Uncommon Sense

December 29, 2021

Only In the American South

Filed under: Culture,Education,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 1:10 pm
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I just read a news tidbit regarding legislation pending in Oklahoma: “You know how Texas has turned everyday folks into anti-abortion bounty hunters? Oklahoma saw that and thought, why not do the same thing, but for books? The state’s Senate Bill 1142, if passed, would allow any public school parent to demand that a book they don’t like be removed, assuming the book relates to, as the bill states, ‘the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature.’ And if the book isn’t chucked within 30 days? The parent gets $10,000 … per day until the book is removed.” (source: The Morning Heresy)

Trying to see both sides of this “desire” on the part of parents (if any were actually involved in the creation of this legislation) to have some control over what their children are exposed to in public schools, I could envision a system in which a parent could supply a list of the books currently available in their child’s library which could then be flagged whenever their child seeks to check out a book, so that they could not check out books objectionable to his/her parents. This legislation, however, seeks not to control just one parent’s kid’s reading choices, but all kid’s reading choices. Control your own children’s reading all you want, but this legislation denies not just your child’s choices but my child’s choices, too.

This sounds like just another Trojan Horse issue dreamt up by Republicans to distract their state’s citizens from what their real mission is (to make the rich richer).

December 11, 2021

Dear Diane Ravitch,

I wish I could contact Ms. Ravitch directly as she is a beacon of light in the gloom and despair surrounding public schools right now. If you haven’t noticed public schools are under attack by plutocrats who want to privatize them. (I have yet to hear why it is that extracting profits from a system makes it better, especially a system so necessary to the foundations of our democracy.)

So, I am writing to her . . . and you . . . on this very important point.

Dear Ms. Ravitch,
I have not seen this point argued by many others, even though I have been harping upon the point that education is a social process through which we learn how to learn and how to work with others, which makes computer-based instruction especially egregious. In support of this point I ran across this quote in one of the hottest books currently in circulation:

When we are capable of self-awareness, it’s usually for very brief periods of time: the ‘window of consciousness’, during which we can hold a thought or work out a problem, tends to be open on average for roughly seven seconds. What neuroscientists (and it must be said, most contemporary philosophers) almost never notice, however, is that the great exception to this is when we’re talking to someone else. In conversation, we can hold thoughts and reflect on problems sometimes for hours on end. This is of course why so often, even if we’re trying to figure something out by ourselves, we imagine arguing with or explaining it to someone else. Human thought is inherently dialogic. Ancient philosophers tended to be keenly aware of all this: that’s why, whether they were in China, India or Greece, they tended to write their books in the form of dialogues. Humans were only fully self-conscious when arguing with one another, trying to sway each other’s views, or working out a common problem. True individual self-consciousness, meanwhile, was imagined as something that a few wise sages could perhaps achieve through long study, exercise, discipline and meditation. (Source: Graeber, David. The Dawn of Everything (p. 94). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition)

So, now we are being sold that individual self-consciousness is something primary school kids can achieve interacting with a computer.

I don’t see computers as something that can hold up half of a dialogue with a human being. Well, maybe IBM’s Watson might be able to but I don’t see our eduformers offering to supply each student with a Watson.

Students need to interact with other students and with teachers and administrators, a large number of them for long periods of time to have a chance to develop their minds.

None of the eduformers seem to be offering a new learning process, just the benefits of profits extraction, whatever they might be. Most offer “choice.” If you have seen supermarket stores at all, does having a choice of eleven different mayonnaises actually improve your life? How about a half dozen brands of bottled water?

School choice is a scam. Especially if they are offering a “cyber-education” whatever the heck that is. Defend your public schools. Defend your school boards. The pirates are coming and they will only be satisfied when they have extracted all of the wealth from the ship of public education and burned it to the water line.

December 7, 2021

New Approach to Fighting COVID-19

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:35 am
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Maybe we should approach this using the mechanisms of the GOP. We start by spreading the rumor on social media that the anti-vax/anti-mask campaigns were created by liberals to deliberately expose GOP voters to the deadly disease. GOP voters are known to be older and more likely to die if they get the disease, so they have been targeted with these fake news campaigns.

Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden, so the dastardly “campaign” is working.

By actively phrasing the anti-vax/anti-mask campaigns as being based upon personal freedom issues, they are hiding the nefarious real intent to kill off Trump voters. People who believed Hillary Clinton had a sex trafficking operation operating out of pizza parlors should go for this, no?

November 25, 2021

Conservative Business People, Listen Up

Filed under: Business,History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:21 am
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You’all have been claiming that the U.S. government, aka guvmint, should be run like a business and I have a case study for you in which I agree.

What would you think about one of the divisions of your corporation which has not met a goal in twenty years, run up huge overruns on their budget, and recently failed an external audit because they couldn’t even perform an internal audit. They could not account for billions of company dollars that they spent, they think.

It is time for that underperforming sinkhole of profits to go, no?

I am talking about the Pentagon here, which needs a name change to Penta-gone.

