Class Warfare Blog

April 23, 2017

There is No Real Anti-Science Movement

There was a March for Science across this country yesterday. It did not draw huge crowds but the participants were enthusiastic. Unfortunately, many of the participants seem to be close to declaring that there is a war on science or some other foolishness. There is not.

To show you this, consider the staunchest climate change denier. If they went to the doctor and were diagnosed with a serious disease and were offered a treatment produced by the finest medical science in the world, do you honestly think they would say “Science? I want none of that. Send for an exorcist.”?

A climate change denying businessman looking to upgrade his IT infrastructure looks at the proposals and decides “We want none of this ‘high tech nonsense,’ we want biblically-inspired computers.” Whadya think?

Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

The opposition to climate change is there because of economic interests that fear that taking it seriously will crimp their ability to make money. All of those politicians who say “the jury is not yet in on climate change” have no idea whether it is or it isn’t, but they are being paid to say it is not. The order President Trump made to have NASA stop studying the climate is not fueled by some “science is a waste of time and money” attitude on the part of the President. His party is being paid to do this.

Similarly, there is no scientific controversy over the Theory of Evolution. It is an established scientific paradigm. The religious have no problem with the theory (actually very few of them seem to even understand the basics); they have a problem with its findings. If the theory of evolution is true, then any creation story that contradicts it is false and, if you are from a religion that paints the Bible as being ultimate truth, you have a problem. The same thing goes for those religiously-minded who claim the earth is only 6000-8000 years old. To believe the scientific findings (the Earth is over 4,000,000,000 years old) is to toss one’s religion’s creation stories in the trash can and the beginning of “if the Bible got that wrong, what else does it get wrong?”

Science is all about living with doubt. Politics and religion are all about being absolutely sure you are right. Hence the conflict.

But do realize, it is the scientific results these people have a problem with, very specific results. On one hand, unborn children’s lives are sacred and on the other the Mother of All Bombs is a really cool outcome of war science. It is not “science” they question, only when science tells a narrative counter to one they cherish that they “oppose the science.” And since they can’t be bothered to learn the science to try to counter it (probably a futile effort anyway), they disparage it emotionally (I ain’t no kin to no monkey!) and politically (it is too expensive to invest a huge amount of money in uncertain science).

Targeted opposition to specific scientific findings is, however, feeding an anti-science attitude among those who do not want to get involved enough to see for themselves. I can’t see how this is helpful.

But, then, these are the same people who promoted an anti-government attitude (The government is tyrannical!) before they decided to run the government for their own benefit. I do not think they even bother thinking about the long term effects of their actions. There is too much money to be made in the short-term.

April 22, 2017

Through a Glass Darkly, Dirty and Distorted, Too

We are treated with a view of education from the privatizing crowd that is bizarre. They see a child sitting in front of a computer, learning their ABC’s and whatnot. They see robotic teachers teaching from scripts and then subjecting their charges to standardized tests. They see, well, profits mostly.

I am not as concerned that these people see this as “a good idea,” but that others, not “on the take” as it were, agree.

What this whole approach misses is that education is a social process. It doesn’t take place in a closet, but in a crowd. We do, though, have societal icons; one is of the lone wolf academic who studies on his/her own and does great things, such as portrayed in the movie “Good Will Hunting.” Because these are themes we enjoy seeing and hearing about (a little like winning the lottery: if it could happen to them, it might happen to me!), we see and hear about them a great deal (the lone scientist, the lone crime investigator, etc. against all odds blah, blah, blah). But they are not the norm.

Currently scientists are seeing that we tend to think better in groups, that no individual has all of the puzzle pieces but in communication with others, clusters of puzzle pieces get formed, and then clusters combine to make larger clusters.

It is not an accident that communication is a cornerstone of the scientific method. No, not the method that you were taught in school, that was a convenient fiction. You have to look between the lines. Just one person doesn’t have access to all of the facts. They also don’t have access to all of the imagination. Who creates the hypotheses, just individuals? And who creates the theories? Creationists seem to think Darwin created the entire theory of evolution. The truth of the matter is Darwin created a structural framework, that literally thousands and thousands of scientists have built, rebuilt and filled in. There are so many fingerprints on the theory of evolution now, that saying “Darwin was wrong” is irrelevant. The portion of the theory of evolution that is Darwin’s is but a small part of the whole now.

Education is not limited to human beings, but it is a social activity. While “students” can go away for a time and in solitude, consult educational technology (the most successful ed-tech so far is something called “books”), they must come back and interact with other human beings to clarify understandings, compare opinions, and justify arguments. Students are learning how to learn and participate and think in groups. They learn to write so other humans, not in their locality in either space and time, will understand them.

The problem with the voucher faddists, the charter school purveyors, and the ed-tech peddlers is that they think education is something that can be analyzed using a spreadsheet, with the most important column being “profit.” If you compare their approach with what is being done in, say, Finland, you will see what is wrong. In Finland, they are working to improve the ability of teachers and students to interact as directly as possible. Their classrooms have almost no “tech” in them. Children get out and play between classes because play is important, it is important to learning how to work with other human beings.

Everybody I know went to school. If they think about it for just a minute, they will recognize what I claim above is true. Which makes it even more shocking that so many of these “reforms” are being supported around the country. Are we that venal? Or are we that distracted (Oh, Facebook!)?

