Some Of My Favorite Things

Friday, February 06, 2015

Where Obama Got The Idea

Conservative circles have recently been making hay over Obama's comparison of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition to recent jihadi activity. But, to be scrupulously fair, this wasn't Obama's idea.

In 2001, former president Bill Clinton delivered a speech at Georgetown University in which he discussed the West’s response to the recent terrorist attacks of September 11. The speech contained a short but significant reference to the crusades. Mr. Clinton observed that “when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem [in 1099], they . . . proceeded to kill every woman and child who was Muslim on the Temple Mount.” He cited the “contemporaneous descriptions of the event” as describing “soldiers walking on the Temple Mount . . . with blood running up to their knees.” This story, Mr. Clinton said emphatically, was “still being told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for it.”

Both Clinton and Obama were playing to their Protestant base. After all, Protestants have advanced the "Crusades were evil" myth for a LONG, long time.
"This is the greatest of all sins and is one that no Turk commits, for Christ’s name is used for sin and shame and thus dishonored. This would be especially so if the pope and the bishops were involved in the war, for they would bring the greatest shame and dishonor to Christ’s name because they are called to fight against the devil with the word of God and with prayer, and they would be deserting their calling and office to fight with the sword against the flesh and blood." (LW 46:165) 
Luther believed that the pope used war as a means to steal from his followers. For him, the idea of a Christian crusade was nothing but a sham concocted to gain riches for the church. He states that “the pope never seriously intended to wage war against the Turk; instead they used the Turkish war as a cover for their game and robbed Germany of money by means of indulgences whenever they took the notion” (LW 46:164)
The original Martin Luther saw the papal attempt to stop Muslim encroachment as evil. Luther preached that the Muslims were a divine scourge on Christianity meant to pay Europe back for the evils of the papacy. Attempts to fight Islam were sinful attempts to fight against God. The Muslims of the era, on the other hand, saw the Crusaders as honorable opponents.
“During the Middle Ages you could not find a Christian in Europe who did not believe that the Crusades were an act of highest good. Even the Muslims respected the ideals of the Crusades and the piety of the men who fought them. But that all changed with the Protestant Reformation. For Martin Luther . . . argued that to fight the Muslims was to fight Christ himself, for it was he who had sent the Turks to punish Christendom for its faithlessness. . . . It was in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century that the current view of the Crusades was born.”
The MSM smear is just the half-millennium old Protestant smear, writ large. Obama and Clinton repeat the smear because it sells to America's largely Protestant audience.

Unfortunately, conservative commentators who are now correcting the history on the Crusades are no more interested in the truth than were Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. After all, look at the facts. Like the popular history of the Crusades, the popular history of the Inquisition is at least as fictional, it is certainly as unrelated to the historical facts, as the popular history of the Crusades.

Yet the conservatives who want to wage war on Islam don't attempt to clear up the injustice done to the history of the Spanish Inquisition. It doesn't serve their purposes to do so. They want war. Whether that desire is a good idea or not is a separate question. The "Crusades were bad" meme interferes with their ability to make such a war popular. The inaccurate perception of the Inquisition doesn't harm their ability to wage war, so those inaccurate perceptions are ignored. Instead, they focus entirely on cleansing away the falsehoods surrounding the Crusades.

The Da Vinci Code was popular primarily because it simply re-packaged the Protestant version of Catholic history. The MSM "Crusades were bad" meme is just the same kind of re-packaging, a product that sells well in Protestant America. After all, you'll never hear about the Lutheran Crusades, or how the Zwinglians were willing to fight against the Islamic domination of Europe. Catholics were the only ones who put their bodies between Europe and Islam, defying the cruelty we see today.

Obama, Clinton, the MSM play the "anti-Crusade" meme because it is popular. All of them are playing to a VERY receptive audience. So, when conservative pundits claim Obama is wrong, they are - whether intentionally or not - completely missing the point of the comments. Protestants have fought to make Obama's remarks the truth for a long, long time.

Protestant American chickens, meet your historical roost.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Speech

Many people argue that freedom of speech includes the right to mock someone else's religion. They seem to forget the origins of the First Amendment.

The first law concerning free speech on the North American continent was passed on April 21, 1649: Maryland's "Act of Toleration." Maryland was the only English Catholic colony on the eastern seaboard. The Act was the world's first prohibition on religious hate speech. It is universally acknowledged as the harbinger and model for the Constitution's first amendment protection of free speech.

