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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bad Idea: A Constitutional Convention

A lot of people propose creating a constitutional convention to "fix" the problems in our current Constitution. For some reason, conservatives seem to be big fans, perhaps because they think Republican control of most state legislatures gives them an edge. But anyone familiar with the history of the original document would tell you that this is a really, really bad idea.

The commission of the original Constitutional Convention was to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation. Although they were not authorized to do so, the Framers decided not to amend it, but to replace it. Could a modern Constitutional Convention do the same thing? Yes.

Technically, the Articles of Confederation could not be amended without the consent of each and every state in the United States. If the Constitution was an amending document, it was illegal. This was well-known at the time. The Constitution itself was produced in strictest secrecy during the Philadelphia convention. When the Congress that had commissioned the work, the Congress of the Articles of Confederation, found out what the Framers had done, they considered censuring the delegates for having both failed to do their job and for violating the law.

Instead, like many legislators today, they decided to punt. Not only was no one prosecuted, the Congress kicked the whole thing back to state conventions.

Now, the Articles of Confederation called for unanimous consent. But that rule was thrown out and replaced by "nine of thirteen." Today, those in favor of a convention argue that 37 states must pass any changes. Well, maybe. But maybe not. If the last Constitutional Convention could throw out the requirement for unanimity, what on earth prevents the next one from throwing out the requirement for 37 out of 50 states? Why not just a bare majority? Or perhaps discard the need for states at all, and go to passage by a certain number of large (as some arbitrary person defines "large") cities? After all, why should the state of Montana (entire population: 1.02 million) have more say then the city of Los Angeles (population 18.55 million)?

The Constitution was a document of bloodless revolution — it overthrew the confederation with a federation, and everyone knew it. That is precisely why the Constitution calls for ratification by only nine of the thirteen states. Why nine? Because the Framers didn't think they could get all thirteen to pass it. Federalist #40 deals with the problem of the legality of "nine vs. unanimous" by simply refusing to discuss the problem at all. The legal problem is acknowledged, then explicitly dismissed with a wave of the hand. In fact, Federalist #40 ends not by an appeal to the legality of the Constitution (which was impossible to support), but by appealing to the idea that the Constitution is good advice! Talk about a hopeless non sequitor.

And remember what Congress did? They kicked it to state conventions. In order to keep state legislatures from adding on their own amendments, the state legislators and their legislatures were entirely cut out of the process. Instead, special state conventions voted on whether or not to approve it.

The first state to ratify was Delaware, on December 7, 1787. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify and the Confederation Congress set the new Constitution's operational date as March 4, 1789, but that left four states out in the cold. Virginia and New York ratified it by July of 1788, but the remaining two did not ratify it before it became operational.

The Constitution was essentially imposed on North Carolina, which didn't ratify until November 21, 1789, and on Rhode Island. In fact, the last state, Rhode Island, didn't ratify it until May 29, 1790. By the time Rhode Island finally made it unanimous, the first Congress had already been in session for over a year (convened March 4, 1789, didn't release until March 4, 1791) and George Washington had already been President for over a year. In other words, at least two of the four states named above were forced to go along with a document, the Constitution, that even their own state conventions didn't approve. If this is a model for the interaction between states' rights and federal power, you can see who wins very early on.

If we look at it from the point of view of the Articles of Confederation, by September 13, 1788, eleven states had illegally seceded from the Articles. If North Carolina and Rhode Island would have had the military capacity, they could legally have declared this a rebellion and forced the eleven ratifying states back into the Articles of Confederation in exactly the same way Lincoln forced the Southern States back into the Constitution eighty years later.

Now, with this in mind, consider what the map of state legislatures looks like today:

Does anyone think today's process would run any smoother? Can we afford a couple of years of political anarchy while we try to get everything squared away with a new Constitution? Because anyone who thinks we won't get an entirely new Constitution, along with a whole new set of rights (which may or may not reflect any of our current rights), really isn't paying attention.

What makes you think a new Article V convention would treat the Constitution with any more respect than the the original convention treated the old Articles of Confederation?

We already have a political elite who argue that the Constitution is not a good structure for America nor a good model for new democracies in the 21st century. This same political elite controls the media and a lot of the political processes, they control the colleges and universities from which "expert" advisors will be drawn.

These are the people that got Obama elected.
What makes you think we could stop them at a convention?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Liberty Health Share

If you need better health insurance than you have, check out Liberty Health Share.

We pay $450/month for a family of six. It has a $1500 annual deductible, everything else covered at 100% after that, with a $1 million dollar cap. It qualifies as ACA health care. If you have an HSA, you can continue to use it, as Liberty is HSA-eligible.

If you like what you see, email me:
  • your first and last name, 
  • state of residence, 
  • email
  • phone 
I will refer you.

Why do you need my referral?
Well, to be honest, you don't.

But, every customer who successfully refers someone else to the service gets a $100 gift card.
If you prefer, just sign yourself up on your own.

We have been happy with it.
Thus endeth the plug.

Oh, and FYI, if you are given a penalty by the IRS for not having appropriate health care, you should know that there doesn't appear to be any actual punishment for ignoring the ACA "penalty".

Friday, December 25, 2015

Nullification: An American Tradition

There are people who get upset because juries have the ability, nay the right, to refuse to convict someone of the violation of a law if that jury decides the law is stupid. This fact drives prosecutors crazy. Judges insist it isn't legal, although in practice, there is very little they can do about it. It is called "jury nullification" and any jury in the United States can do it.
John Adams didn’t mince words about the jury’s purpose in 1771 when he said “it is not only [a juror’s] right, but his duty… to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”
Similarly, states can not only refuse to enforce federal laws, states can even pass laws that directly contradict or overturn federal law. The feds can yammer all they want, but unless they want to send in troops, the feds can't do much to prevent it. This is also "nullification". It is in complete accordance with the Constitution via the Bill of Rights, Tenth Amendment. As even SCOTUS justices admit, there is absolutely nothing in any of the above ideas which violates the principles laid down by the Founding Fathers.
"The approach is on sound legal footing, with notable Supreme Court opinions backing the view that the federal government cannot require a state to expend manpower or resources in the enforcement of a federal act. The 1997 case, Printz v. US serves as the cornerstone. In it, Justice Scalia held:
'The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.' "
We have been doing this for 200 years. Whenever there is a law people don't like, they just don't enforce it (the legal term is "desuetude"). Thus, even though someone technically SHOULD be arrested, no one actually DOES get arrested when a woman wears pants in Tuscon. 

Look, we don't actually live in a nation of laws. That ended forty years ago, when we started killing babies and selling their parts. Anymore, we just pretend. Any citizen, any jury member, any state, can do whatever s/he/it likes, and apart from starting a civil war, no one can do anything about it.

So, when people tell us we have to follow an immoral federal law, we can laugh in their faces. Screw the Feds. They stopped working for us a long, long time ago.

Monday, December 14, 2015

How Excommunication Works

Question: How does excommunication work?

Based on the words of Christ Who said what is bound on earth is bound in heaven and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven in regards to the "keys" of the Church:

If you are validly excommunicated (note that sometimes an excommunication is invalid, e.g., St. Joan of Arc) and you do not have the censure lifted or at least form the intent to reform or muster the requisite contrition for the delict, and die while in the state of excommunication, then, you do, in fact, show up to the particular judgment, excommunicated. In this sense, the Church does have jurisdiction, at least as far as Christ will uphold the adjudication.