I do not know about you, but I have just deleted my Facebook account. The reason? No social ROI, just distraction, distraction, distraction.

April 20, 2017

Why Conservatives Used to Fear Big Government and Now Only Pretend To

I used to believe that Conservatives opposed government because government was the only social institution that had the standing to oppose anything they wanted to do. I thought the Party of Big Business was just taking care of business.

But I was wrong and I have to apologize to those previous Conservatives. It is not as simple as I made it out to. So, if there are any Conservatives out there reading this, I apologize for underestimating you.

Here’s what I think the situation is now.

You Know Who

Back in the late 1800’s, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America:
I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest — his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind ; as for the rest of his fellow-citizens, he is close to them, but he sees them not — he touches them, but he feels them not ; he exists but in himself and for himself alone ; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country. Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood ; but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood : it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances — what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent ; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things : it has predisposed men to endure them, and oftentimes to look on them as benefits.

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned them at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting : such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence ; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Sorry for the length of that quote but I think the vision is important, and obviously it was had a long time ago and probably before de Tocqueville. In the 1800’s the American experiment was still quite an odd affair. People governing themselves with no king or emperor? Preposterous. It took World War I to break the pattern of the divine rights of kings. But while Americans were afraid of despots taking over then as now, that is true fascism, de Tocqueville observed that it is quite possible that The Government Itself could become a substitute despot. And de Tocqueville was not alone.

Many Conservatives feared “Big Government” back in those days for that very reason, a good reason. And compared to the size of “government” now, it was puny back then. This anti-Big Government trope became a cornerstone of Conservative ideology that has lasted to this day—Do not let government grow to the point that our lives are ruled by it. So, the insistence that the Founders of the Constitution were small government advocates (most were not) came from there and a lot of other stuff.

But the New Deal, combined with the expansion of the federal government as a response to World War II drove the Conservatives a bit over the edge. A number of them decided that “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Instead of actually opposing big government, they decided that while the posturing would continue, the goal was the capture of the government and the running of the government for their ends into the future.

“So, while it looks like Conservatives fear Big Government,
they do not really fear it any more.
They have accepted that it is despotic,
that they couldn’t defeat it, but they could co-opt it.”

So, while it appears that Conservatives oppose “Big Government” only because it is the only social institution left that can oppose the will of Big Business, that is only a scrim, a stage setting. The monied interests (rich individuals and corporations) have already purchased our governments (sufficient of them in number to constitute a majority). They own the GOP. They have purchased most of the Democrats. They own the Courts. Now “shrinking of the government” is only a guise for the rubes. The drive to “reduce the amount of government regulation” (cue the voice of Foghorn Leghorn) is not to “reduce the size of government,” it is to get government out of business pockets. The drive to have tax reform is not to “reduce the size of government” but to cut taxes on the rich, so they will have even more money to buy governmental interests.

They are now officially, but not openly, okay with big government. (Most people didn’t notice that under the last six presidents, the government grew more under Republicans than Democrats.) Now with regard to government, it is the more the merrier, as long as it address their needs. Can you imaging the howling if the federal government picked out one business, say FedEx, to “defund” and to pull support from as they have done with Planned Parenthood? The howls could be heard on the Moon. But Planned Parenthood? It is okay for the federal government to attack it … now. You will see more of this.

So, while it looks like Conservatives fear Big Government, they do not really fear it any more. They have accepted that it is despotic, that they couldn’t defeat it, but they could co-opt it.

Until we, The People, deal with the oligarchs and roll back despotic government, it will continue to hang like ripe fruit in front of the eyes of rich men and corporations who know what to do with it. And it is for sale, no matter what we might wish.

April 18, 2017

I Am Completely Gobsmacked (An Easter Special!)

I do not understand why the major Churches are not protesting the Finding Jesus series on CNN. The only reasons I could come up with is they do not know it exists or they are corrupt to their core. I can’t imagine they believe the things being said on that show.

In the latest episode of this travesty of a series we are treated to the story of Lazarus. This is described as “the ultimate miracle of Jesus’ mission” by one of the usual talking heads. There are relics in the episode, of course, to submit to testing. In this case, we are told that a church in Cyprus has in its possession some of the very bones of said Lazarus. To utilize the “latest scientific techniques” these relics are to be tested. Since you, by now, know that the pattern of this show is to use any scientific results as a tease to keep you watching, they do not announce the results until minute 58 of the one-hour show. The test was a C-14 determination of the age of some wooden shards that were found in the sarcophagus along with what they believe are Lazarus’s bones. The relics, of course, were not made available for testing. We are told that the wood, shown being handled by naked skin over and over (an absolute no-no for things to be dated by C-14 as this will add modern carbon to the sample), is juniper wood, native to Cyprus and known to be used for coffins and the like. So, blah, blah, blah, tease, tease, tease and the date? The wood was harvested in the last 200-300 years, so it is “modern.”

Jesus was a stud, don’t you know. Lazarus was, too. They were best bros!

