thing? Anybody got a guess as to how likely that was? Yeah, I came up with zero percent, too. He has no training, has put in no study, so he knows squat of that which he judges.

Mr. Pruitt has no basis for his opinion other than political ideology, so his opinion is irrelevant at best. I suggest he may be making the same mistake as the Kim Davis of 15-minute fame. She confused her job as one of exercising her personal judgment instead of determining whether all laws were complied with in the issuance of a marriage license. Mr. Pruitt may think that his opinion has merit. It does not. His job is to ascertain whether departmental protocols were followed in the creation of the report, and if so, sign the damned thing.

Apparently President Trump also has an opinion … <sigh> … okay, Mr. Trump was trained, er, graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the U. of Pennsylvania….

Why Creationists Insist the World is Only 6000 Years Old

Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, the creationists who believe in a 6000 year old Earth are called Young Earth Creationists to distinguish them from the others of their ilk. So I am referring to these chaps (they always seem to be men; whether this is due to a manifestation of Christian misogyny or a manifestation of female sensibility, I can’t say).

And the idea of a “young earth” is not just confined to people who label themselves as Young Earth Creationists. If you watch any of the very numerous apologist videos, you will see their positions aped very frequently. In essence, if you believe in the literal truth of the Bible, you are a YEC.

Onward and upward!

As to why the insistence on this 6000 year age for the Earth, I assume some of it is to protect their assumption that the Bible cannot be wrong, but underlying that their narrative has problems if the Earth is not so young. If, after creation, Adam and Eve are shooed off to go forth and multiply but not to darken the door of his garden again by Yahweh, Jesus comes along after about 4000 of the six thousand years. Jesus is the “fix” for the problem of people not being in their god’s good graces. So, for 4000 years, Yahweh is observing to see what his creatures will do.

After about 1600 years or so, Yahweh is so disgusted with what he was seeing that he caused the Great Flood and wiped out 99.99999% of living humans and all land animals and plants, etc. He basically wiped the slate clean for a do over. Then Yahweh sits down on his throne to see what will happen next. After about another 2500 years, he decides to manifest as Jesus and give people a way out. Now this narrative time line seems reasonable. While 2500 years seems like a long time to us, it is not in the march of human progress and certainly not much time to an immortal being (or one for whom time does not count).

But wait, there’s more!

Consider how different things are if we take what evidence we have from nature and apply the same narrative. Modern humans seem to have cropped up (along side other hominids) about 300,000 years ago. So if that is the moment of creation, then instead of Yahweh waiting 1600 years to make his “Flush them, flush them all!” decision and the Great Flood, He waited 295,600 years before his big decision. During 300 millennia, a lot of people lived and died, many miserably from diseases no one dies of any more. None were offered the religious instruction that would provide admittance into Heaven, so apparently all were sent to Hell and have been roasting there for thousands upon thousand of years. So, it takes Yahweh almost 300,000 years to see that humanity is utterly depraved and must be wiped off the face of the planet, and then another 2500 years to take pity on the second wave humans and offer up himself as a sacrifice to himself (still puzzling) to let many, but not all, off the hook.

For an omniscient being who has past, present, and future all laid out in front of him, why the wait? This timeline shows a god who is either off doing errands or disinterested or indifferent or who actually likes the suffering He sees. This behavior doesn’t exactly line up well with an “all good” god.

If one opens oneself up to such a story by admitting the Earth and humanity are both much older than the Bible implies (it does not state, just implies) one finds a devastatingly absent god who allows great suffering in people who do not even have the language skills to be able to transmit the lesson of “The Fall” or the “cure” for the consequences.

That is reason enough to insist on a 6000 year old Earth. And for people who believe in magic, nothing is impossible.

* * *

As an aside, I find the ignorance of many (very many) of these Christian apologists posting videos on the Internet to be appalling. I expect their knowledge of science to be weak to nonexistent, but their understanding of logic and even of their own scriptures is also very weak. They seem, like the singers of other people’s songs, to be repeating words that are not theirs, just adding whatever flair they bring to the table because of their calling to do that work. So, like song stylists, they are argument stylists, but end up being quite inept, because there are no argument producers, career managers, recording studios, etc. for these amateurs, they almost always get it wrong. They assume their arguments are devastating because they found them convincing (being already convinced). They seem not to bother to try to understand why others found them specious or that out they had been disproved decades or centuries ago.

Note If you are wondering why diatribes against mainstream religion are being offered in a Class Warfare blog, I argue that religion is being used as a tool of the class war. Can you see how the rich and powerful can support a creed that claims you are unworthy and sinful, that your reward will not be in this world, but in the next, while they reaps their rewards in this world and do not bother with scriptures that address warn how rich people will not get into Heaven. They know that such “knowledge” is for the rubes. They think if you will believe “that stuff” you will have no trouble believing the propaganda they dream up (trickle down economics … right …).

