Class Warfare Blog

July 13, 2019

Does This Blog Need a Different Title?

When I began this blog, mainstream opinions regarding there being a class war in the U.S. were little better than scoffing at the idea. It seems now that most people accept this class war as a fact. I began this blog with the intent of just establishing the war is real, but I could continue, focusing on the conduct and disposition of the class war.  Of late, I have been writing more frequently about religion (specifically Christianity as that is the religion I know most about) in that I believe the religion plays a role in the class war.

Religion, specifically Christianity in the U.S., plays a role in our current class war because mainstream religions have always worked hand in hand with secular state power for their own benefit. Religions that do not accrue state power have a hard time surviving. And a religion acquires state power is by exhibiting practices of which the secular powers approve. The example I use often is that Christianity supported the institution of slavery (scripture still does!). Had it not, it never would have been adopted as the state religion of Rome and would not have had Rome’s power to expand the church’s power for over a century. (Does no one else find the name of the Roman Catholic Church ironic? The Messiah (Jesus?) was supposedly coming to remove Rome’s boot heel from the necks of the Jews, then under occupation by Rome. Some actually called them the enemy! Apparently the enemy won.)

Some may argue that the history of the United States belies my conclusion. That in the U.S. state power is forbidden to be used to support or oppose any church. Ah, that explains the tax free status of churches and all of the other laws exempting churches and church leaders from having to comply with state or federal laws. Discriminate against women in your hiring practices? This is fine if you are a church. Discriminate against people of other faiths or—gasp—no faith at all, in your hiring practices? This is fine . . . if you are a church. Discriminate against gays and lesbians in your hiring? This is fine if you are a church. A governmental position of neutrality with regard to churches would mean they would all be taxed the same, not “not taxed at all.” There are many other laws that churches violate with impunity just because they can.

So, I still hold that churches support the status quo when it comes to the secular leaders as they have accrued some political power and they do not want to lose it. And, in reality, some of these churches have gone on the offensive, wanting more power than they have now, trying to make the case that we are a Christian nation, a ludicrous claim. (The Bible does not support any kind of democracy in any way, shape, or form. Nor does it support the forbidding of cruel and unusual punishments or any other of the cornerstone concepts of the Constitution. Sheesh.) They have also arranged to have legislation introduced exempting churches from more and more of our laws.

So, if you have an opinion, does this blog need a new title? (And if you say “yes” do you have any suggestions? I suspect JB would call it “Steve’s Snark” or “Steve’s Ignorance.”)

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June 9, 2019

I Have Said It Before . . .

. . . and I will say it again. Say what?

The Guardian ran a story today “Can Trump win in 2020? This Pennsylvania county may be an indicator.” The subtitle for which was “Northampton county, Pennsylvania voted twice for Barack Obama before flipping for Trump – and could decide whether Trump gets a second term” What? A county in Pennsylvania voted for Barack Obama for president . . . twice . . . and then voted for Trump? What Red-Blue scenario, what White-Black scenario, what Rural-Urban scenario makes sense of that?

I’ve said it before . . .

The voters in this country were so fed up with the status quo (the rich get richer, the middle class and the poor get ground under their boot heels) that they voted in our first Black president. That should change things, no? Apparently not enough as Republican-Democrat infighting made sure “Hope” and “Change” were both little and infrequent. So, if that message didn’t get through, maybe the message of Donald Trump would.

Why don’t we try offering what the voters want? Candidates who aren’t bought and paid for by Wall Street and the major corporations and who will identify the will of the people and act upon that.

Novel idea, eh?

May 31, 2019

Joe Biden—Just Say No

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 8:50 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The current front runner for the Democratic nomination for the office of president is former senator and vice-president Joe Biden. Nominating him would be a horrible mistake, so why is he a front runner?

The talking heads all mention the “electability” of Joe Biden. How they make this determination is not shared and it is very, very flawed. Joe Biden is not electable, even with Donald Trump as his opponent.

Think about it. In 2008, this very racist country elected its first black president. Why? I say “hope and change.” Ordinary Americans have become very, very tired of the elites saying things are just hunky dory when their lives are swirling down the toilet. The status quo is very nice for the elites as they are reaping almost all of the benefits of society and government but that status quo represents lower wages, insecure jobs, part-time employment instead of full-time and fewer fringe benefits if you are lucky enough to acquire a full-time job for the rest of us.