Every episode I have seen so far has a similar pattern. And if you compare this pattern with how scientists communicate, you will find a complete contrast. First of all a scientist will not report negative findings, unless it is part of a larger investigation. First they will tell you what their findings were, they will tell you how they obtained them (in enough detail you could verify their work), and then they would go on to discussing what they might mean once everyone is in possession of the facts. In this series, the discussion takes place ad nauseum and the facts are dropped in when you aren’t paying attention, usually at the very end.

So, where to start? The revivification of Lazarus is “the ultimate miracle of Jesus’ mission”? Well, that is interesting because there was no mention of it in the Gospel of Mark. No mention in it in the Gospel of Matthew. No mention of it in the Gospel of Luke. Only in the Gospel of John are we treated to this powerful story. (To their credit, they mention this.) The Gospel of John is put anywhere from roughly 100 CE to 125 CE by most scholars. This puts it almost 100 years after the events being described and at least 25-50 years after Mark was in circulation and 10-35 years after Matthew and Luke. Some argue John came first; others much later; I don’t want to get into that. While there is a great deal in common between the other three gospels (some of it because of direct copying) there is little in John that is common with the other three. This is explained away by many as “The Johannine narrative is indebted to oral and possibly written traditions that were transmitted from earlier decades.” The person who wrote that sentence had no idea, he was only speculating, wishfully speculating at that.

So, resurrecting Lazarus was “the ultimate miracle of Jesus’ mission” but failed to even be mentioned until two to three generations have passed from this most impactful of events. One wonders how such a story survives in the oral tradition and is neglected by the written tradition.

Please also consider that there are three pillars of Christianity: one is the scriptures, the other is prophecies, and the third is the miracles. It is said that were any of these three to fail, the whole edifice would crumble. So, this is a big fucking deal. But was the Lazarus miracle all made up? Was it a forgery? Good question. Don’t look at this for answers.

Throughout this debacle of a TV show, the talking heads make the most astounding claims and statements. When Jesus is told that Lazarus, his “best friend” according to the story (they basically declared them to be He-bros.), Jesus dawdles and doesn’t come running. The talking heads ask “Why was Jesus delaying?” “Was it hesitation …?” Hello? All of the Christian religions believe that Jesus was God (and declared it a heresy that he received the holy spirit when he was baptized so he has been god for a long time). many claim Jesus was 100% man and 1005 god. If he was God, would he not know all that had happened and what would happen? One of the talking heads jumps in and offers “I think Jesus had mixed emotions. He seems to be waiting for word from on high.” From “on high”? From himself? My incredulous meter just cracked. No one seemed to mention the obvious: Jesus can’t do a big resurrection miracle if somebody isn’t dead.

So, as the story goes, Jesus finally winds his way to Lazarus’s place and is confronted by Lazarus’s sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus takes center stage and tells Martha the now famous speech “ I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even though they died and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” The talking heads gush about what all this means! I would like to point out that this show is, in part, about Lazarus’s bones. You see … he lived and then died and then he lived … and then he died for good. And according to John, nobody loved Lazarus more than Jesus. So, if that is how he treats his friends …

In the re-enactment Jesus cries when he approaches the tomb of Lazarus. And then … and then … the Announcer, using his best “voice of god voice” says “ Jesus has shown his humanity, now he will show his divinity.” WTF? Where in scripture does it say that? This is stated as a fact, pure and simple! The re-enactors then re-animate Lazarus, but that was a fairly easy task as they did not kill the actor playing Lazarus.

And they are not done. After Jesus raises Lazarus, the announcer or one of the talking heads says that this action “would identify Jesus as the Messiah.” Nowhere in Jewish scripture is the Messiah identified as a miracle worker; the messiah is a military man, a political leader, a deliverer of the people from oppression by outsiders. This is why the Roman occupation produced so many messiahs. They were needed for the Israelites to be saved from the Romans. To prove that Jesus was the messiah, all he had to do is point his finger to the sky and curse all of the Roman soldiers living in that region and have them fall dead. Those are the credentials that will convince every Jew that Jesus was the Messiah. (If you are nor a fan of death and destruction and would want Jesus to earn his title as the Prince of Peace, he could cause all of them to lose their memories, to forget they were Roman soldiers. That would do the trick.) Get caught and being executed as a petty criminal is not how one establishes oneself as a messiah.

Of course, they have to whip through the rest of the Jesus story in short order to complete the context for the Lazarus story. And in doing that they make the statement “Jesus is betrayed by Judas …” Hello? Jesus wasn’t betrayed by Judas, Judas was proving himself to be at least Jesus’ second best friend (after Lazarus, I am sure now). If Jesus isn’t taken by the Romans and crucified so he can be resurrected, there is no Christianity. (Can you imagine Jesus wheezing his last breath as an old man say “But I am the Son of God, I tell you …”?) Judas is doing this task at the behest of Jesus, knowing he will incur the wrath of the ignorant fisher-folk who are the core of Jesus’ followers.

Of course, there is no such thing as an ultimate absurdity in these shows. We are treated to a talking head who says “I think it is wrong to only find value in a story if we can trace it back to some historical events … this story (of Lazarus) tells us about the willingness to lay down your life for a friend.” WTF? My incredulous meter just healed itself and then cracked even worse. Since it is a good story, nothing else matters? What? <sputter, sputter> … not when you are using that story as evidence for the existence of your god; it is not good enough and never will be. Plus who laid down his life for a friend? I wonder if she read the story?

