Uncommon Sense

September 2, 2021

GOP Crocodile Tears Over Taliban Haul of US-Built Military Equipment

There hasn’t been this much hand wringing and pearl clutching in the GOP since the Mr. Potato Head controversy! The Taliban collected a massive haul of U.S.-built military equipment, owned by the Afghanistan government, by the way, not us, and the Republicans are losing their minds. We have just equipped our enemy with the latest and greatest war-making equipment! Argh!

Calm down, idiots. I know it is a struggle, but do try to put your thinking caps on first. (You have to take the dunce caps off first, otherwise the thinking caps won’t fit.)

Now, we were quite unsuccessful in training the Afghans in their army (ex-army?) on how to use this “modern” equipment. What makes you think the Taliban are going to master the intricacies of that equipment being trained by the people who didn’t learn about it in the first place?

But, okay, let’s say the Taliban found instruction manuals on the Internet, had them translated into Pashto, Dari, Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi, Hazaragi, and Nuristani and have taught themselves how to use that equipment. The other thing to consider is these things were made by Americans for our own American military, consequently they were built around the primary American construction principle of planned obsolescence. They are going to need repair technicians, spare parts, and a lot of ingenuity to keep that stuff running, even in the short term. I assume you noticed the Taliban are using AK-47s as their basic field rifle. The reason for this is that they still work, even though that rifle was designed in 1947. So many were sold and are still available, along with spare parts, that they can be depended upon for many more years. Think Taliban-owned Abrams tanks will still be working in two years? in one year? I don’t think so. How about fighter jets? (Right. . . . )

Basically, Afghanistan is not a threat to the U.S. or our allies and would not be a threat if we flat out ignored it. What . . . but, but, but won’t they train terrorists? Maybe, but they don’t exactly have the best terrorist training facilities. Theirs are certainly not anywhere near as good as Pakistan’s or Saudi Arabia’s. The 9/11 group apparently did most of their planning and training in Germany.

Terrorists don’t need Afghanistan as a training site and Afghanistan has real problems it needs to address. Outside of opium traffic, Afghanistan doesn’t have an economy. The best it can do is to allow its citizens to create subsistence livings and even that is going to be difficult. As the U.S. was pumping billions of dollars into their economy over the past twenty years, the population exploded. I doubt whether subsistence farming or herding can support a population that large, which means there is trouble ahead for any Afghan government. There is no tourism, native industries, native crops (other than opium poppies), mining opportunities that translate into population-wide prosperity. Every country that has tried to extract minerals or other natural resources from Afghanistan has found out the reality. There is no government per se. You “negotiate” with local “officials” (aka warlords) and strike a deal for which there are no courts to enforce it nor any police to protect it and your assets. You are at the mercy of the demands of the locals and if you complain too much, they will just take your operation over. So, how many resource extraction companies are lined up to get them some of that, do you think?

I think the Afghanis have earned to right to be left alone and I think we need to carry that to an extreme. Leave . . . them . . . alone . . . and allow them to create whatever society they wish without foreign help or interference. There is no danger, other than that we create by meddling.

Instead of Expanding Circles of Concern, Republicans Circle the Wagons

I have been, philosophically in an case, fairly close to the Stoics as long as I can remember. Recently I decided to bone up on Stoicism to see if this were still true (it is). I recently ran across this statement in my studies:

The Roman Stoic Hierocles spoke of our “circles of concern.” Our first concern, he said, was our mind. Beyond this was our concern for our bodies, for our immediate family, then our extended family. Like concentric rings, these circles were followed by our concern for our community, our city, our country, our empire, our world. The work of philosophy, he said, was to draw this outer concern inward, to learn how to care as much as possible for as many people as possible, to do as much good for them as possible.

Clearly Heirocles would never be admitted into the Republican Party. He sounds more like the Democrats of 20 or so years ago, but those Dems are long gone, replaced by Corporate Democrats. The GOP are doing the exact opposite to the stated desire of those Stoic philosophers, they are trying to build politically gated communities in which to live by their own set of twisted rules.