Mr. Obama runs for re-election in 2012 and who do the Republican choose but a smarmy rich guy, a more obvious icon of the former status quo as you can get and he loses, of course. But Mr. Obama promised hope and change and partially because of Republican intransigence and their own commitment to the status quo, the status quo gets disrupted very, very little and income and wealth disparities continue to rise. It also didn’t help that the Obama administration decided to bail out banks and their effing shareholders but not ordinary Americans from the ravages of the Great Recession.

So, then we arrive at the 2016 election and we have a choice between Hillary Clinton, another avatar of the status quo, and Donald Trump and we elect the execrable Donald Trump. Was there ever a greater statement of dissatisfaction with the way things were going than the election of Donald Fucking Trump to be President of the United States?

And people are now talking seriously about running Joe Biden for president. If he is selected as the Democratic nominee, expect four more years of Donald Trump. If you can say anything positive about our current POTUS is that he is definitely not acting like the people who got us into this mess in the first place. That he is acting in a very negative way doesn’t seem to matter to many voters who want ever so much something other than the status quo created by the post Viet Nam war era political parties.

 

 

 

May 26, 2019

The Law of Unintended Consequences, Still Unsurpassed

As conservative American politicians are doing their damnedest to pound a square peg into a round hole with regard to any issue involving women, they are accomplishing the exact opposite of what they want. They are undermining the societal structure they most value: the family. An article in The Guardian indicates why (Women are happier without children or a spouse, says happiness expert). Here’s an excerpt:

We may have suspected it already, but now the science backs it up: unmarried and childless women are the happiest subgroup in the population. And they are more likely to live longer than their married and child-rearing peers, according to a leading expert in happiness.

Speaking at the Hay festival on Saturday, Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics, said the latest evidence showed that the traditional markers used to measure success did not correlate with happiness – particularly marriage and raising children.

“Married people are happier than other population subgroups, but only when their spouse is in the room when they’re asked how happy they are. When the spouse is not present: fucking miserable,” he said.

“We do have some good longitudinal data following the same people over time, but I am going to do a massive disservice to that science and just say: if you’re a man, you should probably get married; if you’re a woman, don’t bother.”

Men benefited from marriage because they “calmed down”, he said. “You take less risks, you earn more money at work, and you live a little longer. She, on the other hand, has to put up with that, and dies sooner than if she never married. The healthiest and happiest population subgroup are women who never married or had children,” he said.

As the benefits of family and children have shrunk substantially, the “duties” of the position of “wife” have escalated. Not only are they still obligated to all or most of the household management choirs and child rearing chores but are also expected to bring in a full-time salary. Would any man get married if they were offered the same “bargain”?

The “bargain” when I was a child was the wife stayed home and worked while the husband went out to work and “brought home the bacon.” This arrangement was reinforced by women being excluded from most jobs as being “unsuitable” or incompetent. The fact that women are doing all of those jobs now and just as competently as men or more so, gives the lie to that prejudice. It was also largely reinforced through societal memes: the bride as princess, mothers as Madonnas, the “fulfillment of marriage,” the wedding ceremony as mini-coronation, etc.

So, why would women take such a bad deal? Apparently, they are beginning to no longer do so in numbers. Their reward? Greater happiness, less strife; less pressure, longer life. If they choose to have children, there no longer is much of a stigma attached to single parenting and while raising a child by yourself might be daunting, it is certainly easier than raising a child while serving a man as maid, cook, errand runner, etc. and working a full-time job at the same time.

There is an axiom in politics that when a politician is undermining himself, don’t interrupt. Go, GOP, go!

May 20, 2019

A Moral Tale

As I have mentioned I have been working my way through the book The Moral Animal (Why We Are The Way We Are; The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology) by Robert Wright. I was planning to do a book report when done, but there is so much in this book that that is probably futile. If you are interested in where morals really come from, get this book! It is by no means the final word on the topic but it is an excellent start!

What I am writing on now is based upon a comment made in a chapter on ethics. Here it is:

“Why should we have a moral code? Even accepting the basis of utilitarianism—the goodness of happiness—you might ask: Why should any of us worry about the happiness of others? Why not let everyone worry about their own happiness—which seems, anyway, to be the one thing they can be more or less counted on to do?

