Class Warfare Blog

June 19, 2020

Once Again The Brilliant Yves Smith . . . This Time on the Police

Over at the Naked Capitalism website, the wonderful Yves Smith unpacks the propaganda “To Protect and Serve.” The Police Weren’t Created to ‘Protect and Serve.’ They Were Created to ‘Maintain Order.’ A Brief Look at the History of Police in America

Here’s a taste:

To understand the true purpose of police, we have to ask, “What’s being protected?” and “Who’s being served?”

Urban police forces in America were created for one purpose — to “maintain order” after a waves of immigrants swept into northern U.S. cities, both from abroad and later from the South, immigrants who threatened to disturb that “order.” The threat wasn’t primarily from crime as we understand it, from violence inflicted by the working poor on the poor or middle class. The threat came from unions, from strikes, and from the suffering, the misery and the anger caused by the rise of rapacious capitalism.

What’s being protected? The social order that feeds the wealthy at the expense of the working poor. Who’s being served? Owners, their property, and the sources of their wealth, the orderly and uninterrupted running of their factories. The goal of police departments, as originally constituted, was to keep the workers in line, in their jobs, and off the streets.

 

June 15, 2020

GOP Has Been De-Funding the Police for Many Years!

Not surprisingly, anytime the federal government acted to police the activities of the rich, the GOP was there to oppose it or defund it.

Republicans are hypocrites. They happily ‘de-funded’ the police we actually need

 

 

June 8, 2020

WTF? The Powers of the Attorney General

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:07 am
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I read on the Vox blog site, the following:

Monday evening, law enforcement officers gassed and used rubber bullets to clear peaceful protesters from an area near the White House — President Trump soon emerged from the White House so that he could have a photo op at a nearby church. Subsequent reporting revealed that Attorney General Bill Barr personally gave the order for law enforcement ‘to clear the streets around Lafayette Square just before President Trump spoke Monday.’” (Emphasis mine.)

Here is a summary of the powers of the US Attorney General: “As the chief officer of the Department of Justice, the attorney general enforces federal laws, provides legal counsel in federal cases, interprets the laws that govern executive departments, heads federal jails and penal institutions, and examines alleged violations of federal laws.”

When the office was instituted in 1789 the original duties of this officer were “to prosecute and conduct all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States shall be concerned, and to give his advice and opinion upon questions of law when required by the President of the United States, or when requested by the heads of any of the departments.” And they hadn’t changed in my lifetime that I can find..

So, how is it that Bill Barr is now in the chain of command of local law enforcement? Why wasn’t Mr. Barr told by the local police to go fuck himself?

May 26, 2020

Who Suffers?

We all tend to think of what is normal for us economically is the way it has always been, but today the economic deck is stacked, possibly more so than in any previous time. And it is not stacked in your favor. It is stacked in favor of those who lend capital.

For someone to lend you money, there has to be an almost iron clad guarantee that the lender will be paid back. You almost always have to put up collateral for your loan. Fail to pay the loan back and the lender takes the collateral. So, if you buy a house, the house becomes the collateral. If you fail to pay the mortgage payment for a few months and Wham! The lender forecloses on the loan and repossesses the collateral, aka your house. All of the payments you made now count as nothing. It does not have to be this way. The “collateral” could be held by a court and put up for sale and the proceeds of the sale be split  between the two actors: the lender and buyer with the split determined by how much money had been put up so far.

But that is not the way it is. In our culture, the lender has all of the cards with almost no risk.

Consider the “Great Recession” ca. 2008. The housing market collapsed due to bad behavior on the part of realtors and lenders and suddenly mortgages that could not be paid resulted in repossessions of collateral worth far, far less that the amounts owed. So lenders bore some risk, then . . . except they used a powerful Washington, D.C. lobby to get bailed out so that they did not lose any money (or at least not so much). Were the people buying the homes also bailed out? Silly person, of course, they were not.

Lenders are so used to not having any risk associated with lending that corporations are currently awash in bad debt. They know they are okay because if anything goes wrong their “friends” in Congress and the White House, Democrat or Republican, will bail them out again. This is why economists invented the term “moral hazard,” but they do not apply it to those who line their pockets.

I have been slowly working my way through Michael Hudson’s book on how debt was handled in days long gone. I will give a larger book review (I have offered tidbits before) when I finish it.

