Class Warfare Blog

September 15, 2018

Ethics and Morality without God

In a recent post on Daily Kos I read the following:

“I once said to a Native American friend that I thought that the Golden Rule was a perfect expression of social ethics, and before I could put the period on my sentence, he shot back, ‘No, it’s not … because if you’re a misanthrope who hates people and just wants to be left alone, you can behave that way in clear conscience. In my tribe, I have responsibilities to widows, orphans, and the ill. I have to hunt for those who can’t. That’s mutuality.’” (sfzendog)

This attitude toward the collective responsibility we all have, as well as individual responsibility, might be summed up in “love thy neighbor as thyself” but it isn’t made at all explicit in Christian ethics/morality.

Many people do not know that the “tithe” which has morphed into a fundraiser to support the church building fund and minister’s and staff’s salaries, was originally a tax. The Jews had a theocracy. Even when outsiders came in and established a new ruling structure, the Temple kept its own governing structure and the tithe/tax was a way to support widows, orphans, and the afflicted. That is what it was for, explicitly. The Jews had a structure in place regarding the collective responsibility of all to support those in need.

Christian ethics/morality on the other hand stops at “love they neighbor” and “turn the other cheek,” with little parsing of those instructions. There are clear signs that early Christians were communal (that means communists, Comrade). As Christianity was rewritten by pagans, that collectivism was written out. The Republicans are doing their damndest to wipe out collectivism in the U.S. right now, so this “battle” is quite longstanding.

We still haven’t answered the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We are still trying to address mutuality.

Many studies on democratic socialist states show that as they collectively (through government) care for those less fortunate or less capable and just ordinary citizens, the less the need for religion in their population. It therefore seems that religion has a vested interest in opposing government providing basic support for their people. The widespread evangelical support for the current administration therefore is less perplexing looked at in this light.

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August 27, 2018

Are Christians Being Persecuted in the U.S.?

According to Christian scripture, a sign one is doing their god’s work is being persecuted for their beliefs (see below).

Take a negative associated with a religion (“Why would I join them, aren’t they being persecuted?”) and turn it into a positive. Spin doctors have been around a lot longer than most people think. So Christians need persecution to be recognized for doing good work … ah, now we know why there is a War on Christmas, and a War on Christianity! If a real persecution doesn’t exist, just make one up!

Christianity, spinning reality for almost 2000 years!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and make you bake cakes for fag weddings and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

August 18, 2018

Why Are We So Afraid?

On Quora, this question was posed: Why are so many Americans “tough on crime”?

One of the answers started this way:

“Americans are terrified.

“The United States of America is a nation of the coward, by the coward, and for the coward. Americans are the most frightened people you will find anywhere in the world.

“We are scared of everything. We’re scared of terrorists. We’re scared of immigrants. We’re scared of criminals. We’re scared of GM food. We’re scared of Muslims. We’re scared of brown people. If you come from any other industrialized country, and you’ve never lived in the US, it’s hard to understand the pervasive sense of fear that Americans live in.

“Americans are frightened, and this fear makes us cruel and mean.”

I immediately thought of the campaign to criminalize being a Black male (not just “driving while Black,” but existing while Black). As Jim Crow laws lost their footing in this country, some way had to be created to control Black people, especially Black men (just had to). After emancipation, one strategy was to criminalize the state Black people found themselves in. Vagrancy laws alone caused a great many Black men to be incarcerated and because they were poor and couldn’t pay their fine, they had to work off their fine … and room and board in the county jail. Voila, de facto slavery all over again. When these laws because unacceptable to society at large, the approach became “lock them up” on a much larger scale. Crimes that Blacks might commit had much longer penalties than if whites committed them. (Remember the crack cocaine sentences that were ten times longer than if powdered cocaine were involved? Guess which “possession crime” Blacks were more likely to be caught for.)

It has become our habit, through long exposure, to motivate ourselves to do anything politically by using fear. The message is “we must change because, if we don’t, something really bad will happen.”

Consider education: the report A Nation at Risk, claimed (erroneously) that our poor education system was dooming our country to second tier status … gasp, or worse! Also in education, the fear that girls were falling behind boys in math was promoted heavily at the exact moment at which girl’s math test scores had become equal to those of boy’s. (No mention was made of boy’s English language scores being much lower than girls, that was just “boys being boys.”)

