Class Warfare Blog

September 21, 2017

Wealth Concentration Has Consequences, Severe Ones

I guess I can’t recommend to economic good sense of Yves Smith enough. In her latest post, Insanely Concentrated Wealth is Strangling our Prosperity she makes the simple point, and backs it up with irrefutable evidence, that the biggest problem with wealth concentration is that the wealthy don’t spend their wealth. As they accumulate more and more, that is wealth taken out of circulation, and becoming idle it does no one else any good. Job Creators, my ass.

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September 19, 2017

Drowning in a Sea of Bullshit

William Mathis is Vice-Chairman of the Vermont Board of Education and Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center. He recently wrote “Losing our Purpose, Measuring the Wrong Things.” Here are a couple of quotes from that document:

Having high test scores was falsely linked to national economic performance. In hyperbolic overdrive, the 1983 Nation at Risk report thundered, ‘the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.’

After 35 years of this same Chicken Little jeremiad, the nation is still the premier economy of the world, leads the world in patents, registers record high stock prices, and is second in international manufacturing. (For the nation as a whole, the independent Bureau of Labor Statistics demonstrates that we do not have a math and science shortage).

By declaring schools ‘failures,’ public monies were increasingly diverted to private corporations. Yet, after a half-century of trials, there is no body of evidence that shows privatized schools are better or less expensive. Large-scale voucher programs actually show substantial score declines. The plain fact is that privatization, even at its best, does not have sufficient power to close the achievement gap—but it segregates. It imperils the unity of schools and society. This proposed solution works against the very democratic and equity principles for which public systems were formed.

Spot on. How many truth tellers will it take to get people off of the current set of false narratives? I cannot answer that question, except to say “more.”

September 18, 2017

I Will Repeat This as Often as is Necessary

On the latest episode of Bill Maher’s program (Real Time on HBO), both the host, Mr. Maher, and his two guests: Salmon Rushdie and Fran Leibowitz collectively missed the point over and over as to why the Democrats don’t have their act together. They pointed to Democrats trying to play fair when the Republicans don’t bother with the niceties, and complained that there is a branch of the Democratic Party that wants true leftist ideology in their candidates, and then there is racism.

Hello? Wrong. Wrong. Partially wrong. Donald Trump won the last election because the American people are fed up with the status quo … period.

This indelibly racist country went so far as to elect a Black man president as a statement that we were fed up with the status quo. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama cast his lot with the corporate Democrats and what we got, with or without GOP opposition, was essentially more of the same.

So, we grabbed the biggest monkey wrench available, Mr. Trump, and cast it into the gears of the government.

And, yet, the pundits still don’t get it. Neither, of course, do the politicians.

The Democrats started the process of “losing their grip on reality” in the 1970’s. They felt their coalition of working people, teachers, unions, and racial minorities wasn’t strong enough for the new America being created. So, they distanced themselves from unions, racial minorities, and working people and embraced their new core constituency: professionals. This started pretty much under Bill Clinton. Remember the Clintons and their movement to the center? Oh, that’s right, they are both still around peddling the kinds of things that have been gutting the middle class for the last, say, 50 years! Bill was for NAFTA, Hillary was for TPP (and on and on …).

So, in the last election, the Democrats couldn’t have picked a candidate more representive of the status quo than Hillary Clinton. Her new book (I haven’t read it but people are falling all over themselves quoting it to me) proves that she doesn’t “get it” either.

The American middle class, once the biggest segment of the American economic spectrum, has been decimated over and over again. Individual workers today make less than they did 50 years ago when adjusted for inflation. No part of the American Dream included that little fact. The only reason that American families have made any headway at all is because millions of American women took jobs … not because they wanted to, but because they had to establish a decent standard of middle class life for their children.

With the Great Recession of 2008, a lot of people, unable to find decent work, have dropped out of the job market, moving us more toward the 1970’s in that regard, too.

The middle class is hurting. Consider Donald Trump to be a howl of anger and pain. If we don’t “get the message” soon, what will be the next signal sent? I shudder to think.

September 17, 2017

Why We Do and They Don’t Want National Health Care System

We are talking here about the healthcare systems such as Canada and France have as examples, you know, all of the other advanced western nations. Names such as Medicare For All have been bandied about for such a system here in the U.S., which is just one such option.

Here in a nutshell is why we want to do this and the conservatives and their paymasters do not:

Per Capita Spending Health Care 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Miraculous Finland: $3984

When we see this list, we see “Gosh, we could have quality healthcare for only about half of what we are spending now!” and “We could use some of what we save to make sure that all Americans are covered.”