To hold you over, here are some tidbits of Michael Hudson’s research and thinking:

“The pedigree for “act-of-God” rules specifying what obligations need not be paid when serious disruptions occur goes back to the laws of Hammurabi c. 1750 BC. Their aim was to restore economic normalcy after major disruptions. §48 of Hammurabi’s laws proclaim a debt and tax amnesty for cultivators if Adad the Storm God has flooded their fields, or if their crops fail as a result of pests or drought. Crops owed as rent or fiscal payments were freed from having to be paid. So were consumer debts run up during the crop year, including tabs at the local ale house and advances or loans from individual creditors. The ale woman likewise was freed from having to pay for the ale she had received from palace or temples for sale during the crop year.

“Whoever leased an animal that died by an act of God was freed from liability to its owner (§266). A typical such amnesty occurred if the lamb, ox or ass was eaten by a lion, or if an epidemic broke out. Likewise, traveling merchants who were robbed while on commercial business were cleared of liability if they swore an oath that they were not responsible for the loss (§103).

“It was realized that hardship was so inevitable that debts tended to accrue even under normal conditions. Every ruler of Hammurabi’s dynasty proclaimed a Clean Slate cancelling personal agrarian debts (but not normal commercial business loans) upon taking the throne, and when military or other disruptions occurred during their reign. Hammurabi did this on four occasions.

“In an epoch when labor was the scarcest resource, a precondition for survival was to prevent rising indebtedness from enabling creditors to use debt leverage to obtain the labor of debtors and appropriate their land. Early communities could not afford to let bondage become chronic, or creditors to become a wealthy class rivaling the power of palace rulers and seeking gains by impoverishing their debtors.

“Yet that is precisely what is occurring as today’s economy polarizes between creditors and debtors.”

I think you will find that some of this applies to our current situation, no?

May 23, 2020

GOP Thinking—Fast and Slow

Maybe it is a fluke, but I think not, that some part-time workers who are now able to apply for unemployment insurance whereas before they were not and so are making more on unemployment than they were working.

Republicans are worried, deathly worried, that we are encouraging sloth. They are worried that people will not want to go back to work. Such are the moral hazards in the Republiverse.

These same people don’t seem to worry about the moral hazards when we bail out banks or shaky corporations, like Boeing. They don’t seem to worry that those companies would rather suck off the government teat than make good products. They also love to bail out stockholders who are elevating rent extraction above honest work as a profession.

Okay, I can solve this problem for my Republifriends. I start with a fable, maybe even a parable . . .

Let’s say that a friend, a good friend, of yours tells you about a job offer. “Dude, there is this job I think you ought to apply for. It is right up your alley . . . except, well, you will be working harder and get paid less than you are now. What do you think?” I know what you would think: “Are you effing crazy?”

If the GOP is worried that people are making more money off of unemployment insurance than working, the solution is obvious—pay better wages! Pay workers more than they can make off of unemployment payments (which are effing temporary in any case!).

If people were losing significant money while on unemployment, they would be dying to get back to their regular job. In fact, many, many problems would be solved if wages were to go up substantially. There would be less need of food stamps, other forms of welfare, charity, food banks, etc. People would pay more in taxes, lowering the annual budget deficit we always seem to run.

See, it is simple. Except there is this teeny-tiny bias the GOP has. It worries about moral hazards only when they involve the poor or middle class. That the billionaire class and corporations are raking in huge windfall profits from the government’s efforts to ameliorate the pandemic are just something that does not interest them, at least not after the scheme to funnel all of that wealth toward the billionaire class has been accomplished.

Mission accomplished! GOP!

May 11, 2020

Texas Governor Declares Texans Fit for Guinea Pig Role

The Governor of the State of Texas is allowing businesses, including barber shops, to reopen. Since barber shops can scarcely function with distancing controls in place, I assume this means without any such controls. Other states are to follow.

I guess we should thank the Republican governors supporting Donald Trump for volunteering to be guinea pigs for this pandemic.

Since (a) we still do not have enough test kits available to determine an accurate count of such cases and (b) I do not trust these shitweasel politicians to report accurate counts even if they were, we will only have the numbers of deaths in Texas as a measure of their success or failure. Shitweasel politicians are always willing to send the able-bodied into wars, disease hotbeds, etc. as long as they themselves and their families are not at risk.

Interestingly, someone looked up the normal range of deaths for the months of the pandemic, nationwide, and that number is definitely not normal, that is it isn’t in the range of the numbers of people who would die over such a period. Interestingly the “overage” is about twice the number of COVID-19 deaths, so either those deaths are being under reported or there are secondary causes for these “extra” deaths, such as medical facilities being full of coronavirus patients and not enough care is available to go around to everyone.

