Uncommon Sense

May 12, 2022

Roe v. Wade Politics

I say fuck the GOP, and fuck the current SCOTUS. I also say fuck the Democrats because they decided that having a woman’s abortion rights in play was too important of a political football to be fixed, which they could have done long ago.

Lodging the Roe v. Wade decision in the privacy rights vaguely attested to in the Constitution was a mistake. They should have been lodged in the 4thAmendment to the Constitution, which begins “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

The states considering laws making anyone who leaves their state pregnant and returns not so to be a criminal will be violating the 4th Amendment. “Alright, lady, turn out your uterus.” Similarly any search of a woman as to their pregnancy is protected from government intrusion. Any ban on abortion pills involves the same problem. To prove their case, they would have to search for a pregnancy before and after the event, which is not allowed. People are to be “secure in their persons.”

May 11, 2022

Judicial Activism Unchecked

In the 1960’s, the real conservatives of the time railed against “judicial activism” which basically meant that courts were legislating from their benches. Well, if that were true, those prior justices were pikers compared to the current Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS).

There are a number of checks on judicial power, the Congresses ability to legislate, etc., but one of the foundational checks on judicial power is the principle of stare decisis.

Stare decisis is a legal doctrine that obligates courts to follow historical cases when making a ruling on a similar case. Stare decisis ensures that cases with similar scenarios and facts are approached in the same way. Simply put, it binds courts to follow legal precedents set by previous decisions. Of course, following this principle, like so many things involving the SCOTUS, is voluntary. (Unlike all lower courts, for example, SCOTUS has no ethics code.)

Just to be complete, a precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive without going to courts for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. (Source: Wikipedia)

Now, here’s the kicker: if the wording “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start” in the leaked Alito opinion remains intact in the final opinion, it basically creates a precedent that precedent no longer exists. It would effectively kill off the legal doctrine of stare decisis as a check on judicial power. All that would be necessary for the court to take off in any direction it wants is to declare that all of the precedents are flawed.

This is not a scare tactic. The court has been blowing off precedents in droves lately. In the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which declared that corporations had the right to donate unlimited amounts of money to political entities, but not candidates or parties, and that money was a form of political speech and so is protected under the First Amendment, the court actually sought out such a case and ignored a great many precedents in ruling on it. Same goes for (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) which added to the concept that corporations are legally people with the right of free speech, to include that they have religious rights.

Some basic impossibilities are involved here. In the Hobby Lobby decision, the religious beliefs of a corporations owners were decided to be in play. While this may be the case for private corporations, what about pubic corporations? Are not all of the shareholders co-owners of the corporation? Would not any action in this arena therefore require a poll of the shareholders? Have you heard of such a thing?

In Citizen’s United decision, what is this “person” who has these political rights? Is it the owner(s) or just the CEO? Is it the Board of Directors? And, wouldn’t those people also have personal political rights? So, they are creating a class of citizen that isn’t in the “one man, one vote” class. These citizens have multiple votes and multiple channels of free speech. Could not the corporation grant the CEO a “bonus” (for performance, of course, wink, wink, nudge, nudge) which then gets donated to this or that candidate (which the corporation cannot do directly)?

Talk about creating an unnecessary nest of snakes. A fiction created in the 19th Century to facilitate corporations (actually to privilege them) is being turned into an über-citizen creation device. The SCOTUS has been pro-business in the extreme for a long time and we have no reason to believe they will not continue on that path. So, this is by far not the limit of their activism; they are just getting warmed up.

Freedom!

The rats are scurrying to follow-up on the pending gutting of the long-standing Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision. Some states passed legislation restriction abortion severely, only to be triggered by the voiding of Roe v. Wade. They were thinking ahead. Other states are contemplating new legislation. For example, one state is considering legislation that if you leave the state pregnant and return not-pregnant, that you would be arrested and tried for murder. Other legislation is in the works to ban the sale of the abortion pill (the most common form of abortion currently). Laws making it illegal helping someone across state lines to get an abortion have already been passed. Laws making doctors susceptible to murder charges were they to perform an abortion, too have been passed.

All of these laws were promulgated by the Freedom Caucus of the GOP, you know the people who think that requirements to wear a mask or get a vaccination are infringements upon their personal freedoms. They also seem to believe that voting is not a right but a privilege, hmm.