August 6, 2017

The Invisible Lesson of Martin Shkreli

The New Yorker described Mr. Shkreli as “A former hedge-fund entrepreneur and drug-company C.E.O., Shkreli came to prominence while he was running a company called Turing Pharmaceuticals. During his tenure, Turing bought a drug called Daraprim, which is used to treat rare but serious parasitic infections in AIDS patients, and Shkreli raised the price per pill from thirteen dollars and fifty cents to seven hundred and fifty dollars, sparking public condemnation and outrage.”

That guy. He just lost a lawsuit, brought by the government, that accused him of fraud.

What’s missing here is something you should not mistake. In all of the current discussions regarding freedom, religious freedom, political freedom, campaign finance freedom, etc., Mr. Shkreli’s was the freedom they were talking about, not your idea of freedom.

The plutocratic cabal, now in charge of our governments, by and large wants the freedom to pursue their interests (primarily involving getting as rich as they may) without collective opposition. They do not want laws being passed, or movements recognized, or any group activity whatsoever being recognized. They want labor unions gone, they want government limited to very basic basics, they want their right to do business as they see fit unfettered. If indentured servitude were to be promoted now, they would not be opposed.

According to them, Mr. Shkreli’s freedom to change the price of a pill from $13.50 to $750 is his and his alone and everybody else should butt out. For some of this, I tend to agree. I do not think people should be sent to jail for being assholes (too expensive, would need to build too many prisons, etc.) but capitalism is and has been our problem for a very long time. Unregulated, capitalism leads to doom, just like any other economic ideology (communism, socialism, etc.). The people collectively need to confine ideas that have this much scope and reach.

The idiots promoting this “freedom” think that competition is an absolute good, yet they do not really believe this, otherwise their children would be thrown into the public schools to compete and excel and survive and not sent to “country day” schools and then Harvard and then given a lofty position in their family’s company.

The plutocrats are definitely in a “this is good for us but not you” cadre and they need to be restrained from harming the rest of us. Instead they have gotten the upper hand in restraining us from causing them any harm. Look to see Mr. Shkreli’s verdict overturned in a higher court. (The plutocrats own the Supreme Court and a few of the federal circuit courts at this point.)

August 2, 2017

Shareholder Value Supremacy … Put a Fork in It

In this article over at Naked Capitalism, Michael Olenick devastates the idea of corporations functioning with the sole goal of increasing shareholder value, arguing that social responsibilities play a role as they have in the past.

I love Naked Capitalism (Yves Smith)!

July 27, 2017

R.I.P. G.O.P. Part 2

As far as I am concerned the entire Republican Party has gone RINO (Republican in name only). The ideological base of the party has been captured by a cadre of very rich people who not only do not like democracy, they are actively working so that there shall be less of it.

Members of this ruling cadre aren’t conservatives, nor are they liberals. Basically they are capitalists. Their ideology harkens back to the time in our past in which southern slave holders, the major ones anyway, saw democracy as an infringement on their “freedom,” their freedom to own people and profit from them and their “freedom” to do with their money only that of which they approve. The ability for the unwashed “majority” to pass taxes, which were seen as illegal confiscations of property by these ideologues, all the way up to determining whether slavery was allowed was just unacceptable. The only acceptable solution was to allow capitalism to lead us where it may. Consequently, these people are opposed to “collective action” on the part of, well, anyone but themselves.

And, now they are in charge.

If you think I am referring to Donald Trump, think again. As I have stated before, Donald Trump does not possess the intellectual horsepower to wage such a campaign. Mr. Trump is just a distraction, one that allows cover for the real work being done, so he does serve their purpose, as do all of the bought and paid for politicians.

I miss the old GOP, the real GOP as it were. They were stodgy types, mired in the status quo, but they had their points. They were in favor of local control of things like schools and whatnot. The current Whatever Party is not in favor of local control of anything. In states in which the Whatever Party is in control, statewide legislation is being enacted at a furious clip, legislation that bans local minimum wages, local control of schools, local control of fracking efforts, you name it. Anything that concentrates power in the hands of a few is good with them, as they control the few.

The real GOP was in favor of democracy. The Whatever Party is not. They are against unworthy people (non-white, non-rich types) voting, so they are moving on broad fronts to restrict the ability of citizens to cast votes. If they could bring back the poll tax, one of their previous efforts, or literacy requirements, they would.

The old GOP was in favor of responsible business practices. The Whatever Party is in favor of the ability of business to scam their customers unfettered and in favor of a ban on bilked customers suing such companies collectively. (Collectivism bad, Hulk smash!) They are acting on the removal of a federal rule that forbade mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts (mandatory arbitration = no suing), for example.

The old GOP was in favor of institutional processes, the Whatever Party is in favor of corners being cut whenever it is to their benefit. Need a healthcare bill? Go into a closet and write one (Step 1), don’t show it to anyone before demanding an up-or-down vote on it (Step 2). Committee hearings? Public hearings? Requests for expert or general comment? Pssht, who needs that stuff?

It is a measure of how bad things really are that someone like me misses the old GOP. If the plutocrats behind this “movement” keep pushing their agenda, the only solution is going to be torches and pitchforks and that is the road to banana republic status for this country.

Sad.

If you want to learn more, read the book “Democracy in Chains.” Think about that title and the slaveholder roots of this ideology.

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