Why, oh, why is this word hash of a Christian abomination not being protested by the major churches? Blasphemy right and left. Idiocy right and left. Over and over these people make the mistake historians are taught never to make: the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past (presentism). They are taking conclusions from far after the period and applying them to first century Judea and Israel. At this point, stoning, which I suggested in my last post, is too good for these people. They need to be condemned to some vile and hideous torture. Maybe being forced to get all of their news through Fox, something awful like that.

The series is “Finding Jesus,” the subtitle is “Faith, Fact, Forgery” but they never seem to use the word forgery.

April 11, 2017

Find Jesus … or Not

This series is propaganda and little more. (I should write this a dozen more times but I don’t want to waste my time typing or your time reading.) This series claims to be an investigation, but they only seem to find out what they already knew. (I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked!) The series states “Finding Jesus discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research.” So, in this episode (Doubting Thomas) the singular scientific attempt to gain new information is the testing of a relic thought to be an arm bone of the disciple Thomas. The interesting thing is that it was found in India. Oh, and I have yet to observe a new insight, fascinating or not, but that is just my humble opinion.

As with all of the past episodes I have seen the first half hour of this show is a restatement of the scriptural account of the characters under examination. Of course there are re-enactments. I really have sympathy for the actor chosen to play Jesus because, try as he might he does come across as smarmy from time to time. Tough role to play. (I am not a god, but I play one on TV.)

The talking heads offer such gems as “Christianity came to India … why not by St. Thomas?” I don’t know, why not Howard the Duck?

They get the sciencey question out immediately, namely will C-14 dating of a relic support the Christian tradition of St. Thomas going to India, there to create churches and baptize many Indians? This is, of course, a tease as they will not answer this question until the very end of the show.

Since the New Testament drops the disciples of Jesus like a hot rock after the resurrection narrative, the show calls upon just snippets from the Gospel of John, you know the one written a hundred years after the actual events and many decades after the first three had been in circulation. (The author of “John” had axes to grind and grind them he did.) In addition they call on the Acts of the Apostles which, if you have read it, doesn’t say much at all about the apostles/disciples unless you consider Paul to have been one. (You know Paul, the “apostle” who only met Jesus in his fevered mind.) But not to worry, just because the normal sources have little to nothing to say about the disciple Thomas, we are rescued by The Acts of Thomas, written at least two hundred years after the supposed events of the gospels. This document was in circulation in the 4th C. CE and has been dated to the 3rd C. The surviving Syriac manuscripts, however, have been edited to purge them of the most unorthodox overtly gnostic passages, so that the Greek versions reflect the earlier tradition. I take note that such documents are considered apocryphal (translation: of doubtful authenticity, spurious) by official sources, at least until they are needed to support Christian arguments and then they become “Christian traditions.”

So, we are treated to re-enactments of events described in The Acts of Thomas as if it were holy scripture. Hey, its a good story, so what the heck.

We get breathlessly interrupted with breaking news that we now have evidence that a king who was mentioned in the Acts of Thomas, but who was thought to be mythical, seems to have been a real person. The source was the discover in the 19th C of coins with his name and likeness on them. So much for the latest scientific techniques. The coins were dated to about 60 CE.

But we are told about the Christians in southern India who have been there since the 3rd C. CE and possibly could have been there as early as the 2nd C CE and, oh, what the heck, could possibly even date back to the 1st C CE. Realize that to these people a possibility is a wide-open thing. One of the talking heads chipped in with “Since many people went to India, Thomas could have, too.” Brilliant!

It turns out that the spice trade had already established a healthy degree of contact between southern India and the west. (This is common knowledge.) There was even a community of Jews in place about that time, presumably mostly merchants.

Let ’em take a moment and establish a few time markers. The gospels do not list the ages of the disciples, but since these were all working members of the local communities of the area, we assume they were not children. This would be especially true since if the disciples were to be of any use, they had to have some standing in the community. So, as a rough guess, they would be around Jesus age. This would make Thomas roughly 60 years old in 60 CE, then.

Okay, gang, back to the show!

So, according to Indian traditions, Thomas did his missionary work establishing churches and baptizing folks right and left, but because he was converting many high cast people, he started receiving some negative attention. When he converted the local king’s wife and son, the king had enough and sent a troop of men to hunt down Thomas and pierce him with spears. He was supposedly buried in 72 CE. At that time, he would have been around 70 years old, but the enactment had him still a rigorous middle aged man. Maybe he has some of Methuselah’s blood in him or maybe they did a lousy (aka dishonest) job of re-enacting the scene.

They took the time to repeat the tease again, asking whether testing of the holy relic, said to be the arm bone of St. Thomas, would lend credence to this story?

Along the way they describe how the Indian Christians claim that Thomas was their source of knowledge and that they had two songs that mention his teaching, etc. and how they preserve the practice of the time of segregating women and men in the church. Apparently they hadn’t read Acts of the Apostles because the Jerusalem church was in all kinds of hot water with the Jews for allowing women and men to mix in must public endeavors. These people had preserved the Jewish tradition, not a Christian one. (Details, details.)

