Class Warfare Blog

November 24, 2017

Harari Infuriates Again

I am working my way through “Sapiens” by Yuval Harari and I apologize for posting about it over many moons, but when I read something profound (or profoundly upsetting) I set aside the book for a bit to let the ideas percolate and see what gestates from that. (We do not create our thoughts, although we do give words to them to be able to communicate them.)

I have mentioned before what I perceived as perversity in Mr. Yuval’s book. This is another example.

He was pointing out that no one has natural rights, which is why we claim they come from some god or other. He quotes Voltaire (“There is no God, but do not tell my servant lest he murder me at night.”) and others as to the role religion plays in controlling the masses. He goes on to quote Talleyrand on why physical coercion alone won’t be enough to control people (“You can do many things with bayonets, but it is rather uncomfortable to sit on them.” and “A single priest does the work of a hundred soldiers, far more cheaply and effectively.”) and that religion is as or more useful than physical threat. Yuval concludes that some beliefs/memes, etc. are needed to keep people functioning as soldiers, e.g. honor, country, manhood, God (On our side!), motherhood, etc. and by extension as participating members of a stable society.

But then he goes on to consider the people at the top of the pyramid, the elites. He asks: “Why should they wish to enforce an imagined order if they themselves do not believe in it?” Okay, now we are cooking! He continues in the next sentence: “It is quite common to argue that the elite may do so out of cynical greed.”

Bingo … but …

Yuval then continues to dismiss this statement implicitly by perversely arguing that it could not be “cynical” because the Cynic philosophers had no ambition, and the elites do. This has to be willful obtuseness on the author’s part. Any dictionary would have told him that when ordinary people use the word cynical they are referring to it being “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives,” not some harkening to the Greek philosophical school of the Cynics. He then goes on to conclude that the elites have to have their beliefs, too.

Argh!

The key word in “cynical greed” is greed, not cynical. And he sloughs off the greed aspect because, well, what? Getting too close to criticizing the elites can be dangerous? He just leaves it hanging.

Of course, the elites have their beliefs and memes. This is how they communicate without having a Central Committee somewhere issuing orders. The elites believe: that because they are wealthy (or pious) they are special; they are better than the hoi polloi because they show mastery over their environment (through their wealth and power it gives them); because they are better, who better to determine the course of society, to lead. Their wealth is a manifestation of their innate abilities in all things, even if they inherited their wealth. Obviously, the elites have their beliefs and memes.

But beliefs and memes aren’t motives. Greed is a motive. It needs no beliefs or memes to support it. Why do you think it is that religions condemn greed? Because this is what the elites want the masses to believe. First, they do not want competition. If religions preached “Greed is Good!” (The Church of Gordon Gecko?), more people would practice it and the ranks of the elites would swell and there would be less wealth in a share. Second, the elites do not believe greed is bad and they want the masses to think that if the elites appear to be greedy, that they will be punished … by the god(s). As long as the masses take no action upon themselves, the elites are good with that. Accepting divine punishment is perfectly fine if you don’t believe in divines.

The correct follow-up to “It is quite common to argue that the elite may do so out of cynical greed” is “This is indeed the simplest answer … but the elites need a way to communicate with others in their class, so beliefs and memes are shared as a form of signaling.”

 

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November 21, 2017

We’re No. 1 … We’re No. 21! Wait … WTF?

The new 2017 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report helpfully calculates median net worths of countries. Switzerland and Australia top the global list. (Reminder: a median is the value in the middle, not an arithmetic average.) The median Swiss adult has a net worth of $229,000. The typical Australian, $195,400. And the typical American? A mere $55,876. Twenty nations in all have higher median adult net worths than the United States. So, we are No. 21.

Wait, we’re the richest country in the world, how come we are 21st in median wealth?

The really rich, those with at least $50 million in net worth, have multiplied five-fold since the year 2000 globally. About half of these, 49 percent, reside today in the United States. Credit Suisse counts 72,000 of these ultra-rich Americans. In context: China, the host to the world’s second-highest collection of $50 million-and-up personal fortunes, has only 18,100. The United States hosts more ultra-rich individual fortunes than the nations with next nine highest ultra-rich totals combined.