The early environmental movement went to inflated extremes to gain attention. We were told we needed to “save the planet” as if it were at risk and not us.

Our “news media” haven’t helped one bit. They are not in the business of putting things in perspective, rather they are in the business of selling their wares. And the wares that sell are often the most alarming, most lurid, and most outlandish of stories.

Fear mongering is a booming business in this country.

And we are all paying for this by having fear dominate our lives. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was based solely upon fear. The slogan “Make America Great Again” implies we were great once, but are no longer …. but we could be again, just vote for me. Was there any analysis of this opinion? If a survey of world citizens were to ask the question “Which nation is the most powerful currently?” do you not think the USA would be voted to the top? (And if you didn’t so vote, would you expect to be invaded?)

When was the last time something was done politically because it was the right thing to do, rather than via a fear mongering campaign? Obamacare? The opposition to it was loaded with fear mongering, e.g. Death Panels! The national debt will skyrocket! The “safety net” will become a hammock! If not that, what?

If we insist that we will not do anything unless we are terrified, then all we are doing is waging a terror campaign upon ourselves. We are also letting the fear mongers and those who control the message in our news media to lead us around by the nose.

Welcome to the Twenty-first Century!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 12, 2018

Thank God for Dennis Prager

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:09 am
Tags: , , ,

Since it is Sunday once again, I suppose a religion post is appropriate.

In a column entitled “Pope Francis Rewrites Catholicism and the Bible” the religious apologist Dennis Prager takes on all of the leftists in the Catholic Church, Judaism and, well, everywhere else. Here is an excerpt:

“Regarding the latter, the biblical commandment to put premeditated murderers to death is unique.

“First, it is fundamental to biblical morality. The injunction of putting murderers to death is the only law found in each one of the first five books of the Bible (the Torah).

“Second, all other sins involving the death penalty were only applicable to Jews (and for thousands of years, Jews regarded those death penalties not as literal but as pedagogic — to teach the seriousness of various offenses in an attempt to create a moral and holy nation).

But the Bible makes it clear capital punishment for murder is applicable to all of humanity. It is the first law God gives Noah after the flood, after commanding him to be fruitful and multiply. Putting murderers to death is therefore the first moral law God gives the world. Why this draconian penalty for murder? Because the penalty is a statement about the seriousness of a crime, and the God of the Bible deems the wrongful, deliberate taking of a human life the pinnacle of injustice. Allowing all murderers to keep their own lives diminishes the evil of murder and thereby cheapens the worth of the human being. In God’s words, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).

“It is precisely to preserve the unique worth of the human being that the Bible mandates putting murderers to death.”

As with all of the other freewheeling apologists, Prager deftly includes and excludes the Old Testament from his thoughts. First he states “all other sins involving the death penalty were only applicable to Jews” because, well as he states elsewhere, Jesus changed the covenant. He goes on without taking a breath to say “But the Bible makes it clear capital punishment for murder is applicable to all of humanity.” So, Mr. Prager apparently gets to decide which rules in the OT apply to us all (therefore including Christians) and which apply only to the Jews. In this manner he avoids the long, long (Long!) list of Biblical infractions of the rules that merit the death penalty. Got a teenage son who sasses his parents? Kill him! Got a bride who isn’t sufficiently virginish on her wedding night? Kill her! And, I can’t imagine the Jews getting stoned for these infractions last words were “Let this be a lesson to you all.” (“Jews regarded those death penalties not as literal but as pedagogic” … right, there was no vengeance or hatred or maliciousness or self-righteousness involved.) Oh, and old Yahweh did his thing selectively. Look up the story of David and Bathsheba and tell me that murderers get killed outright in the OT because it is “it is fundamental to biblical morality.”

He offers no support for the “kill the murderers” command applying to everyone on the planet, even Buddhists and Hindus, other than it got repeated a lot … in the OT … that only applies to Jews, except where Mr. Prager says otherwise.

