Class Warfare Blog

April 19, 2017

Bashing Conservatives

I was commenting on something posted on Swarn Gill’s very good blog “Cloak Unfurled” and I thought that you, my wonderful readers (Practicing your pandering you are. Shut up, Yoda.) might like to share. The topic was “liberals bashing conservatives.”

The current liberal bashing of conservatives is, in my opinion, a delayed response to the conservative bashing that began before there was social media. The phenomenon that was Rush Limbaugh is a good marker. Prior to Mr. Limbaugh, bashing of liberals had few column inches anywhere and no distinct voice. Before the first Gulf War I found his radio show and actually enjoyed listening to it as he lambasted caricatures of liberals (Femi-Nazis, etc.). At first this seemed in good fun but then I noted a commitment to lying that caused me to turn him off. He then became almost 100% politics-focused but kept bashing the liberal side as clueless, etc. In his footsteps, there followed the Fox (sic) News hordes and Glenn Beck, etc.

There was no particular response from the left-wing media (as claiming a liberal bias has always been a lie—to true conservatives, the truth has always been left-wing).

With the advent of social media, the anonymity provided right-wingers cowed into keeping their mouths shut due to social pressure (Why can’t we call a nigger a nigger? What’s wrong with that?) now had voices not subject to social pressure, in fact they could bask in the amounts of social outrage (impotent rage) that they could provoke. And now we have liberals bashing of conservatives … anonymously and the world turns

This escalation of rage in the debate, however, serves only one group: the oligarchs already in control of the U.S. government. While our heads are spinning around, we aren’t addressing our sole problem, the one solutions to all of the other problems must lead through, … them. For them Donald Trump, the master distracter is a god send. Until we address the oligarchs and pull their fangs, swathed with money, we will not be able to get through to climate change, off shoring of jobs, the real problems we face because they will just have too many paid thugs running interference for them.

 

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July 12, 2016

Shoddy Research on Conservatives v. Liberals

I was just reading letters written to the NYT regarding an op-ed piece (There Are Conservative Professors. Just Not in These States by Samuel J. Abrams July 1, 2016) in which the author makes some interesting claims about the nature of today’s college professors, the primary ones being in the following quotes:

In 1989, roughly 40 percent of professors were moderate and 40 percent were liberal; the remaining 20 percent were conservative. By 2014, liberal identifiers jumped to 60 percent, with moderates declining to 30 percent and conservatives to just 10 percent.

But research I’ve conducted since then has shown that the ranks of academia have shifted sharply leftward over the last 25 years.

You can see that the good author’s research involved what is called self-identification studies and “clues” they were able to eek out of the participants as to their “liberal” or “conservative” status.

Not apparently addressed was the huge change in what it meant to be a member of either constituency over that time. In the 1980’s and earlier in the 70’s, 60’s, and 50’s, each political party had liberal and conservative “wings.” By today’s standards of what a “conservative” is, Republican politicians like Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, and even Ronald Reagan would not qualify to be “conservatives.”

The Republican Party of today would have been the “far right” conservatives of the Republican Party of the 60’s and 70’s. The Democratic Party of today would have been considered part of the “pro-business conservative wing” of that same time.

The Democrats have jettisoned working class people and unions and have embraced the upper 20% of the wealth spectrum and have become the meritocracy party, another part of the “blame the victim” movement. (Black people don’t need unions fighting for their jobs, they need a college education so they can be professionals, too.)

I can’t imagine any studies conducted over the past four to five decades into “conservatives” v. “liberals” could be corrected for the changing definitions of those terms. To call oneself a “liberal” today is like calling oneself anything from a socialist to a centrist yesterday. Basically all of the professional politicians moved way over to the right, leaving a huge vacuum for liberals to expand into. President Obama has been tagged as a socialist when he isn’t even a strong liberal … of the earlier sort. Such have perceptions changed.

The goal posts have been shifted … onto another playing field.

 

 

October 24, 2013

Just Keep Telling Them Lies

I was reading an article by Lawrence Davidson appearing at www.consortiumnews.com called “Right-Wing Ideology Run Wild” in which he says “Today’s struggle to return us to minimalist government and maximum economic “freedom” is led by a collection of fundamentalist Christian right-wingers and Tea Party mad-hatters.”

This struck a chord in me because too often liberal leaning folks have allowed the far right to establish the terminology of the debate. In this case the objectionable phrase was “return us to minimalist government.” The word “return” doesn’t belong there because this country has never (never, ever, never) advocated minimalist or small or reduced government (ever).