So, here in the U.S. the rich are getting richer, but the rest of us are falling very far behind.

Let’s consider the Australians, as we have a bit in common.

Australians used to see their nation as a relatively equal society. They don’t anymore. Rising inequality has become a major Australian political issue. But Australia remains far more equal a society than the United States. The top 1 percent in Australia only holds an estimated 15 percent of the nation’s wealth. (In the US, it is 38.6%.) So we are the wealthiest country in the world but we don’t have the wealthiest citizens as most of the wealth has flown into the pockets of a very few people.

And this is not a matter of that they are wealthy, it is what they do with the wealth they have accumulated. Basically, they don’t spend it. Poor people spend all of their money. Middle class people spend almost all of their money. That money goes to buying things from companies who provide jobs for people. The rich don’t spend anywhere near as much of their income. If they buy anything, it is investments which increase their wealth even more. None of that activity positively affects the economy.

November 12, 2017

To Kneel or Not to Kneel During the Anthem? WTF?

In an article entitled “Star-Spangled Banner: how the anthem became central to the story of American sports” a number of very interesting points were made by the author Bryan Armen Graham.

Here are just a few:

“Professional sports needed to define themselves as patriotic in order to be seen as part of the war (WW1) on the home front and center for morale rather than as an expendable entertainment which is how they were initially,’ says Mark Clague, an associate professor of musicology at the University of Michigan who is one of the nation’s foremost experts on The Star-Spangled Banner, lest we believe anything but the owners’ self-interest made the anthem into the ubiquitous tradition we know today.

“Clague says the development and proliferation of stadium technology enabling the playing of pre-recorded music combined with a groundswell of patriotism during and after the second world war has given the anthem an almost continuous place in baseball in the years since. Football was similarly keen to wrap itself in the flag with NFL commissioner Elmer Layden in 1945 calling for a league-wide adoption of the anthem, saying: ‘The national anthem should be as much a part of every game as the kick-off. We must not drop it simply because the war is over. We should never forget what it stands for.’

“Oh, it was all about money! I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!”

“Says Clague: ‘When world war two happened, professional sports had really figured out that patriotism was good for their business and it protected them against this question of being defined as a non-essential occupation.’”

and

“The bombastic pre-game spectacles of patriotism that had become commonplace at NFL games began to make sense in 2015, after a report by Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake revealed the Department of Defense had spread $6.8m of taxpayer money among more than 50 professional teams across the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS and NASCAR. In return, the teams promised organized displays of national pride including the honoring of members of the armed forces, surprise military homecomings and on-field color guard and reenlistment ceremonies. The co-opting of America’s most popular institutions as recruiting tools went by an easy-to-remember name: paid patriotism.”

Oh, it was all about money! I’m shocked, shocked I tell you!

And as usual, the gullible rubes are brainwashed into enforcing the will of the elites, to make them even more money.

Oh, who created this article?  It was created for The Guardian, in the U.K., of course. Nothing like this would be produced by a U.S. news organ … that would be telling, now wouldn’t it.

November 7, 2017

Common Actions Required from the Faithful and Abject Subjects

Since the secular and religious elites have been in cahoots for so very long, they have borrowed the trappings of each other’s rules for use in their own. This happened in spades in the later fourth and fifth centuries in the Christian church. The Bishops started acting as if they were little emperors, for example. Consider the Pope as another (wears a crown, sits on a throne, dresses sumptuously and lives in gold-plated rooms, etc.).

Here are a number of shared actions imposed upon the non-elites by religious and secular elites.

Bowed Heads/Upper Bodies
When you take your eyes off of someone, you are sending quite a large number of signals. One is that you are not a threat to the person you are bowing to. Two, you are submitting to the power of the other. By taking your eyes off of the other, you cannot defend yourself from an attack by the other. This is common behavior amongst dogs, for example.
Quite a number of these signals are received by our own bodies. A bowed head is a submissive posture that tells our body we are submitting. This puts the “fight or flight” response on hold, lowers your physical strength (true!), reduces your ability to see clearly (and not because of the limit to your viewing), and quite a few other things.

