Uncommon Sense

August 16, 2022

We Need to Be Better Organized—A Way Forward

Most of you have heard of the infamous Powell Memo of 1971. In that memo, Powell, then a lawyer representing tobacco companies, argued that businesses need to be better organized and stop shying away from participating in national politics. (Prior to that time, CEOs expressed a profound distaste for politics.)

The Powell Memo was the tip of the conservative’s spear as they surged forward. Ronald Regan passed out copies to all members of his cabinet, for instance. (By then Powell was on the SCOTUS, thanks to Richard Nixon.) One of the immediate outcomes of that memo was the creation of think tanks, like the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, etc. Cato was originally funded by Charles Koch and Heritage by the ultraconservative Joseph Coors, yes that Coors. The game plan was to get these things funded and conservative billionaires were more than obliging. These were added to with the American Enterprise Institute, and others to be a mighty organizing factor for conservatives.

Jack Vance, on Medium.com, suggested that we would benefit mightily from secular think tanks.

Bloody Hell, yes! The ranks of seculars are like the ranks of Democrats, numerous but very poorly organized.

Let’s take a page out of the conservative’s playbook, why don’t we? I mean they have been kicking our asses for decades, so why not?

Anybody know a Democrat leaning billionaire? There seem to be at least a half dozen of them. Putting a bee in one of their bonnets may pay big dividends.

August 13, 2022

Americans, Want to Know Why Your Life Sucks?

I have written on every topic in this essay, but I have never put it all together so well as has Mitchell Petersen. Well worth the read!

Charles Koch Won; We the People Lost

The Free Market Lie

A prominent feature of modern conservative rhetoric is a plea to allow “free markets” to run freely in businesses. This is a lie. Some of the purveyors of this lie know it is a lie, others have been indoctrinated to believe it is true, but it is still a lie.

The argument for free markets was made most prominently by Adam Smith, but he addressed a market that was entirely local. All of the businesses and customers were locals and shenanigans had repercussions. If the only baker in town raised his prices dramatically, blithely asking “Where else will you get your bread?” People would start baking at home and one of those amateurs might turn professional and offer better bread at better prices and “Down goes the greedy baker!”

And when you extend such market concepts to even somewhat larger regions, things immediately fall apart. People were not neighbors of all of the producers of the goods they wanted to buy. And where did the marketeers look to fix the problems with their systems? They looked to government (first from the royals and later the pols).

An analogy could be made to allowing every small village to create their own justice system, with their own rules and processes and laws. Of course, you can see the chaos that would ensue. In one village you could call witnesses, in another you couldn’t, in one you had a right to a trial, in another you wouldn’t, and so on.

The current state of American business shows the lie of “free market ideology” for what it is. Currently, every large corporation is working to have laws instituted that advantage their businesses over businesses owned by others. (The bulk of the codes in our current tax code are of this kind.) The result in the end game is a de facto monopoly. Monopolies have no competition and the monopolists can manipulate the markets any which way they want to. (Consider the biggest source of today’s inflation—corporations raising prices because they can, not because they need to.) With no competition, the advantages claimed for “free markets” evaporate.

So, why is the drum still being beat for “free markets” when so many corporations dominate their “market segment” to the point there is no market at all? Is it not clear? The plutocrats running those corporations want no resistance to their earning money any which way they can. Environmental laws? Please. Labor laws? Oh, please, no. Fair practice laws? No, thank you. Market manipulation prevention laws? If course not! Taxes? We’d rather not, thank you!

Capitalism’s greatest flaw, as currently constructed, is there is no cap upon greed. And despite what you may have heard, greed is not good.

August 9, 2022

Big GOP Brother

At present, some states with GOP majorities are beavering away to ban abortions completely. They are planning on using your phone records as evidence of activity that could signal abortions. They are making vigilantes out of citizens to promote a police state, for now just for abortions. They are telling people what they can and cannot do.

Go down their list, the actual list of what they are acting upon, not the list of things they say they “stand for.” To them, freedom of religion means we should be a Christian nation. Women don’t deserve equal standing with men in business or at home. They want to ban abortion and birth control as the natural state of “wives” is to be barefoot and pregnant. There have declared that there is no racism, so minorities should shut up about perceived oppression. The poor are moochers, takers. The sick don’t deserve medical care. Their illnesses are due to poor lifestyle choices.

