Class Warfare Blog

January 8, 2019

E Pluribus Unum

I like to watch “reality” TV shows, as opposed to the unreality TV shows marketed as reality TV shows (like The Apprentice, Survivor, etc.). The shows I like are those in which people show off their crafts. I have always enjoyed watching the choreography of a short order cook while in diners, so I like cooking shows. I used to do a bit of wrenching on my own cars, so I like auto repair and customizing shows and I ran across a delightful show the other day, “Barnwood Builders.” This is a work crew, located in West Virginia that fell into the profession of dismantling log barns and houses for reassembly (Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle). These are very likable people. They are hard-working, fun-loving, and honest Americans who refer to themselves as “hillbillies.” And I guess they are, some of them even live in “hollers.” (For the foreign-based readers of this blog a “holler” is vernacular for a hollow in the land, a plot of land with gentle hills around it.) They also show a deep respect for the original builders of these erections, who usually used little more than an axe to shape the logs stacked to make the buildings. The modern crew uses traditional tools but modern ones too.

Their self deprecating humor and pun throwing is quite refreshing in its playfulness (and cleanliness). For example, in discussing finding workplaces for which the directions were a little … vague, shall we say (such as “over thataway a fur piece”), the line is “throwed out” that “Those people believe hillbillies don’t have GPS.”

These folk are typical of the Americans I have run into in my travels. I haven’t been to every state but I have been to the four corners and visited much in between and most of the people I have encountered seemed very likeable, nice people, hard working, honest.

So, what has happened to us? We seem now a nation divided. On the coasts we have pointy-headed intellectuals who don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain and in the middle we have “deplorables,” whatever that means. Why is there all of this misperception and mistrust. I suspect it is because we have all been conned for far too long politically, but still.

Back when I was a youngin’, the nation’s motto was E Pluribus Unum, a lovely Latin phrase that means “out of many, one.” It spoke to the Grand American Experiment in self governance whereby we would govern ourselves, that “we didn’t need no stinkin’ kings or popes” to govern us. And we would do it by forging one will out of many. This was accomplished through disputation and diplomacy politically through the “go along to get along” facility of compromise, thus we could get to a single place for all Americans. That didn’t mean we all got what we wanted, but each component of American society got something close to what they wanted from time to time and not too far from what they were comfortable with most of the time. However, in many conservative circles today, compromise is a dirty word, something never to be entertained and we are now in a win at any cost political culture.

In 1956 we jettisoned E Pluribus Unum, in favor of “In God We Trust” and look at how that turned out. Seems “God’s Children” love making war with one another. Since it has been that way for a very long time I guess that is what we can trust this God fellow for. Maybe we should go back to our former motto. It conveys a goal worth getting.

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January 7, 2019

But Who Is the Magician?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:57 am
Tags: , , , ,

Most people know that performing magicians use gestures with one hand to attract attention from their other hand which is busy doing the trick. In national politics, Donald Trump is the Distracter in Chief, the waving hand that draws our attention away from the Republican machine which is doing its best to eliminate environmental regulations, consumer protections in the law, health insurance coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, miscellaneous favors for the rich, and many of the other gains made by the people over the past forty years or so. Mitch McConnell is doing his best to pack the federal court system with people who are not representative of the people (very, very conservative white guys).

So, if Mr. Trump is the distracting hand, and the GOP usual suspects are doing the tricks, just who is the magician? (Ignore than man behind the curtain!)

Just askin’.

December 27, 2018

Fear Mongering for Fun and Profit

The Atlantic magazine published an article this last April with the intriguing title “The Last Temptation,” subtitled “How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory.”

I didn’t finish the article but it started in the same vein as so many others, with Donald Trump and his high percent of the evangelical vote. The article did suggest, though, that there had been some kind of sea change in evangelical attitudes over the past half century. One paragraph summed up their opinion:

“The moral convictions of many evangelical leaders have become a function of their partisan identification. This is not mere gullibility; it is utter corruption. Blinded by political tribalism and hatred for their political opponents, these leaders can’t see how they are undermining the causes to which they once dedicated their lives. Little remains of a distinctly Christian public witness.”

