Class Warfare Blog

April 6, 2019

Are We Violating the First Amendment?

The first amendment to the Constitution begins with the words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …” and then changes the subject. This “law” has been declared to apply also to state governments.

Currently, the IRS and state taxing authorities generally exempt churches from paying taxes. As a consequence, I must pay more in taxes to make up that shortfall. Therefore, I am being forced by the government to support those churches (even Scientology!). This seems like a violation of the spirit of the First Amendment at the very least and the letter of Constitutional law at the most.

I know some will object and say that churches are charitable organizations and qualify for tax-exempt status thereby. A study I read indicated that just a few percent of most churches incomes (<5%) goes to charity (most going to costs such as utilities, employee salaries, etc.), so that doesn’t hold water. Others claim that churches are non-profits and that doesn’t hold water, either. How is a church, an institution that gives out advice (some for fee, some pro bono) any different from a tax accountant or financial advisor? Granted they may not make much profit to be taxed but they could not sustain continuing losses, so they must make some profit, and some of the large property owning churches make scads of money. And taxes on profits are not the only taxes. Dentists are taxed upon their dental chairs and offices if they own them (property taxes). Financial advisors are taxed likewise. Churches? Not so much.

(And don’t get me started on prosperity churches and their jet plane owning pastors.)


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.

July 27, 2018

The Problem with Bases

No this is not about baseball. It is about our two main political parties and their “bases.”

The Republicans have sold their souls to the Religious Right, neoliberals, and reactionaries of the fringe of the right wing of American politics to get and stay elected, no matter the damage done. They haven’t dumped the rich as a core base element for who else would they serve? The Democrats have dumped their historic base of labor (working class people), minorities, and the less wealthy for the professional class, only to find out there aren’t enough of those to win them elections.

When I was young (I first showed an interest in politics when Eisenhower was president.) Republicans were stabilizers. They supported the institutions that kept out society stable (in their HO, of course). They supported the schools, the police, the military, the government (Right or Wrong!), the church, law and the courts, and so on. The complained when political or judicial opinions went the other way, but they didn’t threaten to take their ball and go home.

When I was young, the Democrats stood for fairness, helping the poor, balanced taxation, labor unions, and they were far from anti-war (both Kennedy and Johnson expanded the Vietnam War tremendously on specious grounds at best).

Neither party was worth a damn when it came to international relations. There was a small fringe who complained loudly about foreign aid, which has always been a spit in the bucket financially. (Somewhere along the line instead of giving technical aid and money to other countries, we now give them discounts on buy the weapons of war. Apparently as far as the U.S. goes peace and freedom don’t go together.)

Politically there was as much corruption then as is the standard now, but the stakes were smaller as were the amounts grafted by our politicians. But each party had some principled actors who kept the others in line. Often the “line” was racist or sexist, but there were lines and you could, as ordinary citizens, see them and attack them or try to move them.

Now, what I see is cowardice and incompetence (to he left of me, to the right of me, …) in our political bodies. Leadership? Not to be found? Intelligence? So little that the political class cannot evaluate whether their intelligence experts are to be trusted. Political astuteness? I can’t even find a politician who can define it. Deft policy drafters? Give me a break.

If we were to have a parliamentary system as has been suggested, these two parties would dwindle away to nothing and newer, more robust, more coherent parties would take their places. But as I have posted before, our political system is rigged. As much as the Founders feared political parties, they created a system that allowed two of those parties to hijack the system. (Our winner take all elections doom us to having just two dominant parties.) And, it is clear that the Founders feared true democracy, so they structured the Constitution against that.

I am absolutely gob smacked that the “press” still posts articles addressing the public will. They tell us, for example, that the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision has never been so popular. So? Since when has public opinion been a determining factor in anything governmental? Large majorities of citizens want background checks for all firearms sales; does that matter? A large majority of people want corporations to pay more in taxes; does that matter? If you are poor or middle class you have zero chance of affecting legislation. If you are rich and a campaign donor, then you have some chance. If you are a rich corporate lobbyist and have donated large sums, then you have not only a chance to affect the outcome, you may be invited in to help write (or write completely) the text of the bill.

If the Republican Party of my youth or the Democratic Party of my youth were still in existence, I could vote for the kinds of candidates either party proffered. As they are now, I cannot vote for either party as they both are embarrassments and anti-democratic and need to go.