Corporatism is the abject enemy of the sentiment described above and will be the downfall of us all. It seems that all societies/cultures rise and fall, so there will need to be a cause of our fall, to be declared well after the fall is obvious. Our ability to see such things beforehand is zero to less than zero.

The modern Republican Party is ruled by ideologies centered on “I’ve got mine” and “I owe you nothing.” These, of course, contradict the ideals of the founders of the Constitution who felt that individual citizens (and groups of citizens) had to yield up some personal liberty for the greater good of the entire enterprise. They referred to “civic virtue” to describe such actions. So, the FFs would have looked at getting vaccinated in a time of pandemic as a civic virtue and would be all for it. In fact, George Washington required it of his soldiers during the Revolutionary War. (If not, our army would have been wiped out due to smallpox.)

Modern-day Republican professional athletes, who said “I’ll do anything to be able to play professional sports” two years ago are saying “I’ll quit rather than get vaccinated” now.

This surely must be the direct opposite to civic virtue, taking freedoms rather than donating ever so slightly to the commonweal. The opposite of virtue is vice, so I coin a new term “civic vice” to describe this idiotic behavior. These people are unwilling to give an inch to be a member of the group we call citizens of the United States of America. Their only recourse is to leave as we should not extend any of the benefits of citizenship to people who betray the basic foundations of being a citizen of this country. They should not receive the protections of the law and military, they should not be allowed to use public roads and other public facilities (sports stadia, buses, street cars, etc.). They have become one of those they have despised. They have declared themselves to be “illegal aliens” of the most despicable sort. They siphon off the benefits of citizenship without contributing to the common good.

It is time to expel these illegal aliens as they have renounced their citizenship.

September 1, 2021

You Can’t Publish the Truth!

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:20 am
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I can’t state this any better than these quotes from somewhat recent articles in The Guardian and thinkprogress.org.

“Until recently, the Department of Justice has failed to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of white supremacist violence – treating it as a lesser threat than so-called “eco-terrorism”, which has cost zero American lives. Shortly before the attack on the Capitol by a mob that included active members of law enforcement, FBI managers disavowed a 2006 bureau intelligence assessment warning of white supremacist infiltration of police agencies and refused to participate in a congressional hearing to examine the issue. An FBI intelligence report issued after the Capitol attack substantiated the findings of the 2006 assessment.” (Source Two Decades After 9/11, The Real Threat To The US Is Our Own Far Right by Harsha Panduranga, 9-1-21)

* * *

“But when, in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security reported that white supremacy is the US’s biggest threat for domestic terror, it was met with harsh criticism. Conservatives blasted the department for defining terror threats too broadly, instead of focusing on potential Islamic terrorists. Then-House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was one of those who berated DHS, saying that they weren’t focusing on the real threats the US faces:

“‘[T]he Secretary of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation. Everyone agrees that the Department should be focused on protecting America, but using such broad-based generalizations about the American people is simply outrageous.’

“The report was titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” and it named white supremacists, radical anti-abortionists, and a few “disgruntled veterans” as most susceptible to recruitment by extremist groups, or to harboring resentment that may lead to domestic terrorism. DHS stressed that, during recessions, these threats go up, and law enforcement should be on the lookout for such extremism.”

“Sec. Janet Napolitano ended up withdrawing the report and apologizing to veterans who felt they’d been called out, stressing that the threat was limited to a very small number of veterans.” (Source Republicans Blasted Obama Administration For Warning About Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism by Annie-Rose Strasser, 8-7-2012)

Gosh, the Republicans took offence at the terrorists in their own ranks being called out. Gee I wonder why?

Was anything stated in 2009 and 2006 not the truth? Apparently not. So, the GOP is on record as opposing the truth any time the truth is in opposition to their interests, which now seems to be almost all of the time.

August 29, 2021

Learning from Others

I just learned that little Costa Rica has handled the COVID-19 pandemic very much better than we have here in the U.S. How is this? Costa Rica made a commitment to public health and through various initiatives has created the situation that Costa Ricans have a longer life expectancy that do Americans.