So, the elites, both secular and religious, expect lesser beings to bow their heads, a lot. This reinforces their greater status and control over you. And you think you are being honored by being allowed into the august presence of someone who requires a bow!

Kowtowing
I am sure you have seen pictures of Muslims at prayer. The posture is one in which the person praying is kneeling and then moves their head down to the floor. Not even Jackie Chan could launch an attack from this position. Basically, by adopting this position, you are admitting that whoever put you in this position has power over you. (Islam means submit, remember.) Submitting to a god in this posture reinforces the power that god has over you.

This same posture is the equivalent of the kowtow (kou tau or koutou). The kowtow has been spun as a sign of reverence and respect but it originated as a forced posture of submission. In some cases, supplicants to elite powers are expected to “walk” in on their knees, otherwise known as crawling, like a child who cannot yet walk does.

Speaking from “Raised Daises”
In early churches and meeting halls everyone spoke (everyone who was allowed to speak, that is) from the same level. But as time moved on, those in the more exalted positions started speaking from raised platforms, often from very large chairs (called thrones, even St. Peter had one … right). The elites occupying the higher platforms are emphasizing the higher status they have in society and lower status the supplicants down on the floor have. They really do look down upon us. (Think about what they phrase means and how it is used.)

These raised platforms are often spun as existing so the people in the back can see better. But in sports stadia to make sure the people in the back can see better, they raise the seats of those spectators. The farther back you go, the higher you are elevated. This apparently didn’t occur to the elites.

In throne rooms with various steps leading up to the throne, rules are in place as to who may stand on which step, again reinforcing their status as to who are “above” them and who are “beneath” them. (Consider the phrase “doing such a thing is beneath me” if you care to see how woven into our culture this is.)

Referring to elites by titles
The first kings weren’t called “kings,” other words were used. There are a bewildering number of different titles that have been created: duke, count, earl, viscount, mandrake, prince, emperor, etc. In the religious world, this practice was copied: Bishop, deacon, Holy Father, Pope, Cardinal, Reverend, etc. All of these terms were created by the elites for the elites. The words the elites used for us were unworthy scum, commoner, worm, serf, slave, the “flock,” etc. None of these titles existed before a certain point, they had to be created … and guess who created them?

Insisting upon the use of a title reinforces their standing as being above yours. As more non-elites grew prosperous, they started insisting on titles of their own, master, sir, madam, which were words used otherwise but turned into titles. (And tug your forelock when you address me, scum!)

In religious elites, this is no different. Is there any other reason for you to address a priest as “father” and he to address you as “my son” other than to put him into a parental position of authority over a child (you)? Let’s see, Your Eminence, Hochheit, Highness, Your Grace, Your Majesty, even Mr. President (so humble compared to “Your Majesty”), ah … there are so many titles to establish they are someone special and you are not.

Tithing and Taxing
The secular elites invented taxation as a way to support “civilization.” They impounded food and clothing and labor to meet their needs, not the needs of the people. This was done first by religious threat or promise and later by religious threat or promise and physical force. In the Bible, have you ever wondered why “tax collectors” were so despised? This is because these people were representatives of tax farmers. There was no temple bureaucracy that actually went to people’s homes and collected taxes. The right to collect taxes in various precincts was auctioned to the highest bidder, who had to be rich, of course, to be able to afford this. Then the winner of the auction sent thugs out to get his money back, plus a healthy profit. Taxes were collected over a threat of violence and no proof was given of taxes collected, nor was there a schedule or date in which the tax man/goon was to come by. Often they came into your home and took whatever they thought had any value. IRS agents are pikers, very polite pikers, compared to these “tax farmers.”

The religious elites used the same procedures but found ways to encourage “donations” with less force. They tied “tithes” to religious holidays as well as traditional gifts being tied also. The religious calendar in the Middle Ages had more “holy days” than non-holy days, such was their greed.

If you spend even just a little effort, you will find many more commonalities between and among the controlling practices of the religious and secular elites.