We have been fighting a so-called “War on Terror” for easily twenty years and, well, help me count the victories: #1 We assassinated Osama Bin Laden, uh #2 . . . uh, #2 . . . well, there aren’t any other victories major or minor.

Okay, this nonperformance resulted in budget cuts, right? Let’s see, the Pentagon’s budget for the year 2000 was 378 billion U.S. dollars, about 3.5% of our GDP. In 2020, the Pentagon’s budget was 738 billion U.S. dollars. What? All of that abject failure to meet any military goals and the Pentagon’s budget doubled? Doubled!

What business principle is it that a woefully performing governmental division gets its budget doubled and nobody loses their job?

Are these the business practices you are recommending? Yes or no—don’t wait for the translation—yes or no?

October 18, 2021

At No Point In History . . .

A website calling itself “The Patriot Post” ran this meme recently “At no point in history have the people forcing others into compliance been the good guys.”

I assume they are protesting vaccination compliance efforts, but I couldn’t be bothered to go read all about it.

On the face of it, though . . . if they consider themselves patriots then I am guessing that in World War 2, they consider the U.S. the “good guys.” Apparently they have forgotten that there was a substantial draft of young men to serve as soldiers.

And not only did the U.S. confiscate their bodies but they vaccinated the shit out of them before training us to be lean, mean fighting machines, destined to go fight Hitler or Tojo in places we didn’t even know existed.

I don’t understand this lack of clear thinking or, really, thinking at all. Only the Dunning-Krueger Effect might explain it.

Are they not aware that parents force their children into complying with their wishes on almost a daily basis? Aren’t they aware that we have laws that compel us to drive on the right side of the road, otherwise we could be jailed and brought up on charges? Aren’t the police agents of forcing people into compliance?

How are these people self-labeled patriots? How are they patriots of any kind? They can’t even call themselves conservatives.

They sure aren’t meme creators.

October 12, 2021

Why Even Trump Doesn’t Believe in the Stolen Election Claim

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 11:40 am
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I can conclude the above from the simple fact that Trump declared ahead of time that if he lost, it could only be because of voter fraud. Inquiring minds would want to know things like “How could Mr. Trump have known this to be true?” and “How could anyone know that this were true?” but our so-called news media didn’t pick up on this, they were too busy rubbing their hands over the visions of profits dancing in their heads from all of the craziness to report upon.

Allow me to use a scenario to explain why Mr. Trump’s declaration being ahead of time being telling. The scenario is a Sunday night poker game at your neighbor’s house. One game, your neighbor had some out-of-town relatives in  who got seats at the table. All night long, the newcomers seemed to win most of the pots and all you did was lose. The next day while you were at work, bemoaning your luck at the game you realized that your neighbor’s relatives were card sharps and you just got taken in a crooked game.

That is a somewhat normal expectation as to how things would go.

Now consider this. Before that Sunday game, you got a phone call from your neighbor explaining his out-of-town relatives were card sharps and had been run out of another town for their activities. He told you that the game would be rigged, so if you came and played, you should expect to lose. He was calling because his reputation for running a fair game was at stake and he didn’t want to lose his neighbor as a friend.

So, would you play? No? Yes?

You would play only if you were a complete idiot. After your money was lost, complaints to law enforcement officials might get the card sharps run out of town, but it wouldn’t get your money back.

So, Mr. Trump is claiming that that election was rigged against him and he went ahead and played anyway. Were he a true believer, he would have decried the rigged election and given the inside evidence he had that it was so to the election authorities, so that a fair election could be had.

This, of course, was not what happened. Mr. Trump lost quite handily, then whined about losing, then claimed victory, then election fraud and filed lawsuits, made claims of interference, etc. none of which actually played out in court. These are the actions of someone who knew he was going to lose and wanted to have excuses why that was so. Only a sucker would say, “The American people have chosen” and then ride off into the sunset.

Now it seems that he is coming back for another round, which is the equivalent of taking a seat at a known crooked poker game a second time, and making the same kinds of claims as he did before, also ahead of time.

Donald Trump is not smart enough to be the Mafia Boss his actions suggest him to be. His idea of a protection racket is an ego protection racket, guaranteed to not make him any money nor win him enough votes.

Equally stunning is how many Republican leaders willingly follow along in this farce.

October 8, 2021

They Made it Acceptable

Recently a New Hampshire state government meeting was disrupted by rowdy protestors. The meeting was halted after Department of Health and Human Services employees felt threatened and left the building under State Police escort, something that has not happened in New Hampshire before.

New Hampshire politics has always been passionate (their state motto is “Live Free or Die” for Pete’s sake) but has always been civil until now. Similarly it’s happening across the nation: Angry anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers are undermining democracy, science, and civil society. They are disrupting school board meetings, town council meetings, any gathering where a loud minority can shout down elected officials.

Why this outbreak? Why now?

As I understand it, it is because of the January 6th raid on the Federal Capitol by Trump insurrectionists. The key point is: they got away with it. Just like the Abu Ghraib torture incidents, a few underlings are thrown under the bus, but the people in charge get away scot free. Anytime an outrageous outlier occurs, it empowers people to fill the gap between the former “most outrageous thing possible” and the new “most outrageous thing possible.”

