Class Warfare Blog

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?”

 

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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?

Compromise.

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.

March 29, 2016

Religious Liberty Runs Amok

The latest code words for the religious wishing to be able to discriminate illegally is “religious liberty.” The Constitution guarantees all of us the right to practice our religion without government interference. Unfortunately, the religious are now trying to impose their “rights” onto the secular government and onto us.

Basically, owners of businesses are claiming the right to refuse service to anyone that would violate their religious beliefs. This can include the businesses own employees. In a case before the Supreme Court a number of businesses say that being required to provide contraception services as part of mandated government health care provisions violates their religious proscription against artificial birth control. This is in spite of the fact that a specific religious proscription of artificial birth control, 98.2% of Catholic women surveyed volunteered the fact that they used artificial birth control. What this means is these business are arguing that the government needs to help them to enforce a religious prescription that the Church itself cannot enforce and enforce it on their employees whether or not they are Catholics. Amazing!

I have a novel idea: if you can’t do business without violating the law, pick another business.

If you are an Ultraconservative Jew who can’t interact with women or be in close proximity to women, don’t open an lingerie shop. If you are a Mormon who cannot drink coffee, don’t buy into a Starbucks. If you are a Buddhist who is forbidden to eat meat, don’t buy a McDonalds franchise. Seems simple enough.

If you truly accept the tenants of your faith, accept the limitations and don’t force the rest of us to enforce your chosen limitations on others.

Basically, it comes down to the idea that religion should not be used as an excuse to refuse service to anyone via a legal commercial enterprise. If you decide to go into business, you are accepting the premise that our government (which equates to all of us collectively) sets the rules and if you cannot abide by those, do something else.

You have the personal freedom to exercise your religion as you see fit; you do not have the collective right to make us exercise it as you see fit.

March 19, 2016

John Locke Was a Socialist, Like Bernie Sanders!

While I have been researching a post on the claim that we were created as a Christian Nation (We were not; in fact the Constitution was a repudiation of all of the Christian States that had been formed, the details of which are a nightmare, but that is for later.), I ran across this quote of John Locke’s (in summary as those folks were even more wordy than I):

… that no man can have such a “Portion of the Things of this World” as to deprive “his needy Brother a Right to the Surplusage of his Goods…. As Justice gives every Man a Title to so much out of another’s Plenty, as will keep him from extream want where he has no means to subsist otherwise….”

For those of you who do not recognize the name, John Locke was the political theorist most influential on the Founding Fathers as well as many, many other politicians around the world. The quote above runs counter to American acquisitiveness/greed and hence the book it was taken from, after having been published in America in 1773, didn’t see another edition for 164 years.

Many now alive would not recognize the rights that were being discussed then. Property rights were not absolute as they are now. If one owned a large amount of land, but didn’t “improve” it by planting crops or orchards, etc. others had a right to go onto that land and use it. Others could go onto your land to collect firewood or to graze livestock, just not the parts you had “improved.” The “freedom of speech” was nothing like it is now, etc. I will write more on this later.

For now, Locke’s quote establishes him as a socialist to the left of Bernie Sanders which is not surprising as Senator Sanders isn’t much of a socialist. He is a democratic socialist which means all aspects of sharing the “Surplusage” require approval by a majority of the people’s representatives.

Locke would be appalled by the modern amounts of wealth subverted by the few. I say subverted, rather than accumulated, as Locke would have a man’s wealth determined by his own labor. The idea of the growth in a man’s wealth being determined by the amount of his wealth was an idea still in its infancy. Hereditary “lords” had been able to pull this off by basically enslaving large swaths of the population (as serfs) but they were a very, very small population and could be considered an aberration. Great wealth accumulated by others was even more rare. (Hereditary lords had a practice of picking off such wealthy commoners. They often encountered legal problems or, gasp, were accused of treason and, ‘poof,’ there went their fortunes.)

Locke would be likewise appalled at the plutocrats blaming the poor for their state (Lazy! Get a job! Start a business! Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Look in a mirror.)