I date the creation of the United States to the Ratification of the Constitution. The Constitution defines us, it says who we are and why we exist as a nation. It’s adoption marks the beginning of our existance as a nation. And since we are this grand experiment in self-government (. . . of the People, by the People, and for the People, . . .) we created a Constitution that took certain rights for the federal government and left all other rights of government to the states and to the people. There is no limit to how we can govern ourselves, no limits as to how much government we can have, nor is there any endorsement of any amount of government less than all we want.

There is no “return” since we have never been there. The last time we had “minimal” federal government was under the Articles of Confederation and that was a near disaster (and before the creation of the U.S.).

Let’s see this as what it is. The plutocrats want less government because government means taxation and they don’t want taxation (except for to pay for the police (to keep the riff-raff in order), the military (to make wars to protect their economic “rights”), and the courts (to protect their contracts)). Government also means regulation and the plutocrats do not want anyone opposing their path to greater and greater wealth accumulation.

When Ronald Regan, as President, began the “government is the problem” campaign, what has happened to middle class wages and what has happen to wealth inequity? If you do not know, you are either asleep or a fool. Wake up.

April 3, 2013

Are You an Islamophobe? No? Neither is Sam Harris

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:24 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Recently Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, and Free Will, was accused, once again, of Islamopobia. In his response, Dr. Harris stated that he didn’t believe there was such a thing. Sam Harris is not an Islamophobe by any stretch of the imagination, but there is such a thing as Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is the irrational fear of Islam. Examples of this are the idiots in this country going around passing state laws banning Sharia law, Sharia being the religion soaked justice of Islam. This is irrational because no one is proposing that we adopt any part of Sharia, nor is anyone saying Muslims have a right to use Sharia under the guise of religious freedom.

Sam Harris is not an Islamophobe as he has, for example, read the Koran (Quran?), have you? He has studied the effects of fundamentalism in Islamic countries and has pointed out that the goal of Islam is to extend Islam to cover the entire world. Also, Islam’s victims tend to be Islamic women and children, killed or mutilated by their male relatives for besmirching their honor or violating the teachings of Islam. These are the people who embrace female circumcision, because we wouldn’t want women to enjoy sex, now would we?

Sam Harris’s concerns about Islam are not irrational, they are quite rational, hence he is not an Islamophobe.

Which brings us to the quality of our political discourse. In this age of Fox (sic) News journalism (sic) the first response to any political pronouncement is name calling and label affixing. Now, I am not beyond calling a moron a moron, but this is not the first step in a useful, civilized discussion.

Sam Harris, as a prominent atheist, is often plastered with ridiculous labels such as Islamophobe, because it is a signal to others that “you do not have to take this person’s pronouncements seriously.” On the conservative right in this country, the word “liberal” was chosen to serve this purpose. If someone was branded a liberal by Fox (sic) News or Rush Limbaugh, then any good conservative knew that they didn’t need to pay attention to the thinking of that person. (“There is nothing to see here, move along.” I never pass on a good Start Wars reference.) Sam Harris also has concerns about the quality of liberalism in this country and has been quite critical of liberals himself, but in a thoughtful way, not in a knee jerk way.

But if I have learned anything in my many years in politics, is it is your harshest critic’s opinions that you have to pay the closest attention to. They are the ones that are taking apart your words and using the finest comb to find flaws in them. But when one’s critics resort to name calling, virtually admitting they have given up on fair criticism, one has lost any opportunity to benefit from that criticism. And the discourse suffers.

January 30, 2013

A Real Must Read Blog

Paul Krugman is the exception to the rule that economists are “people who are good at math but don’t have enough personality to become accountants.”

In his latest blog post he begins with: “Aha. In his latest op-ed, John Taylor comes out as a full-fledged monetary Calvinist. No, not a disciple of John Calvin, the preacher — a disciple of Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes.

Dr. Krugman reads the classics, that is Calvin and Hobbes.

If you are not a regular reader of Dr. Krugman’s blog (already reputed to be the most read blog created by an individual) I recommend it highly: The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/).

June 11, 2012

Where are the Real Conservatives?

