Uncommon Sense

October 18, 2021

Fixing Our Broken Society

The Great Experiment in Democracy that this country represents was focused upon its citizens living as citizens and not subjects. Unbeknownst to most of us, we have failed in that experiment. Currently the vast majority of us could be classified as subjects, subjects of corporations.

But, you say, you don’t work for a corporation, so how could that be. It be because of the corporations making all of the rules by which you exist in society. It is clear that the rich have captured our legislatures, our courts, the guts of our political structures. Nothing the rich do not like happens, period. Now, when you think of the rich, you make think of what is called “old money,” money handed down generation to generation. The Koch brothers, Donald Trump, the Kennedys, the Rockefellers, etc. While these people do exist, the vast majority of the rich now are corporation executives. By pooling their money, they have bought off politicians in sufficient numbers to control the actions of our federal government and state houses. Corporations control our news media, our social media, our commerce (Amazon delivers in Hell, don’t you know).

Want our government to make voting easier? Not going to happen. Want our government to enforce the gun laws on the books? Ain’t gonna happen. Want fewer wars? Ain’t gonna happen. (The Afghan War lasted twenty years with no discernable objective, either met or progress made toward. The objective was billions and billions of dollars of defense contracts.)

So, what is wrong?

Well, it would be nice if representatives of citizens were back in the driver’s seat, rather than corporatist representatives. And there are some things we can do to make that so. Right now the middle class is being ground under the heel of the corporatists, who like high unemployment as it keeps wages down and these same people have been transferring the tx burden of government off of their corporations and onto the general population. (The poor pay few taxes, and the rich are avoiding taxes, so guess who pays the bulk of the taxes?) It seems everyone is okay with the pay-as-you-go culture we have created, but collectively there are really only two ways you can fairly support such a system. Either every citizen is given minimally adequate shelter, food, utilities, healthcare, etc. as a right of citizenship (and then anything else needs to be worked for) or every job has to pay what is called a living wage, enough to pay for those things mentioned previously. If the minimum wage of the 1960’s had be adjusted for worker productivity since then it would be near $22-24 per hour which is near a living wage (what constitutes a living wage depends on local conditions, urban New York City and rural Oklahoma have different costs of living, for example).

Both of these structures address the current failure of our systems, the loss of anyone, anyone at all, representing the common good. Everyone now represents the interests of some group, but no one represents the interests of us all, usually referred to as the “common good.”

The idea of the common good, like the ideas of unearned income and many more terms, have been driven our of our discourse by the corporatists who are just looking to advantage themselves above everyone else. As a military example, think of a battlefield general who doesn’t make sure that his troops are well-fed, well-rested, and well-motivated. If all that general is interested in is promotions, those may happen by sucking up to those higher up the ladder, but if you want to win battles, troops need to be fed, trained, supplied with weapons and ammunition, etc. For the common good of that general’s army, the people “at the bottom of the influence range” must be taken care of by those at the top,

Currently the corporatists at the top do not give a rats ass about those at the bottom. These are seen as the great unwashed. Their pet economists see worker education and support as a cost undermining profits, rather than an investment in future capacity. Workers are things to be sold off, turned into robots, gotten rid off as soon as possible. Corporations do not see themselves as a functioning segment of society, providing good jobs and benefits to citizens in exchange for their productivity which allows the corporation to prosper. And by providing those jobs, they are doing what they should. Instead the corporations have been turned over to management types who have been sold the bogus idea that the corp’s only obligation is to the shareholders, not to their community, or society at large, nope, nada, zip, zilch.

This did not happen by accident. Corporations used to have goals of being a contributing member of their communities and society as a whole, recognized workers as stakeholders in the corporation, etc. A few corporations still do, but for each of those, there are dozens that only do such “do-gooder” things as PR ploys to maintain a good image.

And, not being able to get the last word in my own post . . .

From nakedcapitalism.com (10-15-21)

“ . . . Taken together with mass resignations, such worker strikes reveal a deep dissatisfaction with the nature of American work that has been decades in the making. Corporate America has enjoyed a stranglehold over policy, spending its profits on lobbying the government to ensure even greater profits at the expense of workers’ rights. At the same time, the power of unions has fallen—a trend directly linked to increased economic inequality.

But now, as workers are flexing their power, corporate America is worried.