Apparently “freedoms” are only to be supported if you are white, male, Christian, and vote Republican. And these are not people who believe in “freedom” just what they happen to believe in, the rest of the world be damned.

And whatever happened to “equal protection under the law”? Oh, Justice Alito doesn’t like the 14th Amendment, either? Well, I guess the clock is ticking on that, too.

May 9, 2022

Conservatives No More

I was reading a Medium post on the SCOTUS opinion leak and I ran across this: “In case you haven’t noticed, for the last six years, it has been conservatives consistently disrespecting all our treasured national institutions, precedents, and traditions, not liberals.”

Conservatives, going back to Edmund Burke, were originally trying to conserve things: things like foundational institutions, traditions, social structures, etc. They were inherently against change. They supported churches, the police, “Our Country Right or Wrong,” the military, prisons, schools (yes, schools). I remember arch conservative William F. Buckley saying “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Occasionally I miss William F. Buckley; he was an honest conservative.

But as the original quote alluded to, recent conservatives seem only to be trying to conserve their political power, and the tool of choice is “the end justifies the means.” So, Republicans stiffing President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland, for no reason other than they wanted the power to appoint that replacement, was pulled out of their hat (or ass).

Then there was the Supreme Court, not yet at its full conservative packing level, declaring a number of nonsensical things. It declared certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act were no longer necessary. Sure those states had passed racial voter restrictive policies in the past, but that was the past and this is now. We can trust those states not to do those things again, because well they haven’t done those things in a long time. (Apparently the SCOTUS conservatives were ignoring that the courts didn’t allow those states to do those things as they violated the Voting Rights Act.) So, they abolished those silly, no longer necessary rules and within just days (hours?), a number of states started restricting the voting rights of minority groups. (Texas is nothing if not dependable.) So, did SCOTUS recognize their mistake and admit “Our bad!” and promise to fix it right away? No, what we got were <crickets, crickets, crickets>. What they did was launch a nationwide voter restriction effort by the GOP.

This same court declared corporations to be persons with political rights! Corporations were declared to be corporal entities for business purposes alone (in the nineteenth century). A corporation in trouble could die, thus absolving it of all of its legal problems (oh, and labor contracts), and then be reborn as a new corporation, even though it had all of the same management, employees, etc. The court went further and declared that these corporations had the right to donate unlimited funds to political bodies, because well, money was free speech, right? Right?

So, whether it worked or not, American institutions had to cave to Republican (not conservative) ideology.

Oh, and don’t forget how the SCOTUS, in Bush v. Gore, claimed the right to declare winners of elections, even when there was no precedent and their “winner” did not win the popular vote.

SCOTUS is showing disdain for precedents, even massive ones, and is becoming quite regal in its pronouncements, something the conservatives railed against when there was a fairly liberal court. They called it “judicial activism” and called it the work of the devil. Now that the SCOTUS is packed with conservatives, I hear no complaints from the GOP about judicial activism, even though this current court is far more “judicially active” than those past courts.

And, as to the leak of the SCOTUS opinion re Roe v. Wade, the author of that quoted post felt that it will prove out to have been a conservative leak, weakening those who wanted to soften the opinion, because it would look as if the court softened it in response to public outcries, and was not independent. Sounds like something a conservative, a modern conservative, would do. The end justifies the means, the end justifies the means, repeat after me. . . .

May 5, 2022

Wage Suppression Results in . . . Inflation?

So, we are told that the current episode of significant price inflation is due to “wages being too high”?

What the fuck?

The fat cats have been suppressing wages for over four decades now, and the result is that they are too high?

All you need to look at is the relationship between the so-called inflation and corporate profits. The economist’s story, which is wearing very thin at this point, is that due to “supply chain issues,” and other “market forces,” the costs corporations have to pay for their “inputs” went up, forcing the corporations to raise their prices, aka inflate their prices, to offset those increases. (Note The War Against Ukraine had not begun until inflation was quite evident, so it can have added to rising costs of raw materials, etc. but is not the primary cause of such things.)

If this were a true story, then one would think that the price increases would offset the cost increases and the corporations profits would stay roughly the same. But they aren’t. Corporate profits are soaring, and the corporations are too full of themselves to hide why this is so. They basically admit that inflation being news means that they have cover to raise their prices whether there is a need or not. And if just a little increase is okay, why not push for a larger one and pump up our profits. And the greedy asshats are stating this publicly! (Plutocrats need to learn that gloating is unbecoming.)