“Perhaps the best answer to this question is a sheerly practical one . . . everyone’s happiness can, in principle, go up if everyone treats everyone else nicely. You refrain from cheating or mistreating me, I refrain from cheating or mistreating you; we are both better off than we would be in a world without morality. For in such a world the mutual mistreatment would roughly cancel out anyway (assuming neither of us is a vastly more proficient villain than the other). And, meanwhile, we each would incur the added cost of fear and vigilance.”

This resonates on the political stage in current American life. A small minority of wealthy individuals has decided to run this country for their benefit alone and to hell with the rest of us. To claim that legislatures around this country are motivated by expanding the happiness of their constituents is to make a rather bad joke. They seem to be motivated only to please their paymasters.

That issue aside, this quote brings up the utilitarian ideal of each of us treating the others well (not necessarily as well as we treat ourselves, mind you, just well), that this can be a source of greater happiness in all of our lives and that brings me to my tale.

Back in my working days, I was part of a training group. We trained people in our enterprise (a community college district) in the process of interest-based decision making. Our first few attempts at doing these trainings was fraught with anxiety . . . on the part of us trainers; the trainees apparently didn’t notice our discomfort.

To allay these feelings, we spent a great deal of time (a really great deal of time) creating a master training schedule for each training. On this schedule, every presenter, every volunteer, was listed as to time and task, for example: At 10 AM on Thursday Steve goes to Room XYZ and does Task W or on Friday at 3 PM, Steve presents Topic A in the Main Training Room. Every task was supported with instructions; every presentation had a list of key points that was monitored and if any were skipped over, the Monitor doing that task would bring it to the attention of the presenter.

This went swimmingly . . . and then I noticed something happening. Following the master schedule, I (at time X in Room Y) was expected to go set the room up in a particular fashion. At that time, I went to that room, only to find my job already done! This was a gift from an anonymous volunteer. Since I now had nothing else to do, I looked down the list of tasks to find something worth doing and went to do that instead. Before long, in our daily debriefs, we discovered that everyone was doing the same thing, doing someone else’s job for them. When we teased this out we didn’t look at this practice as undermining our Master Plan for our trainings. Instead, each of us felt that we had received gifts, gifts of other peoples’ time and attention and work. This became an unscheduled practice for all of the subsequent trainings I participated in.

Interestingly, the same amount of work got done, but instead of us just wading through mundane tasks, each of us felt like we were giving a gift of our better self, and that we were receiving gifts, anonymous gifts, that left us feeling respected and, well, very happy indeed. In our end-of-training debrief sessions, volunteer after volunteer claimed that this work was the best and most satisfying work they did in their job! It was on their own time and sometimes on company time, but in no case were their job expectations lessened. It turned out that others voluntarily filled in for them while they were away at our trainings.

So, if you take author Wright’s point, that treating each other well is superior (for all) than the libertarian ideal of “every man for himself,” then there is another level of additional happiness available if we treat others more than just “well.” Not oppressing people, or taking advantage of an other, is one form of treating others “well.” But if you go beyond that, as the volunteers in our training group did, and actively treat others very well indeed and we all pay it forward, as the saying goes, a level of happiness unthought of before becomes available to us.

And if you immediately react with “what about the freeloaders” just taking and not giving, read the book. That topic is covered, too.

May 19, 2019

We Are Using the Wrong Economic Indicators

Filed under: Economics,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

Currently our “news media” (whatever the heck that is now) are trumpeting things like the US GDP (Gross Domestic Product), unemployment statistics, average wages, and Dow Jones stock index levels as indicators of the “health” of the economy. And, boy is the economy strong!

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

These indicators were chosen by the elites to serve the elites.

Consider the Gross Domestic Product, a measure of how much we produce in goods and services. How does that reflect on the welfare of the nation’s citizens? It doesn’t. It indicates how “productive” the economy was . . . but in service to whom? If all of the nation’s output was shipped overseas, the GDP wouldn’t change, but the indicator would indicate how well we were serving overseas customers, not Americans. Shouldn’t economic indicators indicate how well our economy is serving our citizens? (We the people, etc.)

Maybe a Gross Consumption Index would be a better measure. No matter how much we are producing, Americans won’t buy things when they are feeling economically insecure. So, it is more important how much Americans are consuming than they are producing. Is there such an index? If so, you couldn’t tell from the news organizations.

And don’t get me started about unemployment statistics. The number of full-time jobs with benefits is still shrinking, only to be replaced by part-time jobs with no benefits and shit wages. But unemployment is at a record low! Oh, and we don’t count people who have officially stopped looking for a job.