I was recently told by an expert in canon law that the Church does not have jurisdiction in the next life. He said this in reference to my assertion that an excommunication would necessarily follower the sinner in the next life if not rectified.

The theologian is obviously Lutheran, because the idea that the Church does not have jurisdiction in the next life constituted the central error in Martin Luther's 95 Theses.

That having been said, excommunication is a juridical ruling about participation in the temporal life of the Church (i.e., the individual is barred from participation in most sacraments). Now, certainly, this lack of access to sacramental grace may also redound to eternal life, but God also might, in his infinite knowledge and mercy, take into account aspects of the situation which the Church, in her finite knowledge, is unable to consider.

Thus, excommunication is not a guarantee that the person excommunicated is absolutely cut off from heaven. Excommunication is objectively something to be avoided, but subjectively we cannot be sure the excommunicated person is in hell - only God and the individual who has died has absolute surety of how that person's eternal existence will be spent.

Excommunication means that, from an external viewpoint, the Church judges that the individual has distanced himself from God so effectively that he may well be damning himself to hell.

But the Church's judgement is not a judgement of the actual state of the individual's soul. It is merely a judgement about all that the Church knows about the person's public disposition. It is a judgement about the external, public factors. There may well be internal aspects of which the Church knows nothing, and the Church's judgement does not presume to include those aspects.

Further Question:
But what if the application of the penalty was subjectively in play, that is, total and utter culpability? What do we make of the Lord's words that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven? If the Lord discounts the censure in the next life, then would we not deduce that the Church's power to excommunicate expires at the death of the subject who labors under the penalty?

Deeper Answer:
Not at all.

The Church absolutely has power over the next life. That's what the doctrine of indulgences is all about. It's just that She chooses not to exercise it to condemn anyone to hell, for even God Himself does not condemn sinners, rather, the sinners condemn themselves.

Christ came into the world to save it, not to condemn it. The Church, as the Bride of Christ, imitates Her Spouse by using Her power (which comes from Christ) to do Christ's work - to save the world, not to condemn it.

Christ is Judge, but has not yet returned as Judge, so it is not the Church's role to negatively judge anyone's soul. Yet.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Guns in the Constitution

A lot of people don't like the Second Amendment to the Constitution. They argue that if the Second Amendment really means what it says, private citizens should be able to own tanks. That is clearly absurd.

Except it isn't.

Most people, even many pro-gun people, don't realize the Constitution does say precisely that. Keep in mind that George Washington used artillery that was loaned to the Revolutionary Army by private citizens in the colonies. Many towns had artillery clubs, wherein the members maintained pieces of artillery. Plantations bought cannons in order to protect their property from Indian attack. Ship owners bought muskets and cannon to protect their ships from pirates. Many of these private citizens loaned their pieces to Washington under the proviso that they would be returned when the war was over - which they were, insofar as was possible.

George Washington was our first President. When we think "George Washington," we think "government", but that's not correct. The American Revolution and its Washington-led army was really just a bunch of armed citizens. These citizens were running around with the deadliest weapons produced at the time, weapons they purchased themselves, and all of these private citizens were shooting at government employees. That's the American Revolution.

That's the mind-set one has to have to read the Constitution correctly.  We have to remember: from the Founding Fathers' perspective, armed citizens shooting at government employees was fine.

And, we should also notice that private ownership of weapons is not just a 2nd Amendment right - it is also in the body of the Constitution.
Article 1, Section 8: [The Congress shall have the power] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.
A "Letter of Marque" was a contract between a private citizen and the government that authorized private ship owners to use their ships to capture shipping from the enemy. A Letter of Marque allowed a private ship to act as a warship. Without the Letter of Marque, the ship owner would just be a pirate. With the Letter of Marque, he (and his ship) became a mercenary for whatever government he contracted with.

But the Letter of Marque did not equip the ship - that was done at the owner's expense. Most ships at the time carried some kind of defensive cannon and musketry for protection against pirates and mercenaries. The ships were already armed. The Letter of Marque simply protected the ship in case of capture, assuring the captain and crew that they couldn't be hung as pirates. As for terms, the letter would primarily describe how the profit from successfully capturing an enemy ship was to be split between the government and the contracting ship owner. The Letter of Marque was really just a government rental agreement for the use of a privately-owned warship.

Why would the US Constitution do this? Because the Founding Fathers wanted the central government so weak that the governement couldn't even keep a standing army or navy. The Continental Army and Navy were both disbanded as soon as the Revolutionary War ended. Thus, the Constitution was ratified in 1789, but the Department of the Navy was not created until 1798, in order to combat Muslim Barbary pirates. For the first decade, the Congress expected they wouldn't need a standing Navy. Letters of Marque, government rentals of private warships (at least 2200 private warships were issued such letters), were supposed to take care of that need. Indeed, as late as July, 1815, Thomas Jefferson issued a Letter of Marque to the Grand Turk, authorizing the Grand Turk to operate against the Barbary Pirates on America's behalf. Although the United States government gave up issuing Letters by 1856, it continued to honor the Letters of Marque issued by the Confederacy during the Civil War.

But, in order for the Letter of Marque to even be listed as a possibility in the Constitution, the Constitution has to assume that private citizens had already bought and were already using the most powerful weaponry then available: fully-equipped warships. Put bluntly, Article I of the Constitution shows that the Founders originally intended to rent military power from private citizens. A similar agreement today might have a civilian purchase a tank, F-16 or nuke, and then rent the use of these weapons out to the US government. The Second Amendment has to be read within the context of the full Constitution and the full intent of the Founding Fathers. Once it is, there is no question about every citizen's rights.

Mary Did You Know???

Some Catholics are concerned about the blog post of a Jesuit priest which lambastes a Protestant Marian song because it supposedly contains heresy concerning the Immaculate Conception. 
While the song has the merits of prompting its hearers to reflect on Mary beholding her Divine Son, lines from the very first stanza actually bring Christmas to a screeching halt. Here are the problematic lyrics: 
“Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.” 
Now, those lines make sense if Mary is another sinner just like us, who needs to be delivered from sin. You see, if Mary is a sinner who like us needs a savior, then the lyricist’s play on the word “deliver” (sense 1: “deliver” = “give birth”; sense 2: “deliver” = “liberate from sin”) is both clever and theologically sound. But if Mary is a sinner in need of a savior, then she cannot be the worthy vessel in whom the All-Holy God takes on human nature as the Word-Made-Flesh. In other words the lyrics depend upon the dogma of the Immaculate Conception being false. If Mary needs a Savior, then she cannot be the vessel of the Incarnation.
God bless the priest, but he apparently doesn't know the theology behind the Immaculate Conception. Specifically, he seems to be completely unaware of Duns Scotus' completely acceptable argument supporting the IC, an argument which employs precisely the logic the priest attacks in order to explain the event.
Duns Scotus pushed this obstruction from the path by showing that instead of being excluded from the redemption of the Savior, Mary obtained the greatest of redemptions through the mystery of her preservation from all sin. This, explained Scotus, was a more perfect redemption and attributes to Christ a more exalted role as Redeemer, because redeeming grace, which preserves from original sin, is greater than that which purifies from sin already incurred. 
Consequently, Christ was Mary's Redeemer more perfectly by preservative redemption in shielding her from original sin through anticipating and foreseeing the merits of his passion and death. (emphasis added) This preredemption indicates a much greater grace and more perfect salvation.
But, isn't there something wrong with saying "This child that you delivered will soon deliver you"? No, not really. After all, the Cross exists both in time and in eternity. The Cross saves everyone, including Mary. From the temporal (in-time) standpoint, at the moment of the birth, Christ had not yet died on the Cross, so we can say "will soon deliver you." From the viewpoint of the Cross, which is eternal, it would also be equally accurate to say "has delivered you." But, since it is a Christmas hymn, there is no reason to balk at the future tense.