If only, more of the documents from the time of Thomas were available, but … hold on moment, I have to stop laughing … okay, wait … in 1599 the Thomas Christians in India were declared heretics by the Pope and the Portuguese came around and burned all of their documents! But the irrepressible commentators responded with, well, in the absence of documents, you just have to have take the events on faith! (Okay, just breathe, slowly, catching my breath.) No sense of irony was detected.

Along the way, they pointed out that the songs of the Indian Thomas Christians had been preserved for 1800 years and that many of the traditions in the region were in almost complete agreement, something that occurred almost nowhere else. This was delivered as if it were some kind of miracle, rather than, since it was so unusual, it was probably an example of contamination. Again, no irony was detected.

They also toss out the “fact” that Thomas, upon arriving in India was given an audience with the king. This is clearly made up as there were all kinds of Jews already in residence and Thomas was not even a merchant with something to sell. he was, in fact, a nobody who didn’t even speak the local language. Why would the king want to meet with him. The document doesn’t say, so this was inserted just to establish that everyone thought that Thomas was an important person. (Realize this is just a few months after the events of the death of Jesus and Christianity didn’t take off for many, many decades, so there is no way the king would have heard of Thomas or Jesus and been curious.

They also glibly tossed out that in those pre-literate times, there were bards (I doubt the Indians called them “bards”) whose task it was to memorize and preserve the songs, so that explained why those Indian songs about Thomas had come down to us, unchanged over 1800 years. Uh, no. Studies of bards have shown a very wide range of versions of stories being told by the same bards! The gist of the stories stayed the same, but the length  and details varied a great deal. Just like musicians who know how a tune goes, will improvise it different one nigh differently from the previous, bards seem to do the same, so I doubt very much that these songs are the “same songs” created regarding Thomas in India 1800 years ago. Hell we had a debate about the lyrics of Louie, Louie that wasn’t resolved when the song was till on the radio. YouTube currently has a video up entitled “The True Lyrics of Louie, Louie.”)

They also had the audacity to claim the snippet from the Gospel of John in which the resurrected Jesus presents himself to Thomas in which Thomas greets him with the words “my lord my god” as the only time in the New Testament in which Jesus is recognized as god. In a pig’s eye. John has Jesus referring to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as three entities within just a few pages. So, the utterance, if real could very well have been “My Lord, my God (has delivered you back to us). I am sure you can come up with myriad other insertions that would make sense. Realize that this was a community of Jews. If Thomas had claimed some man was really Yahweh, he would have been torn apart by a mob for the vilest kind of blasphemy. I can’t imagine that Jesus, even if he were god, would want anyone saying it out loud (and getting torn apart) and I am equally sure that Thomas would have swallowed his tongue before he said such a thing.

Shameless, utterly shameless.

Oh, and when Thomas is finally executed for pissing off the local king, we are treated to the usual “that’s just the cost of following Jesus” BS. But, how about arrogance, the chutzpah, the idiocy. Convert the King’s wife and son to a foreign religion? I can imagine there were warnings given, which were of course ignored, because to hell with anyone else’s sensitivities, he was on a holy mission from God! (Cue the soundtrack of The Blues Brothers.)

Oh, the C-14 testing of the arm bone of Thomas relic, remember that? The date? It came out 130-330 CE. I have to wonder if any of these supposed holy relics can pass even a basic test of authenticity. Are they all fakes?

Oh, the capper! What do you expect the researcher said upon delivering the news of the failed test? Are you sitting down? He said “Not Thomas … but it is really old, one of the oldest” (relics ever dated). “Wow, that’s great!”

Shameless, utterly shameless.

If I were a Christian, I would want these people taken out in a field and stoned.

If You Want to Understand Why American Education is Fucked Up—Read This

Filed under: Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:42 pm
Tags: , , , ,

(Hint: Follow the Money)

https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/standardized-testing-creates-captive-markets/

You May Want the Federal Government Run Like a Business But Do You Want It Run Like One of His Businesses?

A common GOP trope now is that the federal government, all governments really, should be run like businesses. This idea is quite silly but has caught on because of the general dissatisfaction with government, something brought about by a propaganda campaign against the government by the GOP. Interesting gambit that: drum up general discontent creating a climate for the solution you favor. (Can you spell Nazis, boys and girls?) Their solution, by the way, is not running government as a business but running government for business.

As a little experiment, list all of Mr. Trump’s executive orders and then force each of them into one of two categories: 1) good for the people (makes the government better or stronger) or 2) good for business owners. This, of course, is a false dichotomy as many of these things will ultimately prove to be bad for both, but just doing this will take the temperature of the current administrations actions. (Actually, most of the EOs are symbolic in nature and at the beginning of long paths to implementation of anything, but that is another topic.)

Back to my main topic. Mr. Trump runs his businesses by squeezing labor by employing undocumented immigrants, avoiding union contracts, etc. and by squeezing those who are in agreements with him: local governments all the way down to the vendors serving his businesses. He also uses the courts to create advantages for himself: for every bankruptcy he has actually begun, he has threatened many more. He has threatened to sue people so many times that he could be the senior partner in a law firm. When one has considerable capital and can hire lawyers, nuisance lawsuits provide a lot of leverage over people for whom the legal costs are ruinous or at least damaging. And, I do not think he could threaten bankruptcy for the federal government, but he could create economic chaos through government shutdowns, debt defaults, etc. All of these are the high drama, high profile scenarios Mr. Trump favors as his business style.