I don’t know how much of the current inflation is driven by corporate greed but I suspect it is not a tiny percentage.

Suppressing peoples wages for 40+ years and then claiming that the inflation we are experiencing is due to wages being too high is asinine and clearly hubristic. We may need to start bitch-slapping these idiots into line. And that goes for their bought and paid for politicians . . . and economists.

May 4, 2022

Contraception Could Come Under Fire Next If Roe v Wade Is Overturned

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:20 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I just saw a piece in The Guardian with the title above: Contraception Could Come Under Fire Next If Roe v Wade Is Overturned.

D’ja think?

The conservative wet dream of getting Roe v Wade overthrown being accomplished, they will roll out the rest of their agenda. They are not known for sitting on a lead. Buckle your seat belts, y’all, women’s reproductive rights are going to be under a full-scale attack very, very soon.

May 3, 2022

Voters—Is This What You Want?

The consequences of voting Republican are becoming more and more obvious. It this is what you want, then keep voting Republican.

Voter Suppression
Republicans do not believe that “all men are created equal” not even close. By that, by the way, it does not mean that all mean are created with equal abilities, far from it. It means that all people want a decent life, want to have a family and protect themselves and their families from harm, etc. Basically, it means that at a ground level, we all want the same things. Beyond that, for example, only men seem to want to be “the baddest dude in town” and “the richest man in the world.” I have yet to see a woman espouse those desires. But regard the basics, we all want the same thing.
And, like I said Republicans do not believe that, at all. They think some are way better than others: they think White people are better than Black people, they think straight people are better than gay people, they think Christians are better than non-Christians, and they think that people should be treated differently because of those differences.
Do you think voter suppression would be “a thing” if the votes needing to be suppressed were White person votes and not Black and Brown person votes?

Diminishing Women’s Reproductive Rights
The Republicans staged a disingenuous process to pack the Supreme Court with shallow, doctrinaire, political thinkers, meaning the Court’s reputation will continue to sink until people will have lost any faith in its role in our government. (This undermines our democracy, because the courts were supposed to be one of the “checks and balances” on the other branches.)
There is a reason the Republicans have resisted the elimination of the filibuster in the Senate. When the Supreme Court has gone rogue, cutting its ties with prior courts and dumping precedents right and left, then legislation must be passed to make up for that. But a minority in the Senate controls whether anything gets passed and thus we will stagger forward into rule of the minority.

The Rich Getting Richer at the Expense of Everyone Else
The Republican Party used to known as the party of the wealthy, but they have actually franchised the whole party out to its rich donors. The only laws that get past are those favoring the rich. Consequently, the rich have more and more money with smaller and smaller tax bills and the rest of us end up paying for anything we collectively want to do. And the only things the GOP wants to fund are the courts/justice systems and the military. So, they keep giving the military more money than they ask for while our schools are starved for funds and our infrastructure crumbles.

No Separation of Church and State
The GOP wants to give Christians special privileges and many exemptions from our laws, becasue they are so special. If you are a Buddhist, or Muslim, or atheist, or just “spiritual, whatever the fuck that means, well get in line, behind the Christians flying first class.

The Suppression of Unions and Worker’s Rights
They have been grinding away for forty years or more and now we are seek real negative effects. If this continues, we gonna hafta tug our forelocks and address our corporate masters as “massa” and give them no lip or feel the lash.

So, if that is what you want, then continue to vote Republican. Polls of the public and voters in particular show that those things are not what they want. So, let’s take down the Republican Party. If they want our votes, they will have to change their evil ways. If they do not, there are plenty of defunct political parties in the history books they can join.

And, if we reject the Republican Party, that means we are stuck with the Democratic Party, and that is no prize. The Dems dumped their historical foundational groups: working people, minority groups, teachers, and labor unions in the late 70’s, early 80’s. They, like the GOP, only serve their rich donors now. Well, they will have an opportunity. If we take down the GOP, the Dems could wake up and reform from within, and go back to serving all of us . . . in proportion. If not, then it is time for a new party. Yes, I know some people will suggest we go back to the Republicans, claiming everybody deserves a second chance. Well, the GOP is on it’s seventeenth chance, and doesn’t deserve another. Same with the Dems. Reform now. Serve us all, proportionately (No, Repubs, not proportionate to our wealth), or enjoy the view from the dustbin of history.

