Uncommon Sense

March 26, 2023

Big Bad Dragon

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:17 am
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Republicans are all up in arms over . . . mass killings? Inflation? Climate Change? The Banking System? No, it is TikTok. As I understand it TikTok is a very popular  (with the younger set) social media site which publishes videos of young people dancing, puppies and kittens playing, you know the stuff.

The Republicans have their knickers in a twist because the Chinese are data mining TikTok! Imagine, data mining a social media site! Who do they think they are, Facebook?

Well, the Repubs are seeing this site as a dagger aimed at American Democracy! The Chinese could institute an insidious campaign to turn our young against their elders, against . . .gasp . . . democracy! (As if Donald Trump weren’t doing a good enough job of that!)

I am assuming this is just another round in the Republicans distraction campaign. If they were serious, they would look at how China controls TikTok in China.

China is actually loosening its restrictions on young people TikToking (is that a word?). On March 1, TikTok announced that it’s setting a 60-minute default time limit per day for users under 18. Those under 13 would need a code entered by their parents to have an additional 30 minutes, while those between 13 and 18 can make that decision for themselves. This is less stringent than they had before. The Chinese aren’t worried that the site will undermine Chinese ideology, they are concerned that it is a GWOT (giant waste of time) keeping their youths away from tasks more important: household chores, homework, you know, important things.

The Republicans aren’t interested in TikTok wasting youth’s time excessively. They don’t mind that kids don’t study. The less well educated the youth of this country are, the better they like it. (And going to college is the Highway to Atheism!) Ignorant people are easier to manipulate and make more passive employees.

No, the Republicans need something to do . . . instead of work on the real problems facing this country. When do the Hunter Biden hearings start? And I want to see what the Repubs will do about TikTok before the Chinese find out our youth likes videos of puppies playing more than of kittens playing. Think of the leverage they will have then.

Postscript There was an episode of The Twilight Zone (original series) in which aliens created a family game that was very, very popular and their intent was that the game would affect human psyches. You see, the game was designed so that if you lost you won. They were teaching humans to lose! They were softening us up for their invasion. Maybe the Republicans saw this episode when they were young.

March 16, 2023

What Do Conservatives Want to Conserve?

Note—Yes, I know George Will has asked and answered this question but he got it wrong, so . . . S

U.S. politics has changed dramatically during my adulthood. When I was in my political infancy, for example, both major parties had conservative and liberal wings. In the current Republican party, you’d be hard pressed to find even one moderate, let alone a liberal.

The two parties broke down fairly simply, back then. The Republicans were, by and large, the party of conservatives. Conservatives wanted to conserve the status quo in that Republicans were largely people who had it made already: bankers, lawyers, successful businessmen. That they tended to be old, white, and male was not at all surprising. Tradition was important in so far as it represented the way we have always done things, and things were good for that group of people.

The Democratic party was the liberal/progressive party. While the Repubs wanted no change to the status quo, the Dems wanted “progress,” which meant positive changes. And while each party had its token liberals or conservatives, the two parties were quite distinct, but they weren’t that far apart that they couldn’t cooperate. Both believed that a stable society was all for the good and so favored sound institutions: public schools, courts of law, colleges and universities, sound businesses. Businesses were different back then, most had goals involving being a good member of their communities, instead of just increasing shareholder value.

Today’s political parties look nothing like those parties of old. The Democrats have abandoned labor unions, which used to be a pillar of strength for them, as well as working class people as a whole. Their support of people of color is a pale ghost of what it was in my youth. The Republicans have thrown any social institution under the bus if it is in the way of some business making profits, pfft, public schools, who needs them? The Postal service? There’s money to be made there. Prisons? Better run by private interests.

So, what happened? It seems that the ideologies of the parties of Eisenhower and Kennedy have disappeared, to be replaced by . . . what?

It seems that the leadership of both parties are now conservatives, focused solely on the ability to get things done or preventing them from getting done. They seem solely focused upon conserving their own political power. The ideology of the parties has become the ideologies of their leadership groups.

For example, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives was exposed as to having lied about, well, every part of his background: his education, his military service, his accomplishments; they were all lies. And he got elected. In my political youth, the fellow would have been drawn and quartered in public, ousted from his position and replaced post haste. Now? His congressional seat is a needed token of power and the Republicans are apparently fine with his lying since it meets their goal of preserving their power in the federal government. In the last session, the Dems controlled the House, now the Repubs do and if they lose this guy and a Dem gets appointed to replace him, their power slips a notch, so he stays.