 

 

 

 

The Real Cornerstones of Christianity

I have been claiming that religion exists only as a mechanism to control the great masses of people so they continue to serve the interests of the elites (both religious and secular). In this post I take a look at the concepts of Christianity (mostly, as being the religion I know the most about) that further this end and no other. (For Christians who feel they are being picked on, ask yourselves if you want other religions being taught to the same degree as is Christianity or do you want to be the dominant religion here? If you say dominant, then, well, you have to expect to be the only religion people know well enough to be able to critique.)

Your rewards come in the afterlife.
You will be rewarded and the people who did you wrong will be punished after you all are dead. So, whatever you do, don’t act up while you are alive. Stay passive. (Judgment is mine, sayeth the Lord!)

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth.
Of course, your inheritance will be worth almost nothing by the time the elites are done with it. But, if you stop being meek, you will get written out of God’s will. So, cultivate meekness, no?

You must believe in Jesus to be saved.
This mobilizes the “flock” to spread “the word,” creating a self-propagating propaganda campaign. This aspect mobilizes basically good people to deliver a crooked message.

The rich have no chance of getting into heaven.
Right. Since the rich have heaven on Earth and there is no heaven or afterlife, this is a sop to the poor bastards toiling away to make the rich richer. If being rich paves your path to Hell, why are the rich not giving their wealth to the churches? They seem only to give enough to polish their reputations, but not enough to cramp their lifestyles.

God is outside of time and space.
So, don’t go looking for Him, other than in your own imagination, because he is nowhere to be found. This is why the atheists can’t find God, the fools!

God works in mysterious ways.
If there is something you do not understand it is because you are a dumb fuck. Allow your betters to act on your behalf. They are smart and know better. And if they are dumb fucks, too, and do not know, this lets them off of the hook.

“God, in His own words, is a murderous sociopath
whose primary message is:
Worship Me, Properly, or Else
(Commandments 1 and 2 of the infamous ten).”

The Bible is the word of god.
If you read the Bible you will find this god, in His own words, to be a murderous sociopath whose primary message is: worship me, properly, or else (Commandments 1 and 2 of the infamous ten). This, coupled with keeping the Bible in a language none of the Christians could read for centuries (and killing people who translated) facilitated the elites being able to tell us what the Bible said, whether it said that or not. (Many people believe things like “God helps those who help themselves” are in the Bible when they are not. Since they know they haven’t read the thing, I wonder where they got that idea?) Oh, and they are still doing this. In other words, the elites are the word of god.

Belief is more important than knowledge.
And they will tell us what to believe and even what to know.

Those who cannot see what clearly is not there are fools!
This turns a delusion inside out. One is not foolish because one has been deluded, the others are fools for not being deluded. The helps build distrust in what can observed oneself and bolsters what they tell us to imagine. (The emperor’s new clothes are real, trust me, I know the tailor.)

There are no contradictions in the Bible.
There are hundreds of contradictions in the Bible but they don’t want you to go looking for them, just take this “fact” on faith … and don’t listen to anyone who points these things out as they are the tools of the Satan.

God listens to you and answers your prayers (sometimes, kinda, sorta).
Again, no action is required except inaudibly petitioning their god to do something you could do something about yourself. People so want to believe this is true they make up instances in which their prayers were “answered” and share them with their friends. Again, this is part of the self-propagating propaganda campaign. There has never been any evidence that prayers work (amputees getting new limbs, starving children becoming well-fed overnight, etc.).

You need to give liberally to your church.
After all they are doing “God’s work.” Yeah, like an all-powerful god who created an entire universe with hundreds of billions of stars and planets in just a couple of days, needs church officials to do what He cannot. Yahweh: all-powerful, all-knowing, and always in need of money. If being rich paves your path to Hell, why are the rich not giving their wealth to the churches? They seem only to give enough to polish their reputations, but not enough to cramp their lifestyles.

On the Sabbath, neither you, nor your kin, nor your slaves shall work.
If you aren’t supposed to do any work (some observant Jews think that turning on a TV is work), what are you supposed to do? Use the day to work your own little garden so as to be able to feed your family better? No, that’s work. Create a new business as the Republicans are always saying we need to do? No, that would be work. You are supposed to spend the day praying and studying scripture, in other words, reinforcing your own programming.