This is the true danger the Trump administration posed and poses to our political system. People self-limit their behaviors, but when someone ignores norms by such a degree, something half as bad seems acceptable. One act of an extremist creates new spaces to fit in lesser activities that exceed former boundaries but are now not considered the worst thing that could happen. And the people doing those things would never have gone that far before.

Trump has empowered all of these people to act this way with little fear of punishment. We need to bring back the stocks and public humiliations.

October 2, 2021

Business is In It For Itself

According to Diane Ravitch’s blog:

“Conservative groups are funding protests against ‘critical race theory.’ Now we learn, thanks to investigative reporting by the Washington Post that the rightwing libertarian Koch network is funding parent protests against mask mandates. Billionaire Charles Koch has blood on his hands by supporting and encouraging parent opposition to mask mandates in schools.”

If you are at all confused as to why the Koch Billionaire Network would do such a thing, consider that our corporatist citizens have conducted a class war over the past 50 years and have captured the reins of government. They did this because they have eliminated all other opposition to their actions (labor unions, church movements, youth crusades, etc.) and the only entity with enough power to stand in their way to do anything they damn well please is governments, so they had to be brought to heel, too, and they were.

The mechanism of bringing government to heel has been bribery and bullshit, to put it simply. Any issue that divides us and makes us less likely to engage in collective action, is a plus as far as the anti-government billionaire boys are concerned. True or bullshit doesn’t really matter, as long as it is divisive. Then they bribe our public officials to vote the way they wish. In our current politics, you will see a few congress people blocking the whole megillah. If you look at who is bribing them, er, making campaign donations to them, you will see why they are voting that way. The billionaires do not have to bribe all of them, just a few weak, immoral ones is all it takes. Keep us divided and then bribe the voting gap. It has worked like a charm.

Until we see the real game being played, we will continue to lose. As they say, if you have been sitting at the poker table for fifteen minutes and you haven’t identified the fish . . . it is you.

September 18, 2021

Lies and Truths

Filed under: Economics,History,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 12:57 pm
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Consider the following quotations:

“(T)he question of their necessity (trade unions) is really superfluous. As long as there are employers with little social understanding or a deficient sense of justice and propriety, it is not only the right but the duty of their employees, who certainly constitute a part of our nationality, to protect the interests of the general public against the greed and unreason of the individual; for the preservation of loyalty and faith in a social group is just as much to the interest of a nation as the preservation of the people’s health.

“Both of these are seriously menaced by unworthy employers who do not feel themselves to be members of the national community as a whole. From the disastrous effects of their greed or ruthlessness grow profound evils for the future.”

“For in politics, as in other fields, the use of economic pressure always permits blackmail, as long as the necessary unscrupulousness is present on the one side, and sufficient sheep-like patience on the other.”

“Otherwise he (a nascent politician) runs the risk of either having to change his former position on essential questions, or, contrary to his better knowledge and understanding, of clinging to a view which reason and conviction have long since discarded. In the former case this is most embarrassing to him personally, since, what with his own vacillations, he cannot justifiably expect the faith of his adherents to follow him with the same unswerving firmness as before; for those led by him, on the other hand, such a reversal on the part of the leader means perplexity and not rarely a certain feeling of shame toward those whom they hitherto opposed. In the second case, there occurs a thing which, particularly today, often confronts us: in the same measure as the leader ceases to believe in what he says, his arguments become shallow and flat, but he tries to make up for it by vileness in his choice of means. While he himself has given up all idea of fighting seriously for his political revelations (a man does not die for something which he himself does not believe in), his demands on his supporters become correspondingly greater and more shameless until he ends up by sacrificing the last shred of leadership and turning into a ‘politician’; in other words, the kind of man whose only real conviction is lack of conviction, combined with offensive impertinence and an art of lying, often developed to the point of complete shamelessness.”

“If to the misfortune of decent people such a character gets into a parliament, we may as well realize at once that the essence of his politics will from now on consist in nothing but an heroic struggle for the permanent possession of his feeding-bottle for himself and his family. The more his wife and children depend on it, the more tenaciously he will fight for his mandate. This alone will make every other man with political instincts his personal enemy.”

Comments of the Trump era or on our current politics?

Actually these are attributed to Adolf Hitler, in Mein Kampf, which he wrote in 1924. He was by no means done creating himself, so his opinions may have changed over the next twenty years. It is hard to say.

Many people refuse to read this book, as they assume it is all lies. I argue that were it all lies it would have had little traction with the German people. Yes, there were plenty of lies and misconceptions and errors of thought, but there are also many observations that seem as true today as they were a century ago. Hitler also has a disarming way of admitting he had been wrong, many, many times, but that may have been a ruse to establish a position of “I may have been wrong back then, but I am dead right now.” Again, hard to tell. It is rare to get into the mind of a ruler, so books such as this one, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, and a few others are worth reading.

August 24, 2021

Can You Spell Pandering Boys and Girls?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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