Uncommon Sense

September 25, 2022

Has Conservatism Run Its Course?

Since there is no longer a conservative political party in this country I am guessing that it is a good idea to define what I mean by “conservatism.” (It is different for different countries and different for different times.) My computer tells me that social conservatism is a “commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation” while political conservatism is “the holding of political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideas.”

Since social conservatism is at the core of political conservatism, that seems a good place to start.

When I was a youngin’ I often wondered what conservatives were trying to conserve. I was told “tradition” but that just means “the ways we have always done things.” Combine that and “opposition to change or innovation” and conservatism equates to preserving or “conserving” the status quo. Political conservatism therefore equates to preserving or “conserving” the political status quo.

When I was young, there was a conservative political party, the Republican Party. They have shrugged off that mantle, in favor of becoming a personality cult of Donald J. Trump, something conservatives of my past would have run for their guns to prevent.

So, I ask: “Who would want to preserve the status quo”? My only answer would be “the well off.” People who are socially or financially or politically well off would prefer that the good times kept rolling (Laissez les bons temps rouler!). And, lo and behold, the Republican Party of my youth was the party of the rich people and older people. There was even a meme to explain why this was so. It went “If you weren’t a liberal when you were young, you didn’t have a heart. If you weren’t a conservative when old, you didn’t have a brain.” It only made sense for the old folks to preserve their gains whether ill-gotten or otherwise.

So, the Republican Party was the party of Big Business, the rich, etc. and the Democratic Party was the party of “working people,” aka the non-rich, labor unions, poor people, oppressed minorities, etc. And, if you can believe it, each party had conservative and liberal wings, because there were substantial differences between the members of the two parties. This resulted in some overlap between the two cohorts, which made collaboration somewhat easier.

Well, there is no longer a party that wraps a conservative mantle around its shoulders. The GOP is attacking the FBI and other governmental policing functions, when it used to be the party of “law and order.” Oh, yeah, the law, pfft who cares? The only law that applies is “If the Donald did it, it was legal.”

The GOP used to be in favor of infrastructure repairs, voting in favor of projects large and small to keep the country’s roads and waterways and electric power distribution grids useful. They were even in favor of having a clean environment, and having public healthcare. Now they seem to want everything to make profits for the richest of the rich, and government should stay out of almost everything, except the courts and the military. The courts are to keep people who can’t afford good lawyers in line, and the military is for anything else needed to keep the coffers of the rich full to bursting.

So, is conservatism dead?

Plain old social conservatism, you know, conserving the status quo, is dead in the water as the social conservatives have been infiltrated and taken over by the religious right, which is trying to turn the country into a theocracy (and if you really, really, really want a civil war, that sure is a way to cause one).

The conservatism of my youth is dead, and if not dead, it is certainly gone. (William F. Buckley, were he still alive, would surely agree.) So far, only a lunatic fringe has stepped up to take is place. I hope that is not the only candidate. And I am still wondering what will replace the liberals who have disappeared, also. Maybe the progressives currently starting to exert some power?

September 11, 2022

Using Older Software

I was reading an article in a newsletter I subscribe to regarding Microsoft Office. The article was entitled “Buying Older Versions of Office.” The article addressed how one could get Office 2016 installed on an additional computer when the questioner already had it installed on two others. (Having the same versions of a software package on all of your computers prevents a great deal of confusion.

I had to laugh as I was currently using Office 2003. The advantages of much older software is that, if it meets your needs, all kinds of bonuses accrue. I recently acquired another copy of Office 2003 for Windows, with installation codes, etc. for US$20 on eBay. In some cases, older licenses offered multiple installs on multiple computers, a practice becoming more rare as we make the transition to “subscription” software.

I find “subscription software,” where you pay an annual fee and they provide “free” updates, offensive. If you add up the annual fees over five to ten years you will find yourself paying far more than when you bought the program outright. And, for someone using 20 year old software quite happily, I am not sure what value the updates have, certainly not enough to render the annual fees reasonable.

More modern users probably look at the current state of affairs and consider it “normal” as it were the “norm now. I sure don’t.

By the way I am writing this draft on Word 2003, part of my Office 2003 package, and the program I have used to write dozens of books and hundreds of magazine articles. None of the improvements made to Word over the past twenty years would affect my work positively. I don’t use most, or even many, of the features in the 2003 version.