In fact, as Scotus and many others have pointed out, the sanctification of the Cross was anticipated for John the Baptist in a very similar (although not identical) way:
Hence the axiom of Pseudo-Anselmus (Eadmer) developed by Duns Scotus, Decuit, potuit, ergo fecit, it was becoming that the Mother of the Redeemer should have been free from the power of sin and Satan from the first moment of her existence (decuit); God could give her this privilege (potuit), therefore He gave it to her (ergo fecit). Again it is remarked that a peculiar privilege was granted to the prophet Jeremias and to St. John the Baptist. They were sanctified in their mother's womb, because by their preaching they had a special share in the work of preparing the way for Christ.
Indeed, if the good priest wishes to take issue with a Marian hymn that endorses heresy, he could do a much better job by attacking an Anglican hymn from 1914 which is considered a modern classic of Mariology, sung in Catholic parishes across the nation: Sing of Mary.
"Sing of Mary, pure and lowly,
Virgin Mother undefiled.
Sing of God's own Son Most Holy
Who became her little child
Fairest child of fairest mother
God the Son who came to Earth
Word made flesh, our very brother
Takes our nature by His conception."
Oh wow - that doesn't rhyme.

Guess we'll make it "takes our nature by His birth" even though that's completely erroneous and actually promotes the Nestorian heresy, the idea that the Divine Nature united Himself to a pre-existing human person.

As we can now see, the lyrics to Mary Did You Know are actually much more defensible than, say, those in Sing of Mary. So why is the priest so upset about the first, but absolutely silent on the second? Well, first, he doesn't really know the theology behind the IC very well. Second, the song under discussion is popular and written by a Protestant and everyone knows it is written by a Protestant, so it MUST be declared bad, while the second is written by a Protestant, but Catholics have long since forgotten that, and it isn't part of popular culture, and we have used it at Mass for a century, so ... it's fine.

At least, those are the only reasons I can come up with.
Personally, I think we should be thanking any Protestant who writes a Marian hymn, even if that hymn were as theologically unsound as Sing of Mary. After all, they need something to sing while they are engaged in Catholic idol worship around statues of the Nativity.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Lessons from the Planned Parenthood Shooting

Seen on the web:
"What I've learned seeing the recent flood of left wing posts about the planned parenthood shooting:
  • Suddenly religion and ideology are directly to blame for terrorism rather than climate change.
  • Motives matter.
  • No attempt to rationalize or begin a dialogue about "root causes", including what PP might have done to provoke the shooter.
  • Once again, it was inspired by a video.
  • The same people who've spent months, if not years, inciting violence against police nationwide are now really, really upset that an officer has been killed."      

Monday, November 30, 2015

America's Body Dysmorphia

"For most people, going blind is their worst nightmare, but for this North Carolina woman it was a dream come true. 
Jewel Shuping, 30, was so desperate to be blind that she poured draining cleaner in her baby blues to wipe out her eyesight — and she couldn’t be happier. 
She suffers from an illness called body integrity identity disorder (BIID) — a disease that causes able-bodied people to strongly desire a disability."
Many people shudder at this, but body integrity identity disorder, aka body dysmorphia, is possibly the most common psychological problem in America today, a disorder that afflicts upwards of 98% of Americans. In this disorder, a person intentionally cripples the proper function of a healthy body organ, either temporarily or permanently.

The woman above suffers from the disorder. Every person who undergoes a sex change operation suffers from the disorder. But they aren't the only ones who do.
Consider: what difference is there between the woman who blinds herself with drain cleaner, or a man who wants to be a dragon, and the woman who has a tubal ligation or the man who has a vasectomy? All of them are intentionally crippling the proper functioning of a healthy body organ. It is not even a difference of degree. The latter two have simply done something that society accepts and encourages, while the former has not yet reached the stage of social acceptance.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, upwards of 98% of Americans have engaged in at least a temporary "blinding" of their reproductive functions at some point in their lives. This is what contraception is and does, it is designed solely to disable or destroy the proper functioning of a healthy organ.

If the woman described above is insane, then essentially all Americans are insane. Indeed, most of the "civilized" world is insane, and the First World countries are driving the rest of the "uncivilized" world insane just as quickly as they can. 
Even a one-eyed man can see the problem.
But how many one-eyed men are left?

Some people seem unable to follow the logic in the article.
Here's a synopsis:
Major premise:  (A) Body dysmorphia causes people
                            (=)    to chemically/surgically impair
                            (B) the function of organs that function perfectly well.
Minor premise:  (C) Contraceptors,
                            (=)    by definition, chemically/surgically impair
                            (B) the function of organs that function perfectly well.
Conclusion:      (C) Contraceptors
                           (=)     suffer from
                           (A) body dysmorphia.
A = B
C = B
Therefore A = C

If you can follow this argument, Aristotle would be proud.
If you can't, I apologize - I can't make it any simpler than this.

And you have no argument against it.
No, really.
You don't. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

How Safe Are America's Mosques?

According to 1998 State Department testimony by Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, “80% of American mosques teach extremism”.

The Center for Religious Freedom’s 2005 study shows 80% of mosques teach hatred of Jews and Muslims. Muslims who employ a non-Muslim maid or cook "have to hate her for Allah's sake."

The Mapping Sharia Project’s 2008 study independently showed 80% of mosques preach hatred of Jews and Christians, necessity of sharia law.

The Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2011 issue shows 80% of American mosques teach jihad warfare and Islamic supremacism.

This violent Wahabbism is the creation of Saudi Arabia. "As I previously stated, the Center has not attempted to measure the extent and effect of Saudi publications here. However, as the website of King Fahd states, “the cost of King Fahd’s efforts in this field has been astronomical.” Some, such as Alex Alexiev of the Center for Security Policy who testified before this Committee in 2003, have estimated Saudi spending on the export of extremist ideology globally to measure three to four times what the Soviets spent on external propaganda during the height of the Cold War. As oil revenues rise for the Saudis, this might well increase."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Wonders of Tautology

Evolutionary theory says that the fittest survive. How do we know which are the fittest? Well, they are the ones that survive.

I am not a fan of evolutionary theory, but at least one attack on the theory is pointless. Some people argue that evolutionary theory is wrong because it is a tautology. Of COURSE it is tautological. All of science is tautological because all science is based on math and all of math is tautological.

Tautology is extremely important - it shows us that things we never suspected were the same ARE, in fact, the same. So, a really complicated equation may turn out to reduce to 1. Who knew? It was a very informative tautology.

The problem with evolution theory is it tends to be uninformative tautology.

BTW, creationism is also useless, just in a different way. I have no no idea how God populated the earth with living things, nor is it central to my salvation that I know these things, so it isn't something I view as a crucial problem to solve.

The primary point of this post is to point out that tautology, per se, is not the problem.
Uninformative tautologies - those are the problems.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Do Books Think?

I don't buy into the AI concerns. When I was taking my computer science degree, I asked one of my profs (a huge AI fan) the following question. Keep in mind that he thought the Turing test was an adequate test for the existence of AI.
"Let's say that I have a book that lists all possible responses to any question or comment that anyone could make. Let us also say that I appended an index to the book that allows me to look up the appropriate response and read it off to my opposite within a few seconds, so that time lag would not factor into the Turing problem.  
Is that book, sitting quietly closed on the desk, is it artificially intelligent?"
He couldn't say yes - it was clearly just a book. But he also didn't want to say no, because that would negate his darling. So, he just said, "I think there's more to it than that." When I asked what that might be, he laughed and said, "Well, I don't know, but something."