He concludes (the first half of his article anyway, I didn’t have the stomach to keep reading) with the fantastical “It is precisely to preserve the unique worth of the human being that the Bible mandates putting murderers to death.” So, apparently, his god is not powerful enough to transform a murderer into a repentant good citizen. A murderer needs to be dealt with right away, even though everyone else gets a “you’ll get your comeuppance or reward when you die.” Mr. Prager seems have no faith that his god will take care of such miscreants when they die, since he claims it is necessary for us to do something now. (Expedited delivery for the real punishment?)

He also is saying that the Pope is no longer infallible when it comes to church policy. This is not surprising in that Mr. Prager was brought up an orthodox Jew, but what he claims as his religion now is unclear. The Pope is supposed infallible in such policies when it comes to Catholics, of course, so the Pope is re-interpreting the Bible dictates for them. Instead of the Kill, kill, kill! of the OT, he is basically saying “let god sort them out later.”

Mr. Prager cannot accept this as he is an uber-conservative, which I guess is his new religion.

August 5, 2018

Politics is Never Having to Say “I’m Sorry”

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:50 am
Tags: , , , , ,

A commentary at The Guardian blared “Democrats can be ‘party of white and black working class’, says Elizabeth Warren”

A good place to start is to explain why it is that the Democratic Party used to be that party but is no longer.

July 31, 2018

Respect the Football!

A question came up on Quora recently that is indicative of a great many similar questions and discussions. Here it is:

Why do some liberals think it’s okay for black athletes to disrespect the flag (think about the soldiers that died fighting for our country)? Yes, I get that racism still exists, but a (American) football game is not the time.

So, the points being made here are … uh, umm … well that soldiers fight for the flag? WTF! That’s not true. Most combat soldiers fight for one of two reasons: to protect their buddies in arms or they fight for “their country.” I have never heard of any soldier who fought for the flag, either literally or figuratively.

Kneeling, what the players were doing, is disrespect? Is this true in church? If so, the Catholics, for one, are going to be in deep doo doo. Imagine disrespecting god … in a church! As a research project, I would like to know who was the first person to rule that civilians needed to stand and take their hats off during the playing of the national anthem. Soldiers I can see, civilians … I wonder.

And the football players are not kneeling for the flag. The flag is flying before they kneel and after. They are kneeling during the anthem and the anthem is a song.

And, whoaaaaa, an American football game is not the place or the time to discuss or address racism. Really? Hmmm, 70% of the players are Black or Hispanic, 100% of the owners are wealthy and White. Seems like the perfect place to discuss racism.

Look, I can resolve this whole issue simply.

Before the playing of the national anthem, post the following message on the message board and have it read over the loudspeakers. Ahem … “The NFL, <team owner’s name>, and the <team name> bring you to your attention that Black Americans face police brutality and prejudice and racism almost every day. We urge you to work in your community to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly and without prejudice by their community’s police.”

Then play the anthem. Not a single player will kneel.

Ta da!

Note That was all the players were trying to do with their “protest.” What they received from it was a face full more of racism and authority deliberate mischaracterization of their motives and not a single ounce f understanding and acknowledgement. Can anyone tell me what disrespecting “the flag” or “the troops” means or would be motivated by? The mischaracterization is easily seen as being motivated by racism and politics and little else.

July 27, 2018

The Problem with Bases

No this is not about baseball. It is about our two main political parties and their “bases.”

The Republicans have sold their souls to the Religious Right, neoliberals, and reactionaries of the fringe of the right wing of American politics to get and stay elected, no matter the damage done. They haven’t dumped the rich as a core base element for who else would they serve? The Democrats have dumped their historic base of labor (working class people), minorities, and the less wealthy for the professional class, only to find out there aren’t enough of those to win them elections.

When I was young (I first showed an interest in politics when Eisenhower was president.) Republicans were stabilizers. They supported the institutions that kept out society stable (in their HO, of course). They supported the schools, the police, the military, the government (Right or Wrong!), the church, law and the courts, and so on. The complained when political or judicial opinions went the other way, but they didn’t threaten to take their ball and go home.

When I was young, the Democrats stood for fairness, helping the poor, balanced taxation, labor unions, and they were far from anti-war (both Kennedy and Johnson expanded the Vietnam War tremendously on specious grounds at best).