In the wake of these strikes and resignations, lawmakers are actively trying to strengthen existing federal labor laws. Business groups are lobbying Democrats to weaken pro-labor measures included in the Build Back Better Act that is being debated in Congress.

Currently, corporate employers can violate labor laws with little consequence as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) lacks the authority to fine offenders. But Democrats want to give the NLRB the authority to impose fines of $50,000 to $100,000 against companies who violate federal labor laws. Also included in the Build Back Better Act is an increase in fines against employers that violate Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

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.

August 29, 2021

Learning from Others

I just learned that little Costa Rica has handled the COVID-19 pandemic very much better than we have here in the U.S. How is this? Costa Rica made a commitment to public health and through various initiatives has created the situation that Costa Ricans have a longer life expectancy that do Americans.

Costa Rica also had the uncommon sense to add a fourth branch of government to the one they modeled after ours. This branch, which is non-partisan, runs all of the elections. They schedule debates, set the rules, etc. No gerrymandering in Costa Rica.

But we don’t learn from good example or bad examples, because they are from other countries (Others, shoot them, shoot!) and they are trumped by American Exceptionalism. (We’re #1, we’re #1!)

We are also being dumb and lame when it comes to public policy. That is not by accident. Those who have gotten fat off of the current system do not want any competition, nor do they want any opposition, so more liberal voting laws? Nah. More sensible public health policies? No way! Honest elections! No chance, it will put too many party employees out of work.

August 24, 2021

Can You Spell Pandering Boys and Girls?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 12:25 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.)

August 22, 2021

Make Earth Sacred Again

Note—It is Sunday Sermon Time again, boys and girls! S

The title above is a proposed solution to greedy capitalists processing everything we need to live into profits. The Medium.com post was “Make Earth Sacred Again” with the subtitle “Reverence for Nature could stop Big Money’s destroying the world.” (Note I wish these people would stop saying “destroying the world/planet.” It is us they are destroying, not the world. The world will still be spinning on this same path long after humans are all dead.)

I have to assume that some sort of Native American religion is going to be involved in such an effort, because the dominant religions in the U.S. today don’t seem to possess this attribute.

Devout Christians often do say foolish things like this, “the Earth is sacred; we have the stewardship of the entire planet on our shoulders” and, my favorite “life is sacred.” (No, it is not.)

First “life is sacred.” Really? Says who? Certainly not the God of the Bible, responsible for killing millions upon millions of humans and at one point 99.99999+% of the plants and animals in the entire world.

To show you how far we have come from our hunter-gatherer roots as a family or at most a small tribe (<100 humans), consider this: is your life sacred? Sure. How about your spouse and children, your immediate family? Yeah, right on! How about your neighbors on your block? Well, kind of, I guess. How about all God-fearing Americans? Yeah, damned straight. How about Canadians? Well, I guess? How about Mexicans? Hell, no! The Taliban? The Chinese?

Basically, the farther a person gets from being a part of your family, by being adopted or born into, the less sacred their lives seem, no? So, since our hunting and gathering phases, we have changed not at all in this, other than in the capacity to know that other people exist quite a few kilometers away (and farther away). They are still “others” and are categorized as such, and they are not on the same level as you and your family. Moving back to the “Make Nature Sacred Again” bit . . . was it ever sacred? Certainly not to any of the imported Americans. One could argue that many native Americans had a concept like this but that also might just be a way of expressing what they knew to be pragmatic: take care of your environment and it will take care of you.

In my native state of California, archeologists dug up immense mounds of mollusk shells near the S.F. Bay. What they finally concluded was that a tribe of Native Californians would move to the area and eat everything in sight and then would move to another location to do the same there. While they were gone, the oyster beds and mussel beds recovered so that when they came back years later they could do it all over again, and being pragmatic, they always discarded the shells in the same place, which grew to the size of small hills. Not exactly careful husbanding of nature, but not totally destructive, either.

In the New England states, the Native New Englanders were careful to husband their crops. They would burn off the weeds and shrubs in controlled burns which encouraged grass and trees to grow and deer and other game to congregate to eat their produce. The Native Americans and the deer and whatnot ate a lot of mast, nuts from the trees, and whatever grew in the layer at the base of the tree (mushrooms, etc.). By being careful, they could make it through even a harsh winter, by losing a few pounds before things harvestable started to grow again and deer and other game came looking for the grasses and mast they could gorge upon in their hunting grounds.