July 25, 2018

Why Are We Still Discussing Contraception? (Hint: Religion)

Contraception has still been around for a very long time, and yet we are still debating the topic and are passing laws regulating it. Of course the reason for this is religion.

In the Muslim world, they are still in a phase in which, as a religion, they are trying to out populate the other religions it competes with. This was a phase for Christianity, too, a phase we haven’t entirely left.

Now, realize that if the radical religionists get their way, they will use state power to regulate contraception, as well as other sex-related topics and, I suspect there are reasons to believe you will not like it. As just an example of what to expect, should the most recent Antonin Scalia clone gets hoisted to the US Supreme Court, Louisiana has already passed a law that takes effect when Roe v. Wade is overturned in the SCOTUS. That law makes abortion a crime, sending everyone involved to jail with large fines attached, e.g. if a daughter is raped and her mother or father helps her get an abortion, the parent, the child, and the doctor are all heading for the slammer.

You may have noticed that states like Louisiana have coerced abortion clinics out of existence in their states, making the operation almost unavailable if you are poor and can’t travel out of state already. (As an aside, I wonder if the promoters of these laws have compared the birth rates of their state’s populations. The “white” birth rate is the lowest, hence they are speeding along the path to becoming a “white-minority” state.

Okay, back to the original topic. where did these anti-contraception ideas come from? The answer, of course, is Christianity (in the U.S.). So where did the Christians get their ideas? well, it wasn’t from scripture. Their scripture states that a baby becomes a “person” when they inhale the breath of life just after they are born. This hasn’t stopped the Christians from trying to pass a bogus law declaring the baby is a person at conception. (Once the pregnancy test shows blue, register the child for a Social Security number and claim then as a dependent on your tax returns. With the savings, go to another state for an abortion and you will have a “State funded abortion” whether they want it or not. Just sayin’.)

I have been paying more attention to church history of late and that history clearly shows the evolution of the churches stance toward sex and contraception. These ideas, not to be found in scripture, were created by Church Fathers like Paul and Augustine and, well, the usual crowd. Most of these people make clear that they believed that the most desirable state for Christians was celibacy. Augustine’s battles over his sexual nature make an interesting study of self-inflicted psychological wounds.

These people were, of course, unmarried for which fact they made self-serving excuses. Imagine these “holy men,” not at all likely to be much fun. They are overly serious, overly religious, and obsessed … not exactly marriage material. If they ever did have sex, each occurrence was probably the equivalent of a teenaged boy’s first sexual experience, that is to say explosive and overwhelming. They never got to the stage where sex with a committed partner becomes a gentle, affirmation of their relationship. So, they equated sex with lust, a cardinal sin. So, they started making rules about a subject they knew almost nothing about and which they mischaracterized from the beginning. At least the Quakers had the grace to die out, but the early Christians were playing the political dominance game, where the church with the most followers “wins,” just as Muslims are doing now.

The rather stern Protestant inheritors of these positions have accepted them, even though they are based in Catholic theology, and run with the ball. This is hardly surprising as the conservative Protestants are responsible for the Catholic majority on the Supreme Court. (Shush, don’t tell anyone, you’ll let the cat out of the bag.)

How we continue to let celibate clergymen dictate to us is beyond me. But then the church is hardly democratic. The only appeals they make to democracy is asking to be let to vote upon whether the U.S. should be declared a Christian nation.

This ridiculous demand can be quashed by a simple ballot. The first question is: “Should the U.S. be declared a Christian Nation (yes or no)? The second question is “Which denomination (Mormon, Scientologist, Catholic, Baptist, Southern Baptist, Charismatic, Quaker, Episcopalian, Seventh Day Adventist, and 10,000 more)? (check one).

The whole idea of the separation of church and state is to keep items of religion off of the ballot! The evangelical churches around the time of the adoption of the Constitution knew this as they were in a small minority at the time and would have been voted into obscurity. Better a level playing field for all than to give the currently popular churches the state power to collect tithes, etc.  Now that they are ascendant in conservative political circles, now they want to vote.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

If you want to see how states with endorsed religions behave, just look at history. It isn’t pretty. Why would they want this? I guess it is because they are still following tradition … traditions that were invented by lustful celibates thousands of years ago.

And, as I have been saying over and over: a religion will not continue to exist unless it coerces the labor of the masses to the benefit of the secular and religious elites. In the realm of sex, those being coerced are women. Rules made by men who did not and do not understand women or sex are still being used to control women. Women are to be “used” as vessels for men’s seed, and as caregivers to children, and then as a support system for their girl children’s children. That’s it. Oh, and clean the house and cook dinner and don’t forget to pick up my dry cleaning.