May 9, 2020

The Royals v. The Tabloids

Filed under: Culture,History — Steve Ruis @ 8:48 am
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It seems the main reason to have royals of the British sort now is so the tabloids have something to publish about this or that tiff in their weird social club.

I find the whole idea of royals to be absurd in the first place. Consider the British Royals Harry and William. So, what do they bring to the table? Why are they so “special?” Well, they are special because they were born of “special parents.” Those parents were Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spenser. Lady Diana Spenser was “special” because she was born of “special parents,” and more so because she married a “very special” person, Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. Prince Charles was special because he was born of “special parents,” too. And those parents were special because they were born of “special parents,” and on and on. Most of these people have done nothing to merit their “special” claim, albeit one or another does something charitable from time to time, but so do many other people.

When you get back to “special people” who actually did things to merit their specialness, we find that the main skills of these people were: spending other peoples money in large quantities. One was to lavish expensive gifts upon themselves: jewels, clothes, houses, land (lots of land), food, wine, . . . there really was almost no limit. And of course, lavishing gifts and “grants of specialness,” aka titles, on their friends and relatives. The other main activity was unnecessary wars.

Imagine what would have happened if each of the wars initiated by British royals had been forgone. What would have changed? How would people’s lives have been different? Obviously if someone else brings war to your land, someone needs to lead a response, but this doesn’t seem to be all that common.

Consider the back and forth wars with the continent made by British monarchs. What were these about? Mostly they were about who was to be the most “special” where. The tussles over who ruled Normandy were incredibly destructive but the claims of both sides were equally ridiculous. The royals were motivated by ego, greed, vengeance, etc. none of which had anything to do with the future of the British realm.

And at one point more than half the countries in Europe were ruled over by people from one family. Now, that’s special.

Think about all of the times people have done wonderful things for you. Doctors, dentists, car mechanics, plumbers, you name it. You remembered their effort with a gift or a Christmas card come that season. You didn’t worship them as a monarch.

Well, those are small things, what about the big things?

Ah, you mean like Abraham Lincoln did in preserving the union or Franklin Roosevelt in fighting the Second World War and helping to win it? Did we kneel down to any of those? Did we acknowledge that they were divinely inspired agents of God? It seems that this divine right of kings bullshit was made up as a way that religions could support monarchies giving the religions some say as to which monarch would rule. (How many European monarchs got excommunicated because of their bad behavior, eh?)

If at one time in our development, we may have need a war leader who we gave some authority over us to. But we didn’t have to go whole hog (as the Vikings proved) as we acceded to most everywhere.

History is a story in which human beings think way too much of themselves. I call it the Great Man Theory of History.

April 12, 2020

The Words We Use to Protect Ourselves, Thus Doing Irreparable Harm

Filed under: History,language — Steve Ruis @ 11:35 am
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I was viewing and reading the other day and came across two rather extraordinary statements. Here they are:

The buffalo hunt was an instrument for opening the west to settlement.”

and

“(referring to the early civilizations on the Nile, Indus, and Yellow rivers) Bountiful agriculture produced grain surpluses to feed these ever more populous settlements, the rulers coordinating the labour of growing workforces to construct impressive civil engineering projects like expansive irrigation systems, roads and canals, to further increase food production and its distribution.

Do you see what they have in common?

Both are descriptions of brutal treatment of the majority of a population for the benefit of someone other than the population itself, using breezy language.

The phrase “opening of the West to settlement,” is fascinating. The “West” referred to is the American West and the entire history of the “settlement” of the American West is rife with Indian troubles. Every time “settlers” started “settling” they were attacked by Indians. Damned savages! If only they had been civilized!

Well, the reason the “settlers” were attacked is that the land they were “settling” was already settled by Native Americans. The Anglos were invaders, in the terms of a subsequent generation, they were squatters on other people’s land. There was no need for “settlement” as that had already taken place. There were already people living on that land and the march west, was nothing more than an invasion that generated a genocide of immense scale.

Settlers, my ass. Of course, as a youth I swallowed this bilge easily. By accepting the term “settlers” I was accepting that the land was not “settled” and so was “open for settlement” by brave god-fearing white folk, like me. I believed the “Indians” attacked because they were savage, war-like people. In college I realized that most of what I “knew” of Native Americans came from the myriad cowboy movies I had viewed. And formal history wasn’t much better because of these words that were chosen to salve our egos, words like settlers, instead of invaders or conquistadors.