When they see this list, they see “Oh my gosh, look at the profits we will lose under national healthcare.”

We spend twice what most other countries spend on healthcare and only the very rich get a commensurate healthcare outcome. Most people spend more and get less than they get in other countries. For those of you who think Canada and France do not have quality healthcare systems, you might want to consider how you learned that … Fox (sic) News, maybe? We have a higher rate of infant mortality than most of those other countries. We have shorter life spans than people in those other countries. The middle class incomes in those other countries often exceed ours, especially when you include the fact that we pay so much for healthcare. We also have millions of people with no health insurance at all, who simply go to a county hospital when they are very, very ill and plead for charity care. In the meantime, those sick people spread diseases and die much younger than they could have.

Whatever your position, do realize that the opposition to “socialized medicine” comes from those making megabucks off the current system: doctors (lead by the AMA, so their faces don’t get shown), Big Pharma (surprise, surprise) and, of course, the health insurance industry.

The insurance companies are playing a game. Through accounting procedures, they are claiming big losses through Obamacare. These losses are being used to argue for large premium increases under the system. But if you look closely, these very same corporations are claiming record profits and their CEO’s are receiving big bonuses. There stocks have soared even higher than the record stock price surges under President Obama. Huge losses, record profits, skyrocketing share prices! Some companies made so much profit that they exceeded the 20% allowed under Obamacare and had to issue refunds! This can be compared to the 3% total overhead for Medicare.

Look at that list again and ask yourself, as Ian Welsh has over and over: why don’t we see those numbers on the news over and over and over again … instead of never. Who controls the news?

September 7, 2017

Clinton Versus Sanders, Round 2

In Secretary Clinton’s new book, she takes on Bernie Sanders as a source of her loss in the 2016 presidential election, “(Sanders) didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party.” So? Did you get the message? Did you incorporate his policy suggestions? Did you co-opt his campaign? No? Oh.

People seem to be ignoring the obvious with regard to the election outcome. For one, Secretary Clinton indeed won the popular vote by a considerable margin, so it was not the total vote that caused her loss but the distribution of votes. This suggests her campaign did not emphasize the importance of a few states that could have won the day for her.

But the overwhelming elephant in the room is how a dirt bag like Donald Trump could even get close to a seasoned professional politician in the first place. The reason is obvious: under presidents Democratic and Republican for the last forty years, the middle class has been decimated over and over. The election provided a choice between “more of the same” and “something different.” While “more of the same” won the popular vote, “something different” pulled well enough that with strategic campaigning the Electoral College delivered the presidency to someone as ill-suited to the office as has ever been elected.

What would cause people to come out and vote for a clown, rather than just stay home and not vote, the traditional way to vote one’s displeasure or despair? There were a fair number of people who opted out of voting, especially young people who liked neither candidate, but the election was determined by a simple vote of “no mas,” against the status quo that had served ordinary Americans so poorly.

It doesn’t require a large stretch of the imagination to see Barrack Obama’s election to the office as another vote against the status quo. Mr. Obama ran as someone who would change Washington for the better, as someone who actually saw poor people, and middle class people, and spoke to them rather than around them. But the desire for hope and change turned fairly quickly into “more of the same,” resulting in an even larger vote against the status quo. If voting in a Black man to the office, in a nation still substantial afflicted with racism, didn’t work, how about a clown?

Get the message?

In Secretary Clinton’s case, the answer is “apparently not.”

September 6, 2017

On Dependency

He’s a good boy and a better science writer than I ever was. Go buy a copy!

I am reading my son’s new book (Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat by A.R. Ruis) which addresses the history of school lunch programs in the U.S. One of the “concerns” that comes up frequently in the political debates is the “fear of dependency” if kids were to receive a free lunch at school everyday. (Yes, I know. It just goes to show you how many fucking morons there are.) This was not much of a debate for parents but was for the rich (White) power structures of American cities.

The evidence that children showed up at school either malnutritioned or just plain hungry were readily available. Kids were also diseased and pest ridden back in the day. That many men couldn’t pass a physical to be inducted into the Army for World War I made school lunches a national issue as well.

This is not my topic. My topic is the “dependency” claim made by conservatives and conservative interests. The conservatives have used loaded and coded language for all of my life in these debates. The “dependency” fear mongering is steeped in racism and politics.

The reason conservatives eschew giving “handouts” to poor people is not that such will make them dependent, although they hammer on that drum insistently. Their real fear is that poor people will become politically dependent on the people who are providing the assistance and then will vote for them. Conservatives do not want to get into a competition as to which political party, say, can be in charge of the “handouts” because that will just inflate the size of the assistance through competition, so they do not want to play that game. But neither do they want the Democrats, say, to become the party that provides the assistance and then gets the votes. It is not about dependency but to whom they would be dependent.