Shortly after the 2003 version of Word, came the 2007 version, with a new standard document format for Word documents, the .docx format, which I submit is somewhat superior to the old, .doc format, in that it is harder to corrupt. But Microsoft also had to deal with a huge installed base of older Word versions that couldn’t handle the .docx formatted files, so they made a converter, a converter that converts files both ways (.doc to .docx and vice-versa). That converter is available as a free download and so my Word 2003 keeps ticking, working on even .docx files.

Some software programs get so old they become unworkable. Sometimes this seems the actions of a cabal of the hardware and software manufacturers. When I bought my last Bare Bones computer I tried installing Windows 7 on it, of which I had numerous copies and with which I was well pleased. The computer refused to accept the operating system. I contacted the maker and they said, the minimum system needed was Windows 10, which I hadn’t noticed when I bought the box. Such is progress.

I was recently offered a free upgrade to Windows 11 which would do very, very little for me, but quite a bit for Microsoft. I refused for now, although my hand may be forced in the future. (Win 11 is setting up an operating system which is only a couple of small steps away from determining which software programs you can run under it (guess who gets to choose). That is not what I ask from an operating system.

Oh, btw, Windows has had a Compatibility Mode built in for quite some time. If you had some really valuable old software you could tell windows to address it as if you were using a previous version of Windows (all the way back to Windows 95!). They seem now to be operating 180° away from that prior attitude of being flexible.

Quiet Quitting Ain’t New

The business news and some of the mainstream news sources are all abuzz about “quiet quitting.” Quiet Quitting refers to doing your job and only what’s required of you at work–nothing more and nothing less. But this ain’t new folks. It has been around for millennia. Do you think slaves were gung ho and always doing more that they were asked to do?

More recently “working to rule” was a tactic of organized labor, requiring workers to only do what was in their job descriptions (which is where some of the juicy anti-labor stories have unfairly come from).

Currently, “quiet quitting” is simply adopting the attitude that one’s employer only deserves what they hired you to do. As a labor representative, I commented over and over that people misplaced their trust and loyalty. They are loyal to their employers because they want to be employed by someone who they could be loyal to, not because their employer had earned their trust and loyalty.

But, there are any number of job sites in which you will observe no such “quiet quitting” behavior. These are sites in which the employees are not only empowered, but given a piece of the action. They are consulted regarding work rule changes. Their suggestions for improvements in processes are taken seriously. And when the whole company benefits, they benefit, too.

These companies pass Robert Reich “We-They Test.” To test a company, ask any employee how they are treated. If they refer to their bosses as “they” or “them” you know a lot about the relationship (primarily a “us and them” or “we-they” relationship). If they refer to the company as “we” or “us,” you know that that company is employee focused and employees have bought in.

And, funny thing—companies that invest in, empower, and honor their employees perform better, are more profitable, etc. Funny, hah! Company executives would rather have inflated egos than more profits, imagine that!

September 6, 2022

Oops, How Embarrassing

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:02 pm
Tags: ,

As you may know, Protestant Christians claim their faith is based Sola Scriptura, that is based upon scripture solely. Basically if something can’t be supported by the Bible, Protestants shouldn’t believe it. Catholic Christians, on the other hand, believe no such thing, they have what they call an Apostolic Tradition, that is traditions handed down from those who worked directly with Jesus, and they claim the first Pope was Saint Peter himself. They also went to great lengths to harmonize the teachings of Paul with those of Peter and the others (which are actually in great opposition). They made Paul a saint, for example. They adopted books into their canon that were laden with Paul’s christology.

Part of their history, and part of their harmonizing effort, was the book The Acts of the Apostles (the title of which was made up after the fact, of course), which starts by looking at the state of the effort just post Jesus’s execution but then quickly becomes a story, solely, of Paul’s acts and everyone else disappears. Part of that story involved the so-called Council of Jerusalem, at which it is claimed that Paul met with the leaders of the Jesus Movement and secured their blessing on a mission to the Gentiles. Shortly thereafter, Paul wrote the epistle (aka letter) to the Galatians. If Paul actually did secure the blessing of the leaders in Jerusalem, he certainly didn’t share the thoughts Paul shared with the Galatians. Had he, they would have stoned or lynched Paul right on the spot.

But to the scriptural key points. Here are two verses:

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)

As for those who were held in high esteem (i.e. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars)—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. (Galatians 2:6—Parenthetical statement added and Cephas is Peter’s name in Aramaic.)

In these two statements, written by Paul, so we know he had time to consider and reconsider their veracity and that he didn’t just blurt them out in a passion-filled meeting, Paul says he got his “gospel” (aka good news) directly from the spirit of Jesus the Christ and that none of it, none, was gotten from the Apostles, including Peter.