Businesses owners are often casual at best toward the externalities of their businesses. Externalities are the physical “commons” we all share responsibility for. So, historically, businesses have dumped their wastes into the air, into the water, and onto the land with no thought of taking responsibility for the problems those waste “disposal” processes create. Did businesses lead the charge to clean up our waterways? our air? our waste disposal sites? If you are old enough, you remember that the “business community” fought these actions tooth and nail and are still doing this. It was government that lead the charge. (I remind you the our governments are effectively “us” for the purpose of collective actions.)

It was government, especially the federal government, that passed things like the Clear Air Act and other sets of government regulations that have made our air quality far better than it used to be. When I was in the fifth grade on the San Francisco peninsula, I was sent home from school one day because of smog. LA was far worse as the SF peninsula was surrounded by water and had clearing winds. Such smog alerts no longer happen, thanks to government regulations. Then there was the regulation for unleaded gasoline to prevent lead poisoning (opposed by business), the regulation for unleaded paint to prevent lead poisoning, especially of children (opposed by business), the gas mileage standards (opposed by business), the acid rain regulations (opposed by business), … need I go on?

So, has Mr. Trump made us safer or healthier by his diktats? Let’s see, he has made it okay for coal companies to go back to dumping their toxic waster (laced with heavy metals, like mercury, etc.) back into streams, he has set aside higher gas mileage standards, he produced an EO that asks agencies to review any regulations that could “potentially burden the development or use” of oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources so that action could be taken to eliminate regulations. So much for wind and solar, who needs them and what’s a little pollution from coal power plants or nuclear ones; we can safely store radioactive waste, somewhere, we’ll figure it out. Doesn’t sound like a promising start, but then he did promise to “do away with burdensome federal regulations,” but not at any time being specific as to whom or what they are a burden.

So, if Mr. Trump’s Administration is being run like a business, who are the workers and who are the customers? If you are a worker, you will continue to be squeezed as that’s what Mr. Trump and his minions do in their businesses. Customers “buy” from a business, that is services or goods. If you pay taxes, then you are a customer. Do you expect better service? Mr. Trump has promised less of it (except military services and Homeland Security services). He has promised better service, but his budget proposal (actually Mr. Trump had almost nothing to do with the current budget proposal but it is traditional to attach the “ultimate cause” label to all presidents, so …), his budget proposal slashes services to “customers” right and left and then slashes the budgets of the agencies that are providing what remaining services there will be. How this equates to “better” is very hard to see.

So, do you think Mr. Trump is running the federal government as a business or for business? What do you think?

April 6, 2017

I Don’t Get It

The definition of “it” in the title is probably very, very long (very!). In this case it is our current debate about healthcare.

There is continuing support for certain functions of government to be paid by the government. Unlike knuckle-dragging conservatives, I do not see “government” as being some outside agency closely representing a skin cancer (something you want shrunk and or carved out), but as a representative of “us.” We are completely fine with “single payer” K-12 education. Citizens and non-citizens alike can register their children to attend a neighboring school and there the children receive an education with no further costs. (Yes, I do know there are myriad costs associated with a child in school, but those are not directly related to the education they receive.) This is, accurately, not a “single payer” system as multiple government agencies are involved, so maybe a better description is “government paid” for this schooling. We also have many other services that are “government paid.” For one, the military. For another, our government offices. When you go to your local councilman or alderman’s office for information or a complaint, there are no fees associated with those services. In all of those cases, the “government”—remember that means “us”—picks up the full tab.

The argument goes that those services are “essential,” that is we all need them and money should be a barrier to whether or not you receive those services.

Oh, there are also the police, fire services, the courts, etc. There are many things that fall into this category of “things we all pay so everyone can partake equally.” In some cases, this is the “many” protecting itself from the “few.” Many vaccinations are low cost, even free, to avoid the spread of diseases.

I don’t get why health care is not one of those things.

I understand that people, especially politically conservative people, have bought into a capitalistic “pay as you go” culture, uh, well, kinda sorta. The biggest proponents of “individual liberty/individual responsibility” are not all self-made people, many inherited money. If Donald Trump had invested all of the money he inherited in stock market index funds, he would have four times as much money now as he claims to have, according to some accounts. (So much for him being a good businessman, he has managed to lose only three quarters of his potential net worth. He is, at best, a mediocre businessman.) The Koch brothers inherited millions (and built upon those, yes). Mitt Romney, who claims that nobody helped him, was given two million dollars of “seed money” to help him get started as well as being given access to his really well-connected father’s associates. The Walton clan … well, daddy made the big pot for them.

For those without great wealth in this group are people who received help along the way from government (aka “us”) agencies. Help with their educations, help with business loans, help from other government agencies, etc.