Oh, and they are winning right now. If they break down the wall between church and state, get ready for religious wars.

July 21, 2018

Things to Consider When Selecting Another Supreme Court Justice

This is not yet another post about who should be selected or how, but some background on how the SCOTUS fits into our system of government.

In a quite brilliant post [Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton by Paul Street (July 13, 2018)] at the author points out quite clearly that the Constitutional Authors were more than fearful of popular democracy, that they felt the “natural” leaders were people like themselves, wealthy landowners who had the time and education and sensibilities (Sniff!) to lead well.

Here are a few telling quotes:

At the Constitutional Convention, Madison backed an upper U.S. legislative assembly (the Senate) of elite property holders meant to check a coming “increase of population” certain to “increase the proportion of those who will labour under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings” [emphasis added]. “These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former.”

In Federalist No. 35, the future first U.S. secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, argued that the common people found their proper political representatives among the small class of wealthy merchant capitalists. “The idea of an actual representation of all classes of people by persons of each class,” Hamilton wrote, “is altogether visionary.” The “weight and superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal” than the “other classes,” Hamilton proclaimed.

Mr. Street goes on to say this:

Checkmating Popular Sovereignty
The New England clergyman Jeremy Belknap captured the fundamental idea behind the U.S. Founders’ curious notion of what they liked to call “popular government.” “Let it stand as a principle,” Belknap wrote to an associate in the late 1780s, “that government originates from the people, but let the people be taught…that they are unable to govern themselves.”

It wasn’t just about teaching “the people” that they were incapable of self-rule, however. The Constitution was designed to make sure the popularity majority couldn’t govern itself even if it thought it could. The rich white fathers crafted a form of “popular government” (their deceptive term) that was a monument to popular incapacitation.

The U.S. Constitution divided the federal government into three parts, with just one-half of one of those three parts (the House of Representatives) elected directly by “the people”—a category that excluded blacks, women, Native Americans and property-less white males (that is, most people in the early republic). It set up elaborate checks and balances to prevent the possibility of the laboring multitude influencing policy. It introduced a system of intermittent, curiously time-staggered elections (two years for the House, six years for the Senate, and four years for the presidency) precisely to discourage sweeping popular electoral rebellions It created a Supreme Court appointed for life (by the president with confirmation power restricted to the Senate) with veto power over legislation or executive actions that might too strongly bear the imprint of the “secretly sigh[ing]” multitude.

It sanctified the epic “un-freedom” and “anti-democracy” of black slavery, permitting slave states to count their disenfranchised chattel toward their congressional apportionment in the House of Representatives.

The Constitution’s curious Electoral College provision guaranteed that the popular majority would not directly select the U.S. president—even on the limited basis of one vote for each propertied white male. It is still in effect.

U.S. Americans did not directly vote for U.S. senators for the first 125 years of the federal government.  The Constitution said that senators were to be elected by state legislatures, something that was changed only by the Seventeen Amendment in 1913.

It is true that the Constitution’s Article V provided a mechanism technically permitting “We the People” to alter the nation’s charter. But the process for seriously amending the U.S. Constitution was and remains exceedingly difficult, short of revolution and/or civil war.

I know this is a lot to absorb, so I recommend you read the entire article. I will add a couple of comments.

Regarding the quotation from New England clergyman Jeremy Belknap “Let it stand as a principle,’ Belknap wrote to an associate in the late 1780s, ‘that government originates from the people, but let the people be taught…that they are unable to govern themselves (my emphasis).’” I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that a clergyman would oppose people thinking and acting for themselves! Realize that in the New Testament, the only descriptions of how Christians practiced their religion were very democratic. There were no clergy per se, unless you think wandering guides such as “Paul,” qualified. Congregations of Christians met in homes and “shared” with one another with no middlemen involved. But if there are no middlemen, there is no power structure and the early days of Christianity (first three-four centuries) was all about creating a power structure … by those wanting the power.

So, to hear that some clergy, although I suspect close to all clergy, believed that people could not rule themselves is hardly a revelation. In their religion, the people could not govern themselves, they needed “guidance,” otherwise they might believe the wrong things (“wrong” as determined by those in power).

Regarding “The Constitution was designed to make sure the popularity majority couldn’t govern itself even if it thought it could.” This is a stunning revelation to me. I knew quite a bit of this background and the attitudes of the “Founding Fathers,” but I had not had this point made so clearly and forcibly before.