Then came the “new” Englanders. Told that the streets were “paved with gold,” usually in the form of being able to hunt deer and moose out your back door, and harvest nuts and wild fruits a short walk away, more than a few “Christians” set up lodgings there. They didn’t do controlled burns and objected when the natives did. They over hunted, over fished, and over harvested and, within just a year or two, the entire regional system collapsed.

And the reason they did this is they believed their fucking God “would provide.”

The Native Americans new that the land was to be taken care of if they wanted it to take care of them. They thanked their prey when they shot a deer and used every tiny bit of it to honor the sacrifice of that animal. The Anglos, on the other hand, slaughtered millions of bison to provide lap robes for rich English people.

This solution to our existential problem will not work because the concept of sacred doesn’t exist in the American mind, especially the Christian mind. And there is no vehicle, that is no religion, that enough people subscribe to that can implement that concept. And, even if there were, the fucking greedy capitalists would allow it free rein, as it would hurt their bottom lines. They would mobilize the Evangelicals against the “pagan religions” that could save our asses and that, would be the end of that.

Whatever happened to the inventive capitalists who looked to the future and anticipating change, embraced it to make new profits. Today’s capitalists have no creativity, no imagination, and are sitting where they are like the buggy whip manufacturers when automobiles began to take over, wringing their hands and using their fortunes to prevent anything from changing. They, like the buggy whip makers before them, will have no luck in those endeavors. The future belongs to the prepared.

August 21, 2021

What “Today’s Conservatives” Really Want

I am not at all sure that conservatives still exist, certainly not the conservatives of my youth, but the label is still bandied about, so I will work with it. What do “today’s conservatives” really want?

Recently someone said that conservative Americans want to have decent lives. They want to work, worship, raise a family, and participate in public affairs without being treated as insolent upstarts in their own country. Gosh, might these new conservatives have something in common with today’s liberals and progressives? Gee, I wonder what it could be?

Often as not the 1950’s are mentioned wistfully as such an age.

In the 1950’s, again often as not, the nuclear family (no, not that nuclear) had a male “head-of-household” as breadwinner, a stay at home mom, and wholesome kids who walked or bicycled to a decent school.  I say “decent school” because back then we didn’t know there were “good schools” and “bad schools” to choose from. You went to the same schools your siblings, and often your parents, did.

So, what went wrong?

You can lay in the lap of then conservatives most of the wheels coming off of this blissful state: Ronald Regan presided over a huge shift in stay-at-home moms to the workplace. Women went to work in droves in the 70’s and 80’s because one income didn’t hack it anymore. But, how come? Why were incomes no longer sufficient to raise a family on just one? Over the last 50 years. American worker productivity has gone up and up and up, but wages barely at all. Why was that? It is called “wage suppression,” boys and girls, a conservative effort that paid big dividends for the rich. So, “conservatives” suppressed wages, making many, many women have to seek jobs to maintain a decent standard of living for their family and could, therefore, no longer be at home raising the kids. (Remember the “latch key kid” issue?)

Another feature of the 1950’s was the explosive growth of the suburbs. If you do not remember “sub-urbs” were areas outside of the urban areas we tended to live in. In the urban areas, we didn’t get to always choose our neighbors, but in the suburbs, all the white folk got to tell the black folk that “their kind weren’t wanted around here,” and the federal government helped! (Remember redlining in real estate and bank loans for housing?)

Today’s conservatives are aligned against the Democratic Party because the Democrats want to give away honest taxpayer’s money to undeserving people, people of color! Of course, if you add up all of the money spent to try to lift people of color out of poverty, it is a pittance when compared to the money dished out to white rich folks. And it is still a hallmark of “conservative” federal administrations. Consider the recent Trump Tax Cuts: in 2018, the average tax cut for the richest 1 percent was $51,000 and the average tax cut for the bottom 80 percent to be about $800. Of the total loss of tax revenue to the federal government in the first year, the bottom 90% of taxpayers, including you and me, got 6 billion dollars. The top 10% got 34 billion dollars, with the bulk of that going to the top 1%.

The money “given away to the “undeserving” (code for colored folks) is a pittance compared to the money given away to ordinary white Americans, which is a tiny fraction of the money given to rich people and major corporations (run by rich white people). (Which segment of the American populace has benefit from Social Security? Answer: OWLs, old white ladies. Black folk don’t live long enough to really cash in on SS.)