For about the last 20 years, oh so many of our bedrock institutions have succumbed to corruption and hubris. To name just a few: Wall Street, which went from serving its clients to serving its employees; Congress, which has gone from bad to worse, no longer even interested in doing the public’s business, the Catholic Church, which worries about how the widespread sexual abuse of altar boys will affect their image (WTF?), professional baseball and the steroids era, and the Supreme Court which has abandoned it’s lofty ideals (even if never actually met) to pander to whimsical political winds. Americans are expressing historically low levels of trust in their institutions.

We had gotten used to our federal government trumping up reasons for foreign policy actions (for example, almost everything we did in South and Central America had trumped up reasons, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, etc.) but now we have been treated to the most expensive war in our history (Iraq) for apparently no reason whatsoever, certainly not one that would make sense to a high school civics student.

Where are the supporters and defenders of our social institutions, our conservatives? Here is an edited excerpt from a prior post:

Oversimplification #1
Conservatives are people who yearn for an overly idealized past.

Realize that, of course, anything said about a large group of people doesn’t necessarily apply to any individual. Plus, I freely admit this is an oversimplification, so please don’t get your knickers in a twist.

Conservatives obviously have something they want to conserve. They want things to continue to be they way they were in the past. Many harken back to the way things were in the 1950’s and 1960’s, for example. Well, an incredible amount of picking and choosing has to go on for this to work. Would we want to go back to a time when women were refused jobs because they would be taking a job away from a man? (For those of you under 50, this was a standard practice in this time period.) Would we want to go back to racial segregation? Would we want to go back to black and white TV?

Oversimplification #2
Conservatives are people who prize group cohesion most highly.

For conservatives security comes with predictability. Since we adopted living in larger societies, family ties are insufficient to be able to control the future, so other institutions are needed, preferably ones with some authority to wield. (Conservatives, though, are very “pro-family,” whatever that means.) Conservatives are pro-business. While many conservatives extol the virtues of unfettered free market capitalism, when in political power, they provide legislative and tax breaks as well as outright subsidies for business interests. Conservatives are pro-religion. Conservatives’ interests in religion is not from a real family values or morality perspective (conservatives have moral and familial lapses as much as do liberals) but for the stabilizing influences that churches exert. Churches have rules and techniques to ensure people follow them. Conservatives are pro-military, being especially enamored of generals, people who wield authority for the military. Conservatives are anti-abortion primarily on religious grounds even though they take the stand that government should be “small” and not intrude upon the rights of individuals or businesses.

I don’t think I am far off from the conservative ideals to preserve what is good from the past and to support the stability to ordinary society that institutions like churches, the military, and “families” provide.

So where are the conservatives wringing their hands over the devastation to our institutions? Those conservatives possibly don’t exist any more, certainly in any numbers. (Let me see: George Will, David Brooks, Colin Powell, uh. . . .) If they do exist in numbers, they certainly aren’t “players.” In fact, those who are leading the destruction of our institutions are the Fox News conservatives, the Rush Limbaugh conservatives, the “new conservatives.” The major league team owners who looked to other way, the corporate executives who gave themselves huge bonuses as their businesses tanked, the U.S. Catholic Bishops who make the Pope look like a liberal, the Generals sending battle plans with Christian images and quotations woven in, the ministers preaching hatred (of Islam, for example) rather than tolerance, . . . , unfortunately the examples are endless.

These folks, these “new conservatives” have come in from the cold. Their vehicle? Money and the power that money provides. If you know any history, “progressives” and the Progressive Party came out of the Republican Party. Today “progressive” is a slur used by new conservatives to destroy a label any liberal or, well, progressive, might want to hide behind. The noveaux riches conservateur is “all for one, and one for one,” meaning themselves. What is good for them, not General Motors, is good for America. Period.

Aldous Huxley got it wrong. It is not the government we needed to fear, it is the corporations and their corrupt masters.

June 3, 2010

The Divine Right of Citizens

The existence of the phrase “the divine right of kings” tells you almost everything you need to know of human politics. Tens of thousands of years ago, when we were still separated into small tribes of hunter-gatherers, there were dangers to be faced: dangers from wolves, lions, tigers, and other large predators. (Contrary to the beliefs of some benighted Christians who show dioramas including dinosaurs entering Noah’s ark, the dinosaurs were long dead before even the remotest ancestor of human beings appeared, so we didn’t fear Velociraptors and T-Rexs because none were around to give us nightmares.) And large predators were enough to need a defense for, so the biggest and strongest members of a tribe would try to fend them off with a stick or by throwing rocks. There were also dangers from other humans, too. Because the biggest and strongest often took injuries in defense of the tribe, some deference came their way from the others. It seems obvious where the “job” of warrior came from. It was a natural mate to the job of hunter as both involved weapons, be they so humble as a thrown stone or a sharpened stick.