Insofar as AI is a database lookup, there is no way it can be artificially or otherwise intelligent. A database is just a large digital e-book. Books, it is commonly agreed, are not examples of artificial intelligence.

You might say it is the program (the procedures) combined with the book, but isn't that the same as just reading a book: procedure (reading) plus database (book)? Even when a computer is able to modify its own programming, it is following a predetermined procedure operating on a pre-existing database (its own programming).

No matter how I think about AI, it just isn't obvious to me how AI is any different from reading a book. Which means every printed book, every written anything, is artificially intelligent. But every printed book is just the product of a real intelligence, a person, in many cases, a dead one. The book can't do anything apart from the procedure of being read.

Does that mean it is the procedure which is artificially intelligent? The act of reading is artificial intelligence in action? I can't wrap my head around how the action itself is intelligence, apart from the actor. Even the ancient Greeks created little robotic machines, in which springs and ropes wound up gears so that the "robot" would move in a specific direction for a bit, then in another specific direction for a bit. Were those robots artificially intelligent? I don't see how. Everything we've done since then is just a glorified Greek robot.

Can we create procedures which will kill us all? We've done that lots of times: just consider the weapons of mass destruction we have created. Is poison gas, along with the procedure for disseminating it, an artificial intelligence? Is a machine gun? By the rules given above, the answer would have to be "YES!". So, in that sense, I suppose artificial intelligence is dangerous.

So, when people tell me I should be concerned about AI, it seems that they are telling me I should be concerned about my fellow man. Yes. Of course. That's not news.

Mizzou: The Free Market At Work

The Mizzou protests continue to capture the attention of the nation. Many people are upset because the adults (and they are adults) who protest against perceived whatever-ism are supposedly acting out in an infantile and irresponsible way. They may be. But they are also imitating the modern American corporation.

Modern American corporations don't like competition. At every possible turn, the corporations create lobby groups that write legislation, propose the legislation to lawmakers and subsequently get their own corporate ideas passed into state or federal law. Corporate lobby groups not only write laws, they subsidize the campaigns of state and federal legislators in order to make sure their laws go on the books. Without fail, the laws written by corporations and passed by their pet legislators favor the corporations that wrote them, these laws create barriers to entry for other businesses that might otherwise compete with the existing corporate structure and/or profits.

Most really successful corporations get themselves government subsidies - free money. They either get direct grants or tax-free zones, written into the law, passed as "earmarks". They restrict their employees speech, fire employees for any infraction of corporate rules, dump whistle-blowers into the street, regulate the market so no possible competition can arise. Many of these activities are backed by the power of the state. The state becomes the corporations' police force,

Corporations convince the government to require businesses to have licenses in order to do business. Most government licensing doesn't protect anyone but the corporations, it is just a barrier to market entry created by market actors who are already making their money and don't want competition, much like an interpretive dance major doesn't want to have to compete for jobs with an electrical engineer.

Think "cosmetology" for instance. Do we really need hair-dressers to have government licenses before they can wash someone's hair for money? Seriously? Actually, the de facto need to get a university degree before you can get hired is just one more artificial barrier to job market entry, it is a union card whose fees are dramatically higher than any previous union ever extracted from its members:
Universities became the new apprenticeships, replacing both the agrarian small-business apprenticeship model and the union card. Whereas the earlier systems placed an apprentice into a job according to biological nepotism, the new system places people according to intellectual nepotism – only those who think the right thoughts will move into positions of power. As a result, university professors have become the gatekeepers to society. The newest political party, the university, fills the empty slots in political, judicial and media positions.
These students are doing with university administration muscle EXACTLY what corporations do with government muscle - require certain credentials before you are allowed to speak/act, and entirely forbidding certain kinds of speech/action. Mizzou students want to regulate what speech products are permitted into the university marketplace in precisely the same way that corporations regulate what products are permitted to enter into the "free" marketplace. Students threaten to stop the flow of money to those administrators who don't go along, just as corporations implicitly and explicitly threaten the flow of money to state legislators who don't go along.

And as for "free speech" in a corporate environment... wait, I can't stop laughing. Please. My stomach hurts. Stop.
Question: How many Americans are completely muzzled inside of their corporate environment?
Answer: All of them.
Why should corporations that are universities be any different than corporations like IBM or Apple? No. Seriously. Why? Universities aren't built around education, they are built around credentialing and preparation for a job. What could be better preparation for the corporate work environment than learning to keep your head down and your mouth shut while your bosses lecture you about thought-crime?

The student activists are regulating speech and action to prevent a competition of ideas in the university marketplace in exactly the same way that corporations already regulate speech and action to prevent a competition of products in the regional/national marketplace.

For universities, ideas are supposed to be their products. Students are treating the university administration in very much the same way that corporations treat the state and federal governments.

Is this good? Well, no, almost certainly not. But, when we really consider the situation, we cannot deny that Mizzou students are really just training to be American "free enterprise" corporate actors, and doing a very good job of it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

MIZZOU's Political Fumblerooski

The Mizzou controversy is fascinating precisely because so much hoaxing is going on with both sides. Sure, the entire controversy is almost certainly contrived: there is no evidence of the swastika, the KKK or the supposed racial slurs. But, on the other hand, there is also no evidence that the slurs being laid on the student activists are entirely fair. They are being called infantilized, irresponsible, unable to be self-reliant, etc.

I can't help but think the people attacking the students are frightened of them for entirely different reasons than the ones they voice. After all, student protests like this have become quite common in the last few years. What makes this one such a sharp stick in everyone's eye?

In a word?

These student activists made one, simply BRILLIANT, move. They not only got the Mizzou football players on their side, they got the Mizzou football coaches on their side. With that one act, they won their fight, game, set, match (to mix sporting metaphors).

It is, as always, all about the money. As I've pointed out previously, everyone who attends a university is an adult who is taking on a lifetime risk of debtor's prison imposed by the government. All student loans must go through the government, no student loan can ever be discharged except through payment. Even bankruptcy Chapter 11 proceedings won't make them go away. So, students have a certain financial interest in getting the product they want.

And, in order to force the university's hand, Mizzou student activists hit them right in the gonads. They took out the Mizzou football program. To give you a feel for the size of the college football market, ESPN alone will pay $7.3 BILLION (that's "billion" with a "b") for rights to transmit seven college football games a year for the next 12 years. Sports programs, especially football programs, bring enormous revenue to their college campuses, in no small part because the players don't get a dime.

Universities are the pimps, college athletes are the ... talent. Once the protesters threatened the cash drawer, the chancellor and president had to resign. They couldn't very well sit down with the coaches and players to negotiate a response. That would make clear how much was at stake. Indeed, if players and coaches decided to organize across the system, it would threaten the entire college football system.

They couldn't fire the coaches - that destroys Mizzou's income. They couldn't get rid of the players. That would focus attention on the power of the sports team, and the coaches would just bring new players into line with their viewpoint. The only way out was the door, and they both headed for it.

What fascinates me most is that no one on either side is talking about the importance of having snagged the football team to support the movement. It is as if both sides are attempting to pretend the ball is somewhere other than it is, hoping the Mizzou football team's political fumblerooski  is not recognized for the winning play that it actually is.