Average wages? Give me a break! Median wages, the wage at the exact middle of the wage spectrum has been decreasing! This means that there are more people making less and just a few making much, much more than that number.

The whole purpose of these misleading “economic indicators” is to convince us that the politicians are doing their jobs. Unfortunately, they are doing it for only the wealthiest among us.

May 10, 2019

You Need to Respect Our Beliefs!

Part of the War on Christianity™ (Fox News) is the much reviled and disdained severe atheistic/humanistic disrespect for the beliefs of Christians! This is abominable! We are told that we should “respect their beliefs.”

Uh, no, just … no.

I accept their beliefs. I even acknowledge them. But respect them, no. Respect is something that is earned. How is it that just because they believe something, it automatically has to be respected? Especially when it comes to batshit crazy notions like the fundamentalists have that the End Times™ are just around the corner (time wise). Really? The forces of good and evil are going to duke it out? On the plain of Armageddon in the Holy Land? Really?

Entities with supernatural powers are going to a place to meet up, a flat place where they can deploy their forces? This is about as realistic as having modern jet fighters having firefights while confined to the ground. (Okay, you can taxi around all you want, but you can’t take off; got it? Go get ’em, tiger!)

And on one side is a god who is “beyond space and time,” which means he cannot be found by his enemies, who can create whole galaxies with mere thoughts, and already knows the plans of all of his enemies, who he can unmake with a mere thought. Uh, who wants to be on this guy’s side? (Me, me, me, me . . .) How can such a battle take place, except in the vivid imagination of an iron age drug addict?

Respect that belief? No, ridicule it, maybe, but not respect it. And please do not think that these are ideas that have been set aside. There are fundamentalist groups currently acting on a political agenda toward Israel, based upon this very scenario. Some Jewish groups are complaining about the activities of some of these fundamentalist Protestant groups, so apparently they are being taken seriously.

Social tools are tools we all use to moderate bad behavior in society. If a member of a social community acts poorly, people talk to him about his behavior. If he persists, then ridicule and public shaming take place. If he still persists, shunning and banning take place. We have talked to theists about their beliefs, but they persist in trying to force those beliefs on the rest of us (We Are A Christian Nation, War on Christmas, War on Christianity, Dominionism, Special privileges for the religious written into law, etc.), so ridicule is next up. Ridicule is appropriate as it is a gentle form of persuasion that no one is immune from. If that doesn’t work, well the tools at hand provide many opportunities to ratchet up the pressure. In more advanced countries, religion is a private matter that doesn’t intrude into the public sphere, happiness results. This state is a worthwhile goal.

 

April 28, 2019

The Purpose of Religion: A Follow-up

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:03 am
Tags: , , , ,

Salon.com recently re-published an article that originally appeared on Raw Story. Here is a taste of that article:

Scientists establish a link between religious fundamentalism and brain damage
Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be
by Bobby Azarian

study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness—a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real. Religious beliefs differ from empirical beliefs, which are based on how the world appears to be and are updated as new evidence accumulates or when new theories with better predictive power emerge. On the other hand, religious beliefs are not usually updated in response to new evidence or scientific explanations, and are therefore strongly associated with conservatism. They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.

Now, before all of you snarkmeisters (My people, my people!) jump on the obvious points, the point I want to address is not that. It is “They are fixed and rigid, which helps promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group.” And it is not the “fixed and rigid” part but the “promote predictability and coherence to the rules of society among individuals within the group” part.

When humans gathered together into larger than family groups, society was formed in a process I am sure took some time to hammer out. In all herd animals there are behaviors of both the individual and the group that promote survival. Sometimes they clash but if they clash too much, neither the herd nor the individuals survive. We are not herd animals but we are social animals. “Society” exists to get us to conform to rules that result in greater survivability of both us as a group and us as individuals. Once a society is formed, it is not hard to see that it can be hijacked by individuals who mold society more to their advantage, survivability be damned. Books and movies are rife with such scenarios, where groups are betrayed by individuals to their benefit. These betrayals can be direct or through changing the societal rules to benefit just themselves.

Currently there is a subset of very wealthy U.S. individuals who are reshaping our society for their benefit and their benefit alone, the rest of society left to suck eggs. Religion is a major tool in creating and maintaining a “stable” society. It has lost much of its power in this country over the years and since a power vacuum doesn’t exist long, that power has been sucked up, in this case by wealthy financial types with their own priesthood (economists).