On top of that they believe that the votes of poor people will be for ever increasing “handouts” that will then require increased tax revenues from the rich to support them. So, they fear monger: such assistance promotes “dependency, is “socialism,” etc. Actually they also believe that the poor are not worthy. The Black and Brown poor are obviously not worthy, but neither are the White poor, even the working White poor. In the mind of Conservatives, if those people were worthy, they wouldn’t need assistance! Talk about a prosperity gospel … in reverse.

We are all familiar with the parental advice to not feed stray cats and dogs as the family will soon have a new pet to feed. I spin this when visiting old friends or relatives I haven’t seen in a while when the topic of their children comes up. They are invariably bigger than the last time I saw them so I say “I warned you what will happen if you fed them!”

If you feed a child or a hungry adult, all you are doing is reducing the amount of hunger in the world and allowing them to grow or live normally. You do not draw the line there. If your Vegan neighbor crashes your barbecue party and complains to you about the menu … that’s where you draw the line.

August 12, 2017

I Don’t Get It

If you look at the updated somewhat notorious graph below, you can see that worker productivity has been detached from worker wages starting in the 1970’s. This was the result of a concerted campaign by the very wealthy to suppress wages by suppressing labor unions, getting tax code changes in their favor which transfer tax liabilities off of them and onto other Americans, even by suppressing voting.

This has created a great deal of economic distress in the bottom 90% of economic Americans and will result in a backlash. What I do not understand is the strategy. Going from astonishingly rich to fucking rich changes the lifestyles of those rich people exactly how? Is it just getting their way, at least for the while until the backlash, that makes this worth doing?

Even Henry Ford understood that if you paid better wages, you would get much of that back through one’s employees becoming one’s customers. Hell, these rich people invented the company store, where laborer’s wages got sucked back to the employer through required purchasing of the goods to survive. Those stores are no longer allowed, but Henry Ford knew that his employees, once they had the wherewithal to purchase a car, were going to buy one of his because of loyalty generated through his paying better than normal wages to his workers. (It is called gratitude.)

But, the current crop of rich bastards would rather strip away the ability to buy the goods their companies produce and, what, sell those goods overseas? When the pitchforks and torches finally end up circling their gated communities, will the plutocrats wonder why their employees aren’t more loyal to them? Are they that stupid? Do they think we do not see what they are doing?

August 9, 2017

A Modern Quandary

I have been reading “Sociology is a Martial Art: Political Writings by Pierre Bourdieu.” This is puzzling to me because I haven’t been having any trouble sleeping, so why would I want to read a sociology text? (Sorry, old joke.)

In a context different from the one I will address in this post ( his was the impact of television), Professor Bourdieu wrote “How can I reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number?” His concern was that the primary function of television seemingly was to dumb down even simple discussions. Here I want to address the topic of the anti-evolution crowd and the anti-climate change crowd.

Without specialized training, it is hard to follow the science in these fields. I have a graduate degree in chemistry and I am not versed in the nuances of either subject (although I guess I could create a small summary of each). So, without esoteric training, how are the citizens in a democracy supposed to assess the validity of such concepts.

We could start with having better basic education, explaining that a scientific theory is a mechanism that explains a great many facts as well as makes predictions available to expand out knowledge. Currently people use the word theory as a synonym for “wild ass guess.” “I have a theory about that …” they will say. No, they don’t. At best they have an hypothesis and more likely they have a guess that is poorly substantiated at best. To say one has a “theory” makes one sound better than to say “I have a guess as to….”

It also does not help that each topic has a cadre of sociopolitical opponents. If the Theory of Evolution is correct, all of fundamentalist Christianity and most of doctrinaire Christianity is off to a rubbish heap somewhere. Basically, if God didn’t created humanity magically, we couldn’t have “rebelled” against his authority, so there was no original sin, and hence nothing for the human sacrifice that was Jesus to absolve. (Bye, bye!)

Climate change has political opponents who have economic stakes at risk. The Koch brothers fund anti-climate change efforts to protect their oil refining, oil pipeline, and other industries, while David Koch supports NOVA science education programs on PBS, including programs on climate change (possibly as a suppressing maneuver?).

So, ordinary citizens are left to evaluate what appears to them to be a propaganda war. “Scientists” have lied to them before as have businessmen, so it is hard to decide which side of either of these debates is trustworthy.