As I've said before, I am not at all a fan of what the students are advocating. It violates what a college is supposed to be about. But colleges haven't been living their mandates for a long, long time. In that sense, the students are simply making explicit the stupidity that has been implicit at most colleges for many decades. The honesty is, at least, refreshing.

No, I don't endorse their goals. What I do applaud is their brilliant political pressuring efforts. It was a tour de force that few adults have managed to emulate.

College students, take note: as long as you can get the football sub-system at your university on your side, you can force the administration to jump through any hoop you care to name. And you strike fear into the heart of football fans everywhere. They may call you every name in the book, but you will most definitely get what you want in the end. It's either that, or they never watch another college football game as long as they live.

Isn't that an interesting dichotomy?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Are Mizzou Students Right?

Everyone is up in arms about the students at Mizzou. Student demonstrators, along with the college football team (a very lucrative source of funding to any college that hosts football) have conspired to bring down the president and at least two instructors.

What to do?

Well, first recognize that the college can be viewed one of two ways:

  1. it is a business selling credentials (not education) as its product
  2. it is a department of the federal government, fully funded through government money that is funneled through students who borrow money from the government to attend.

Keep in mind that the money borrowed is a permanent debt. Adults who owe the government educational loan money cannot discharge that debt in bankruptcy nor in any other venue. They have to pay it, either through wage garnishment or deathbed estate garnishment. Unlike any other debt that is incurred, there is no legal way to get out from under it unless the government spontaneously decides to forgive the debt. It is the modern version of the debtor's prison.

So, these adults look at the product the university is delivering and revolt.
Is it legitimate?

Sure it is. Given the two cases above, the adults who are protesting are living out one of two situations.

  • If (1) above obtains, then the consumers have a every right to demand changes in the product they are purchasing
  • If (2) above obtains, then the citizens have every right to petition for change in the way their government runs. In fact, this particular right is guaranteed by the Constitution.

EITHER WAY, these adults (and they are adults), have the right to behave as they are behaving and the right to get the change they are petitioning for.

Now, you and I don't have to LIKE this (I personally think they aren't acting in their own best interests), but we cannot deny their right to do this.

We can't complain that it is a drain on taxpayers - insofar as it is a loan, this is the one loan that MUST be paid back. We can't complain that they don't have the right to protest. Certainly they do. We can complain that we don't like their choice - but it is THEIR money and THEIR debt, so why wouldn't they have the right to protest the quality of the product they perceive themselves as getting?

Everyone, especially conservatives and libertarians, are acting like the Mizzou students are pampered special little snowflakes. Maybe they are. But aren't we always harping on people to take responsibility for their education? They are.

I personally think the whole thing is based on a hoax, deliberately foisted on them and promulgated by administrators and teachers with an agenda that has nothing to do with the students. Smart administrators and teachers can easily direct loose cannon students for their own ends. But again, if that's what the purchasers of this particular product want to be and do, well? They're the ones on the stick for the educational loans. It is their life to live.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The PC Culture at Mizzou

A lot of people are talking about the politically correct culture at the University of Missouri, a culture which brought down the university's president and chancellor. Conservatives, especially, are engaged in much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the unfairness of it all. But it's actually just the free market at work.

In order to see why this is true, you need to remember two things: (1) universities are not in the business of educating youth, they are in the business of credentialing youth (2) nearly all colleges and universities subsist entirely, or almost entirely, off of federal funds imported into the college by students.

To put it another way, consumers (students) use government money to vote about which college has the superior credentials. Whether they learn anything is completely immaterial. The government employees, also known as administrators and professors, compete to provide the top credentials.

In the current teapot tempest, consumers (students) have decided that they want to change what the credentials stand for. Instead of even pretending to stand for education, consumers now want the credentials to stand for their emotions. College credentials are now meant to stand for how consumers feel about certain aspects of life, not what they know about those aspects of life.

The government subsidizes the consumers who want that transformation. Government employees (college professors) are backing that consumer-based transformation by telling the customer that this particular fad is the best way to go. Since we all back the government actions in the market via our tax dollars, the market responds by changing the purpose of university credentials.

Some individuals (taxpayers) may not like that transformation. Too bad. This is what the marketplace elites want, and they control the process. We made them elites by voting for them, either at the ballot box or by buying their products. So, by voting for them with our wallets and our ballots, we made them our bosses. We made their opinions more influential than our own.

They want the credentialing to change because they don't need educated Americans. Educated help, technical help, can be imported from anywhere in the world. What the marketing elites want is docile, divided Americans. They want Americans who have been intimidated into silence through a process that they can deny they had anything to do with: deniable intimidation.

A divided America assures the elites stay in power. The American marketplace makes more sales with 300 million toaster buyers than it does with Americans who are united, who support each other, and who therefore don't need stacks of commodity items. The more things we buy, the more our wallets continue to buy them power, and our ballots continue to support the people who cut government regulations that assure the elites stay in power.

This is the logical consequence of the capitalist marketplace that Pope Francis warned us about. The Pope doesn't have a problem with profit, per se. He has a problem with the divisiveness that is inherent to pure capitalism. No conservative whose conservatism is based on pure marketplace economics, and nothing else, has a real right to complain.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Alternative To Resignation

Justice Kennedy has opined that any Christian who disagrees with the SCOTUS ruling on sodomite marriage should resign, just as they did in Hitler's time.

Let us leave aside the fact that the Justice has just favorably compared SCOTUS to Hitler in order to dwell on a fact he may have missed: to whit, Catholics (including the Pope) and Christians in general didn't just resign. They actively tried to assassinate Hitler and his minions. And frequently succeeded.

So, if Justice Kennedy wants America's Christians to emulate the Christians who lived under Hitler's regime, I am sure we can accomplish that. Remarkably, Justice Kennedy certainly appears to be giving his blessing to the endeavor.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why Your Vote Doesn't Matter

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing.
Those who count the votes decide everything."
I am not all that keen on voting anymore. I just don't see much of a point. You may say, "Ah, yes, the two parties are so close to the same thing, that there's not much choice, is there?"

That's not what I mean.

Electronic voting machines are not secure. At all.
So how would someone use these vulnerabilities to change an election?... Note that none of the above steps, with the possible exception of figuring out the WEP password, require any technical expertise.  In fact, they’re pretty much things that the average office worker does on a daily basis.... A high school student could perform undetectable tampering, perhaps without even leaving their bedroom. 
It isn't just that series of machines from the 2000's. There's this story from April, 2015.  
Touchscreen voting machines used in numerous elections between 2002 and 2014 used “abcde” and “admin” as passwords and could easily have been hacked from the parking lot outside the polling place, according to a state report.
or this story from 2012
If we practiced a lot, or even better, if we got someone really good with his hands who practiced a lot for two weeks, we're looking at 15 seconds to 60 seconds go execute these attacks.
As this story shows, as a voter, you can vote, sure, but you will never know who you voted for.  Why? Because as a programmer, I can adjust the voting machine's program so that my choice goes into the database while "your" choice is sent to the screen or printer. This kind of subterfuge is trivially easy. You will never know I stole your vote. 
So, we aren't voting for candidates anymore, and we haven't been voting for them for years. Whoever has the best hackers will win the election. The people lining up at the polls merely provide the necessary cover for each sides' hackers to do their work.
President Obama has quietly recruited top tech talent from the likes of Google and Facebook. Their mission: to reboot how government works.
That's why a story like the one above really says it all. How American government works - that has been rebooted.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Myers Briggs Bullshit

In English, words that have French origin are considered upperclass and acceptable, while words that are derived from German are considered low-class and less than acceptable.