So, what did the Act of Toleration say?
That whatsoever person or persons within this Province and the Islands thereunto belonging shall from henceforth blaspheme God, that is Curse him, or deny our Saviour Jesus Christ to bee the sonne of God, or shall deny the holy Trinity the father sonne and holy Ghost, or the Godhead of any of the said Three persons of the Trinity or the Unity of the Godhead, or shall use or utter any reproachfull Speeches, words or language concerning the said Holy Trinity, or any of the said three persons thereof, shalbe punished with death and confiscation or forfeiture of all his or her lands and goods to the Lord Proprietary and his heires.
And bee it also Enacted by the Authority and with the advise and assent aforesaid, That whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth use or utter any reproachfull words or Speeches concerning the blessed Virgin Mary the Mother of our Saviour or the holy Apostles or Evangelists or any of them shall in such case for the first offence forfeit to the said Lord Proprietary and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province the summe of five pound Sterling or the value thereof to be Levyed on the goods and chattells of every such person soe offending, but in case such Offender or Offenders, shall not then have goods and chattells sufficient for the satisfyeing of such forfeiture, or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed that then such Offender or Offenders shalbe publiquely whipt and bee imprisoned during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary or the Lieutenant or cheife Governor of this Province for the time being. And that every such Offender or Offenders for every second offence shall forfeit tenne pound sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed as aforesaid, or in case such offender or Offenders shall not then have goods and chattells within this Province sufficient for that purpose then to bee publiquely and severely whipt and imprisoned as before is expressed. And that every person or persons before mentioned offending herein the third time, shall for such third Offence forfeit all his lands and Goods and bee for ever banished and expelled out of this Province.
And be it also further Enacted by the same authority advise and assent that whatsoever person or persons shall from henceforth uppon any occasion of Offence or otherwise in a reproachful manner or Way declare call or denominate any person or persons whatsoever inhabiting, residing, traffiqueing, trading or comerceing within this Province or within any the Ports, Harbors, Creeks or Havens to the same belonging an heritick, Scismatick, Idolator, puritan, Independant, Prespiterian popish prest, Jesuite, Jesuited papist, Lutheran, Calvenist, Anabaptist, Brownist, Antinomian, Barrowist, Roundhead, Separatist, or any other name or terme in a reproachfull manner relating to matter of Religion shall for every such Offence forfeit and loose the somme of tenne shillings sterling or the value thereof to bee levyed on the goods and chattells of every such Offender and Offenders, the one half thereof to be forfeited and paid unto the person and persons of whom such reproachfull words are or shalbe spoken or uttered, and the other half thereof to the Lord Proprietary and his heires Lords and Proprietaries of this Province. But if such person or persons who shall at any time utter or speake any such reproachfull words or Language shall not have Goods or Chattells sufficient and overt within this Province to bee taken to satisfie the penalty aforesaid or that the same bee not otherwise speedily satisfyed, that then the person or persons soe offending shalbe publickly whipt, and shall suffer imprisonment without baile or maineprise [bail] untill hee, shee or they respectively shall satisfy the party soe offended or greived by such reproachfull Language by asking him or her respectively forgivenes publiquely for such his Offence before the Magistrate of cheife Officer or Officers of the Towne or place where such Offence shalbe given.
As a result of this act, Protestants whose own religions were persecuted in the various English colonies fled the other colonies to settle in Maryland. Within five years, the Protestant population had grown so large that the Protestants were able to revolt and overthrow the Catholic government of Maryland. The Protestants not only overturned the Act, they passed a law forbidding Catholics the right to worship in Maryland at all.

The Catholic governor managed to regain control and strike a deal, allowing the Act to be reinstated in 1658. That lasted until 1692, when the Protestants again overthrew the Catholic government, this time for good. The Act was again repealed, Catholicism again outlawed. By 1718, Catholics were denied the right to vote.

Prior to the Civil War, the Constitution was seen as only being applicable to the federal government, not to local state governments. Thus, many states in America's Constitutional Republic barred Catholics from various aspects of public life right up through the end of the Civil War.

When Pope Francis points out that no one has a right to mock another person's religion, he is echoing Maryland's 1649 Act of Toleration. He is invoking the Catholic history of the United States.

How many modern American Catholics realize this?


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Infallible on Fracking?