But them poor people, they lack drive and ambition. They should go out and start a business. Really, you mean those business startups that have a 90% failure rate after three years? Where would they get the money to take that very risky venture? The banks? Wall Street? Venture Capitalists? (Sorry, laughing so hard my sides are aching.) If you haven’t noticed, over the last 30-40 years, businesses have stopped investing in their own business. They have accumulated trillions of dollars of cash reserves that are just sitting there. So, these are the people poor people are to emulate? (Step 1 Pile up a mountain of money. Step 2 Sit on it. Neoliberal Business Practices 101)

Poor people need to go out an get a job, then? Oh, do they mean the jobs conservatives have suppressed wages on for decades so they do not pay enough to meet a person’s expenses? Those jobs? All of the anti-union, anti-minimum wage rhetoric is not coming from poor people, it is coming from the same conservative ass holes who are insisting that everyone should “pay as you go.”

I do not want single-payer healthcare. (Currently I have Medicare and a Medicare supplement policy, and I pick up the slack those two do not cover, so there are at least three payers there, certainly at least two.) I want government paid health care. It is at least as important as an education for our kids, if not more so.

There’s more but my spleen just gave out.

* * *

Poverty is not due to a lack of character, it is due to a lack of cash. (I don’t know who said this first.)

April 5, 2017

A Class Warfare Blog Public Service: A Review of “Finding Jesus: The Bones of St. Peter”

Filed under: Entertainment,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:02 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I have just completed a review of Finding Jesus: The Childhood Home of Jesus, finding it puzzling and rather self-defeating. But a couple of nights ago, I was bored in the extreme and another episode of Finding Jesus showed up on the TV schedule. Well, “in for a penny, in for a pound,” I thought, “why not?”

You may recall that this CNN series has the following description: Finding Jesus discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research. Finding any meaningful research in this series will be a miracle, I am afraid.

In this episode we are treated to one half of an hour of talking heads reciting the story of Peter from the Christian Gospels, there being virtually no other records of the man. Peter is not spoken of as a literary character but as a real person through all of this and since talking heads can be rather dull, they had actors re-enact parts of the story for the talking heads to talk over. (The parts of scripture were selected from here and there as there are myriad conflicts in this story, but I am setting that aside for the moment.) We are told that Peter was a large man, a strong man … because? Well, “he was a fisherman and fishermen have to be strong.” Well there is a good story line, might as well use it. The fact that the boats were small and one could not be quite large and still move around in a small boat, thus favoring small, strong men as fishermen seemed to escape the gentleman with the, uh, opinion. The average Israelite was about 5´4˝ tall. More than likely fisherfolk were about the same.

Peter also had long straight hair, and Anglo features, including blue eyes. Gosh, Jesus looked Anglo, too. Nobody looked particularly Palestinian in the enactments, instead they looked like Anglos in drag. At least Jesus wasn’t a blond (he was a hunk, though, just sayin’). The commentary focused on how Peter and Jesus were best buds, bros even. They claimed that Jesus gave Peter his new name (Simon being his old one) because he would be the rock upon which Jesus would build his church. I suspect the nickname Petros was more likely given because Peter was hard headed and obtuse, failing to understand Jesus’  teachings over and over. Plus the “foundation of his church” comment was the only such utterance or action taken that had anything to do with founding a church or new religion, which leads me to believe it was an interpolation of the author of that gospel and not anything planned by Jesus. Why Jesus would want to build a church is puzzling since he saw the coming of the new age in just a few short years and stated this over and over.

Jesus (above) was a stud, don’t you know. Peter, uh, not so much … but he did have blue eyes!

Anyway, we are treated to the “traditional” Peter stories for half an hour, peaking in the joy of Peter meeting Jesus after resurrection. They emphasized once again, the betrayal of Judas and Peter’s denial of Jesus … three times(!) … as if they were important actions. Hello? If Judas doesn’t lead the police to Jesus, how does he get arrested, executed, and resurrected? If Peter leads an armed resistance to Jesus’ arrest and is successful, no resurrection and no Christianity. If Peter says “Yes, I was Jesus’ chief acolyte,” he gets rounded up along with Jesus and ends up on a cross, too. Judas had to be Jesus’ best bud, because who else but your best friend would help you commit suicide?

They end up with the absurdity of Peter’s final execution insisting he be crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy of dying as his master had. WTF? Being suspended upside down in such a brutal way would lead to a quick death, certainly one would be unconscious in short order. Crucifixion is designed as an extended tortuous death. Why would the Romans do Peter this favor and shorten his agony? Why would the Romans do anything Peter asked? It doesn’t end there, apparently, because according to Catholic tradition, Peter’s body was taken down from the cross by “Christians” and buried on the site over which St. Peter’s Basilica was eventually erected. Crucifixion victims were largely left to rot on their crosses, as a deterrent to other criminals. Why the Romans would allow the body to be taken down and buried is puzzling, but what the heck, they did it for Jesus, too.

Well, so much for the first half an hour. In the second half hour, we are treated to a parody of an archaeological

expedition into the catacombs under St. Peter’s Basilica. We are told stories about the finding of the bones of St. Peter! In the first serious episode, we are told of an archaeologist who finds a graffito stating that St. Peter’s bones are within some chamber and lo and behold, bones are found. Upon examination, they seem to be a mixture of the bones of two men, a women, and some animals. Oh, well.

But then another set of bones is found by Vatican sleuths and we are told that these are the real bones of Peter, no further investigations are needed. Hey, if we can’t trust the Vatican to tell the truth, who can we?