So, the most significant political influence on the Founding Fathers was inclined to policies that “share the wealth,” now known as “redistribution of wealth.” He was in favor of governmental welfare (not just church-based charity). This opinion was based upon both the Bible and natural Law, two sources lauded by the plutocrats. I am surprised they haven’t banned his books.

February 24, 2016

Denmark? No, Costa Rica!

All the hoopla surrounding the current Presidential political contest may obscure the fact that our electoral system is run by the political parties themselves. These primaries aren’t a governmental function, they are run by Democratic Party officials, Republican Party officials, and officials of any other party which can show a modicum of performance in an election.

You may also have missed the fact that today’s political parties are mere shells of their past selves. Just look at the current leaders (Preibus and Schultz), both are lightweights. Really, the candidates are running the show now. If the “party” does something the candidates don’t like, it changes in the candidate’s favor. Even Donald Trump alone can change GOP election policy. He is currently turning their “pledge” to not run on a third party ticket or as a write-in candidate into a weapon he is using for more leverage against the party itself. The Democratic Party tried to grease the skids for Hillary Clinton by scheduling few debates at awkward times (advantage to the front runner), but when Bernie Saunders waged a credible campaign and drew blood, the campaigns got together and scheduled additional debates. Hello? Dems? No comment from the party.

Political parties have been defanged because they lost control of the political money. Until just recently, the parties could raise as much money and even more than the candidates did, so they had control over the purse strings. Now with the advent of PACs and Super PACs, the money is back in the control of the candidates (anybody who doesn’t think the candidates control, albeit loosely, the money in those “outside” organizations needs to get their political IQ tested) and the parties can go take a flying leap for all they care. All the party needs supply is an umbrella identification to run under, “I am a Democrat or I am a Republican,” and you don’t even have to be registered to vote as such, it is just a declaration.

So, I now bring you to Candidate Sanders reference that “We should look to countries like Denmark….” which drew so much flak. Denmark is worth emulating, but the country we should emulate is Costa Rica. When the Costa Ricans created their current governmental structure, they based it upon ours, which is flattering. And, they fixed one of the biggest flaws in our system by instituting a fourth branch of government. Their fourth branch, a nonpartisan branch, structures and administers elections. They schedule everything, including the debates and run them, then they organize and supervise the elections. So, you won’t hear anything about “hanging chads” from Costa Rica.

Imagine our elections being run by the League of Women Voters (disclaimer—former member). Imagine officials running for office in the fourth branch on their record of fairness and efficiency and how well they have held up democratic ideals. <sigh>

Instead we have asked all of the foxes to guard the hen house. How stupid can we be?

What the hell, I think we should emulate both Denmark and Costa Rica! Join or die!

February 17, 2016

But the Legal Bullshit Lives On

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away recently, but unfortunately the form of interpretation of the Constitution he invented did not die with him. Scalia formulated and promoted a view of the Constitution (“originalism”) such that it should be interpreted only as it was understood to mean when it was drafted 227 years ago. Notwithstanding the fact that the drafters of said document said over and over they wanted to have a living document. The framers even included a process by which the Constitution could be amended, and then went ahead and amended the thing ten times within the first couple of years of its existence.

To limit the Constitution to what it meant to the citizens of the time is bizarre. Consider if we interpreted theories of physics or medicine in such a way today. We would be talking about humours, vapors, and “bad air” along with spooky action at a distance and the ether. To have a politically guiding document locked into a time frame is counter to nature and all of reality. The only constant in our existence is change and the Constitution was planned to allow for it. It even created a national supreme court to interpret what it meant and did not limit that court to interpretations of what it meant to the founders. If that was what they wanted, don’t you think they would have said so?

Even Justice Scalia participated in the creation of “new constitutional rights,” something he said should not be possible without a formal amendment. Justice Scalia even re-interpreted 100 years of the high court’s rulings to create the right of individuals to bear arms (Heller). Basically he claimed all of those famous jurists of the past, along with the founders, didn’t mean what they said. To take the late justice’s opinion literally, women should still not be able to vote, Black people should still be in chains, corporations shouldn’t possess freedom of speech, and money shouldn’t be a form of free speech. That those are no longer the case is based upon our ability to change our Constitution’s meaning from what it meant when it was written.