Newsies are now saying the Pope is going to deliver an encyclical on the environment that will (a) denounce fracking, (b) embrace global warming and (c) give Greens throughout the world warm fuzzies because these statements will be infallibly stated in an infallible encyclical infallible. I threw that extra "infallible" in, because you're going to see that word a lot whenever the Pope says something the MSM thinks turns to their advantage. Might as well get used to it. We're going to see it a lot in the coming days. Sigh.

Anyway, we will ignore the fact that they are not similarly thrilled about the infallible teaching contained within Humanae Vitae, and get down to brass tacks. What is an infallible teaching?

This is almost always very badly explained.

We could yammer a bit about how an infallible teaching must be on a matter of (1) faith and morals, (2) to the whole Church, (3) pronounced with Peter's own teaching authority, and that it's very rare, yada, yada, yada.

But that all misses the point.

To begin with, infallible statements are not at all rare - they are extremely common. Second, anyone can pronounce an infallible statement - it isn't just restricted to the Pope. When I say, "God is Three Divine Persons in One Divine Nature", I have made an infallibly true statement. I have spoken infallibly.

To make an infallibly true statement, you need only teach what the Church has always taught. That's all. Period. Done. Infallible statements are made in every child's catechism class every day. They are made in every book that correctly enunciates Catholic doctrine, even books written by raging atheists. Teach what the Church has always taught and, boom!, you have spoken infallibly! You can do it, too! Try it!

Now, fracking is not a subject upon which the Church has always taught, therefore not subject to the charism. Same with global warming. Perhaps there is an underlying principle of preserving the environment - which arguably is a point upon which the Church has always taught. After all, Scripture, which is infallible Church teaching, talks about Adam (and therefore the rest of us, too), being set to steward the earth and the things within it.

All well and good. We must steward the earth, that is an infallibly true statement. But how we do it - that's a prudential judgement. The Pope is not infallible in matters of prudence. He is also not infallible on matters of technology or applied experimental science. Is fracking good or bad when it comes to stewardship? You have to know a whole lot, not only about the fracking process, but also about what would happen to people if we didn't do that and tried doing something else to get energy instead. Even if the Pope were to specifically denounce fracking in an encyclical (it won't happen, but let's say he did), good Catholics could look at the argument he brought forward and disagree.

Why? Well, because the Church doesn't have an eternal teaching on energy development and use. She has eternal teachings on the sanctity of human life, from its beginning to its natural end. How we use energy and the environment certainly impacts human life. But it isn't at the core of human life or the life of heaven. Energy use and environmental use are areas where we are to apply the principles of caring for each other as God cares for us, and figure out the best road given the tools we have developed.

IVF, contraception, euthanasia - these are at the core of human life. Doesn't matter what technology is being employed, people have a right to be conceived by two parents, spouses have a duty to be open to life, everyone has a right to food, water, and shelter and a right to not being murdered. Now, how we feed them - are GMOs good or bad? That's a prudential judgement. How we get the energy necessary to get them food, water and shelter. That's a prudential judgement. But having a lab tech conceive a kid in a Petri dish and then freeze him solid in liquid nitrogen? Yeah, that's not how God treats us, so that's not how we are supposed to treat each other.

So, what's the story with the three-point test and rarity and all that?

Well, there have been times in Church history when nearly the whole Church got themselves so confused on a doctrine that essentially no one was correctly enunciating the doctrine. Everyone was mis-teaching on it. In those situations, the Popes have stood up and clearly stated exactly what the doctrine is - those were infallible statements. But we, as a Church, were so crazy on the point that we had to go through that three-point list above to make sure we had heard it correctly and understood that he was authoritatively telling us to get our heads screwed on straight. That is the charism of infallibility - the ability to keep one's head and correctly teach what is necessary for salvation when everyone else is running around yelling nonsense like a lunatic.




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why Math Matters

I have done many things in my life, including teaching math at the college level.

The perennial question that math students ask is, "Why do I have to take this course? I will NEVER use this kind of math in real life."

Now, a lot of teachers will try to pretend that the student will actually use math. Heck, I tried to pretend that for a couple of years myself. But we all know it isn't true. Very few people outside of engineering use calculus. Calculus was required for my computer science degree, but I can honestly say I never used it for anything. At most, I've used a bit of algebra and a taste of geometry, and that's about it. Most people will never use the math they learn in school.