I find the argument that climate change was invented for scientists to be able to secure grants for their work (It is a hoax!). Whoever invented this red herring obviously has never interacted with scientists, each of which has a big ego, and the first of them to discover such a plot would gleefully expose his colleagues to shame and humiliation for participating in it. Most scientists minored in gloating in college.

So, what’s a citizen to do?

I think part of the problem has to do with the evidence not being on display. I hear Christian apologists often ask the question: Where are the transitional fossils? This questions goes back to the time of Charles Darwin when there was a very sparse fossil record. The key facts that the public needs to know is that fossils do not form all that often, so are passably rare and that with regard to transitional fossils, fossils that show one species transitioning to another, there are large numbers of them available. Maybe a video (to reach the masses) needs to me made of the amount of evidence underlying the Theory of Evolution. The amount of evidence, from many, many different and unrelated fields of science is incredibly vast. Just a list of peer-reviewed articles supporting the theory scrolling on like the credits of a Hollywood movie (like they do on TV, at super high speeds) would take hours. Flashing photos of all of the fossils that apply to animals no longer in existence but which fit into the evolutionary family tree of Earth, would also take quite a long time (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 3008, 3009, …).

The same could be true for Climate Change. We could run publicity shots of the smiling faces of the scientists in the field who support the tentative conclusion that humanity is contributing to the current round of climate change (blink, blink, blink, maybe a running counter would help: 1, 2, 3, …, 178, 179, …). Then the photos of those reputable scientists who oppose the current consensus on climate change could have their photos flashed (blink, blink, blink).

There is no way ordinary citizens could be brought up to speed on these topics through educating them, because even with the head start in such training I have, I do not want to put in the effort. Instead, I trust the scientists in their field to represent their findings correctly (to the best of their ability) and I trust the egos of their colleagues to prick any intellectual bubbles that are flimsy or unfounded.

Another route might be to create an independent evaluation board to provide basic explanations of science topics to legislators and citizens. The Town of Brisbane, Australia did this a while back (don’t know whether they still do) when they created the office of Town Scientist whose job it was to explain scientific topics to the town governing board and citizens of the Town of Brisbane. For the longest time the State of California had an independent political official whose job was to explain issues voters needed to address and that office was never politicized or demeaned, and it worked really well for quite some time (don’t know whether it still does).

This is a modern problem, because back when “governance” was by autocrats/monarchs, they didn’t give a fig about whether the people understood or not. Ironically, it was the advent of merchants (aka business people) who accumulated wealth (aka power) enough to make it important that a wider swath of a country’s population be made to understand governmental decisions. With the advent of modern democracy, issues are now submitted to the ballot and candidates for office are voted upon, too. We need to figure out how to “reconcile the exigency of ‘purity’ inherent in scientific and intellectual work, which necessarily leads to esotericism, with the democratic interest in making these achievements available to the greatest number” and we need to do it fast. Life ain’t gonna get simpler.

August 8, 2017

So What?

There is a major climate change report out (and it ain’t good news) that is awaiting approval by various agencies. The draft document has been leaked to the NY Times, if not other sources, and in a NYT report the following was stated: “The E.P.A. is one of 13 agencies that must approve the report by Aug. 18. The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.”

“The agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.” Interesting. My response is “So what?”

Is Mr. Pruitt even qualified to have such an opinion? Let’s see … Mr. Pruitt was trained as a lawyer before he went into politics. Well, he might have specialized in environmental law, so … according to Wikipedia Mr. Pruitt “entered into private practice in Tulsa where he specialized in constitutional law, contracts, insurance law, labor law, and litigation and appeals.” Hmmm, no mention of environmental law. Maybe he has undertaken an extensive review of the scientific literature on climate change, you know, read a few thousand journal articles, attended conferences, that kind of thing? Anybody got a guess as to how likely that was? Yeah, I came up with zero percent, too. He has no training, has put in no study, so he knows squat of that which he judges.

Mr. Pruitt has no basis for his opinion other than political ideology, so his opinion is irrelevant at best. I suggest he may be making the same mistake as the Kim Davis of 15-minute fame. She confused her job as one of exercising her personal judgment instead of determining whether all laws were complied with in the issuance of a marriage license. Mr. Pruitt may think that his opinion has merit. It does not. His job is to ascertain whether departmental protocols were followed in the creation of the report, and if so, sign the damned thing.

Apparently President Trump also has an opinion … <sigh> … okay, Mr. Trump was trained, er, graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the U. of Pennsylvania….

Why Creationists Insist the World is Only 6000 Years Old

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

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

Onward and upward!

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

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

But wait, there’s more!

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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