And the second quote. Egad, talk about white washing.

“Bountiful agriculture produced grain surpluses” uh, exactly how did this happen? Hunter gatherers got together in a barn one evening and one of them convinced the others that this agriculture was going to be a really good deal for them, so they all switched over? Sedentary agriculture was a disaster for many, many people before it got going and even after. People had a major reduction in variety in their diets because instead of having different harvests of fish, game, fruits, plants, and whatnot with the seasons, they spent all of their time in a much more labor intensive practice: farming. Because they ended up eating mostly what they grew, instead of what Nature provided, their teeth rotted, their children grew up smaller, and their health deteriorated because of the disease pits formed when so many people lived so closely together. A drought, or flood, or poor harvest for any reason mean starvation.

Oh, but, “the rulers coordinating the labour of growing workforces.” I am sure were a great help, providing guards to make sure the workers didn’t run off and in acquiring slaves by capturing the populations of whole villages in the vicinity. The rulers soon found out that forced labor is expensive because of the numbers of guards needed, so they created the concept of god-kings to recruit invisible gods guards who worked for free. It is hard not to do a task a god or god’s emissary says you have to do.

And, oh joy, all of those “impressive civil engineering projects like expansive irrigation systems, roads and canals, to further increase food production and its distribution” were really helpful . . . to the workers? No, I don’t think so. The distribution network was taking the grain they produced elsewhere, to feed people like soldiers, that couldn’t be afforded before the imposition of forced labor agriculture. Thus, agriculture allowed the elites to make war for fun and profit, again not with any benefit to the workers creating the surpluses that fed the elites and their minions.

And, did you notice the phrase, that the grain surpluses were in part “to feed these ever more populous settlements.What was being settled? Empty land? Why? The ever growing populations were created by the grain surpluses and a biological law which says that the population of a species will expand to the limits of its food supply. If you didn’t have the grain surpluses or didn’t make them available to people, the populations would not grow. So, who benefited from this? Not the workers. There never was much of a benefit to the workers at all. Grain was a crop that could be dried and stored. Otherwise food preservation was quite difficult. There is some evidence of mastodon carcasses having been immersed in arctic temperature lakes as a form of preservation, but most food spoiled fast, so it was eaten as soon as it was harvested as a general rule (a whole mastodon being a bit of a challenge). There was no surpluses for hunter-gatherers as a general rule. But because grain can be dried and stored and kinda sorta will keep you alive if you eat it, it was something that the elites could tax . . . by force, mind you, that could be spent (in trade, as food, etc.) later. So, agriculture was by the workers for the grain the elites wanted and the elites didn’t care fuck-all for the workers. Most of them were slaves anyway and treating them well wasn’t necessarily an advantage, certainly not an economic one.

Such breezy truncations of history, like the above, hide the incredible damage done by the elites of the general masses of people under their influence. And what about the poor buffalo which were hunted almost to extinction “to open the West to Settlement.” What a crock of bullshit. The buffalo were hunted to extinction to make a profit, for everyone in line from the frontier buffalo hunters to the wearers of buffalo hide garments in the East. No one hunted out the buffalo to win a “war” against the Native Americans, thus opening up the West to settlement. (See, no Indians here . .  well, left any way.)

By accepting such tripe we salve the wounds we should all feel when thinking back on our history. There is much good and much bad. Both encourage us to do more good in the future. By turning the appallingly bad into a “good” neither informs us of our capabilities or warns us of the dangers of certain paths we might take into the future. Ego protection should never be the watch word of history, but we have allowed it to be so in this country and are still working to massage the past to make us look better. (Look up debates over Texas school books for American history of late for examples.)

April 8, 2020

Mr. Trump’s Enemies

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:14 am
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Our “The Buck Never Stops Here President” has named a number of causes of the pandemic now raging. He has blamed China, the Obama Administration, and even the World Health Organization (WHO) in his rants.

Our cowed news agencies (or bought off, or . . .) never seem to follow up on these. For example . . .

It Is All Obama’s Fault
The transition from the Obama Administration to the Trump administration occurred in January of 2017 (over three years ago!). Even though the transition mechanism is required by law, the Trump people blew off large portions of it, even refusing to appoint people to fill serious vacancies in various departments. Remember that? Remember how Mr. Trump was praised for reducing the size of “Big Government”? (No? Neither do I.) I am seriously concerned about the transition out of a Trump administration. If it is as botched as when he came into office, it will take years to repair the damage.