So, we would rather be a chef (French) than a cook (from the German kuchen, to cook). And hospitals ask us for a feces sample (French) rather than a shit sample (from the German "scheissen").

But, in the case of the Myers-Briggs personality test, those good old Anglo-Saxon words apply. It is pure horseshit or bullshit, depending on which species you prefer.

It is as stupid as getting energy from crystals, as useless as essential oil aromatherapy, as pointless as a Himalayan salt lamp.

It is the way people with college educations justify mindless superstition.
Make it stop.

Anti-Malware Software

If you have a virus infection, and you need anti-malware software, here are some suggestions:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Thoughts on Theocracy

I have recently had several conversations in which someone expressed one of the following opinions, or something similar:

"Well, you don't want a theocracy, do you?"
"This country is not a theocracy."
"You want to impose a theocracy??!?!"

This sentiment is the moral equivalent of "you don't have the right to impose your morality on others," an argument whose silliness I have written about elsewhere:
This "bayonetting our own" line is just a variant of the old pro-abortion argument, "No one has a right to impose their morality on others." Well, what if my morality says I DO have that right? By telling me what to do, aren't you assuming that YOU have the right to force this arbitrary standard on me? If you REALLY felt that way, you would have to remain silent, recognizing that I may not share your sentiments.
So, if the argument is so stupid from a logical standpoint, why would anyone say it? Well, it serves three purposes:
  • First, I get a chance to take the moral high ground - when I use the argument, I can pretend that I am serving a higher standard than grubby little you.
  • Second, because you have just been "shamed" you will probably shut up. After all, how are you going to fight against these "higher morals" I have just revealed?
  • Third, if I use that argument, I don't have to answer any of YOUR grubby little charges. I've attacked YOU, not your position.
It's pure ad hominem attack, and it's sleazy.
Generally speaking, the person who trots out the "You don't want a theocracy, do you?" line is an atheist who wants to imply that you are a sleazy, violent, anti-democratic nutcase. But even if the individual who trots out this line is a mis-guided theist, the argument is easily torn apart.
Question: America is a secular society, right?
Answer: Well, it is supposed to be. And it would be if you nasty little religious people didn't keep shoving your morality down our throats. 
Question: Should laws create the greatest good for the greatest number?
Answer: Of course! That's precisely what theocracy does not do! It only benefits the minority at the expense of the majority!
Question: Do you like all the laws that American society imposes on you? Are you happy with all of them?
Answer: Well, no one is happy with all the laws. That's the price of living in a pluralistic society! 
Question: Indeed it is! Since living under laws you don't like is the price of a pluralistic society - a price you are happy to pay - what difference does it make if you happen to live under a different set of laws you also don't like? From your point of view, it shouldn't make any difference at all. You aren't living under laws you like now, if we changed the law to a theocracy, you would still be living under laws you don't like. So, it's no loss to you. We're still pluralistic. As you point out, no one is happy with all the laws. So, we can have a lot of different groups who don't like the new theocratic laws, and it doesn't change the current situation at all.
Meanwhile, there is a significant subset of Americans who would LOVE to live under a Catholic theocracy. So, in order to implement your rules and do the greatest good for the greatest number, we really should impose a theocracy, as it makes no net negative difference to those who don't like the current law set, and it would make a great positive difference for those who would like to live under a Catholic theocracy.
At this point, they will start huffing about how it makes an enormous difference, but they won't be able to tell you what that difference actually is.

I am now authorized to reveal what the essential difference is. The difference between living under secular law vs. a theocracy is simple: by having everyone live under secular laws they don't like, everyone is forced to tacitly accept the idea that secular laws are superior to all other kinds of law. If we force everyone to live under Catholic (or Islamic or Jewish) laws they don't like, everyone would have to tacitly accept the idea that Catholic (or Islamic or Jewish) law was superior to secular law.

It isn't the "living under laws I don't like/believe in" part that upsets them.
It is being tacitly forced to accept the idea that Catholic law really is the best form of law.

Dealing with Pollsters

When polling companies call me, I always ask to be paid before I answer any questions. If they are going to make money off of my opinions, I want my cut.

They always decline to pay me, I always decline to answer.
Go, thou, and do likewise.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Atheist's Dilemma

Socrates was not an atheist (far from it), but his dilemma has often been invoked by atheists to "prove" the Christian idea of God is self-contradictory. This is Euthyphro's dilemma:
Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God? 
If the former, then there is something (morality) greater than God, that even God must conform to. If the latter, then God is arbitrary and not reasonable at all. 
The answer requires the acceptance of only two concepts. If, for purposes of argument, we accept two propositions: (1) each being has its own characteristic nature, and (2) God is pure existence, the source of all existence, then there is no dilemma, at least none in Christian theology.

Morality is not the result of God issuing commands.
The moral life is who God is and God does not change.

Now, one may respond that anything which does not change is dead, yet that response cannot explain the fact that, even on the physical plane, we are composed of things that do not change, yet we live.

God is pure Act, pure Being. Morality is the nature of God. To say that we conform ourselves to moral law is to say we are only fully ourselves when we live as the image and likeness of the God in Whose image and likeness we are made.

Socrates' false dilemma comes from the wrong idea that morality is a command.
It isn't.

Morality is Being. Morality is Act. God is pure Act. When God reveals Himself to us, even through the physical revelation that is the physical universe (the heavens are telling the glory of God), our being responds to His self-revelation. Even physical contact with the universe elicits a response from us (we, who are made in His image). We respond with an answering recognition, a desire to live as He lives, to "be ye holy as God is holy." This is the moral compulsion each man experiences. It is not a command from God, it is our own human nature responding to His divine nature - Deep calls to deep across the void. God does not command us to live according to His moral law. Rather, if it can be considered a command at all, we command ourselves to live the moral law, because - when we encounter Him, even if ever so remotely - we innately and inchoately desire to live as He lives.

Socrates and every other philosopher who saw the relationship between God and "His commands" as a dilemma only saw it as such because they didn't understand what Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas did understand. Morality ultimately isn't about command. It is about image and likeness, Persons and personhood, God's Own Divine Nature and its (broken) mirror, our human nature.

Socrates could not understand this because he did not have the tools. The idea of "person" is a Christian idea. The word "person" was stolen by Christians from Greek stage plays and redefined to help people understand the three Persons of the Trinity. Since Socrates did not have the Christian understanding of either "person" or "nature", he could not resolve the problem that he faced. He believed in God, but - without the revelation of Jesus Christ - he didn't know how to answer the dilemma he faced.

More Questions on the Synod


The synod wasn't assembled by the catholic media that you've been so prone to criticize. It was called by the Pope, and he does what he wants, like you said.

So we have a Pope who has assembled a pointless synod and replaced certain conservatives with liberals. And you blame the "catholic media".

Do you blame the catholic media when the Pope says certain things about homosexuality, and within weeks, Illinois politicians pass a gay marriage law quoting these very same words the pope so careless used?


Yes, the synod was called by the Pope. The Pope's job, along with the bishops, is to explain the Faith to the world. That means the bishops need to have an explanation for any nonsense the world spews.

Thus, in order to have answers to nonsense, bishops within the synod must propose nonsense, so that proper responses to nonsense can be discussed. It doesn't matter if the bishops who propose the nonsense actually believe the nonsense they propose. The point of the synod is to adequately respond to the world's nonsense with the Gospel Truth.

So, of course the synod will have discussions about nonsense.
It would be extremely odd if it did not.