Finally, we get to the crux of the matter. Things changed when some “elites” decided to convert Christian conservatives into a political force. Believe it or not, early on most American Christians thought that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling was a good thing, that such decisions should be left to families in consultation with clergy and health professionals, that government shouldn’t be involved. Abortion did not become a “wedge issue” until it was forged into one.

Similarly, as in all other political “mood shifts,” the usual motives involved were: money, power, and fear. In the case of mobilization of evangelicals as a political force, fear was the chosen tool. Evangelicals were and are taught that the world is becoming an ever more sinful place, when that conclusion is far from the truth. They are taught that there is a “war on Christianity,” that morals are sinking fast and that something must be done! Older citizens living in suburbs came to fear Black criminals over the much greater threats to their safety.

All of this was perpetrated, of course, by religious and secular elites, to serve their interests, not the interest of ordinary citizens, Christians or not. George W. Bush is famous (infamous?) for brushing off the Religious Right’s demands for “more” from him by saying “those people are never satisfied.” All they had gotten was a paltry office and a president-appointed officer.

The only resolution of this awful set of circumstances is for all of us to admit that we have been “played” by our political leaders. They all need to be replaced, based upon their records. While it may not be possible to expect complete honesty (within some limits) from our leaders, wouldn’t it be refreshing if we got some? Certainly fear mongering and lying continuously need to be shamed out of existence.

December 5, 2018

The Rich, They Are Not Like Us

The Republicans like to frame the rich as “job creators.” Well, one of the very rich, Alice Walton, reclaimed the crown as the richest woman in the world, as her fortune leapt from $33.8 billion to $46 billion over the past year. In September 2016, she was reported to own over US $11 billion in WalMart shares alone.

So, did she earn that money? Did she make that money? What did she contribute to society that so much money came to her? Is she creating jobs?

Owning stocks and investing in stocks has been shown to be the sham it really is. We are taught in school that selling stock is a way for businesses to finance their growth. This is clearly poppycock. Stocks are purely speculative instruments. The Apple corporation acquired $95 million in its initial stock offering. It hasn’t issued stock or gotten money from a new sale since. It has paid out billions to its stock holders in dividends. Imagine a bank load for $95 million that required billions of dollars to be paid back and the loan is still out!

Alice’s father, Sam Walton (founder of WalMart) made the money, she has simply played money games to expand the quantity.

The Founding Fathers comment often and long, as have many other prominent Americans since, that allowing accumulated wealth to accumulate by inheritance is un-American and counter to democratic principles. Yet, our inheritance taxes have been reduced to pure vapor under the guidance of bribes from rich people to Republican and Democrat politicians. This is what the rich like to call a “good investment.” They offer bribes of a few hundred thousand dollars here and there and they benefit by the many millions, if not billions.

Did you notice that Alice Walton’s net worth went up $12.2 billion in just one year? The Republican tax cuts played a big part in that. And, in case you are wondering, to spend that additional $12,200,000,000 in one year, she would have to spend $6,500,000 every hour of every work day of the year! How much money is enough? Apparently in a capitalist system there is no upper limit.

November 19, 2018

The Mass Media Are Giving Capitalism a Bad Name

Last night on television, one could watch a couple of documentaries. One was The Clinton Affair, an account of a presidential impeachment from 20 years ago. The other was an MSNBC “special” called Betrayal, The Plot That Won the White House, an act of treason by a GOP candidate for president from 50 years ago. Apparently we now have red and blue entertainments.

Other than treason being a mainstay in GOP national politics, both of these seem to be aimed at making money off of our political divide. There are enough Clinton haters to acquire a substantial audience for the first and enough Nixon haters to acquire a similar audience for the second.