Regarding “The Constitution’s curious Electoral College provision guaranteed that the popular majority would not directly select the U.S. President.” Isn’t it curious that the Electoral College was the instrument that got a populist President elected in 2016. The “best laid plans of mice and men,” indeed!

Oh, and on which side of this argument do you think Judge Kavanaugh is on?



December 15, 2017

God is No Democrat

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:07 am
Tags: , , , , ,

There is a bit of word play in the title of this post, but the core meaning is clear. There is no place for democracy in the Bible. Adam Nicolson says in his book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, “The condition in Eden had been one of obedience; a steeply raked social structure was ordained by God; and so crawling to the great could be holy in England too.”

This is not just a remnant of the Old Testament replaced by the New Testament by Christians. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans says quite straightforwardly: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.” It is obedience all the way down. (If it were not, would Rome have made Christianity its state religion?)

There is no greater authoritarian than God himself. His will be done. Obey or suffer. There is no place for “one man, one vote.” Men do not get a vote, they get judged.

So, why do I bring this up now? There is talk about declaring this nation a “Christian Nation” and claims that “it always has been.” Evangelical Christians came within an eyelash of getting a completely reprehensible Republican elected Senator from Alabama. They did manage, again by another eyelash, to get a completely reprehensible Republican elected President of the United States. But Christianity and Democracy do not mix. Something has to give, and right now it is democracy that is giving. Our current federal administration wants to do away with the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious leaders from politicking from their pulpits. This sounds innocuous enough, but it violates a basic political principle, namely that political money is money that is subject to taxation. If religious organizations are allowed to politic and are exempt from taxation, what do you think is going to happen? (Why the religious cannot see the potential corruption of their churches is completely beyond me.)

Christianity is authoritarian by its very nature. The Grand American Experiment in Democracy eschews authority by requiring the rule of law (the law being the authority, not the law enforcer), by electing rather than appointing its leaders, and eschewing the inheritance of any office, and myriad other ways, of course. But what happens when the lawmakers are captured by Christian authoritarians?

God is surely no democrat, nor should He be a Republican or Democrat. The question now is “Are Republicans democrats?”


November 21, 2017

Interpreting History

I am reading Sapiens by Yuval Harari which is beautifully written and infuriating as well. A book written on the entire history of humanity (Homo sapiens any way) has to cover myriad topics so some mistakes will be made and I tend to overlook these. But recently Mr. Harari decided to translate a statement from the Declaration of Independence into “science.” So, here are the text:
We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
and his scientifically sound “translation:”
We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men evolved differently, that they are born with certain mutable characteristics, and that among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Mr. Harari applies evolutionary biology … that had not been invented at the writing of the Declaration and a bunch of other nonsense in doing this, to no good end.

The purpose of the original statement is to run counter to all previous governments on the entire planet. People everywhere were born into classes or castes that they were doomed to be confined in (even slavery). The Code of Hammurabi, the first written legal code, includes penalties for transgressions based upon the various classes which were thought to be absolutely necessary of the stability of their society. They did not have the right to pursue their own life, their own happiness, their own liberty. The declaration is a claim for such a right for all citizens of the United States.

As to “all men are created equal,” the biological analysis focussing on individual gifts is just plain stupid. My “analysis” of this is a simple claim that we are all born completely dependent upon others for our survival. A newborn cannot defend itself, feed itself, clothe itself, or clean itself. We are all equal in this. Every man Jack.

Mr. Harari goes on to argue that we are not created, but have evolved. I beg to differ. We are all created through the actions of our parents. Different actions, different people, or no person at all. The reference to the “creator” (I have left out the 18th century capitalizations) is a sop to the religious (and also a cynical appeal to the goodness of “the creator”).

We now know that what happens next after we are born can determine a great deal about any child’s future, including the manifestation of any biological “gifts” supplied by its parents. We now know that poverty has implications for infants that affect how large an adult they will be and what their mental abilities will be, for example. So, the rich always have a leg up in that they can care for a child much better than the poor can. We will never know how many geniuses were born into slavery and never made a mark on the world. Since 90+ of civilized humans were in some sort of state of slavery over all time, that cannot be a small number.