The point of the synod, any synod, is never to explain "new" doctrine, for there is no such thing. The only reason synods are called is to explain unchanging doctrine in a way the changing world understands. The whole point of a synod is to discuss the world's nonsense, and try to help the world make sense of it's own nonsense. So, yeah, if the synod didn't have discussions about absolutely ludicrous ideas, it wouldn't be doing what it was called to do.

I blame the "Catholic" media for spreading nonsense about the synod. Catholic media is supposed to understand this process and explain it to us secular Catholics who don't get it. Catholic media is supposed to calm the storms, not invoke them. But, for want of clicks, the "Catholic" media is doing exactly what the world does - twist the synod's work, instill fear that the Church will fail, the sun won't rise tomorrow, Satan will win, yada, yada, yada.

The devil was quoting Scripture long before Pope Francis was a gleam in his father's eye. The devil will continue to quote Scripture long after Pope Francis' body is in the grave. Why are you shocked to see the devil quote Pope Francis quoting Scripture???

If I were a Freemason, I would be doing EXACTLY what the "Catholic" media is doing. I would be stirring up fear and opposition, I would be stoking division and mistrust. Every time you see a website inspiring fear about a papal synod or listen to a sermon expressing concern about Pope Francis, you are looking at a Masonic news item, listening to a Masonic sermon. Is that really how you want to spend your day?

Monday, October 05, 2015

Selling the Vatican's Artwork

This is a common sentiment, voiced by Protestants and atheists for centuries.

It can't be done.

Contrary to reports, the Vatican is not rich. It's annual budget is less than $300 million (Harvard's annual budget is $3.7 billion). It has an endowment of about $1 billion (Harvard has a whopping $30.7 billion endowment).

Treaty obligations prevent the Vatican from selling any artwork. Article 18 of the 1929 Lateran Concordat with Italy which created the modern Vatican State says:
“The artistic and scientific treasures existing within the Vatican City and the Lateran Palace shall remain open to scholars and visitors, although the Holy See shall be free to regulate the admission of the public thereto”
If it sold its property or artwork (each valued at 1 Euro), it would lose its sovereignty. Italy would be within its rights to take it all back.

But the above two reasons are silly secular reasons. The real reason the Catholic Church cannot sell the artwork is simple: God is Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

The artwork is a necessary tool to evangelize people to understand God. Asking the Catholic Church to sell the artwork is very much like asking the Catholic Church to burn every copy of Scripture in the world and never mention Jesus Christ again. The request substantially asks the Church to hand over its witness to God to the highest bidder. It requests that the Church henceforth refuse to effectively witness to God.

It cannot be done.

Any person who even entertains the idea of selling of Vatican art, by the very fact that he proposes it, demonstrates that he knows absolutely nothing about the Gospel or the Catholic Faith.

According to even secular sources like The Economist, the Catholic Church is the single largest charitable organization in the world. We are charitable because we know Christ. If we lost the art, it would be harder to know Him, harder to remember our purpose. In charity, the Church must keep her image of God always before Her, and that image is BEAUTY.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Problem With Caring for the Poor

Ok, here's the major economic problem that no one seems to want to deal with.

1) We want the poor person to have his physical needs properly cared for.
2) We want the worker who produces goods to be properly compensated for his labor.

The two goals are mutually exclusive.

It is easier to properly care for the poor if the cost of goods is low. Thus, those who care for the poor want us to donate things so they can give them away, either for free, or at very low cost, so that the poor can afford to pay whatever the very low cost is.

BUT, someone has to produce those goods. If I buy the product for less, I am paying less. The only way I can justifiably pay less is if the goods are worth less. But if the goods are worth less, then the work of the one who produced them is - by definition - worth less. Indeed, if the goods are given away for free, then the work of the one who produced it is - again, by definition - actually worthless.

We cannot both properly compensate someone for the work they do AND properly care for the poor. Someone is going to get it in the neck.

Automation allows us to drive down the price because the worker is no longer producing anything at all. In fact, he isn't even working. Instead, the producer has purchased a machine, a tool, and the producer's tool is working 24x7, producing goods. Human work is expensive. The goods are inexpensive precisely because there is no human worker involved.

To feed, clothe, and house the poor, I have to remove as much expense from production as I can. Human workers will always be the first aspects of the production cycle to go.

On the downside, insofar as humans have no work, they do not receive a wage, and therefore become part of the mass of the poor. On the bright side, because the goods they need are now extremely inexpensive, we can much more easily feed, clothe and house them.

Machines eat up the low-skill jobs first because those are the cheapest to automate. Seven men can lift a burden, or I can use a machine, a lever, and lift it myself. By using the lever, I have put seven men on the unemployment line. But it is not a sin to use a lever, or any other machine, in order to streamline production and reduce the cost of goods, especially if my goal in reducing the cost of goods is to make it more affordable for the poor.

I don't know how to resolve this problem.
I'm not sure it can be resolved.

Someone is likely to answer "distributism", but that is no answer at all.

The Church hasn't figured out how to handle the problem represented by automation and the proliferation of machines, the proliferation of tools. In all of human history, we've never quite had the problem we now face - a culture so inundated with machines that the need for human labor is actually disappearing even as the human population continues to rise.

Pope Francis is trying to articulate the problem, but it isn't clear that he fully recognizes what is going on. To be fair, it's not clear many people do. Certainly those who oppose Francis or see him as some kind of socialist have no appreciation for the difficulties he is trying to articulate to us. No one knows what to do here. Our biggest problem right now is to clearly articulate the full extent of the problem. Any assistance anyone can give in this direction would be most helpful.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rubio Gets it Brilliantly Right

This is This Week, George Stephanopoulos interviewing Senator Marco Rubio about Pope Francis (at 6:46 in the video):  
STEPHANOPOULOS:  Rush Limbaugh even suggested he's a Marxist.  Do you agree with that criticism? 
RUBIO:  I'm a Roman Catholic.  For me the pope is the successor of Peter. He's the spiritual head of the church who has authority to speak on matters, doctrinal matters and theological matters, and I follow him a hundred percent on those issues.  Otherwise I wouldn't be a Roman Catholic.  The pope is an individual, an important figure in the world, also has political opinions, and those of course we are free to disagree with.

Why the Pope Is Not A Socialist

All of Pope Francis’ writings revolve around one of the central paradoxes of modernity: How do we (a) elevate the poor out of physical poverty while (b) retaining their dignity? It may not be possible to do both.

Here's the first part of the problem: as many commentators have pointed out, the automation revolution provides physical wealth, but at the cost of jobs. By the late 1800s, the Industrial Revolution had begun to produce so many cheap goods that it allowed the creation or extension of four social innovations: (1) child labor laws, (2) retirement and retirement pensions, (3) commonly available extended education beyond grade school and a (4) five-day, forty hour work week, a work week which our current President is even now trying to reduce to 30 hours. 

Each of these four innovations effectively removed a segment of the workforce from the job competition market. Child labor laws and age 65 retirement removed those segment in the 1880s. The five-day, 40-hour work week was in place by 1930.  After World War II, we removed 30-40% of 18-30 year old adults from the full-time work force by encouraging them to get college degrees. In 2015, ObamaCare’ is trying to redefine the 30-hour work week as “full-time employment.” The machines which allowed world population to explode from 1 billion in 1800 to 7 billion today do not provide jobs at the same rate they provide food, clothing, housing and medical care.