Conservatives now, both Republican and Corporate Democrats, want to conserve their own political power, nothing else.

March 10, 2023

Oh, You Gotta Read This!

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:39 am
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The brilliant Cory Doctorow has hit the nail on its head!

The Right accuses their critics of the conspiracy they themselves engage in

March 5, 2023

Florida the Sunshine State Becomes the Snowflake State

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:58 pm
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Trigger Warning—If you are Governor of the State of Florida, or any of his pussy administrators or other state politicians, you may not want to read this. Contains scorn, insults, and mockery.

Apparently legislators in Florida have introduced a bill that would require bloggers who write about Ron DeSantis or his cabinet or legislators to register with the state. This is yet another indicator that Florida’s governor is the state’s biggest snowflake.

Comedians say that when they were very good in performance, that they killed. This is apparently a threat to those Florida politicians large enough to require registration. Funny, in Florida, guns that actually can kill are not required to be registered with the state. Huh!

The basic operating principle seems to be that making harsh comments about the governor makes Mr. DeSantis sad.

Trump is going to have a field day with DeSantis as the nicknames keep piling up, how about “Thin Skinned Ron,” or “Don’t Make Me Sad DeSantis”?

And this asshole wants to be president of the United States.

Transgender Rights

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 12:37 pm
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Here I go again, into that place in which angels fear to tread <sigh>.

I was reading a post on Medium.com which had the title “The Defense of Transgender Rights is a Defense of Democracy.”

Before I could read far, I started wondering what “transgender rights” referred to or even “transgender” for that matter. So, off to a dictionary I go.

transgender, (adjective) denoting or relating to a person whose gender identity
does not correspond with the sex registered for them at birth.

Uh, okay, so gender identity?

gender identity, (adjective) a person’s innate sense of their gender (chiefly used in contexts
where it is contrasted with the sex registered for them at birth).

Of course, if you search for descriptions of genders you immediately enter a rabbit’s hole. One “expert” claims that there are 72 genders, a medical site claims that there is no fixed number of genders because there is spectrum. Good luck if you head into that hole.

And genders corresponding to a person’s sex sounds like there is a connection, but. . . . Clearly throughout history, parents have asked their children to adopt a behavior pattern acceptable to them. They wanted boy children to “act like boys” and girl children to “act like girls.” They didn’t just ask for this they demanded it and if they met resistance, there were repercussions. Even so we have terms to describe girls who act boyishly, tomboys, etc.

I have made the argument before, that expending effort defining how we are different from one another is a losing proposition.

At the beginning of the “gay rights campaign” we had “gays and lesbians,” as if male and female homosexuals had different aims and goals, but we wanted to be “inclusive.” We are now up to LGBTQIA+ or whatever. Soon the acronym will be line length and we will be arguing how to hyphenate it!

I suggest we retreat to a more sensible position. I would rather see an article entitled “The Defense of Human Rights is a Defense of Democracy.” Should we all not want to live our lives as we see fit, without undue influence from others? Should we not be able to do what we will as long as it does not harm others?

The Humanist Manifesto v. II states, in part: “We believe in maximum individual autonomy consonant with social responsibility. Although science can account for the causes of behavior, the possibilities of individual freedom of choice exist in human life and should be increased.”

Defining ourselves as part of a group and then working to have our “letter” included in the LGBTQIA+ manifold seems like we are missing the point. We may be acquiring a sense of not being alone, but shouldn’t we all be working for extending broad and liberal human rights, for all of us, not just a group that happened to be under an umbrella at the time. For example, when women were finally extended the right to vote in the U.S., that meant that all women, including lesbians, tomboyish women, queer women, bisexual women, declines to state women, got the same right.

Addendum The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

There you go. Couldn’t have said it better. (Well, I couldn’t, I was just one year old when this statement was crafted.)

A Heresy Resolved

Filed under: History,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:56 am
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A major heresy troubled the early Christian (orthodox) church. It was called the Arian heresy after Arias of Alexandria ((born c. 250, died 336), the point man for the effort. The brouhaha lasted five plus decades but actually has stewed on until now.

One crux of the matter (that they didn’t believe in the Trinity was also part of it) revolved around the claim that Jesus and “the Father” were “consubstantial,” that is made from the same stuff. Arias didn’t buy this because, well it is ridiculous. Jesus is often referred to as being incarnate, 100% human, etc. and I can’t image old Yahweh putting on a meat overcoat for anyone.