So why do so many college programs still require math?
Simple. Math is a marker for "meta skills." In order to do math well, you have to be:

  1. Organized, 
  2. Good at documentation,
  3. Good at detailed work,
  4. Good at following and trusting a procedure.

Those four skills are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to employers and to you.
You can't pass algebra unless you have those skills. In order to do any advanced math, you have to:

  1. Learn many different procedures, 
  2. Choose the right procedure from a multitude of different possibilities,
  3. Be able to determine why your chosen procedure is or isn't correct for the situation, 
  4. Be able to execute the chosen procedure correctly,  
  5. Write down everything you do, every step of the way in an organized fashion so in case you DO forget anything or HAVE chosen the wrong procedure, you can find the problem and fix it quickly.

When every phone is a calculator, and life really doesn't involve much math, nobody really cares if you know math. Learning math is most assuredly not the point of math class.

However EVERYBODY cares about whether or not you have the skill sets listed above. The easiest way to teach those skills and demonstrate you have those skills is to say "I got an 'A' in algebra/geometry/trig/calculus."

You will do many jobs during your lifetime. All of them will have specialized procedures. The more you train your brain to quickly learn (seemingly) arbitrary procedures, the more jobs you will qualify for, the easier it will be to earn a living. THAT is the point of taking all those math classes. People want to know you have those skills. Math is the fastest way to prove you do. It is also the most straightforward way to teach you the skills if you don't have them, because math is nothing BUT those skills.

That's why every decent college program requires math.
If you're in a program that doesn't require math, you aren't going to college, you're going to a very expensive and pretentious grade school for grown-ups.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Deniable Intimidation

After teaching an American Political Science class over the summer, I realized why nearly every corporation is interested in "embracing diversity":
It is impossible to understand the politics of the Left without grasping that it is all about deniable intimidation. The real problem European anarchism solves is how to send bombs without seemingly sending them, or how to trash the Tory party headquarters in London without really doing it.
As you will soon see, the politics of the Left is really just the politics of those in power. The powerful want "deniable intimidation": the ability to intimidate the weak without looking like a bully. "Deniable intimidation" - that's what "diversity in the workplace" and "homosexual rights" is all about. If you have ever wondered why most corporations cave so readily to homosexual rights, or work so hard to implement "diversity" policies, you need look no farther than how power is structured in the workplace. You see, we know from political science exactly what diversity accomplishes in a population:
“in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods residents of all races tend to ‘hunker down.’ Trust (even of one’s own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer.”
Studies make clear that workers are not comfortable in a "diverse" workplace. People in "diverse" neighborhoods are less likely to be politically active than those in homogenous neighborhoods. In "diverse" settings, individuals aren't sure they can trust their neighbors so they tend to hunker down and say nothing.
…[E]verybody, well-educated and not well-educated, old-timers and newcomers alike, is affected negatively by increasing diversity. Holding constant socioeconomic resources, mobility, and many other things, as well, everybody is less likely to be engaged when they’re living in a more diverse town or city. That’s the research conclusion I found most startling: It’s not just that in the context of diversity people are less trusting of people who look different. It’s that in the context of diversity people are less trusting even of folks who look just like them.” (emphasis added)
So, why do politicians embrace diversity? Well, low turnout increases the likelihood an incumbent will win. High diversity means incumbent politicians get the low voter turnout they need.

How about the workplace? Why would businesses embrace diversity? In the workplace, low trust between workers means less likelihood of, say, union organizing activity. High diversity means low worker solidarity. Now, it is also true that having a diverse workplace means business problems tend to get solved faster, as many different experiences are brought to bear on a problem. Businesses talk endlessly about this advantage, but oddly enough, no one mentions the power structure advantages that a "diverse workplace" brings to management. "Diversity" is a win-win for corporate management, a lose-lose for the individual workers in that corporation. 

And that is why corporate America embraces diversity. That is why homosexual rights, Muslim tolerance and a rainbow workplace is considered the best environment for everyone: it is the best environment for everyone. Well, for everyone in power.

And now we can see why corporate America attacks and belittles Christianity. Christianity is a point of commonality, a rallying point for the 80% of Americans who still embrace a common set of values and a relatively common outlook on life. In America, Christianity is the opposite of diversity - it is unity and strength: the very opposite of what the powerful want from their little people. So, when businesses and media attack Christianity, realize that this isn't personal. It's just business.

Do you want to intimidate a group of men into being servile? Do you want to prevent their conspiring against or organizing against management, whether that management be corporate or political? Do you want to hang them separately to prevent them from hanging together? And do you want to do all this without being seen as a bully? Embrace diversity! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Problem of Porn

There's a new study out that blames male porn use for the drop in marriage. It's a fairly lousy study. Marriage depends on a lot of different factors. This study only looks at one, so it really doesn't tell us anything.