You may not be aware of this, but every time your computer reads something off of a hard drive it rewrites the files being read, thus reinforcing what is a very weak magnetic signal. The Sabbath is a day of reinforcing your religious programming (aka propaganda) so it doesn’t weaken under the strain of a seven-day work week. You can even go to temple or church to get reinforcement. You can’t work, but you can donate food and money to the church on this day … of course. This is pitched as a “day of rest” and made to sound like a vacation, but the faithful do not treat it as such.

By controlling what you do one day out of every seven, the control is reinforced strongly. Ever time you are controlled, it becomes more commonplace, more ordinary.

A woman shall cleave to her husband (etc, etc.).
There are so many diminishments of women in the Christian religion I had to narrow the list it to just this one example; there are many. many more. Basically the Bible offloads the responsibility to oppress women onto men. This lightens the load of the elites while giving a false impression to men that they are in control of their lives.

Controlling the reproduction of the species is a primary goal of the elites. There need to be enough workers, but not too many mouths to be fed. (Desperate poor people often try to rob the rich.) And sex has power over men’s minds which could equal the power of religion or the state, so men need to be warned off and taught that consorting with women is evil. Our current Vice-president will not go out for a drink with a woman not his wife. Now, that is control. Many Muslims wallpaper their women in cloth so they can walk on the streets, lest men be tempted by the evil wiles. And on, and on, and on, there is much more to this topic alone.

Conclusion
My hope is that if you see things as they really are, rather than as they are claimed to be, you will be able to see all of these controls in operation. You, then, can decide whether you want to go along.

Me, I like being asked. I tend to respond to reasonable requests very positively. If you try to (or actually do) manipulate me into doing something, I am done with you. You are out of my life. (If you don’t believe me, ask my dearly departed second wife. She isn’t dead, just dearly departed.)

October 24, 2017

Moving On Up …

I have been writing recently about the genesis of human “civilization.” The word civilization itself is derived from “cities,” the existence of which marks the beginning of civilization. It seems quite apparent that what we call “civilization” was created by elites for elites. The average Joe not only didn’t benefit from this “advance,” he ate less well, he worked harder, and he likely ended up a slave serving the interests of the wealthy elites.

My original thinking was that this was a larger scale manifestation of the consequences of physical prowess. My fantasy goes like this: when we were mostly members of wandering tribes of hunter-gathers, I suspect that there was some guy who was bigger, stronger, and braver than anyone else in a small troop (fewer than 25 extended family members). Because Mongo was the best hunter, he had a hand in doling out the fruits of the hunt, so he had power. He probably was responsible for defending the tribe against predators and the occasional raids from other tribes (looking for mates or …). Because of these actions, people deferred to Mongo (and if they didn’t he might smack them around a little). Mongo was the Alpha Male in a troop of great apes. Now the fly in the soup came in the form of not the Beta, Gamma, or Delta Males in the group, they were happy to form Mongo’s posse on hunts and benefit from his largess. The wild card in this was a low status male who resented not getting the prime cuts from the hunt or access to the best women as mates, but one who had cunning. At some point in time, a natural happening shocked the tribe: a flood, an earthquake, a lunar or solar eclipse, a huge lightning storm, a volcanic eruption, something alarming and the cunning Omega Male took a chance. Thinking he was in no immediate danger, he stood up to the burning mountain, or raging flood, or eclipse and spouted made up bullshit about how the gods were angry and that only he knew how to placate them. He followed this with mumble, mumble, mumble and the crisis soon ended (the eruption of the volcano subsided, the storm passed, the flood subsided, the eclipse burped up the sun or moon). A tribal shaman is born. He gets treated better, consulted by Mongo more often, gets better cuts of the food when it was divided, etc.

So, my imagination leads to the religious leader gravy training on the physical leader (general, king, chief, main hunter, whatever).