Neither party was worth a damn when it came to international relations. There was a small fringe who complained loudly about foreign aid, which has always been a spit in the bucket financially. (Somewhere along the line instead of giving technical aid and money to other countries, we now give them discounts on buy the weapons of war. Apparently as far as the U.S. goes peace and freedom don’t go together.)

Politically there was as much corruption then as is the standard now, but the stakes were smaller as were the amounts grafted by our politicians. But each party had some principled actors who kept the others in line. Often the “line” was racist or sexist, but there were lines and you could, as ordinary citizens, see them and attack them or try to move them.

Now, what I see is cowardice and incompetence (to he left of me, to the right of me, …) in our political bodies. Leadership? Not to be found? Intelligence? So little that the political class cannot evaluate whether their intelligence experts are to be trusted. Political astuteness? I can’t even find a politician who can define it. Deft policy drafters? Give me a break.

If we were to have a parliamentary system as has been suggested, these two parties would dwindle away to nothing and newer, more robust, more coherent parties would take their places. But as I have posted before, our political system is rigged. As much as the Founders feared political parties, they created a system that allowed two of those parties to hijack the system. (Our winner take all elections doom us to having just two dominant parties.) And, it is clear that the Founders feared true democracy, so they structured the Constitution against that.

I am absolutely gob smacked that the “press” still posts articles addressing the public will. They tell us, for example, that the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision has never been so popular. So? Since when has public opinion been a determining factor in anything governmental? Large majorities of citizens want background checks for all firearms sales; does that matter? A large majority of people want corporations to pay more in taxes; does that matter? If you are poor or middle class you have zero chance of affecting legislation. If you are rich and a campaign donor, then you have some chance. If you are a rich corporate lobbyist and have donated large sums, then you have not only a chance to affect the outcome, you may be invited in to help write (or write completely) the text of the bill.

If the Republican Party of my youth or the Democratic Party of my youth were still in existence, I could vote for the kinds of candidates either party proffered. As they are now, I cannot vote for either party as they both are embarrassments and anti-democratic and need to go.

July 17, 2018

The Monty Pythonesque Administration

Comments have been flying fast and furious regarding the meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Comments ranges from:

One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” Sen. John McCain’s description of the news conference.

to:

(What) the American people saw is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.” (VP Mike Pence)

That the two polarities, including the ones evinced here, are coming from Republicans; well at least this is new.

I am reminded of a Monty Python sketch, “Argument Clinic” from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman. Graham Chapman enters the office of the Argument Clinic looking for a good argument. John Cleese complies but no matter what is said to him, his response is “No, it is not.” or “No, you didn’t. (I am working from memory here, so if I am off on the details, no problem, it is the gist of the sketch I am getting at.)

Finally the paying customer complains that they were not having a proper argument as Cleese was just gainsaying everything sent his way. Cleese’s response was “No, I’m not.” No resolution occurs because they run out of their allotted time.

This, apparently, is the Republican strategy to run the Oval Office. No matter what anyone says, the answer is “No. it is not.” or “You are wrong.” If someone quotes sources, the response is “Fake news!” No matter what happens, the first things out of their mouths are outrageous lies.

Backing all of this up is Fox (sic) News propaganda machine and the various Internet “news” sites who back Trump’s version of reality. As a consequence, we have a significant portion of the American polity who believe Mr. Trump’s version of reality. Hell, quite a few of them even believe Mr. Trump is a Christian, all evidence to the contrary. (Jesus said it is okay to grab women by the pussy, if you are famous. Two Corinthians 6:66)

Then the talking heads lump it all together as us being a “Divided Nation,” as if we were the cause and not the lying, mealy mouthed politicians.

Mr. Trump is transforming American politics … and you are not going to like what you get. Whoever is in power just has to tell “the people” things that back up their performance (e.g. “The GDP has doubled on my watch.” DJT … when it has gone up 6% at most.) and then their propaganda machine goes into action to back it up or muddy the waters to make it seem that opinion is divided on the truth of that statement. (“After all, they will say anything to “prove” their point.” (stated by both sides).)

So, okay, conservatives. You have seen the way the Republicans have acted when they got back into power (and even before, refusing to address the nomination of a Supreme Court justice, for over a year). What will the country be like when the liberals get into power (the pendulum always swings back) … if they follow the same play book? Are you going to like it? Are you?