In other words, anyone not like them shouldn’t have the fundamental rights they insist on for themselves. They don’t think of you and me as real Americans, or even fully human.

Sound familiar?

And lying is not a problem with them. Consider this statement by Mafia Don Trump during the recent election:

“The (Biden) campaign has joined forces with those trying to tear down America and our way of life. He comes out with a platform . . . there will be no oil. There will be no God. There will be no guns.” (Donald J. Trump)

Has anyone noticed that there is no oil? How about guns? Are there no guns anymore? And is God missing in action somehow? The same lies were applied to President Obama, he was going to “Take our guns!” There are more guns in American hands now than ever before. Odd form of taking away, that is.

When are Republican voters going to wake up and realize they are being played? The real agenda of the oligarchs has nothing to do with these topics. The real agenda is lower taxes for the rich, less regulation of business, and preservation of the social privileges currently provided to white men.

The GOP says it wants a smaller federal government, yet they are currently expanding the intrusiveness of government into our personal lives, as has every Republican (and Democrat) president in recent history. Smaller government, my ass. They want government doing their bidding, not ours.

Republican National Convention in the near future?

We Need to Get Organized

The oligarchs in this country have stolen our lunch money and we just stood by and watched them do it. They are few and we are many and they have won their class war by distractions and dishonest dealings, and lying through their teeth.

The GOP has led the charge, but the Democrats sold out organized labor and working people in general in the late 1970’s when they decided that they were the party of working professionals, glibly saying “where will the union members and working people go, but to us.” Well they found out. Many went to the GOP.

I was disappointed when Bernie Sanders, whose presidential campaign had been tanked by his own party, didn’t start up a new party. He stayed in, tried to reform from within, and then the DNC tanked his second run for president by propping up a failing campaign of one Joe Biden.

Georgia is showing the way. They are organizing, organizing, and organizing, from the roots on up.

We need to heed the lesson of Georgia.

July 5, 2022

Well, We Will Just Have to Make Shit Up

The Catholic Church, in its infinite wisdom, way back when decided to embrace (aka co-opt) the craze for Mary, Mother of Jesus, and declare all kinds of nonsense surrounding her. Topping the nonsense was that Mary was a “perpetual virgin.” This is an obvious lie because they were depending upon people accepting the lie that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit and not some ordinary penis, but explain to me how a hymen can survive childbirth (in the Bible, the sign of virginity was an “intact” hymen). All that aside, this came to be because people just couldn’t believe that the Mother of God was doing the nasty with her lawful husband.

But, there was also that slight problem about Jesus’s brothers and sisters: James, Joses (short for Joseph, which is a bit of a tell), Judas, and Simon, and oh, Sister #1 and Sister #2. (Despite being sisters (well half-sisters) of God, no one bothered writing down their names. If there is a way to demean women for being, well, women, the Bible will find it.)

So, having these brothers and sisters named in the gospels, means that the Church had a problem. So, one apologist claimed that the Gospel writers didn’t really mean “brothers” and “sisters,” they meant cousins. In other words, the gospel writers (writers, not writer) did not know the word for cousin. The word chosen, in Matthew (possibly written in Hebrew or Aramaic and translated, is αδελφός: which means a male from the same womb as the reference person, a brother. But what did those gospel writers know?

As to Joseph possibly having had those four boys and two girls from a previous marriage, making Mary their step-mother, well that would make Jesus their “little brother,” so why was Jesus treated as if he were the oldest brother all of the time?

That these “apologists” (means “defender of the faith”) were making this shit up is very clear. That they were making this up to defend a church dogma (perpetual virginity) that has no basis in scripture is also telling. This clearly establishes that they will make up new bullshit to defend their old bullshit. With that policy intact, it is no wonder that the Pope is infallible. I would be infallible, too, if I could make up stuff . . . without limits . . . to explain away my mistakes.