Costa Rica also had the uncommon sense to add a fourth branch of government to the one they modeled after ours. This branch, which is non-partisan, runs all of the elections. They schedule debates, set the rules, etc. No gerrymandering in Costa Rica.

But we don’t learn from good example or bad examples, because they are from other countries (Others, shoot them, shoot!) and they are trumped by American Exceptionalism. (We’re #1, we’re #1!)

We are also being dumb and lame when it comes to public policy. That is not by accident. Those who have gotten fat off of the current system do not want any competition, nor do they want any opposition, so more liberal voting laws? Nah. More sensible public health policies? No way! Honest elections! No chance, it will put too many party employees out of work.

August 24, 2021

Can You Spell Pandering Boys and Girls?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:25 pm
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How can you go to church and pray when you’re wearing a mask?
Do you think God can hear your prayers through a mask
?” (Televangelist Jim Bakker)

I guess when Jim Bakker got out of prison he went back to the only thing he knew how to do: bilking people out of money by spouting nonsense.

So, can God hear you praying when you are wearing a mask? If not that puts a pretty low upper limits upon His omnipotence and omniscience, now doesn’t it? (When you get old, your hearing starts to go, then your memory and this god is really, really old. . . . ) Doesn’t Jim Bakker’s god know everything, everything that has happened and will happen? So, in effect he has already heard your prayer, no?

And what about the Gospel of Matthew’s condemnation of those who go to pray in public places? Couldn’t Jim Bakker’s church goers pray their hearts out . . . out loud . . . before they left home or, maybe in their car on the way to church? Surely there are things to do in church other than pray, no?

So much for “you can’t hide what is in your heart from God.” (A mask means you can hide!)

So much for “He knows when you are sleeping, He knows when you are awake, so . . .” ooops, wrong deity.

So much for this god which lets tens of thousands of children die from hunger every damned day, but is willing to listen to your whiny ass prayers and, on occasion, throw you a bone: letting your high school football team win a game, helping you find a parking space, or making sure there was enough buttermilk in the fridge for you to make biscuits tonight.

I challenge Jim Bakker to quote scripture where it says “Thou shalt not wear a mask into a church building!”

I am waiting. (I am not simultaneously holding my breath.)

August 9, 2021

Republicans Outraged, Threaten to Take Immediate Climate Action

Filed under: Morality,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:43 am
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comprehensive assessment of climate science was published on Monday, the sixth such report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chane (IPCC) since 1988, has been eight years in the making, marshalling the work of hundreds of experts and peer-reviewed studies. It represents the world’s full knowledge to date of the physical basis of climate change, and found that human activity was “unequivocally” the cause of rapid changes to the climate, including sea level rises, melting polar ice and glaciers, heatwaves, floods and droughts.

Temperatures have now risen by about 1.1°C (2.0°F) since the period 1850 to 1900, but stabilizing the climate at 1.5°C (2.7°F) was still possible, the IPCC said. That level of heating would still result in increasing heatwaves, more intense storms, and more serious droughts and floods, but would represent a much smaller risk than 2°C (3.6°F).

Hearing this reported on Fox News made it all sound as if it could be true, so Republicans trumpeted their outrage. “Why weren’t we told?” they bleated. “If we had known we could have taken action sooner.”

Republicans introduced a bill in the Senate to withdraw U.S. financial support of the IPCC, “an agency that clearly has failed in its job,” claimed minority leader Mitch McConnell and scheduled an appearance on Fox News to explain the GOP’s position on this matter. McConnell also promised swift legal action from the DOJ against the “woke,” CRT spouting, left-wing terrorists who were responsible for the documented rapid changes to the climate.

July 31, 2021

OMG, We Are That Stupid?

According to surveys and modeling by The Economist magazine, the single greatest predictor of whether an American has been vaccinated is whether they voted for Joe Biden or Donald Trump last November.