Some members of the tribe couldn’t compete for status as a warrior because they either didn’t have the physical strength or the skill with weapons to be a “leader of the pack.” If these tribal members were possessed of some cunning, though, they might use knowledge they acquired to create status for themselves. Women generally had the bulk of the gathering of plants and eggs and such, so they had cornered the knowledge base of what was edible and what was not, so the wily males “explained” events in the sky: such as falling stars, eclipses, the ever changing shape of the moon, predicting the seasons and weather, etc. Such men provided some security to the group, even if it were only peace of mind, and logically became shamans, etc.

When we became more social and more sedentary, group size exceeded that of small family groups and supergroups were created: groups of hunters hunting collaboratively, groups of fishers fishing collaboratively, etc. Rituals for burial and other significant punctuating events of group society required teams of officials to perform the rites. Leadership in such groups soon proved to be desirable, simply from the evidence that when someone led a group, it was more successful. Successful group leaders acquired even more status in the larger community.

From these situations our ideas of kings and priests have come. And relatively recently it became apparent to these two groups that they were stronger together than apart. Apart, they may end up contending with one another. Together they reinforced each other’s status and power.

The divine right of kings evolved from the competition of these two groups to dominate the other. Once invented, the divine right of kings meant kings were able to give orders, which if anyone challenged, they could say, “Because God gave me that right.” and the priests would back them up. And the priests would be able to count on the support of the kings because the kings needed “sacred” authority to back up their armed might. Both groups gained power together.

Of course, things got carried away. In medieval Europe and elsewhere people became the property of the warrior class (kings, dukes, barons, etc.) and could be mistreated or even killed with no repercussions. On the other hand, anyone who challenged the religious orders could be arrested and/or tortured, and even killed by the church with the complicity of the ruling class. Popes even sent many thousands of warriors to foreign countries on spiritual tasks (crusades, holy wars, etc.).

I must say it worked out well for the kings and priests, but isn’t it time we reconsidered this system?

Why do we give so much power to our “kings” and “priests?” Granted, we still need protection from enemies, so it seems to do away with the warrior class just yet. And, we seem to have the warrior class under control of civilian authority. And yet, some right-wing commenters still want our “king,” the President, to have the powers of a king, by allowing the government, for example, to take away the power of being a citizen to secure our safety. (And just when we serfs felt we had gotten out from under the heavy hand of a ruling class, these “commentators” are trying to argue that we get put back under!)

An Irish pub keeper was recently asked what to do with Catholic priests who had sexually molested children. He replied, “Take ‘em outside and hang ‘em.” Arguably a sentiment many share. Such an utterance 500 years ago would have gotten that man a noose of his own, so progress is being made. But, still, organized religion of all stripes has way too much power (and wealth) after having outlived much of its usefulness. (If you don’t think religion has much power any more, try running an atheist for President. And recently a group of Republicans wanted to amend the party platform for the state of Maine to include the phrase “freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion” which harkens back about 200 years where not attending church could get you executed in this country.)

Isn’t it time we re-examined the deals we have brokered with our warrior class and our shamans and ask if they are really doing useful tasks for us? Is it really necessary for the U.S. to have troops stationed in over 100 other countries? Is it really necessary to give tax exemptions to wealthy churches which exist merely to aggrandize their own power?

Isn’t it time we looked into the “divine rights of the citizenry?”

May 21, 2010

Why Conservatives and Progressives Can’t Get Along (But Should Try)

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:29 pm
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes clarity can come through oversimplification. I will attempt to explain why conservatives and progressives do not agree and why they need to learn to respect one another.

Oversimplification #1
Conservatives are people who yearn for an overly idealized past.
Progressives are people who yearn for an overly idealized future.

Realize that, of course, anything said about a large group of people doesn’t necessarily apply to any individual. Plus, I freely admit this is an oversimplification, so please don’t get your knickers in a twist.

Conservatives obviously have something they want to conserve. They want things to continue to be they way they were in the past. Many harken back to the way things were in the 1950’s and 1960’s, for example. Well, an incredible amount of picking and choosing has to go on for this to work. Would we want to go back to a time when women were refused jobs because they would be taking a job away from a man? (For those of you under 50, this was a standard practice in this time period.) Would we want to go back to racial segregation? Would we want to go back to black and white TV?