April 27, 2022

Respect is Earned, No?

In the ongoing drama between liberals and conservatives, we seem to be imposing our own definitions on each no matter what they have been historically. This can all be resolved by a quite straightforward expedient.

First, I invite you to read this.

I find Benjamin Cain a quite profound thinker and I think he is spot on in this article. We are in a situation politically in which a number of foxes have glued a few feathers on themselves and have gotten quite a few of the chickens to claim: “No, they are really chickens, silly!”

But liberals are operating from a humanist perspective and, as Mr. Cain suggests conservatives are arguing from an animalist perspective. Now, I am sure some people will think it insulting to call conservatives “animals” but that is not what is being said. It is saying that theu have a perspective of animals. They believe that the strong prey upon the weak (often eaten them before they have died) and that if you are at the top of the social pyramid, it is because you are a top predator, er, top competitor. They believe in charter schools because they think that their children are naturally superior and they need a structure in which to compete and show how superior they and their schools are. The limp-wristed liberals think that every child is entitled to a quality education. Conservatives think that their children are entitled to an education superior to that of the hoi polloi, and if, through a voucher system, they can get the whole population to help them pay for that all the better.

Conservatives use terms like “it is a dog-eat-dog world” showing that they are Social Darwinists (the survival of the fittest in society). Yet, we live in a country established along liberal lines, giving equal rights to people when the conservatives are more likely to claim you have all of the rights you can earn.

As Mr. Cain summed it up in that article:

Nevertheless, by tolerating conservatism as an outlook that’s supposed to make sense as a viable option within modernity, as opposed to regarding conservatism as a radical, reactionary repudiation of modernity itself, liberals are inviting foxes into the henhouse.

How should liberals handle this massive confusion or fraud which is “conservatism”? They might begin by dropping the face-saving formulations, cutting through the conservative’s sanctimonious and obscurantist salesmanship, and speaking more bluntly about the political and economic options and stakes.

To wit, it’s only humanists versus animalists. Period.

April 10, 2022

What is Truth and What is Not?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:11 am
Tags: , , ,

I was reading a review of the book “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” by Francis S. Collins. I decided not to get that book, even though it is somewhat famous, for the usual reason: scientists know too little of theology and theologians know too little of science to be able to link the two.

But a reviewer made an interesting comment, namely “I was disappointed as I read on his dissertation that the Bible should not be taken literally. If you are going to pick apart the believability of the Bible, who decides what is truth and what is not?”

Indeed who decides what is truth and what is not? Actually that question should be “who decided what is truth and what is not?” because those decisions have already been made, actually they continue to be made and not by you. Apparently the commenter is unaware of this or has deliberately decided to not acknowledge it.

The simplest version of deciding what is truth and what is not is for a religion to endorse a Bible. Many fundamentalist Christian sects state that the King James version (specifically the 1611 version) is the only “correct” Bible and that the others should not be used. Other sects endorse other Bibles, there being myriad to choose from. But even that 1611 KJV Bible was the result of many, many (Many!) selection processes where “experts” declared what is truth and what is not. Just before that KJV Bible was created, the Protestant Reformation created a new Bible to support its policy of sola scriptura, that is scripture would be used as the final arbiter of ideology, not “apostolic tradition” or various enclaves of prelates, such as the Councils of Nicaea. Martin Luther, in addition, wanted to dump the Book of James, Revelations and three or four others as also not being “inspired.” So, eight books got trimmed from the Catholic Bible to created a Bible appropriate for Protestants and the books so excluded were repackaged as the “Apocrypha.” (Interestingly many Bible publishers included the Apocrypha (in the back) for decades because people wanted to read them.)

The “ deciding what is truth and what is not” began with the first attempts at declaring a proper canon for “the church” in the later 300s or so, conclave after conclave made decisions about what was the inspired word of God word what was not . . . by voting! In other words, they couldn’t tell what was inspired or not. If they could, all votes would have been unanimous.

So, the Bible you have in your possession has been picked over many, many times and there is much more material from that early period that was deliberately not included and then some not even discovered (The Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.) before the New Testament was closed to further additions.