He stated, flat out, that nothing Peter had to say affected him whatsoever and therefore had no value whatsoever.

So much for the vaunted Apostolic Tradition. Their Saint Paul, the architect of their Christianity for the most part, states clearly that Peter and the rest had nothing to add to his message. And this was coming from someone who is claiming that he is in direct communication with Jesus the Christ.

Addendum The word “gospel” is quite a bit of propaganda. Basically these gospels were proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God which meant that Judgment Day had arrived. On that day, the sheep and goats would be separated, and 99+% of humanity would be consigned to Hell. How this horrific event could be plastered with bills proclaiming “Good News! Good News!” is beyond me. Even if you were one of the saved, what are the odds that you didn’t know one of the condemned? Maybe that was the appeal, seeing all of those “others” suffering.

August 27, 2022

Where Capitalism Acolytes and Apologists Go Wrong

Capitalism and free markets are touted as the best economic system we could possibly invent. How anyone could know what we could invent in the future and that it will be worse, is quite beyond me.

These cap fiends are making a fundamental mistake. As Benjamin Cain has stated: “Capitalism’s strength in determining the best prices, with being an empirical model of reality. What a free market models — or rather measures — is supply and demand. What are people craving, what are they willing to buy, and how much would they pay for it? Likewise, how plentiful or feasible is the supply? The choice of prices in a capitalistic economy is supposed to reflect those subjective and objective conditions.

Capitalism doesn’t work on products that are not being bought and sold. (This is why people speculated for years that General Motors bought up patents making cars very much more efficient and locked them away in their safes. You can’t buy what doesn’t hit the market, and capitalism can’t set the best price for it, either.)

Are any capitalists, for example, marketing solutions for climate change? Are any capitalists studying it? Did capitalism come up with any solutions to the costs of pollution? It is funny that economists have a term that describes costs that capitalists dump on their societies, i.e. externalities, but no branch of economics shows how capitalists can take responsibility for the externalities they create, and include them on their cost-benefit balance sheets.

I have stated over and over (and over . . . sorry) that capitalism’s Achilles’ Heel is that it contains no limitations upon greed. Gosh, since the greedy have benefited the most from unrestrained capitalism, do you think it is them, and their lackeys, who are making the arguments for “Capitalism is the best economic system we could possibly invent?”

Gee, I wonder.

August 25, 2022

A Strategy I Perceive

I noticed that the Arizona House Speaker, Rusty Bowers, who has been in office for twenty years, lost his recent primary election after he testified before the House January 6 Committee about the 2020 election.

I remember his testimony. He said not one word critical of Donald Trump in his testimony, but apparently just being there is enough to brand him as being disloyal to Mafia Don. (Mafia Don doesn’t think subpoenas have any merit.)

This dismissal of a very competent Republican state official suggests an effective strategy. Just call as witnesses all of the remaining competent Republican elected officials to testify before that committee. There are probably just a few left, so it would be okay to include thorns in our sides like Mitch McConnell. The result will be that those people will be voted out and replaced with people whose most sterling qualification is that they are loyal, like a dog, to Donald J. Trump.

This will complete the Republican purge of their ranks of people of competence and ensure the demise of the GOP. You know, they need more people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Ron DeSantis, and Greg Abbott. Apparently people who vote for “the R” will vote in anybody, so this should work.

Sound like a plan?

August 23, 2022

Gosh Conservatives Have Been Lying About Public Schools . . . for Decades?

It is common for reformers to overstate the ills they wish to address, but this is an abomination.


August 20, 2022

Why the Second Amendment?

Since this Constitutional Amendment is so often debated without the text in front of you, here it is:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Since the current iteration of the Supreme Court is so focused upon history, let us explore the history of this Amendment.

The Founding Fathers were adamant against having a standing army. Too many times despotic rulers used standing armies to wage wars of their convenience as well as used their “troops” to oppress their own people. (Yes, gun nuts, real tyranny.) So, there was not supposed to be a standing army in this new country under this new constitution.

So, the historical basis for the Second Amendment is now baseless. It has no foundation, no justification, none.

So, what happened when the nation needed to be defended? You can see what happened by reading the history of the months preceding the start of the Civil War and the few months after. The federal government asked the states to muster their forces and send them to serve under federal leadership. Each state had its own militia (or not), you see. Standing armies were very, very expensive and the United States was basically broke after the Revolutionary War (when the Constitution was developed). The states, however, often had militias that weren’t standing armies. These were ordinary citizens who trained from time to time. And neither the states nor the federal government had the coin to arm every soldier coming their way. They depended upon the citizen-soldiers to have their own guns, which they had shot enough to be proficient with and who could also be counted upon to have a supply of gunpowder and bullets for that gun. (Note There were no standard arms at the time, so one soldier’s fifty caliber rifle would not necessary be able to use another soldier’s 50 caliber ammunition. People often carried the molds and lead needed to make their own bullets for their own rifles with them.)