Imagine my surprise when I learned that the earliest cities were run by religious cliques, not “strongmen.” Large cities started forming 3500-3000 BCE, but the first mention of anyone whose title could be translated as “king,” didn’t happen until about 1700 BCE. Apparently Mongo was strong and capable but not all that smart. The clever shaman usurped his position at the top of the tribe. In those early large cities, you see, the chief warrior was subservient to the priestly class. This is born out by a story about Gilgamesh, one of the first Sumerian kings. (Seeking permission from the religious council to make war on a neighbor, the council though it too risky and told Gilgamesh to chill. Gilgamesh went out and riled up his warriors and went to war anyway. Gilgamesh might have been a king at this point but he hadn’t earned the Divine Rights Merit Badge and was seen as a minion of the religious elites.

So, I was wrong about the elite pyramid being topped by a strongman, instead it was the clever, cooperative religious cadre forming the core of the people benefiting from “civilization.” (I guess they had practiced the role for millennia and were just “movin’ on up…”.)

These cities rose and failed at a phenomenal rate. (The famous city-state of Ur-III, which had five kings listed in its records, lasted all of 100 years.) The inevitability woven into the standard narrative of: agriculture makes storable surplus of grain which makes cities possible: iPhones! is misleading at the very least.

In actuality these cities were very, very fragile. They were dependent on slave labor, often their populations were dependent on acquiring female slaves of child-bearing age (so many children and women died in childbirth that “replacement breeders” were vigorously sought).

With so many such processes there is a minimum size and a set of minimum conditions that result in a tipping point that goes on to some kind of stability.

What I am struck with is the easy comparison between the elite class in those days, 5000-5500 years ago and the modern Republican Party. The elites then needed cheap labor, so they coerced it. They created a system in which all of the surplus wealth ended up in their hands. They discouraged any collective action on the part of their coerced laborers. They rigorously controlled the reproduction of more citizens.

The GOP, in contrast, suppresses wages so that labor is cheap, it distorts the political system so that all of the wealth and power flows to the elites, it discourages collective action of laborers by disadvantaging unions, and it is obsessed with controlling the reproductive rights of women, and it seems they are subservient to a religious clique.

Oh, I guess that is not a contrast.

Has anything changed since the dawn of civilization?

August 8, 2017

Why Creationists Insist the World is Only 6000 Years Old

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

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

Onward and upward!

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

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

But wait, there’s more!

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

January 15, 2017

You Have to Ask “Why?”

Have you ever heard of the High School Movement? I certainly had not, so I looked it up in Wikipedia, which provided the following:

The high school movement is a term used in educational history literature to describe the era from 1910 to 1940 during which secondary schools sprouted across the United States. During this early part of the 20th century, American youth entered high schools at a rapid rate, mainly due to the building of new schools, and acquired skills “for life” rather than “for college.” In 1910 19% of 15- to 18-year-olds were enrolled in a high school; barely 9% of all American 18-year-olds graduated. By 1940, 73% of American youths were enrolled in high school and the median American youth had a high school diploma. The movement began in New England but quickly spread to the western states. According to Claudia Goldin, the states that led in the U.S. high school movement (e.g. Iowa and Nebraska) had a cohesive, homogeneous population and were more affluent, with a broad middle-class group.

“The United States exceeded Europe in mass secondary education. The American system of education was characterized as open to many (mostly white) students, forgiving, lacking universal standards, and academic. On the other hand, the European system was closed, unforgiving, with uniform standards, and academic for some and industrial for others. Secondary schools in America were free and generally accessible, while in most of Europe they were costly and often inaccessible with difficult entrance exams. In the United States, schools were provided by small, local districts. Because decentralized decision making system rose competition among districts for residents in the United States, the U.S. moved quickly in building schools initially. In contrast, schools were provided by the central government as a national decision in Europe. Further, high school was designed to be the terminal degree rather than a pre-college diploma of office or skilled blue-collar workers in the United States. By 1955 80% of United States youth had graduated from an academic high school. In this setting general skills and social mobility were emphasized, not specific training or apprenticeships. Even by the 1930s, America was virtually alone in providing secondary schools that were free and accessible; however, this accessibility was limited to white students. While in Europe the rate of those graduating from academic high schools was only 10%-20%. Most Europeans, 40%-50%, attended full-or part-time vocational training.