Well, not having those bones to do any fancy scientific testing on means there is no scientific evidence at all, so the researchers wind two teeth (in Belgium!) said to be St. Peter’s enshrined in a church. The church gives permission for carbon-14 dating and DNA testing, so … boy, oh boy, oh boy! We gonna do some science. The dating result? The teeth were part of a live person in … drum roll, please … 250-340 CE! (This range represents the error of measurement of about ±50 years for this short of a span from the present.)

So, the episode concludes with the lame claim that “without permission from the Vatican to examine what they claim are St. Peter’s bones, it is impossible to tell …” Pathetic.

Stop for a minute and ask. If the teeth had dated to first century CE, what would that have proven? Were they Peter’s teeth? Or Jesus’? Or Jehoshaphat the Carpenter’s?

What if the Vatican said, “Sure, take the bones, play with them all you want, grind them to make your bread, have at it.”? If they were carbon dated to first century, DNA tested showing they were of an Israeli man, what would that have proved? Hello, the Church believes Peter was a real man, having done the deeds claimed for him in their scriptures. It doesn’t need proof but it sure doesn’t want its “holy relics” proven false.

The producers did one thing rather well, pointing out there are no records whatsoever that Peter was ever in Rome or that he founded the Catholic Church. (Peter is referred to as the first Pope.) They go to some length to claim that the tradition is real, but what does that mean? It means that the word was handed from person to person down the centuries in a game of historical “Telephone;” that has to be accurate, right? (If you are not familiar with the party game of Telephone, look it up.)

Then you have to ask: why would the bones of a man constitute a holy relic? This passion to have a touchstone to important events leads to the modern practice of buying tee shirts at concerts and sporting events, so it is very human, but what religious function might bones serve? They do not speak. They have no message, etc. And this is from a group of people who have perpetrated myriad hoaxes involving weeping or bleeding statues, etc. As mentioned, enough splinters of the “one, true cross” have been sold to make an entire log cabin. But there was the current Pope displaying the bones of St. Peter (kept in a little coffin-like box) to rapturous crowds at the Vatican.

Can you imagine scientists bowing their heads if Einstein’s skull were displayed? Or how about Aristotle’s knuckle bones?

Amazing!

Again, the only purpose for an episode such as this is to make money from the gullible. No new facts were revealed (other than those teeth were not Peter’s), no wisdom was revealed, no nothing.

March 31, 2017

Finding Jesus … Holy Shit: Follow-up

CNN blurb for the series: Finding Jesus discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research.

I recently posted regarding watching an episode of a CNN series called “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” In this episode (S1, E9) the title of which is “The Childhood Home of Jesus” we were led to consider whether said home had actually been found. The sole line of evidence for this “discovery” was a reference in a 7th C. document about Nazareth which referred to two churches, one of which was still in existence, the other was lost. The other was reputedly built upon the ruins of Jesus’ family home!

An archeologist, Ken Dark, had been invited to view the ruins beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent which was in a building “said to be built upon the ruins of a church.” The examination of the catacombs under that building did indicate a former church being there but also there were “walls” within the walls indicating that the church might have been built upon the ruins of a house!

So the question got asked for the first time: “Was this the childhood home of Jesus of Nazareth?”

The motivation for the asking of this question is clear right off of the bat as a Jesuit cleric admits that if it were that house, then Jesus was not a fictional character, that “He led a real life.”

Whoa, quite a bit of validation there, I would say.

Let’s stop to consider if such an identification is possible. What they managed to prove so far is that a 7th C. document about Nazareth claimed a church was built upon what were claimed to be the ruins of Jesus’ family home. The authenticity of that document wasn’t claimed to have been corroborated, nor was any other documentation provided. But, what if a chain of documents leading back to the appropriate time were found, that could be authenticated, identified the site as that home, the home of an artisan named Joseph. Since that name was quite common, how could one verify one had the right one? Documents would not have included the names of spouses and children surely. There could have been two people with the same name, ten years apart, or twenty, or thirty that occupied the house. How would you know which was which?

If they found a message carved into the stone of the house’s original foundation that said : “This is the home of Yahushua bar Joseph.” Would that prove anything? The answer is always “no” because of the perfidy of human beings. If someone built a church on the foundation left of a house and that church got into financial trouble, could you not imagine someone carving that message into the stone, weathering it a bit, and then announcing the miracle of miracles, the discovery of Jesus’ childhood home, and reap a large number of new members to support that church.

Could you honestly say that a chain of documents could not be forged? (Such a chain is useless in any case as such documents were not made, let alone kept.)

My point is that the entire question is dishonest.

There is no possibility of identifying any common building from that long ago. Large, ornate public buildings might be identified from written descriptions. Other buildings might be identified from their structures as being a forge or a stable for horses or barracks for soldiers, but the home of a fairly ordinary person? Zero chance.

So, you have to ask yourself what the purpose of such a TV show is. What possible “new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research” could be had from such a bogus search? Apparently the purpose of the show is to make money off of gullible consumers of such shows. There is no scientific purpose, nor is there an historical, or archaeological, purpose for such a speculation.

It is the equivalent of going to the possible site of Goliath and David’s epic possible individual combat and picking up a stone asking: “Is this the stone that David used to slay the warrior Goliath?” Or could it have been ancient aliens?

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