Is there a better sign that we have taken a public health issue, a basic nonpartisan issue, and politicized it?

Are we that stupid?

Yes, we are.

Of course, a massive dose of demagoguery was involved but that is the direction our politics have been turning for quite some time.

Where were all of the anti-vax people when we developed the vaccination scheme for our children? For example, here are the common vaccinations that U.S. children are supposed to get:
Chickenpox
Diphtheria
Hib (protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b)
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Influenza (Flu)
Measles
Meningitis
Mumps
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Polio
Rubella
Tetanus
And for Chicago School Children
In addition to the above:
Invasive Pneumococcal Disease
Varicella
I assume your local community will have similar standards.

There were anti-vax people before, some screaming “religious exemption!” but they were a very small minority, not 40% of the population.

While researching the Chicago school vaccination requirements I found that religious exceptions are granted. So I downloaded the form and lo and behold, they require documentation! Here are the relevant sections on how to fill out the form:
How to complete the Certificate of Religious Exemption to Required Immunizations and/or Examinations Form
• Complete the Parent/Guardian sections, which include key information about the student and the school the student will be entering, and the immunizations or examinations for which religious exemption is being requested. Provide a statement of religious belief(s): for each vaccination/examination requested.
• The form must be signed by the child’s parent or legal guardian . AND the child’s health care provider* responsible for performing the child’s health examination
• Submit the completed form to local school authority on or before October 15th of the school year, or by an earlier enrollment date established by a school district.
• The local school authority is responsible for determining whether the information supplied on the Certificate of Religious Exemption to Required Immunizations and/or Examinations Form constitutes a valid religious objection.
Religious Exemption from Immunizations and/or Examination Form Process:
• The local school authority shall inform the parent or legal guardian, at the time that the exemption is presented, of exclusion procedures, should there be an outbreak of one or more diseases from which the student is not protected, in accordance with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) rules, Control of Communicable Diseases Code (77 Ill. Adm. Code 690).
• Exempting a child from health, dental, or eye examination does not exempt the child from participation in the program of physical education training provided in Section 27-5 through 27-7 of the Illinois School Code [105 ILCS 5/27-5 through 105 ILCS 5/27-7]. A separate request for exemption from physical education, if desired, would need to be presented.

The key part of this exception in my mind is: The local school authority is responsible for determining whether the information supplied on the Certificate of Religious Exemption to Required Immunizations and/or Examinations Form constitutes a valid religious objection.

So, the anti-vax people seem to be signing up to be home schooling parents, no? Oh, goody, the transmission of ignorance codified.

There are Always Consequences
The state of Montana recently passed what they, euphemistically, called their “Human Rights Act,” which does not bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or against trans children, but now protects a class of people who don’t want to get vaccinated, whether against COVID–19 or the measles. Yes, Montana’s “small government” Republicans have mandated by law that Montana’s citizens cannot refuse to hire unvaccinated people to work in their homes, or as caretakers for their elderly parents, or they will be in violation of the state’s human rights law. O . . . M . . . G!

Okay, let’s consider a hypothetical. Let’s say that a massive number of cases of leprosy break out in Montana and there is a vaccine. Who do you think would be first in line to get that vaccine? Those same assholes who passed this law and others like it under the false flag of “personal liberty,” which is a joke coming from the party that waved the flag of personal responsibility as a protection against government meddling in our public and private lives. Now they are employing government meddling to avoid having to recommend personal responsibility. That they consider COVID-19 and its variants to be basically a case of the flu, and a health basket case like Donald Trump pulled through it quickly telling them it ain’t so much, allows them to play fast and loose with the issue, milking it for political gain. But a nasty disease, such as leprosy, or one that makes your dick fall off, would have those very same Republicans trampling over other people to get their shots.

July 1, 2021

Again, Paramnesia Favors Republicans

Once again the Republicans are pushing fake news. No, not Critical Race Theory, an obscure academic approach to history that the GOP is making prominent. (Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences and the maxims of Sun Tzu.) It is the “current crime wave” they hope to ride into electron success next year. There is only one problem: it doesn’t exist. But the fear of crime does, and it can be fanned into flames as well as a real increase in crime could.