Those conservatives used a racist smokescreen to cover up the nature of their real aims, to make sure the rich got served first . . . and more than anyone else.

This is not to say that the liberals and progressives are much better. They are better but are also serving the rich first. As far as the rich are concerned, a good politicians is one who stays bought.

So, if you haven’t noticed, this is a racist country. Back in the 1950’s if you watched TV, you didn’t see people of color. The Kramdens didn’t have any black or brown neighbors. Neither did the Nelsons, or the other families shown on TV. The Ricardo’s got away with Desi being Cuban, but that was okay because he was an entertainer and we allowed “coloreds” to entertain us. But they didn’t have any black neighbors or co-workers, either.

This is the 1950’s that many of “today’s conservatives” pine for. None of those “dangerous people” in our neighborhoods. (If you didn’t notice, an extensive media campaign was waged to paint black people as violent and dangerous, especially young black males, so they could be locked up out of sight. If you weren’t aware of that look up the “New Jim Crow.” Oh, and many of the prisons full of young black men were privatized, so rich white people could profit from the scheme.

Let’s see . . . part of the wage suppression efforts was the defanging of labor unions, labor unions which were racist but making progress a little faster than the general public, so that was a “two-fer.” The decline of unions (again, people, not an accident or based upon anything they did) decreased worker power, so wages and working conditions, but not profits, suffered.

So, what do we see in the news today that reflects this? We see people acting out from their powerlessness. Their jobs are insufficient to support the American Dream anymore. (Remember the American Dream: a house, with a white picket fence in a good neighborhood with good schools . . . and white neighbors?) Ordinary American’s credit cards are maxed out trying to stay afloat. When I was young, ordinary people couldn’t get a credit card, they just weren’t available. Today, credit card debt, along with student loan debt (student loans when I went to school had little to no interest) are heavy balls chained to the ankles of everyone of us. We cannot afford to get out of line because we could be ruined financially, so no protesting for a union for us.

We see people proclaiming bizarre beliefs, expressing their powerlessness. They are basically saying “See, I can believe nonsense and you can’t stop me,” so “You can’t make me toe the line on masks and social distancing” is part of a general pattern. Jewish Space Lasers, fire them up! Vaccine micro-chips, yep, they are in there! Hillary Clinton’s child porn ring in the basement of a pizza parlor? Sounds reasonable to me! Overturn the electron results because Donald Trump didn’t like them? Sure, it is only right.

Modern conservatives are in real pain, fomented by faux conservatives. The people behind all of the changes bemoaned by conservative Americans today are the “conservatives,” who are not real conservatives as the only thing they are trying to conserve is their bottom line. They are super-rich wolves in conservative sheep’s clothing.

If you don’t believe this, ask yourself this: if an ordinary American were shown a night of Tucker Carlson and the rest of the Fox News goons, what do you think their reaction would be? They would be flabbergasted. They would blubber “But they are making stuff up, and lying. They can’t do that on the public airways!” (Remember the public airways and standards for news reporting? Done away with by conservatives.)

As I have mentioned before: I didn’t start the class war, the “conservatives” did. And now that they have won, they will work like beavers to keep it this way.

How to you like the world our “conservatives” created for us? This is their vision of the American Dream: profits over people, no opponents to their will in sight, ah . . . reminds me of the 1950’s . . . not.

August 9, 2021

Did Jesus Know the Commandments?

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:38 am
Tags: , , , ,

What we know about Jesus is attributable only to the gospels as nothing much is said elsewhere; In the earliest gospel, Jesus is asked “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His response was: “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” (from Mark 10, emphasis mine)

Wha? “You shall not defraud”? To defraud someone is to illegally obtain money from them by deception. At first I decided the problem might be one of translation, so I checked all of my go to Bibles at Biblegateway.com and, lo and behold they had defraud there and not the “normal” eighth commandment “Thou shalt not steal.”

But the Catholic Church has an answer: “The seventh and tenth commandments focus on respecting and honoring the possessions of others. This commandment forbids the act of taking someone else’s property. The Catholic Church believes that this commandment also denounces cheating people of their money or property, depriving workers of their just wage, or not giving employers a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Embezzlement, fraud, tax evasion, and vandalism are all considered extensions of violations of the Seventh Commandment.”