Or would you rather have the old, dull, grind it out politics that served us fairly well for quite some time. You know, the one in which if someone were caught in a massive lie they were expected to resign. (Compare Richard Nixon (then) and the still Senator David Vitter (now). You know Senator Vitter, the family values Republican who was a frequent client of the D.C. Madam’s whorehouse.)

July 16, 2018

SCOTUS: Fair and Balanced?

Since the Supreme Court is floating in the discussion air, I am reading more and more comments like this:

And just when we thought SCOTUS was done trying to unravel the moral fabric of America, Justice Kennedy gently whispered, “Hold my beer” and announced his upcoming retirement, thus simultaneously signaling the end of an era of a [kind of] fair and balanced Supreme Court. I won’t use his name.

Fair and balanced my ass.

Again, reasonable journalists are giving sops to the status quo to suck up to all segments of their potential audience and doing us all a disservice. Judge Kennedy is being called a “moderate,” because he voted with the liberal wing a couple of times. But he is solely responsible for the “Citizens United” ruling and voted with the conservative wing far more often (way more often) than he voted with the liberals. That makes him a milder conservative, but in no way was he a moderate.

And, “fair and balanced?”

The current court, minus Justice Kennedy, has 4.5 Catholics on it (Gorsuch was raised a Catholic but now is part of an Episcopal church. Episcopalians consider Catholics to be catholic in name only, they being considered back sliders.)

Three of Trump’s four finalists for Kennedy’s seat on the court were Catholic as is the one he finally “chose,” Brett Kavanaugh. The remaining three Justices are Jewish. So, if Kavanaugh gets confirmed that will make three Jews and six Catholics as the representation of the court. Fair? On occasion. Balanced? In no way.

Catholics represent 22% of the U.S. population and Jews represent 2%. What about the other 76% of Americans? The Protestants, the Atheists, the Agnostics, the Muslims? What about them? And please don’t try to tell me that their religious worldviews have no effect on their decisions. Give me a break. (Freaking Scalia believed in the literal existence of the Devil!)

I guess candidates from the “out groups,” don’t get chosen off of lists created by the like of The Federalist Society, the strongly Catholic organization that prepared the list from which Trump got to choose “his nominee.” (The Federalist Society is already responsible for placing three justices: Alito, Roberts, and Gorsuch on the high court.)

Fair and balanced my ass.

And, if you are wondering why so many Republicans are scoffing at the idea of the “Deep State,” you might want to consider that they are protecting their benefactors, like the Federalist Society, part of the Deep State.

We Can Trust Corporations … Right?

I often heard the trope from the Republihooligans that “we can trust the corporations, that they wouldn’t do anything illegal or immoral as that would affect their reputation which would ultimately hurt profits.”

I haven’t heard that line repeated much lately, especially since there has been a conga-line of disclosures of corporate wrong doing and illegality that has been unending before, during, and after that line was fed to us.

The latest example of corporate abuse involves a court case lost by Johnson & Johnson over one of their flagship products: baby powder. Surely J & J would never include a chemical in any of their products that would knowingly harm its customers (baby customers!), why that might damage their reputation. So would a $4.7 billion dollar award against them.

“Thursday’s massive verdict was handed down in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. It was comprised of $550 million in compensatory damages and $4.14 billion in punitive damages.

“The women and their families said decades-long use of baby powder and other cosmetic talc products caused their diseases. They allege the company knew its talc was contaminated with asbestos since at least the 1970s but failed to warn consumers about the risks.”

OMG, do you think corporations could do such things?

Asbestos. Gosh, we all have know that asbestos is a health hazard for decades now. We have watched TV shows where house remodelers have to call in hazardous waste disposal teams to remove asbestos products before they can remodel their homes. Our public buildings have had to have “asbestos abatement” services in to make expensive extractions of the stuff.

Gosh, could J & J have not known? The judge who issued the $4,700,000,000 award thought not.

And what about the “we can trust the corporations” bullshit purveyors? I say, identify them and get them out of office and out of power, if for no other reason than gross stupidity but more likely because of political and moral corruption.

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