The Declaration’s claim is not that all people have equivalent mental and physical gifts. (Remember that Thomas Jefferson wrote this!) If they meant that, they would have said that. What they were saying was that every newborn should have the opportunity to pursue the future (as much as circumstances allow) without the shackles of class or religion preventing that. And even so, they were still beholden to a slave culture, so their words, while inspiring, do not have a pure source.

December 22, 2016

The Final Tally is In And …

2016 Presidential Election Final Vote Tally

Hillary Clinton 65,844,610

Donald Trump 62,979,636

Others 7,804,213

Trump wins! Trump wins!

… WTF?

When we vote for, say, U.S. Senator, all of the votes in the state get counted, but not any from other states. It doesn’t matter which county or city your are in as long as you are a resident of the state. Ditto, for U.S. Representative: all votes within the district are counted. It doesn’t matter which county you are in or city.

So, explain to me why this is not so for the most important federal office of them all? Do not explain to me why the Electoral College at one time had merit, explain to me why it has merit now.

And, if you argue that the Electoral College has merit, should the concept not be applied to all federal offices?

November 7, 2016

Finally, Election Day

Now the next campaign can begin.

Seriously, I am wondering what the Republicans are going to do about the Supreme Court if Mrs. Clinton wins. If they rush to confirm President Obama’s nominee, who is quite a centrist, they will expose themselves for the political manipulators they are. Their reasoning for blocking confirmation of the current nominee for a record number of days was that the American people should have a say in this appointment through whom they elect as the new president; it should not be a “lame duck” appointment of President Obama.

If they stick with their faux narrative and wait to see who Mrs. Clinton will nominate, it might be a nominee even more progressive than Judge Merrick Garland, then they will have to trump up outrage that such a person would be nominated, when they have cast their lot on the wisdom of the American people to make a choice for president who would nominate justices for them.

Interesting boxes the Republicans seem to be fond of jamming themselves into. This is what happens when a political organization adopts a policy of “Logic, smogic, phht, who cares?”

July 18, 2016

Original Intent, My Ass

There are many in our society who feel the Constitution should only be interpreted with regard to the “original intent” of the Framers of the Constitution. Most notably the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the entire Southern Baptist Convention of the U.S. are of this ilk.

This choice of a “guide” is merely an exercise in blowing smoke into the eyes of the American public, by claiming a source of knowledge to which they are not privy. It is beyond us, so “move along now, nothing to see here.” Then those people can make up anything they choose to represent the actual intent of the Framers.

I have just started reading “Genius of the People: The Making of the Constitution” by Charles L. Mee Jr., who states in the prologue to his book regarding the various ways of interpreting who the Framers were and why they did what they did:

Even so, in the end, these schools of interpretation fail to convince in one common respect: they all tend to simplify the particularities in search of generalizations – and, in the process, miss the essence of what occurred at the convention. They all come down to a view that the framers of the constitution belonged more or less to one class, and they had more or less one common set of intentions – or one set of biases or goals or interests – and that their labors in the summer of 1787 can be seen as the careful codifying of that set of common intentions into a body of laws.

And yet, when one actually looks at the day-to-day debates during that hot, humid, insect-ridden summer in Philadelphia, such a view simply won’t hold up. Far from there being one set of intentions, there were as many intentions as there were framers. What one sees, in fact, is a group of men who, despite their common background and broad class interests, had myriad diverging appetites, ideals, and interests. They set about disputing with one another, wrangling, losing patience, lashing out, attacking one another, accusing one another of ignorance and inconsistency, or worse, of lack of principle and even of treasonous intent; erupting in anger or simply packing up and leaving town altogether, never to return; warning that certain provisions only could lead eventually to civil war or bring down upon the country some even more calamitous judgment of heaven. By the end of the convention, none of the delegates, not one, was entirely happy with the constitution they had written. Some refused entirely to sign the completed work, and those who did sign signed in varying degrees of reluctance, dismay, anguish, and disgust.”

The key sentence is the last one.

 “By the end of the convention, none of the delegates, not one, was entirely happy with the constitution they had written. Some refused entirely to sign the completed work, and those who did sign signed in varying degrees of reluctance, dismay, anguish, and disgust.”

The Framers had a message for us and a clear one. What they did, as opposed to what they wanted to do, was to compromise, compromise to the point that some thought they had failed, compromise to the point of quitting.

And what is it the advocates of “original intent” want least of all? What is it that conservatives think is treasonous?


The next time I heard someone claiming to being guided by “original intent,” I will reach for my wallet to make sure it is secure and sincerely request the speaker take his original intent and shove it up his ass.

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