It is easy to see why. Personnel costs are the highest component cost of any product. When personnel costs are removed, product price drops. In fact, removing personnel drops product price so low that it essentially eliminates physical poverty. Even the most impoverished nations in the world today suffer fewer famines and less disease than any previous population in the history of the world. The poorest of our modern poor are, in that sense, now physically wealthier than the wealthiest person alive in 1800.  World population is seven times higher today than it was in 1800: today, we feed, clothe and house seven planet’s worth of people in a style far better than we did one planet’s worth of people in 1800. Unfortunately, in order to accomplish this, in order to get the cost of production this low, we have to automate, we have to use machines as we once used slaves.

In the past, slaves and other low-skilled populations did most manual labor. Computers and other machines have replaced both. We are now, and have long been in, a service level economy that primarily moves information and automates services. By definition, half the population has an IQ below 100. They cannot participate in this economy. There are no jobs for them. 

Here's the second part of the problem: while Christian society has always said each person has dignity because each person is created in the image and likeness of the Persons of God, secular society assigns personal dignity on the basis of what each person can contribute to society. Children, the poor, the sick and the aged have less dignity because they contribute less. As society becomes secularized, as Christian faith fades from the public square, dignity is assigned not on the basis of being, but on the basis of work. But, as we have seen, half the population cannot work and can never be wealthy. That is, with religion gone, half the population has no socially recognized basis for dignity.

So, here is the paradox the Pope puts before us: how do we (a) elevate the poor out of physical poverty while (b) retaining their dignity? He insists the only solution is to give them jobs. Sadly, it isn’t clear we can, for the economic reasons listed above, i.e., increased personnel costs will dramatically increase unit costs thereby plunging the poor back into physical poverty. The relative number of jobs is continuously dropping and has been for over a century. Today, half the population will never possess the skills necessary to work the available jobs. Society doesn’t want Christian values back in the public sphere because Christian values often contradict business corporate values. 

Automation give bread but take jobs, i.e., secular dignity. Secular society will not permit Christian faith to assign dignity to the individual. It prefers to assign dignity on the basis of wealth and employment. The Pope finds this unacceptable. But no one has come up with a method for assigning dignity apart from either the dignity we each have as an image of God or the dignity we are assigned by society for being economically productive.

The Pope asks us to come up with a solution that squares this circle. He insists that, if work is the standard, everyone be given a job. Society refuses, for the reasons given above. We can condemn him as a socialist for pointing the problem out, but that doesn’t solve the problem he presents us. He welcomes discussion on this topic. He is open to recommendations. Does anyone have any?

On the Holy Father's Visit

Many, many commentators (including me) will probably be saying all kinds of things over the next few days about Pope Francis' message to us as he visits us here in the United States.

To be honest, I suspect he would prefer we entirely ignored his visit and, instead, just read the writings of the Church Fathers and acted on them.

Start here.

You won't regret it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Theory of Life

Physicist and atheist Fred Hoyle famously hated Fr. Lemaitre's explanation for the origin of the universe. In a radio interview, he derisively referred to Lemaitre's idea as the theory that a "big bang" started everything. The name was so catchy that it stuck, and Lemaitre's theory has, forever after, been known as the Big Bang theory.

Why did Hoyle hate it? Well, he was an atheist, and it sounded too much like Genesis: "Let there be light." As a complete sidenote, Hoyle would eventually become a theist (although not a Christian) because of his astrophysics. He developed a theory of how carbon atoms might be formed within the sun that later turned out to be correct. The fact that experiment proved him correct convinced him that God exists. He knew the only way his theoretical pathway could work is if Someone was monkeying with universal constants.

Now, I have no brief for creationism. I consider a six-day, 6000-year old Earth a silly theory given current evidence. Obviously, God created life, but, as Father and Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, observed, the Bible isn't a science textbook.

However, this does not make me a fan of evolution either. Even worse, the math doesn't work well for spontaneous generation of life (which is actually a problem separate from that of evolution). Spontaneous generation is so mathematically unlikely, it is nearly impossible to believe. God clearly had to have had a hand in creating life, but exactly how He did it is a complete mystery to me. All I know is that some kind of life-generation event happened. That's why you are reading this and I am writing it.

Calculations vary widely for exactly how improbable that life-creation event was. Some people argue the event is very much more likely than we understand, and, given the number of stars in the universe, and the number of planets that must revolve around each star, it is therefore likely that life exists on many planets. But if they are right, that poses a problem for theories of evolution.

Here's the problem: if spontaneous generation is more likely than we generally calculate, and if we are willing to grant that spontaneous generation has caused multiple worlds in the universe to host life, then I can't see any particular reason life didn't spring forth from non-life many times on this planet, instead of just once. In fact, if life can come into existence from non-life multiple times during the life of the universe - which is the position of those who insist that other planets hold life as well as ours - then what possible difference does it make if life spontaneously generated multiple times on one planet versus one time each on dozens of other planets? Why do we insist it can happen only once per planet, each planet separated by many light years? There is no particular logical or mathematical reason to make a geographical distinction. The universe is calculated to be about 14 billion years old, the earth between 4 and 6 billion years old. Taking the age of the earth and universe into account doesn't add any real improbability to the problem.

Indeed, it is possible that life cannot come into existence apart from DNA/RNA. Now, I know there are other theoretical models, but we have no living examples of them, so other models are all theory. It is possible the other models are wrong, that is, it is possible that there really is only one way for the universe to spontaneously generate complex life (life more complicated than a prion, which is not even clearly alive). Further, it is possible that this life-generation event sequence requires a specific base DNA/RNA material sequence in order to occur.

If that is true - if life has to be DNA/RNA to work - then it would actually make sense to see multiple "spontaneous generation" life events on the same planet. After all, if the conditions clearly obtained for the first event, then all the pieces are already present for the second, third, fourth, ad infinitum events.

Which would mean that all those mutually exclusive evolutionary "life trees" that we see are actually illusory. The different creatures on the planet only look related, but they actually aren't. Each species, genus, group, whatever level you want to call the cut-off, is actually the result of an entirely separate spontaneous generation, sharing, at most, a common chemical precursor. This theory seems at least as probable an explanation as the idea that spontaneous generation only happened once and everything else evolved out of that one, spontaneously generated, living creature.

Or, to put it another way,  I am proposing a DNA/RNA version of the anthropic principle. All living things appear to be descended from a common ancestor not because they are, but because there is no other way to have life exist.

In this scenario, each species/genus/whatever represents for biology what each separate universe represents in the multiverse proposal.

But this theory poses what I will call the Hoyle Problem. Just as Big Bang Theory looked far too much like Genesis for any atheistic physicist to accept, so the theory described above looks far too much like Genesis for any atheistic biologist to accept. It essentially allows you to assume an individual creation event for each genus.

So, there is a philosophical objection. However, from a purely atheistic viewpoint, I can't see any mathematical objections to the possibility of multiple spontaneous generations on the same planet.

The calculations on a life-creation event are all over the board. Since we have never successfully replicated it, we don't really know what the odds of spontaneous generation actually are, at least not in a concrete way. But, from the mathematical perspective of improbability, it is not like we're talking about different classes of large numbers. No matter how improbable the first event, once the first event occurs, the second can only be as improbable, and, if the second is to happen on the same planet under the same conditions, possibly quite a bit less improbable then the first.

If spontaneous generation processes can operate concurrently in different geographical locations (several different planets all having a life event), then there is no strong argument against having several of those concurrent processes happen in the same geographical locale as well. Which means that creationism, in this modified form, may well be correct.

Looks like biology is finally catching up with me.