The highlight being pushed is that there was a 25% estimated increase in murders in 2020. Wow, that means there is a crime wave, no?

No.

The same estimations showed that there was only a 3% estimated increase in overall violent crime.

What the Repubs don’t care about is data, history, and trends. To put the homicide numbers into perspective, consider these points:

  • Chicago, which had seen homicides fall below 500 in the early 2010s, saw them jump to 770 in 2020, though not to its historic 1974 high of 970 homicides, according to the Chicago Tribune.
  • New York City saw more than 2,200 killings in a single year in 1990, compared with 468 last year, according to city data. In the bigger picture, that’s a nearly 80% decrease.
  • Los Angeles saw more than 1,000 homicides a year in the early 1990s, compared with fewer than 350 last year.

Using these points, it is clear that there has been an overall decline in murders, possibly exacerbated recently by the impact of the pandemic, causing people to lose jobs and putting more economic pressure on people than before.

And, of course, these murders were occurring in poor neighborhoods, minority neighborhoods, that have a history of such violence and so they do not affect the typical GOP voters at all.

Of course, that won’t stop the GOP from fanning the flames of their fake crime wave. Of course, the Dems are walking face first into a propeller by stoking a “Defund the Police” campaign . . . sigh.

December 8, 2020

Trump is the Test the Evangelicals Failed

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:48 pm
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“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

The Biblical god likes to test people. We know this as such tests are described in great quantity in those books. Apparently, for evangelical Christians hate of some “others” (Blacks, LGBTQs, Mexicans, etc.) trumps the command to love your neighbor, cherish the little children, provide for the poor, etc. and, of course, every damned jot and tittle of Proverbs 6:16-19.

The only possible grade for his evangelical Christian supporters is an F, as in failed, failed, failed.

And the shocking thing was that Mr. Trump displayed all of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy, pride), plus a few more thrown in while he was “serving his base.” They seemed to think those were irrelevant because Mr. Trumps was sticking it to the libtards and heathens and foreigners and illegals and. . . .

The Trump administration is a modern day manifestation of the Clint Eastwood movie High Plains Drifter, and the evangelical Christians bought in hook, line, and sinker. They will surely reap what they have sowed, or the Bible’s words are meaningless. (Did you see how I cleverly stated that so I win either way. Ha!)

September 23, 2020

We Are Oh-So-Kind . . . to Ourselves

I was reading an article about some Native American archaeology and came to this statement “In the 1800’s, European settlers drove ancestral Wichita people from their native lands, leading to the destruction of their villages and communal traditions.”

I have made this point before but am still struck by the terminology.

If someone invaded your community and forcefully ejected you from your homes and farms, killing many of you in the process, would you refer to them as settlers . . . or invaders? Was not this land already “settled?” In this instance they are talking about a “city” of possibly 40,000 Native American inhabitants.

But European “settlers” “drove” the people off. It sounds like they are referring to cattle or buffalo which could be “driven” to another location.

By what right were these things done? Oh, God told them it was okay for the Europeans to make war on the indigenous peoples they encountered, in order to bring Christianity to the natives. Gee, you’d think this was an educational mission instead of a land grab.

At the time, Europe had recovered from the repeated decimation of the population of Europe due to the Black Plague and other plagues and was overpopulated. The “European settlers” were searching for land, land that could be tilled, land that could be mined, land that could make them rich. They came as soldier-farmers. They didn’t work in their fields without their guns nearby, because the people they stole the land from wanted it back.

These were not settlers. They were an army of invaders. And we are descended from them.

And President Trump wants our schools to teach that we did nothing wrong. Sure we took their land, but we gave them the Bible. From Mr. Trump’s perspective, this was a great deal, and American deal, an exceptional deal.

And the winners of the deal get to write and re-write the history any way they want. Mr. Trump’s way is what we will get if he is re-elected.

 

 

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