In any society there are those who produce the needs for direct survival (food, water supply, housing, transportation, etc.) and those who produce “other things” (art, politics, music, books, etc.). Those who produce the food, etc. need to have the respect of those who do not and vice versa. In this country, this mutual respect has been lost (not by accident, mind you) as it has been elsewhere around the world. In powerful church hierarchies, the elites offer little in the way of respect for the masses as they “manage their brands” and, they think, husband their power. The same goes on in centers of political power. Studies indicate that a prerequisite for getting any idea through Congress is being rich. If you are poor or middle class your ideas and opinions will be ignored. (Polls? What polls? Polls are “fake news.”) And, monumental issues like climate change are ignored because the wealthy do not want to accept any uncertainty in their wealth accumulation schemes (business opportunities my ass!).

As a consequence, ordinary people, who are engaged in serving the needs of these elites are in various states of rebellion. They are attending church services less. They are voting less. They are paying less attention to those who pay no attention to them or they are attending but responding with anger and resentment.

I thought if we could revive labor unions that they could apply some leverage in the interests of ordinary people, but unions have powerful opponents who have shut that door.

So, what is the way out of this existential problem?

Really, do you see a way out?

April 2, 2019

And Forgive Us Our Debts

Michael Hudson is writing a series of books on the topic of debt forgiveness as a necessary component for capitalism to work. This topic evoked in me a memory of a conversation I had with my mother when I was a lad. She commented in church that the original version of the Lord’s Prayer included the phrase “… and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” but this was not approved of by the wealthy so it was transformed into “… and forgive us our trespasses as we also have forgiven our trespassers.” (By sixteenth century Anglicans?) There are a number of variations of these “translations,” but whatever was come up with (trespasses, sins, etc.), it was to get debt forgiveness (part of Mosaic law) out of that prayer.

A bit of this history is to be had at Naked Capitalism in the form of:

The Delphic Oracle Was Their Davos: A Four-Part Interview With Michael Hudson About His Forthcoming Book The Collapse of Antiquity (Part 1)

Highly recommended.

Some Enticing Teasers:
• “Rome was turned into an oligarchy, an autocracy of the senatorial families. Their “liberty” was an early example of Orwellian Doublethink. It was to destroy everybody else’s liberty so they could grab whatever they could, enslave the debtors and create the polarized society that Rome became.”
• “That’s why you don’t have any history of economic thought taught anymore in the United States. Because then you’d see that Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and the “Ricardian socialists” and indeed most of the 19th century had a completely opposite idea of what constituted a free market … (o)pposite from the neoliberal idea that freedom means freedom for the wealthy to indebt and destroy the economy. Opposite from the liberty of Brutus to overthrow the Roman kings and establish an autocratic oligarchy.”

January 10, 2019

They Used to Hijack Airplanes, Now It Is The Government

President Trump is trying to hijack Congress. Congress was given the purse strings of the nation, not the Executive branch. This was one of those old-fashioned “checks and balances” things. But Mr. Trump is telling Congress, pass the legislation I want (authorizing the expenditures I want) or suffer the consequences, Basically he is saying that he won’t do his job (faithfully execute the laws of the US of A) unless Congress gives him what he wants. “So, give me I want or I shut the government down.” <signed> Donald J. Trump If this were being done by a foreign agency, it would be considered an act of war.

I wonder where he got the idea?

Oh, I remember, it was back when the Republican Congress tried to hijack Mr. Obama’s Presidency. Basically they said “give us what we want or we will not extend the national debt limit.” The consequences of not extending that limit was that the government couldn’t pay its bills and employees and could default on the payment of its debt obligations, ruining our credit rating. The final such tantrum by the GOP cost many billions of dollars as I suspect that Mr. Trump’s tantrum will, too.

Does no one else see this as an infringement on the powers granted the Congress by the Constitution? Does no one else see that refusing to “faithfully execute the laws of the US of A” is an offense that could result in the removal of Mr. Trump from office?

I mean, there is a saying that “all is fair in love and politics,” but it is just a saying. It isn’t the Constitution, for pity’s sake. Mr. Trump seems to think that not paying “his employees” is an ordinary bargaining position. If would be is he were still a scummy slum lord in New York, but now he is playing with the big boys and I hope someone hands his head to him.

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