Arius suffered much from his stubbornness, and was excommunicated (more than once, if memory serves). Reportedly he collapsed and died while walking through the streets of Constantinople but others claimed that Arius’ death was the result of explosive gastrointestinal problems he suffered in the city of Constantinople while he was attempting to negotiate admittance to the church there. I am sure his enemies would have been pleased were he to have died in a shit storm.

Well, we now know that Arias was wrong. Jesus and “the Father” were made of the same stuff, namely whole cloth, fully imaginary.

It is hard to believe, but ordinary people debated the merits of many of these positions, often vehemently and occasionally violently for the better part of a century, and the controversy drags on today, often out of sight (just ask any Unitarian if they believe in the Trinity). Also, the people who hounded Arias to his death were the same folks who invented the fiction which is now holy doctrine of so many Christian churches. (Arias was first declared a heretic and excommunicated because he refused to sign on to the created fiction.)

March 2, 2023

Hey DeSantis, If You Can’t Take the Heat . . .

The GOP of Florida has introduced a bill to outlaw the Democratic Party in Florida and their Secretary of State is encouraging other states to do the same.

Now, the GOP is notoriously pro-business and their spiel for decades has been to glorify competition. Apparently the Florida GOP has noticed that every really big business is working hammer and tongs to establish a monopoly over their sector, and so to eliminate any competition. The logical conclusion, at least for Florida’s GOP, is one party rule in their politics.

Apparently they missed the lesson in civics class about that being un-American. Imagine, NFL football games, played by just one team, with no opposition. The team on the field would score on every possession. Then they would kick off.  and either recover the ball on the field and score again or, if the ball bounced into the end zone, the “other team” would get the ball on the 25 yard line and after four delay of game penalties would lose possession to the team on the field which would score again. Would anyone pay to watch such a debacle? Would anyone watch for free?

Even idiots know that having a loyal opposition makes one raise their game to new levels. This means that Florida’s GOP cannot even rise to the level of being considered idiots.

There is and old saying in war and politics “when your enemy is busy destroying themselves, don’t interrupt them.”

Carry on, Florida GOP, carry on.

Addendum It occurs to me that if they actually did delegitimize the Florida Democratic Party, all of the state’s former Democrats could then register as Republican and that state’s GOP would have the largest liberal wing of any red state. And former Democrats would be on ballots with an (R) after their name and people would vote for them unknowingly. These faux GOPers would then be able to sit in on all of their caucus meetings, maybe even be elected to positions prominent in their party. Oh, the horror!

Be careful what you ask for!

March 1, 2023

SCOTUS Tackles Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Program

As reported on the ArcaMax news site:

“The Supreme Court’s conservatives gave a sharply critical hearing Tuesday to President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive more than $400 billion in student loans, arguing that only Congress could approve such a large amount of federal spending.

“Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh said he was skeptical of allowing the executive branch to create ‘a massive new program’ based on a vaguely worded old law.

“He was referring to a 2003 law adopted at the time of the Iraq War allowing the Education secretary to ‘modify or waive’ any student aid program ‘in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency.’

“But before the justices can rule on Biden’s plan, they must first decide whether anyone has legal standing to challenge it in court. Typically that means some person or entity, including states, must show they are or will be harmed by a law or government action.

“Taxpayers do not have standing to sue to stop the government from spending money, and it’s not clear if anyone could show they will be hurt if the government forgives another person’s loan.”

Wait, Brett Cavanaugh “was skeptical of allowing the executive branch to create “a massive new program” based on a vaguely worded old law.” Did not Justice Thomas recently quote a 17th century precedent when axing Roe v. Wade? So, 2003 is now “old”? And “‘modify or waive’ any student aid program ‘in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency’” is vague? Seems clear to me; “modify or waive any student aid program” couldn’t be any clearer. Has he not heard of the War on Terror currently going on (. . . and on, and on, and on, . . .)?

Oh, so giving away billions in tax relief to billionaires is okay but giving anything to students doesn’t pass the sniff test?

February 26, 2023

Constantine Converted to Christianity . . . Didn’t He?

Ah, another Sunday, and the topic is . . . religion, what else?

There is more than a little controversy surrounding Roman emperor Constantine and Christianity. (No! Tell me it isn’t so!)

His conversion involves a miraculous vision appearing to Constantine. This was reported on by no fewer than four people in positions to report what Constantine claimed. Now, the fact that these are four wildly different accounts when they should all be very similar tells us that Constantine was a storyteller, or bullshit artist, whatever.