This, of course, is as we are undergoing a major challenge to our fundamental system of government and there are topics galore that the public needs to become informed about. I do not see what benefit rehashing either of these stories has for people now. Nixon’s treason was undermining the Vietnam peace talks as a private citizen, is of a pattern. Ronald Reagan committed his treason in the Sandinista Affair and earlier in undermining Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free our captives in Iran (in order to get elected). The details of Mr. Trump’s treason(s) have not been elucidated as yet. (I also have my suspicions about G.W. but that is another story. None of these have stopped or even slowed down people voting for these or other candidates from that party.

And, clearly, the more our “mass media” are asked to conform to the “standards” of capitalism, the more they become rootless seekers of profit. At one time the head of CBS News said something alike to “The news division doesn’t need to make a profit; I have I Love Lucy for that.” Today’s “news media” are scrambling for “revenue streams” to stay afloat and under such conditions will succumb to the dictates of survival of the profitable. Pandering to “red” and “blue” audiences comes natural as does ignoring the role a free press plays in holding our leaders to account. (Doing it after they are dead is a tad late.)

November 4, 2018

Life in the Alternate Universe

Politics today seems to be based almost entirely upon straw man arguments. In such an argument, one creates a “straw man” in the form of a political opponent or political idea and then attacks it. The straw man, of course, does not exist, and so anything you say about it cannot be wrong.

The “migrant march” currently making its way through Mexico is the source of many of these things. Setting aside the ridiculous claim that it is in invasion, there are some really strange political stances being taken. Quite a few Republicans are arguing forcefully against the idea of “open borders.” Of course, there is no one making this proposal. Nobody wants open borders with no controls as to who passes and who does not. No body. But by attacking the promoters of “Open Borders!” the idea that there actually are some people recommending this crazy idea. Then the Open Borders “movement” is stood up as what is being battled with whatever our immigration policy is now. (Does anyone really know? Is it just whatever the president wants today?)

Consider the following argument by the ever vicious Michelle Malkin:

It’s insane to argue we should turn a blind eye to the health status of law-breaking aliens (Michelle Malkin on Oct 31, 2018) “We live in bizarro times. Suddenly, it is controversial to state obvious, neon-bright truths. This week, it has become newsworthy to observe that illegal border-crossers who circumvent required medical screenings are a threat to America’s public health and safety.”

This is a valid point, but this was in the context of the “Migrant March,” and I don’t think any of those people are planning to sneak in as “illegal border crossers.” If they are, they are doing a lousy job of being invisible so as to not be caught trying to sneak in. (Elmer Fudd had more subtlety than that: “Be wery, wery, quiet … there’s a wabbit around here!”)

I suggest that those people will present themselves at the border and apply for asylum. If they do that, they will be processed according to the protocols established, which includes a health assessment. So, is the “Migrant March” a cause of concern regarding communicable diseases? The answer is a clear no, as they present no greater danger than any other crowd of people of equal size. But raising the specter of a disease ridden horde approaching our borders, who are going to just run across does have a certain affect on public opinion. GOP allied pundits and the President have an agenda. It is fear. A fearful polity is a manipulable polity, plain and simple.

So, when the President says that the “horde” approaching our southern border is an invasion of ISIS members, rapists, robbers, and disease carriers, and maybe the woeful Cleveland Browns, we have to take it as another brick in the wall he is building around any coherent thinking. He should have a button on his desk which screams “Fear, fire, foes, awake! Fear, fire, foes, awake!” any time the button is pressed … and he would be pressing it many times a day.

October 28, 2018

How Do We Know Drugs are Overpriced in the U.S.?