July 2, 2022

The Two Party Choice—Between Despicable Republicans and Impotent Democrats

I have been thinking about the stolen seat on the SCOTUS recently, During this debacle, the Senate Republicans refused to do their duty, advising and consenting to President Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland, and the Democrats sat by the side wringing their hands. So, what would I have done?

Here is a description of the role of the Vice-president of the U.S. with regard to the U.S. Senate: the Constitution names the vice president of the United States as the president of the Senate. In addition to serving as presiding officer, the vice president has the sole power to break a tie vote in the Senate and formally presides over the receiving and counting of electoral ballots cast in presidential elections.

Hmm, “in addition to serving as presiding officer.” At the time, the VP of the U.S. was Joe Biden, a long-term Senator who knew the rules of the Senate inside out. I would have sent the VP up to the Senate every day that it was in session to take up his job as “presiding officer.” Sure, that has never been done before, but the Senate has never refused to consider a Supreme Court nomination like that before.

Biden’s job then would be to declare every topic the Senate chose to address as being out of order, until the president’s SCOTUS nominee was addressed. The Senate might have responded by doing absolutely nothing for that year plus and whining about the Democrat’s blocking any action being taken, but the reason for the Democrats “blockade” would have been in the news every single day. Their meme would be “Senators, do your job!” Americans are required to do their jobs to earn their salaries. How far would an average American get by picking and choosing what they will and won’t do out of what they were hired to do? Two weeks notice?

Everyday, day in and day out. “Out of order!” is the mantra of the Presiding Officer of the U.S. Senate. Maybe this would not work, but at least the Democrats would be seen as at least fighting unfair behavior on the part of their opponents.

Consider now that the GOP has stacked the court with incompetents who will vote their way. (I say incompetents because they find it necessary to lie and misrepresent situations, ignoring provided facts, to have their way.) They have just got what they claimed was the goal 50 years ago, the repeal of Roe v. Wade. And the Democrats have responded to questions of what will they do now with “What can we do?” The GOP spent 50 years plotting and working to reverse Roe v. Wade and when they finally do, we find out that the Dems have spent that 50 years doing what? Fund raising on the threat? Wringing their hands? Having only 50 years to prepare has left them flat-footed, unable to respond.

It is clear that we need two new political parties: one not steeped in lies and deceit, the other focused upon being effective for the American people they represent.

I imagine the wealthy people actually in charge of this country are welcoming the distraction from their real interests, their economic instructs. While we are bemoaning a rogue SCOTUS’s actions, the plutocrats are trying mightily to blame the current state of inflation on wages that are too high and employment that is too high. It is based upon neither, but facts are not important now in political battles. They only need to get the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates excessively, which will slow growth (and probably create a recession) but that will slow hiring and reduce wage increases, which makes it okay with the plutocrats.

June 20, 2022

Oligarchs in Charge Now—Oligarchs in Charge Then

I think I have hammered away on my position that the wealthy are currently in charge of this country. Nothing happens of which they do not approve. They have bought the legislatures, the executives, and the courts. Whether I have convinced you of that I do not know, but I am going to expand upon my point by recognizing that each new generation (I am a Baby Boomer, the leading edge mind you) thinks they invented everything. My recognition that currently this country is run almost exclusively by the wealthy has been expanded. I now know that this country has always been run by the wealthy.

I have just started a fascinating book “Founding Finance” which has the subtitle “How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests, and Crackdowns Made Us a Nation.” I have barely begun but have swallowed already their main point. The “Founding Fathers” were the oligarchs of the day and were determined to shape the country to their liking.

There were signs I recognized earlier but hadn’t put together. For example, the FFs were terrified of actual democracy, possibly with good reason, and included many anti-democratic elements in the Constitution. For example, voters were, of course, white, male, and property owners. They saw themselves as the logical class to steer the nation, rather than the “middling sort.” The term “middling sort” referred to artisans, craftspeople, etc. People who worked with their hands but not doing simple labor. The fact that the term existed at that time exposes some of the thought processes of the elites who ended up crafting the rules by which we operate. Those of the middling sort might own their smithy, or their print shop, but that was not enough property to get into the club.