Historians aren’t doing much better. For example, according to Bart Ehrman, Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 CE (The Triumph of Christianity, pg. 13 of the hardbound version). Wikipedia, on the other hand, states “Just before his death in May 337 CE, it is claimed that Constantine was baptized into Christianity. Up until this time he had been a catechumen for most of his adult life. He believed that if he waited to get baptized on his death bed he was in less danger of polluting his soul with sin and not getting to heaven.

Wikipedia goes on to say “Although Constantine lived much of his life as a pagan and later as a catechumen, he began to favor Christianity beginning in 312, finally becoming a Christian and being baptized by either Eusebius of Nicomedia, an Arian bishop, as attested by many notable Arian historical figures, or Pope Sylvester I, which is maintained by the Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church.”

Constantine has historically been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor” and he did favor the Christian Church. While some modern scholars debate his beliefs and even his comprehension of Christianity, he is venerated as a saint in Eastern Christianity, and he did much for pushing Christianity towards the mainstream of Roman culture.

Now I am always leery of deathbed conversions reported by churchmen. So many have been claimed to have been converted on death’s door, which later have been proven to be false, including Charles Darwin, most prominent atheists, etc. If Constantine wanted to die a Christian, and the excuse not to be baptized/converted sooner concocted by Constantine or apologists is that he didn’t want his soul sullied before he died, is brilliant if cockamamie, one does have to wonder why Constantine made sure all of the steps were taken to deify himself after his death as was the practice of Roman Emperors. How much could Constantine have believed in the One True God™ if he wanted to make sure he became a god after he died?

One historian argues that Constantine supported Christianity because many of his soldiers had converted and it was a way to bolster his position with his armies. Soldiers were closer to the bottom of Roman culture than the top and Christianity appealed to the downtrodden, so it makes some sense. And the Roman practice for centuries was to fold into its pantheon the gods of conquered peoples, so showing some respect wasn’t hard to do.

Another historian claimed that Constantine or his advisors admired the control Bishops had over their “flocks.” I assume the Council of Nicaea disabused them of that admiration as the bishops bickered like school children.

So, was Constantine the First Christian Emperor? About as much as he was the messiah and other claims. Such labels are the work of Christian Historians shaping history to their own likings. And, basically they are meaningless. Having a perfect description of his role in the growth of Christianity would prove nothing, and the churchmen wouldn’t like it, as they prefer things to be fuzzy, so their professional spin doctors, uh apologists, can “interpret” the situations more to the church’s liking.

February 15, 2023

Requiem for the American Dream—Must See TV

I watched this documentary last night on Amazon Prime (it is available on YouTube also). It was made in 2015 and I can’t see how I could have missed it. It involves a running commentary, actually taken over several years, by Noam Chomsky and the topic was how we got to where we are now, politically and economically.

Professor Chomsky has an encyclopedic knowledge of current affairs, history, and many other topics so he is able to put things together quite beautifully. (I am a fan, btw.)

If you have followed this blog for a long while you will hear topics I have addressed a fair number of times, the basic issue is not a battle royale between conservatives and liberals, as we have been led to believe, but between those who possess much wealth and the rest of us. This battle has been going on for as long as this country has existed and goes much further back into quite ancient history.

Here are some tastes: Bank regulation developed after the Great Depression and coming out of the New Deal meant there were no bank or market crashes of any note through the 1950’s and 1960’s. Now they have become a feature of our economy (guess why), so much so that business insurers are factoring in the taxpayer bailouts that will unfailingly accompany such a crash in their calculations.

Economists developed their theories based upon “informed consumers making rational choices” yet advertisers are operating to create “uniformed consumers making irrational choices” . . . and we are allowing our politicians to hire advertising and marketing consultants to run our political campaigns.

The masterminds on the side of the wealthy are attacking solidarity every chance they get. They do not want people to feel solidarity behind public schools, for example, they want us to feel it is “every man for himself.” The same is with race relations, women’s rights, etc. They certainly do not want labor unions empowered by solidarity to oppose anything rich businessmen want to do.

And to reinforce that this is not a conservative-liberal battle, Chomsky points out that both conservatives and liberals were adamantly against people of the common sort being involved in politics. Most were in favor of putting us back “in our place” to allow the wealthy to run the country properly. (They, both conservatives and liberals, actually allowed themselves to be quoted for publication saying such things, so you know they were feeling privileged, and probably paid, to do so.)

The most repeated comment was “When you allow the wealthy to become powerful, what did you expect to happen?”)

These are just a few of the many points made in this documentary.

If you are not up to speed as to what is really going on now, this is an excellent way to catch up, as it were. Highly, highly recommended. I will watch it again in a few days to catch what I missed.

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