If the Obama administration was so evil and corrupt, why wasn’t there a major effort made to weasel out what they had been up to so all of the evils could be fixed? Sounds like more than a few people were asleep at the switch.

It Is All WHO’s Fault
The evil enemy in the form of WHO is just ludicrous. Especially since Mr. Trump announced that for his administration, the watch word was “America First.” If we are No. 1, why were we depending upon a global big government agency to do our work for us? We should have seen what was going to happen before the Chinese noticed it. Mr. Trump’s most recent proposed budget substantially cuts “donations” to WHO. Since we are a major supporter of WHO, what if those cuts had gone into effect a year ago? Anybody want to guess? Mr. Trump probably believes they wouldn’t have had enough funding to be so China biased. Others think that China might have willingly stepped in and made up the slack, further diminishing our influence around the world. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but China surely does not, especially political vacuums.

It Is All China’s Fault
And, China, Mr. Trump’s Big Bugaboo. If China is the root of all evil, why were we not all over whatever nastiness they were drumming up? This has to be a major intelligence failure on the part of the Trump administration. With most people looking at China as a potential partner in creating a global future, Mr. Trump recognized the threat that was China way before anyone else. So, why did he sleep on that threat? Isn’t he supposed to keep us safe? Mr. Trump seemed to be fixated on currency manipulation by China and a trade war Mr. Trump started and allowed them to slip a biological weapon past our borders that has brought our economy to its knees. Apparently the defense of caging immigrant children at the border provided no protection.

Or maybe, just maybe, Mr. Trump is just flailing about, trying to strike pay dirt by highlighting an “enemy” that non-Fox News viewers will accept. This has worked for him in the past. If he finds one expect his to tag it, like “Lock Her Up!,” and lean on that until the election.

Addendum I can’t write or read the phrase of “Mr. Trump’s enemies” without thinking of Senator Joe McCarty and his famous tag line “I have a list …” (Communists to the left of me, communists to the right of me …). Mr. Trump seems also to have a list and it seems to be made of the the same thing as Tail Gunner Joe’s … whole cloth.

March 31, 2020

Even More on GMOs

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:51 pm
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I recently read that “Liberals are skeptical of well-established science when findings clash with their political ideologies, such as GMOs, nuclear power, genetic engineering and evolutionary psychology.”

I am a scientist and I am very cautious about GMOs. The existence of GMOs and some of their behaviors are “well-established science.” That is not what I am arguing about. Human beings have been artificially selecting traits of plants to serve us for thousands of years. We started by selecting which seeds to plant and went through a grafting-hybridizing stage and then into gene manipulation.

My quibble with GMOs is that the modifications skip over many, many viability tests that nature used to use to weed out problems (a snappy metaphor, no?). A plant geneticist might have to make dozens of not hundreds of “crosses” to get the outcome she wanted. Each step of the way, nature chimed in. If a cross-fertilization of two strains of plants was non-viable, there would be no seeds or plants to test in a subsequent generation of that approach. That was a dead end, so we had to back up and try a different route.

So, GMOs skip over some of these tests/road blocks, which could be a good thing or even a very good thing, but . . . and you knew a but was coming, didn’t you . . . when something goes wrong with a GMO it has the possibility of going very, very wrong.

And, yes, I said “when” because it is never “if” something goes wrong, because something always goes wrong. Help me count the ways! A virus could insert some of its DNA into a GMO’s DNA and voila, we have something very, very new on hand. The GMO could propagate with other plants in ways unsuspected. GMO animals, when they come around, might take over ecological niches we were unaware of and create situations we are unprepared to respond to.

There is an old saw that says “short cuts are always longer” which is an admonition of a craftsman to take the tried and true way and not some shortcut to a supposed better or just as good ending. Just as there was no Royal Road to geometry, there were no shortcuts to quality. Well, we have discovered that there are such shortcuts, but they are incredible hard to find and don’t always work as expected.

Since our food supply is under considerable pressure and we have created monocultures for much of “big” crops, a disaster will be a big, very big disaster when it happens (again, when, not if).

So, I am not anti-science, quite the contrary, I am pro-prudence. Especially when the primary efforts are made chasing profits and not meeting urgent needs. And as evidence for which I give you: Monsanto Crop System Damages US Farms.

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