“From the viewpoint of economics, this movement led to the increase of women’s labor force from 1930 to 1950 in the United States. Knowledge and skills women gained in high school helped them attain better jobs outside the home.

I didn’t know this. I did know that the transition the country was in from a farming-based economy to one less involved in farming made a great many farmers job’s superfluous. In the late 19th century, 40% of all jobs were in farming; now it is closer to 2-3%. As labor required more expertise to be effective, it became smart to keep kids in school longer. It also kept the kids out of the job market for non-farm related jobs.

So, greater prosperity for all and greater opportunities for women. Wow! But, wait, there’s more!

In the early 1960’s a combination of events lead to a similar expansion, this time in U.S. citizens going to college. In the mid-1800’s there was a tremendous growth in the number of four-year colleges, mostly in the western states. But, still, the number of colleges was relatively small. Also, the entrenched eastern colleges had different ideas regarding the purpose of a college education from the newer western colleges. The western colleges were more pragmatic, teaching subjects like engineering and mining and animal husbandry. The eastern colleges were more traditional, emphasizing philosophy, the arts, as well as the law and medicine. We have remnants of those disputes still today: in many eastern colleges the BA degree is considered superior to the “more pragmatic” BS degree. In the west, it is the reverse.

As few people went to high school as there were in the early 1900’s, the demand for students to take slots in U.S. colleges and universities was still being met. But in the early 1960’s there was a huge explosion in the number of community colleges. These were colleges which only addressed subjects that were addressed in the first two years of a tradition four-year program, hence their label as “two-year colleges.” At one point in California in the early 1960’s, a new community college was opening about one per week. Even though many derided these colleges as “high schools with ash trays” and pointed to programs in cosmetology and welding as being inappropriate topics for colleges, this expansion lead to a number of things: for one it lead to a great many students being able to afford a college education (I was one of those) and it allowed a great many more to attend college due to having one in close proximity. The State of California credits the expansion of the college-educated workforce for a great deal of the expansion of its economy, especial in areas like aerospace, electronics, and high tech (Silicon Valley, etc.).

As a community college professor (later), I remember entertaining delegations of Chinese educators coming to this country to see our colleges and universities and especially they wanted to see our two-year colleges. Nowhere else in the world was attendance in college being offered to so many citizens as was being done in the U.S.

So, since the expansion of education to a greater and greater share of the U.S. population has lead to unprecedented prosperity and well-being, you have to ask why are our public schools currently under attack? “Entrepreneurs” have high jacked the voucher school and charter school movements expanding those offerings substantially by siphoning off funds from public schools to do so. Of course, there was a disinformation campaign involved (a major weapon in the plutocrats arsenal). Our public schools were described as failing, not up to international standards, etc. “Evidence” was cherry-picked to support these false claims. And people have offered almost no resistance to these efforts resulting in the dismantling of our system of public schools and colleges. Why is this being done?

Oh, greed. Well, that explains it. There is money to be made in opening these “schools.” So much money that new stories of mismanagement and malfeasance at charter schools are now a daily occurrence. These schools, being offered as a promise to do better than the “failing public schools” are, of course, not doing better, most are about the same but many are far, far worse and many only do as well as they do by excluding “difficult” students: those “of color” and/or disabled.

This is another example of the Killing the Goose that Laid Golden Eggs Syndrome. You know how the parable goes: a goose is discovered that lays golden eggs. After extensive discussions, the owner of the goose is induced to kill the goose and harvest all of the eggs inside of it. (This is a terrifically stupid story in that anyone ever having lived on a farm knows that fowl take a day or more to create one egg; they aren’t egg dispensers having many eggs inside and just dispensing one a day.) Of course, killing the goose reveals no more eggs and now that the goose is dead, there will be no more eggs.

The Great American Economy was built not on capital and entrepreneurship, but on educating American workers so they became the most productive workers in the entire world. We are now in the process of destroying that educational base. I remember when “public education reform” was something done to make education better, not just more profitable for the rich.