So, why the Second Amendment?

The safety of the country from foreign or domestic attack was in the form of such state militias that could be “called up” in the case of invasion or insurrection. Read the history of the Civil War and the agonies associated with prying militias from the various states. And those soldiers brought their own weapons. If the federal government had to equip every soldier sent to them they would have had an army equipped with rocks and spears.

An Historical Note In preparation for the Civil War, the officers of the U.S. Army who were Southerners and would later form the officer core for the secessionists, cleaned out the few armories the Army had and shipped those arms south. So, while the Army had the capacity to equip a few thousand soldiers, the traitors preparing for the secession made sure that only the South would have that option. The northern armories were basically empty when it came time to need their contents.

So, now you can see why the Second Amendment was necessary. The Militia members had their own rifles. If a local government or a misguided federal government took those away, the country would be defenseless or near defenseless.

But, those conditions didn’t prevail after the Civil War. We now have a standing Army (and Navy, and Air Force). We now equip every soldier with standardized weapons, with standardized ammunition, etc. And we have plenty of everything stuffed into armories all over the country to equip a multitude of call ups..

So, the historical basis for the Second Amendment is now baseless. It has no foundation, no justification, none. It has been co-opted by gun nut jobs and plays no real role in the defense of this country.

What a Bunch of . . .

I read often enough postings about the dismay of citizens who decry active shooter drills their kid’s schools feel compelled to run.

What a bunch of pussies. When I was in grade school we had drills to protect us from a nuclear bomb being dropped on our community. Lots of good hiding beneath our desks would have done.

Instead of decrying these drills, how about supporting more stringent gun laws? Australia had a major mass shooting, passed stringent gun control laws, and haven’t had any mass shootings of note since. We have more stringent regulations governing car ownership and use than we do for guns, and while cars can be used to kill people, that is not their primary purpose. The primary purpose of guns is to kill.

So, instead of whining about an intolerable condition, how about you support the elimination of that condition? The U.S. has a mass shooting roughly every day of the year. This is ridiculous, but people support it by supporting the gun nut lobby. Vote them and their paid for hire politicians out of office. Then vote in people who will do something sensible.

And I have had enough of the gun nut lobbies argument that they need their guns to oppose the tyranny of government. This is ridiculous. Imagine the Michigan Militia going up against the Fifth Cavalry (tanks, drones, howitzers, missiles, etc.) They wouldn’t last a day. These idiots have to stop watching the movie Red Dawn over and over. People should be allowed hunting weapons (An AR-15 is not a hunting weapon.) and personal defense weapons, after having passed a stringent training program. Historical collectors should be allowed to practice their trade, with a license, just like any other business. But the current situation in which anyone with money can buy a gun has to stop. Cars are licenses, ID tagged, and registered, and you need training to operate them. It is not tyranny to demand the same for guns.

August 16, 2022

We Need to Be Better Organized—A Way Forward

Most of you have heard of the infamous Powell Memo of 1971. In that memo, Powell, then a lawyer representing tobacco companies, argued that businesses need to be better organized and stop shying away from participating in national politics. (Prior to that time, CEOs expressed a profound distaste for politics.)

The Powell Memo was the tip of the conservative’s spear as they surged forward. Ronald Regan passed out copies to all members of his cabinet, for instance. (By then Powell was on the SCOTUS, thanks to Richard Nixon.) One of the immediate outcomes of that memo was the creation of think tanks, like the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, etc. Cato was originally funded by Charles Koch and Heritage by the ultraconservative Joseph Coors, yes that Coors. The game plan was to get these things funded and conservative billionaires were more than obliging. These were added to with the American Enterprise Institute, and others to be a mighty organizing factor for conservatives.

Jack Vance, on Medium.com, suggested that we would benefit mightily from secular think tanks.

Bloody Hell, yes! The ranks of seculars are like the ranks of Democrats, numerous but very poorly organized.

Let’s take a page out of the conservative’s playbook, why don’t we? I mean they have been kicking our asses for decades, so why not?

Anybody know a Democrat leaning billionaire? There seem to be at least a half dozen of them. Putting a bee in one of their bonnets may pay big dividends.

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