It seems that being a Catholic and a Republican are mutually exclusive.

In any case, why did Jesus use the word “defraud” instead of steal? He was usually out in the hinterlands and wasn’t talking to a big city audience, but this was a big city audience. Did he tailor his message to his audience, because surely a simple theft was a much easier thing to pull off than defrauding someone. I would think simple thefts were far more common than cases of fraud.

I also tend to think that the Catholic Church arrived at its interpretation of “thou shalt not steal” at least partly because of Mark 10 and not other sources. And, it does seem to be the case that Republican party donors are all in on wage theft, vote suppression, and tax evasion for sure, so why isn’t the Catholic Church taking them to task? Oh, you say those same donors are big donors to the Church, too. Ah, that probably explains it.

 

July 21, 2021

I Knew We Would Get to This Point

“And remember, if you don’t overthrow your elites, they will kill you or make your life unbearable. It’s you or them, and so far, it’s you.”

Ian Welsh has taken off the kid gloves. You might want to read his latest post, but be warned it is depressing. I include a couple more excerpts.

The Decision to Let Covid Go Chronic

“Life is wonderful. Modern neoliberal capitalism is the most amazing economic system ever created — one so finely engineered by two generations of intellectuals, bureaucrats, and politicians that it turns even a plague into a massive profit event for the rich.

“And, really, as anyone who isn’t rich is obviously a worthless loser who doesn’t add value to society, because money obviously accurately measures value, this is as it should be.”

July 13, 2021

Paul Krugman Accidently Stumbles Upon Truth

In a blog post addressing, in part, anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, Professor Krugman pointed out our long history of being suspicious that something was going on behind the scenes.

“. . . there has always been a streak in our political psychology that sees elite institutions, from government to education, as secret fronts for a vast global conspiracy.”

Yes, and your point is?

That we are conspiracy-minded or that the elites are always working in the background to shape the world to their benefit and to screw the rest of us?

Take, for example, Professor Krugman’s field, economics. A 2014 survey showed that the political interests of the people had zero chance of being addressed by Congress. Even if we got in line behind the wealthy, the line would be so long that the term would expire before we reached the front. So, the current U.S. economy is set up so that people of wealth can get very much wealthier (e.g. Trump Tax Cuts) but ordinary people struggle in poorly paying jobs with few fringe benefits.

And, oh, climate change? This is a serious concern of a majority of Americans. So, look at this graph and indicate where it shows how our political actions bent the curve in our favor.

What, you see no bending of the curve in our favor (downward)? Hmm, I wonder why that is? All of our governmental efforts to curb climate change have failed? What, you say there have actually been no governmental efforst to curb climate change? Hmm, could it be that the wealthy have been protecting their interests in becoming even more filthy rich and the rest of us can go fuck ourselves?

Yes, I think people think there is something going on behind the scenes. The people are spot on. I just wish they wouldn’t make up bullshit things like Jewish Space Lasers because what is really happening is so fucking obvious.

June 25, 2021

U.S. Billionaires Don’t Pay Taxes

I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you!

Recently a federal government official leaked the fact that over the past decade, U.S. billionaires effectively paid no federal tax. The response from the government was swift: a veritable thunderstorm of condemnation . . . of the leaker, with threats of FBI investigations into the leak, jail sentences, etc. Condemnation of the billionaires for “rigging the system?” Not so much.

Was there any difference between the Republican and Democratic Party’s reactions? A slight difference in style, maybe, but in content no. Gee, I wonder why that is?

Both political parties have been captured by the “rich donors” who fill party coffers. Since these “donors” are in the cadre of wealthy assholes paying few to no taxes, is this situation surprising to you?

Just another sign that the elites, the wealthy and powerful elites, are on their side of a line and the rest of us are on the other. And they are defending their privileges tooth and nail.

When the whistleblower law was enacted, it was framed as a protection for government officials and corporate officials who “leak” information that the public needs to know.

Isn’t this something we need to know? That the recent Republican tax cuts reduced already small tax burdens on the very rich down to no tax burden at all? And, guess who is going to make up for the lost revenue? (And you don’t get three guesses!)

I wonder how these rich assholes can complain about U.S. tax policy when they are paying no federal taxes at all. Chutzpah personified.

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