Hundreds of millions of dollars flow to lobbyists and politicians on Capitol Hill each year to shape laws and policies that keep drug company profits growing. The pharmaceutical industry, which has about two lobbyists for every member of Congress, spent $152m on influencing legislation in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Drug companies also contributed more than $20m directly to political campaigns last year. About 60% went to Republicans. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, was the single largest beneficiary, with donations from the industry totaling $228,670.” (Source: How Big Pharma’s Money – And Its Politicians – Feed The US Opioid Crisis by Chris McGreal in The Guardian)

Drugmakers have poured close to $2.5bn into lobbying and funding members of Congress over the past decade.” (Source: same article)

Obviously the pharmaceutical corporations don’t need those dollars for profits or running their businesses, they represent just the cost of maintaining a system in which drugs are always more expensive for Americans than they are anywhere else in the world (you will find the same drugs, with the same licenses, but with lower prices everywhere else). The return on that $2,500,000,000 investment in U.S. politicians is quite healthy. We are obviously being charged that two and a half billion, over ten years, more than is necessary and since they are unlikely to spend that amount only to make that amount more than they would otherwise, I think it is safe to say that the amount we are being overcharged is far more than that.

So Is Trump Responsible … for Anything?

In an article in The Guardian, Heather Cox Richardson compares the recent attempted bombings with the political atmosphere at the end of the Civil War which lead to assassination attempts on leading politicians. Here are some excerpts:

When Trump demonises opponents, unhinged partisans take their cues
by Heather Cox Richardson

“When a president, as Trump does, demonises opponents as an un-American mob trying to destroy the country, it is not a lunatic who tries to harm them, it is a patriot.”

“By the 1990s, Republicans held on to power by manipulating the system. They claimed Democrats won elections through “voter fraud” and that they were protecting democracy. They deliberately kept Democrats from the polls.

“Voter suppression in Florida in 2000 helped put Republican George W Bush into office despite losing the popular vote and the targeting of state legislative elections in 2010 enabled Republicans to gerrymander states out of Democrat reach.

“Meanwhile, from the 1980s, Republicans insured themselves against Democratic legal challenges by packing the courts. Always, they argued that their machinations were simply protection against Democratic plotting with undeserving minorities to destroy America. By 2018, the Republicans’ president had demonised minorities as criminals and rapists and had embraced the idea that America was a white man’s land.

“Since 1980, Republicans have monopolised resources for a few wealthy Americans and have retained power by skewing the media, manipulating the system and convincing white followers that dangerous minorities threatened their very existence.”

“When a president, as Trump does, demonises opponents as an un-American mob
trying to destroy the country, it is not a lunatic who tries to harm them, it is a patriot.”

 

October 17, 2018

Holy Shit (Bull Variety)

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:37 am
Tags: , , , , ,

On my Quora feed the following paid advert was posted:

Where did the four gospels in the Bible come from?
The Church of Jesus Christ
Promoted
“As Jesus taught, His disciples wrote what He said. Order a free Bible to learn what He taught.”

And here I thought that lying was a deadly sin.

It is a scholarly conclusion that we do not know who wrote the gospels that were included in the Bible. None of the earliest manuscripts we have of those works has an author listed. All seem to have had multiple authors. Most of the gospels seem to have been written at a point in time that all or most of the disciples claimed to have followed Jesus would have died.

I wonder if Donald Trump got his ability to string lies one after the next from his religious training?

Focus the Blame … Elsewhere, Anywhere!

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
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According to an article in Reuters (Pope Blames Devil For Church Divisions, Scandals, Seeks Angel’s Help, October 8, 2018) the Pope is casting blame for the Catholic Church’s scandals, and all other problems on the Devil.

“(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,” Francis said in a message on Sept. 29.

“Since he was elected in 2013, Francis has made clear that he believes the devil to be real. In a document in April on holiness in the modern world, Francis mentioned the devil more than a dozen times.

“We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable,” he wrote in the document.”

Of course, I cannot but be reminded of Flip Wilson’s famous tagline “The Devil made me do it!” (It’s on YouTube, youngins’!)

The Pope, in one sentence, takes “responsibility” and casts blame elsewhere. (‘(The Church must be) saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser and at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,’ Francis said.”)

It must be immensely useful to have an imaginary friend to take the blame for all of the bad things one does, kind of a spiritual whipping boy. As an atheist I feel limited in my ability to blame others for my failings … I want an imaginary evil friend toooo!

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