For instance, take the fact that high-income, college-educated people marry at a MUCH higher rate than high-school dropouts. Of course, when college-educated couples divorce, 90% of the divorces are initiated by the woman (overall, women initiate divorce 65% of the time). So, if porn is the problem, we are simultaneously saying that college-educated men don't look at porn as much as high school dropouts (thus the college grads marry more) AND college-educated men look at porn MUCH more than high school dropouts (thus the high divorce rate).

Clearly, both cannot be simultaneously true.

And furthermore, how do we find a significantly large control group of men who do not use porn? It turns out to be a lot tougher than you might think. Researchers typically can't find enough men who don't use porn to create a control group for comparison purposes.

Then we have the problem of marriage itself - when divorce happens, women get the man's income, the man's children, often his house and car, regardless of how much the woman might herself be earning. Female hypergamy means that women won't marry high school dropouts - they always try to step up to a "higher quality" man. Indeed, you can make a very strong argument that allowing women access to higher education is at least as pernicious in its effect on marriage as allowing men access to porn.

But the pool of "higher quality" men is contracting as men are getting fewer and fewer college degrees. Why are they dropping out of college? Because college is an increasingly hostile place for men. All a woman has to do is cry "rape" and the male student is instantly thrown out of school, blacklisted, with his future destroyed. Ironically, this is true even though the proliferation of internet porn happened at the same time that rape began a dramatic decline.



But, as a result of the hostile college climate, the majority of all college degrees now go to women. So fewer and fewer men are considered "eligible" marriage material by women. Female hypergamy means the men who don't put themselves through the abuse which we call college are not considered "marriageable." And of those men who are eligible, many refuse to marry precisely because they understand that if the woman decides to walk out of the relationship, it is the man who will lose his wallet. Many "eligible" men look at the cost-benefit ratio and decline the odds. But that is not addressed in this study.

Furthermore, this study only looks at MEN. What about women's porn? And women's porn isn't just 50 Shades of Grey. In women, both yoga and shopping stimulate the same brain centers as orgasm. That is, for a woman, finding a good sale is as pleasurable as having sex.

But do we find articles warning us that women imperil marriage by going shopping or practicing yoga? Do we find articles warning women to stop being hypergamous? Do we warn women not to attend college? Of course we don't. Only men imperil marriage. Women never do.

So, is porn use a consequence of non-marriage or a cause? Is it just a correlation? Given the many other factors involved (and I've only mentioned two: hypergamy and anti-male social bias), how much of the problem can be associated with porn use?

I'm not defending porn use. I'm just pointing out that there's a lot less here than meets the eye (pardon the pun). Both St. Augustine and the Angelic Doctor were willing to tolerate legal prostitution as a necessary concession to human brokenness. Does porn fall into that same category? I don't know. But I find it interesting that the porn stick is only wielded against men - never against women.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

No. Bloody. Good.

A well-known blogger who passes himself off as a Catholic priest has published a blog in which he asserts that some Catholic parishes are actually part of another religion.

I'm not going to link the blog here, because the post is simply vile, schismatic crap.

Does anyone remember why St. Ignatius Loyola founded an order?
Anyone?
Anyone?
Bueller?
Anyone?

Because the Spain he grew up in - which had been Catholic for a thousand years - was so badly catechized that many parents couldn't even recite the Our Father. Many Spanish Catholics believed sex was fine as long as neither participant was married. In other words, the catechesis in 1540's Spain was about as good as the catechesis in America is now.

The Jesuits were founded as a missionary order to evangelize Catholic Spain. St. Ignatius was never so monumentally STUPID, he was never so SCHISMATIC as to say "It's. Another. Religion."

Shockingly enough, St. Ignatius, instead, of writing a lot of blogs cadging for money to feed birds, actually founded an order and did something useful with his life. That's why he's a saint and other people are simply fomenters of schism.

FYI: for those of you who think Summorum Pontificum is the salvation of the Church, note that St. Ignatius and all of Spain had the pre-conciliar (even pre-Tridentine) Latin Mass for a thousand years and it did them No. Bloody. Good. 

Remember, if liturgy is the source of all of our problems today, then the source of the modern problem is ultimately the Latin Mass. If liturgy is the source of the problem, then Ignatian Spain's problem was also the Latin Mass. But if liturgy is not the source of the problem, then the TLM is not really part of the solution.