Let me requote the above “The American system of education was characterized as open to many (mostly white) students, forgiving, lacking universal standards, and academic. On the other hand, the European system was closed, unforgiving, with uniform standards, and academic for some and industrial for others.” Why are we trying to take the system that worked so well and transforming it into the one we superseded?

Oh, greed, I forgot for a second.

And, you will notice that we denied this opportunity to people of color, to whole we offered only substandard educations. Why are we continuing this practice, a practice that has worked so poorly and not offered them what worked for white people?

Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Is this how you want to go out?

August 7, 2016

Fighting Against the Obvious

It was recently pointed out that a noted economist (Dani Rodrik) has often argued that “markets and states are complements, not substitutes.” Well, duh. It is clear, at least to sociologists if not economists, that without governments there isn’t enough trust in societies to engage in any sort of extensive commerce. Before government control of markets (modern markets, not medieval fairs) most market transactions were more akin to how major drug deals are portrayed in the movies … <cue the edgy music track>: two men with briefcases approach one another, one stuffed with cash, one with drugs. They inspect both to make sure that it was what was agreed upon and not adulterated (e.g. counterfeit currency, counterfeit or diluted drugs). All the while each has guards in place in case anyone wants to pull a heist. Most transactions, even for bunches of carrots were like this: face-to-face with items of equal value being exchanged.

“An obvious conclusion is that for there to be globalization, an expansion of
economic markets to include ever larger groups of countries, you need
more government, not less.”

Even with governmental controls, most transactions had some of this flavor. As late as U.S. Revolutionary times, England had laws requiring some of the commodity being bought being necessarily transferred when the contract was signed (a sheep, a sheaf of wheat, whatever was being bought). This made international commerce somewhat restricted.

Only with governmental security of the contracts, with the force only a government could supply, could make modern markets work at all.

An obvious conclusion is that for there to be globalization, an expansion of economic markets to include ever larger groups of countries, you need more government, not less.

The Republicans and Corporate Democrats (Is there much left of those two parties when you pull out those groups?) are all backers of “globalization” because their paymasters are. (It has been claimed that if the plutocrats didn’t want globalization, the term wouldn’t even exist.) The latest effort to instill more globalization is the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership which is a pact often compared to NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Act. The TPP which will be rammed home shortly on a tidal wave of corporate money actually says very little about trade but, of course, it is still is referred to as a “free trade treaty” between the Pacific rim countries that are involved. So, if it isn’t about “free trade” what is it about? It largely is a corporate rights document, empowering corporations and disempowering governments. (It was written by the corporations themselves, with no help whatsoever from the uncooperative “public.”)

So, what the corporate backers of the TPP, and their lackeys in the GOP and Democratic Party, are trying to establish is the equivalent to “more globalization with less government.”

As has been shown by economists, not overtly because they, too, receive their funding from the plutocrats, these “treaties” are “good” for the economies of the countries involved. What they don’t bother to point out is who specifically is the reaper of those benefits of the benefits of such deals that accrue. It turns out that these treaties are hugely beneficial to corporations and rich people and hugely harmful for the poor and middle classes.

We often hear about the millions of jobs that have been lost to Mexico because of NAFTA. What we don’t hear about are the millions of jobs Mexico has lost to us. Our cheaper agricultural goods have wiped out many Mexican farmers who have then tried to get across the border to find work in the U.S., thus straining our immigration systems. The jobs move quickly from place to place, but we don’t have the same mobility. If your job moves to Viet Nam, will you follow it?

The TPP is of the same ilk. The rich will get much richer, after all they are few. And the poor and the middle class will become even poorer. But that is their lot in life, no?

This is a form of redistribution of wealth of which conservatives approve. This is why they are willing to ignore the obvious (more globalization requires more government, not less). It is all about the money and really nothing else and the rich, they just don’t have enough of it.

In all such cases in which a tiny majority runs roughshod over a much larger majority, it ends poorly, often with the tiny majority trampled by the many. Can this turn out any other way? When will we begin? (Personally I would like to spare them. They have proven, though, that they cannot be trusted with so much wealth. If we want to save them, we need to tax them back to civility.)

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