That to vote, you needed to own a nontrivial amount of property made sure that property ownership would be protected. Many of the FFs and later “heroes of the republic,” e.g. Davy Crocket, were land speculators. Many of the immigrants who came to this country in search of land to farm, etc. found that almost all of the available property had been scooped up by wealthy Americans, leaving them to work for wages if they could find work. (Europe had been “worked out” mostly in that there was barely enough arable land under cultivation to feed the population, so the idea of a vast land, open for exploitation was intoxication to many thinking of emigrating. But alas, all the lands were already deeded to said wealthy men.

How slaves were treated was at the behest of the wealthy. How the economy and banking was to be handled was determined by the wealthy. How justice was to be served was at the behest of the wealthy.

Oligarchs now, oligarchs then.

Oh, and many of the FFs were wealthy enough to loan substantial amounts of money to the fledgling republic. They were determined to have their debts repaid, so no debt absolution was in the offing. Also, debt was raised into an unassailable position in our economic culture. (Debts must be paid!)

Everything crafted by the FFs supported their position in the new government and culture. Anything capable of challenging their pre-eminence, e.g. religion, was defanged.

And today, we worship the Constitution as if it were some sort of secular sacred literature. The worst are the “strict constructionists” of the legal sort. This attitude is self-serving . . . if you represent the oligarchs . . . because if you want things the way the FFs wanted things, you want things the way oligarchs want things.

As I have criticized Christians for not reading their “inspired by God/word of god/holy scriptures” I think we, as American citizens have failed if we haven’t grappled with who it was who created the Constitution and what their motives were when they did that.

June 3, 2022

The Path We Are On

If you are concerned about why so much progress in our society is deadlocked, you may want to read this: The Singularity — How the American Techno-Oligarchy Will Fail

Here is a taste:

The primary problem for oligarchs is that the rich and powerful have no perspective, no way to obtain it, and a high level of greed and arrogance. We see evidence of this every day in the media that they own. Becoming an oligarch is mostly the result of key variables that have nothing at all to do with vision or ability: exploitation of public funding and a highly unjust economic system, being born at the right time in the right place, and a whopping dose of luck.

To put things in perspective, lets start by admitting that Jobs, Gates, Musk, Thiel, Ellison, etc. are not remotely visionaries. They are talented businessmen selling other people’s decades-old visions in a wide range of colors and sizes. The visionaries that actually made their business empires possible are people like Ferraris, von Neumann, Gellius, Engelbart, and Anderson. Poorly-regulated capitalism, greed, corruption, an unreasonable belief in competition, and extreme wealth concentration have hindered the realization of their visions by decades — to the detriment of all.

June 2, 2022

The GOP’s Climate Change Strategy

The GOP has a simple strategy regarding any action to be taken to stem climate change: it is too expensive! Basically, they claim it will cost too much (and besides the scientific data are weak). Well, the scientific data are not weak. And, yes it will be expensive. But allow me an analogy to explain why “it will cost too much” is not an adequate defense.

Let us say that you noticed a strange odor in your basement and when you investigated you found what looked like a leak in your sewage pipes. So, you called a plumber and got an estimate and who boy! That was way too much money to pay for a repair. So, you decided that you would do nothing and hope for the best.

I assume you can guess what happens, sooner or later. A major sewage leak causes your entire basement to need cleaning by a professional service, along with an even higher plumbing bill.

Dealing with climate change now will be expensive. It will require some changes in our lives. But it will never be cheaper in the future. And, if you think that a techno-fix will solve the problem easily in the future, you haven’t been paying attention. Any number of techno-fixes have been suggested to date. None have been implement. Why? Take a guess . . . they were too expensive.

Remember the car repair commercial in which the greasy mechanic drops the line “Well, you can pay me now or pay me later”? The implication is that if you don’t fix your car now, it will cost more later. A transmission service now could stave off a transmission replacement later. A valve job now may stave off an engine replacement later, etc.

The cost of dealing with climate change just keeps going up. Waiting will not make dealing with it any less expensive.

So, the GOP’s rational for doing nothing is bogus, so why are they doing it? Well, their paymasters are making so much money under the current system to allow the boat to be rocked. So, like the NRA, they nix any legislation that will fix all or part of the problem.

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