May 27, 2014

The Tragedy of the Loss of the Common Good

The American Experiment in self-governance is being undermined. The attacks are subtle but observable as a shift of political focus from the collective good to individual rights. This trend in this country to “individualize” everything, is evident in gun rights and in higher education among other areas.

The framers of the Constitution stated their focus thusly: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The phrases “common defense” and “general welfare” and “our Posterity” were collectivist as was most of their focus in the rest of the Constitution. How could it be otherwise? We were establishing how we would govern ourselves without kings or other dictators.

Some of the framers went on to establish the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The awkward phrasing of this new article of the Constitution has given modern people no end of pause but not the legal system. For about 200 years, the courts interpreted this “right” as one that pertained to militias being employed to provide for the “common defense” and not as the right of an individual to possess firearms. This was written thus as the framers had no intention of having a standing army as that was, in their opinion, the first step toward tyranny. No, individual citizens must come together to form militias and they must provide their own firearms more often than not, so there could be no restriction on these militia-related activities. The scant discussion recorded over the debates of this amendment mention nothing but militias: no hunting arms, no personal protection firearms, just militia. In fact this was so self-evident that there was little debate about the Second Amendment at all. This situation was true up to and through the Civil War but thereafter we moved down the road to having a standing army, making the entire Second Amendment in its original meaning moot.

In 1977, the National Rifle Association was taken over by Second Amendment fundamentalists who developed a plan to change the meaning of the Second Amendment, so that it’s final phrase referred to an individual right to keep and bear arms, rather than a collective right for the common defense. In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned those two centuries of settled law in the Heller decision. The author of the majority opinion was Antonin Scalia, a self-proclaimed “originalist intent” jurist in that he believes that the Constitution should only be interpreted as to what the framers and their generation intended in 1789!

Currently, the Second Amendment to the Constitution is interpreted as an individual right and not a collective one, resulting in unrestricted gun ownership and almost unrestricted gun use.

In higher education and public education in general, education came to be looked at as something to promote the general welfare. Study after study showed that the more educated the populace, the better off the country as a whole. But in the 1970s and ‘80s, some began to view higher education more as a private good benefitting individual students than as a public good helping the nation prosper by creating better educated citizens. This is clearer nowhere else than the requirement that all children be compelled to go to school at the state’s expense. Whether you had children or not you paid taxes to educate all U.S. children “for the common good” not just to educate your own children (the complete antithesis of “pay as you go”). Prior to that time, public universities enjoyed almost total support from government, and tuition at some of the country’s best universities was free or nearly free. (I remember my “fees” at San Francisco State College in the late 1960s were about $75 per semester and those were described as paper processing fees, not tuition. A later study showed that the State of California got back $11-13 for every dollar they spent on my education there.) But Republican governors like Ronald Reagan argued that states should not subsidize frivolous educations, while economists like Milton Friedman advocated against the entire notion of free education (he didn’t think the government should have national parks either), claiming that students seeking a “private advantage” should pay for it themselves. So, tuition in California’s state universities and colleges: free in 1960 for a California resident, costs in excess of $12,000 not counting room and board today. And, of course, those free-loading individual students cannot discharge educational loan debt in bankruptcy. The rabid individualists made sure of that.

Having gotten their way in higher eduction, they have turned on public education in general and are rapidly privatizing our public schools . . . using public funds!

These are but two of the anti-common good efforts in our current society. None seem to be “American” in their outlook, all seem to be steeped in Social Darwinism which is surprising because no conservatives, the tips of the plutocrat’s spears in these efforts, think positively of Darwinian evolution. This is not a surprising contradiction from a group which loves to wrap itself in patriotism and the flag but is doing its utmost to unravel the American Experiment in self-governance. Their message: you are on your own; there is no collective good.

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