Bibles have acquired a sense of certitude because we were taught that they are inerrant, the divine Word of God, that God watched over all of the translators, etc. But every time a change was made (and we are talking about thousands of them), the Bible was being declared to be errant, not inerrant, and if God were watching over the process, He certainly didn’t do anything to keep those errors out.

March 17, 2022

Making Tradeoffs

In Ryan Holliday’s daily blog today he stated “Life has always required making tradeoffs. Life has always placed certain restrictions on people. Life has always included people who face the problem and people who run from it, people who prioritize their own wellbeing and people who look out for the common good. Life, as Seneca would say, has always been in the habit of shattering, as (Michael) Dell writes, our ‘cherished ways of life.’”

Living in a society, instead of a small band/family, requires myriad tradeoffs from all. The saying is “you have to go along to get along.” For example, in this country we have, collectively, decided to drive our cars on the right side of the road. This is a safety measure. (I remember being in a cab in Vienna long ago, on a circle road and cars were lining up opposite us waiting for the light to change. But there was no dividing strip or even painted line about how far one could go. So, there were maybe eight-ten lanes and there were eight-nine cars lined up in opposition on each side of the intersection to one another. The light changed and then everyone rushes forward, jockeying to get into a position to get through the tangle ahead of the others. Madness! I can still remember the fear I felt in being a part of this . . . although, I am sure, the cabby was a veteran and knew what he was doing, still, a little enforced order would have been welcome.)

Driving on the right side of the road is not to be found in scripture anywhere. It is not god ordained, it is a rule we made up so we could get along easier. Anyone claiming that such a rule is an impingement upon their personal freedoms and doesn’t apply to them will be looked upon in horror and disdain. We were taught over and ever in my youth that “ignorance of the law is no defense/excuse.” I think we might need to add “you don’t get to pick and choose which laws you will obey and which you will not.”

Living in a society involves myriad such tradeoffs. I give up some freedoms I might want to claim and I get, in return, something like security.

For example, and again collectively, because banks weren’t the most stable organizations in our society, we decided to provided universal account insurance (within limits, e.g. type of account, amount of money in it, etc.). So by regulating banks (requiring certain rules be followed), the banks could have this insurance, which is reassuring to the bank’s depositors and “good for business.” No longer do you have to fear that a bank “run” will close your bank and you will lose all of the money you kept in it.

We have collectively decided to tax ourselves to provide national defense, lifting that burden from the individual states. Collectively we have decided that all children must receive a minimum education, for the betterment of society. (When I was young, this was about making “good citizens” (hidden message “out of immigrants”). We tax ourselves so as to provide all children this same education. Well-to-do parents can supplement the educations of their children without limit, but public education provides a common experience for all proto-citizens.

Well, all of these things used to be true. But much of the above now seems to be under attack. Ranchers in the West seem to be claiming that they have sovereign powers over land owned by the public, and are willing to shoot first and ask questions later. Parents are claiming the right to tailor their children’s public school curriculum, a recipe for chaos if there ever was one. I don’t see how public schooling would then provide a common experience if every child get’s their own parent-approved “special” curriculum.

National and state legislators are beating their drums for special rules for religion-based organizations to allow them to violate anti-discrimination laws that we passed so that all of us could “go along to get along.” They are defending what they claim are God-given rights to unfairly discriminate. And of course, they are cherry-picking those rights in the extreme. None of these “reformers,” for example, is trying to get Jesus’s rule that divorces should be illegal set in stone anywhere. And, the rules have always been “if you want to play in my sandbox, you play by my rules” in this country. You can’t go investing in the stock market, for example, freely using insider information. You will be arrested and put in jail. But these people are clearly claiming that they want to make up their own rules.

If you are going into business, you can’t also claim special treatment. All of the free-market economists would be screaming bloody-murder, I am sure. (Yes, I am being sarcastic. Those folks only say what they are paid to say.) The religious are claiming that they get to play by their own rules in business, without clearly stating what their own rules are. They are using a smokescreen of toleration of religion (it is almost a taboo to ask them to justify their beliefs) to exercise their personal likes and dislikes and they are being taken seriously. Hey, if you don’t like the rules of the game, don’t play! Can you imagine the reception you would get in a casino if you insisted on the rules of any of their games be changed . . . mid-game? (Security! Escort this customer to the curb, please.)

And this is the reaction we should have to all of the efforts to change the rules of the game to make our society less stable. We should show them the curb.

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