Progressives, on the other hand, are always saying “Wouldn’t the world be a better place if . . . ?” Change, sometimes radical change, is the topic of the day. The problem is that change is just that, making things different. Making things better rather than worse is always the goal, but not necessarily the outcome. Progressives want progress, want things to be better, but sometimes we settle for things being just different.

These differences create a great deal of the tension between conservatives and progressives. One group looks forward to a new, and different, future. One group looks forward to a future much the same as is the past.

Here is the second oversimplification:

Oversimplification #2
Conservatives are people who prize group cohesion most highly.
Progressives are people who prize individual rights most highly.

For conservatives security comes with predictability. Since we adopted living in larger societies, family ties are insufficient to be able to control the future, so other institutions are needed, preferably ones with some authority to wield. (Conservatives, though, are very “pro-family,” whatever that means.) Conservatives are pro-business. While many conservatives extol the virtues of unfettered free market capitalism, when in political power, they provide legislative and tax breaks as well as outright subsidies for business interests. Conservatives are pro-religion. Conservatives’ interests in religion is not from a real family values or morality perspective (conservatives have moral and familial lapses as much as do progressives) but for the stabilizing influences that churches exert. Churches have rules and techniques to ensure people follow them. Conservatives are pro-military, being especially enamored of generals, people who wield authority for the military. Conservatives are anti-abortion primarily on religious grounds even though they take the stand that government should be “small” and not intrude upon the rights of individuals or businesses.

Progressives are pro-labor and hence are assumed to be anti-business. (Being “pro-labor” is the definition of being anti-business in the conservative dictionary.) Actually, progressives are fine with business as long as it is well-regulated and pays its share of taxes. Being pro-working people is basically focused on being fair to the people actually creating the wealth of which others are reaping the lion’s share. Progressives are somewhat ambivalent about religion, because the hierarchical structure of most religions ends up creating a power hungry class of the “religious” who wish to intrude on people’s individual freedoms, e.g. various religious leaders trying to influence politics or, in the case of a number of Popes, actually dominating politics and the lives of citizens (who weren’t free to choose a religion or not choose a religion). Progressives are all in favor of faith and spirituality as long as it is in the form of something freely chosen (or not) by individuals. Progressives are not pro-military, they are pro-soldier. They generally support the troops, but not the war. Those who spat upon soldiers returning from Viet Nam (if that actually occurred), were not progressives. Progressives are generally pro-abortion because this “choice” is a right of individuals and government and the church shouldn’t be interfering.

While these are admittedly oversimplified arguments, they expose enough of the core differences between conservatives and progressives to explain a lot of the antagonism between the two. But it is very, very important that each group view the other with understanding and with some respect, too, because both represent real streams of people flowing through American politics and, more importantly, both groups are needed. In fact, a near balance is needed between the influences of the two.

I know, I know, right-wing commenters are using language that makes it sound like a war for our very existences is going on. (The current administration is a “regime,” the President is not an American, the President is a Nazi, a socialist, they are coming for your guns, etc.) So, don’t listen to them; they couldn’t be more wrong. The current President is very close to President Eisenhower in his actions, he is a slightly center-left pragmatist, where Eisenhower was a center-right pragmatist. The “commenters” have worn out and disparaged the term liberal, so they leaped over that term and embraced “socialist” to describe President Obama as a way to push him even more toward the right. If President Obama were a socialist, he would have nationalized all of the health insurance companies and run them as a government service, instead he handed them major new profits. Some socialist!)

Here’s why we need to ignore the crazy commenters and learn to respect one another.

If conservatives ruled permanently, we would suffer the excesses all too familiar from the recent Bush administration. Government would be in bed with business and unrestricted greed would lead to environmental degradation (BP insisted on regulating its own business and the Bush administration said ” . . . , uh, sure!), financial shenanigans (You know, Wall Street collapses, etc.).

If progressives ruled permanently, we would suffer the excesses of impractical social legislation and business stagnation; we could lose sight of some of the core values of our society.

Down one road is stasis, down the other is willy-nilly change. One road is “preserve the past, preserve the past” and the other is “create the future, create the future.”

What is needed is a balance between these two sensibilities.

And I am a progressive!

(Unfortunately, right now the progressives have an effective spokesperson, and the conservatives have clowns like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity drowning out sensible people like David Brooks. We need to send the clowns to the bench and push the sensible people to the fore.)

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