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Friday, December 15, 2017

What is a Distributed Ledger?

Ask for a description of cryptocurrencies, and the reply will always involve the phrase "it's a distributed ledger..." They say it as if you are supposed to know what it means. Who the heck does? What on earth is a distributed ledger?

The best thumbnail description I've seen is to think of an Excel spreadsheet. Lots of rows and columns, and it's good for adding numbers, right? That's a ledger - it's just a spreadsheet.  Saying it is "distributed" means that copies of the spreadsheet are held on hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of computers at the same time. Any change made to one spreadsheet is automatically replicated to all of the others. Every computer that has a copy of the spreadsheet has to process or "vote" on whether or not to accept the change.

Who can change the cells of the spreadsheet? Well, that's where "coins" come in. Think of each cell as a separate "coin". Access to the cell is granted only to the person who holds the cryptographic keys to that cell. In this analogy, the "blockchain" would just be the map of all the spreadsheet cells.

Just as a spreadsheet can hold numbers or text, and the numbers can be currency or dates or anything else, so the "coins" in the spreadsheet can hold data. Most people simply buy access to the coins, as one would buy empty real estate. You don't necessarily intend to ever build anything there, but when you buy a coin, you are expressing the bet that someone else will one day want to build something in that spreadsheet cell. So, some people build on their coins - put data or programs into the coins (cells) they hold - but most people buy coins for the same reason you buy real estate. You're betting this blockchain is going to become a bustling city, and everyone will want to build there. So, you buy some empty cells ("coins", "land," whatever you want to call it), and wait for the property values to go up.

The person who holds the cryptographic keys to a coin is the one who can stuff data or programs or whatever inside of that coin (land parcel). If you lose your keys, or your keys are stolen, then access to that particular coin is permanently lost.

You prove that you have rights to make changes to the "coin" by supplying your password. You can sell your coin to someone else without ever telling them your password. When you sell, the blockchain recognizes the transfer of ownership - you get the cash, someone else now owns the access to that spreadsheet cell or "coin" in that spreadsheet (blockchain).

Every time you want to make a change to the cell, either by putting data into it or transferring ownership, you have to pay a processing fee to all the computers that update their copy of the ledger for you. The computers that acknowledge and update their copy of the ledger are called "miners." The fee is generally magnitudes cheaper than you would pay a bank. Once enough miners agree to update their ledger, all the others than auto-update their copies as well. Generally, a transaction requires multiple "confirmations", three or six or nine or whatever, to initiate the auto-update on all the other thousands of copies.

Some blockchains have no upper limit to the number of cells in their spreadsheet, so new "coins aka "land" aka "spreadsheet cells" are continually created. Other blockchains have a hard upper limit - only so many coins will ever be created and that's it. Some blockchains generate new "coins" at a steady rate, a certain percentage a minute/hour/day. Other blockchains generate new "coins" according to other methods.  Some blockchains come with all the coins they will ever have already in existence when they first publish their Initial Coin Offering (ICO).

As I pointed out before, each blockchain has its own unique characteristics. How, and how many of, the new coins are generated (and how new coins are generated) affects the value of the coin. Just as there is no single agreed upon "best set" of qualities, there is no single agreed upon "best method" for coin generation. People are still figuring out what works best for which applications. All of these unknowns are why values fluctuate so steeply.

Is cryptocurrency overvalued, in a bubble? It really is impossible to tell. It should be obvious that this is a pretty new technology, a new way of thinking about how to deal with information. How useful is it? Well, that's what the market is trying to figure out. The more people think about it, the more useful it seems to be, which is why the "coins" or the "real estate value" of the various distributed ledgers are steadily increasing. Is a lot of it pure mis-calculation? Could it be that this thing is really a lot less useful than it appears? Sure.

It's a penny stock, land speculation, stock market gambling, all wrapped up in a portable package that transcends both national boundaries and national currencies. It allows anyone with a cell phone to become his own personal uninsured bank and banker. Is it safe? Probably not, but maybe it will be once we figure out what it is and how to cage it. Is it fun? Yes.







Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Discussion of Cryptocurrencies

A friend asked me to weigh in on the various crypto-currencies. There are now over 1000 of them, and I can't claim to know much about more than a handful. That said, here is my take.

First, what is cryptocurrency? Cryptocurrencies are open-inspection distributed ledger systems. The value of crypto lies in the fact that these ledger systems put every transaction out in the open, essentially impossible to fake. Because the ledger is distributed across millions of computers, it is generally very difficult to corrupt or take down the system. If you need an accounting system with those characteristics, cryptocurrency does it better than any other accounting system. That is its value.

Those characteristics are worth money. No one is sure exactly how much, but as time goes on, more and more people are coming up with things where this crypto-currency distributed ledger system might be useful. Tracking mortgage transactions and title to land is one area. Tracking stock market transactions is another (e.g., Australia is moving to a crypto-currency ledger system for its stock market).  Every day, more use cases are being created, thus every day, crypto becomes more valuable.

While those are the general qualities of all cryptos, it is also the case that each of the thousand different ledger systems out there, i.e., each of the crypto-currencies, have slightly different characteristics. Some might be easier to program with, others may have faster transaction times, still others provide more guarantees of anonymity in every transaction. Thus different coins have different monetary values, based on whether the people investing think the characteristics of that particular coin are valuable.

Bitcoin is the most well-known and hyped, but is the least likely to win any long-term races for a variety of reasons. Its problems include the fact that it has relatively long confirmation times for trades and low transaction speeds. It is extremely difficult to program (Bitcoin code looks a lot like assembler, if you know what that means), so it is difficult to build applications on it. It is literally first generation architecture, the very first attempt at creating an open-inspection distributed ledger. On the plus side, because it is first, it gets all the hype. In addition, if you want to buy other cryptos, you generally have to buy some Bitcoin first. You trade dollars for Bitcoin, and Bitcoin for the currency you REALLY want. This means Bitcoin prices aren't going to go down until that changes. That won't change until a whole lot of cryptocurrency trading platforms allow for easier direct conversion of US dollars to cryptos beside Bitcoin. This is already changing, but there's a lot of room for improvement here. Improving this aspect of crypto trade won't take forever... a year or two at most. If you invest in Bitcoin, be prepared to switch to a different currency within the next few months/years.

What should you switch to?

Ethereum is a good platform, widely adopted, much better suited for general use. It is much easier to code, much easier to build applications on, and currently has faster, cheaper transaction times. A lot of big-name companies are building on Ethereum. There is little question Ethereum's value will outlast Bitcoin. It is definitely a more intermediate investment that will hold value for, hopefully, the next several years.

Monero's claim to fame is its privacy protections. It is very strong in that regard and those privacy protections are what drives the major value in this coin offering. Bitcoin claims to provide anonymous transactions, and that is kind of true, but not entirely true. While it is hard to do, it is possible to track a person's Bitcoin transactions. Monero takes "hard to do" and tries to turn it into "damned-near impossible." If you don't like having people all up in your business, then Monero is an appealing coin.

There are a few other cryptos I have looked at, but none of the others are really worth mentioning here, except for one. Of all the cryptos I know about, my favorite up-and-coming coin is Cardano. First, it is still extremely inexpensive.  Second, it has GREAT modular design. Third, it was created using the Haskell programming language, which theoretically reduces the likelihood of bugs. It's programming interfaces are very modern and allow the use of several of the most popular programming languages. In fact, it is, to my knowledge, the most modular coin on the market.

What does "modular" mean? It means various characteristics of the coin can be taken out and replaced without disturbing the coin's basic ledger system. Even the coin's base cryptography can theoretically be changed out at a moment's notice.

I mention this particularly because of something called quantum computing. Nearly all of the crypto-currencies out there are built on a cryptographic system called "asymmetric key algorithms." This kind of cryptography is gold-standard for regular computers, because it is essentially impossible to crack. It is used for nearly every kind of cryptographic transaction you can think of: banks, credit cards, spy stuff, even your Amazon purchases all use asymmetric key.

Sadly, asymmetric key is theoretically breakable with quantum computers. If quantum computing ever becomes a thing, not only are all of your Amazon purchase now at risk, anyone holding asymmetric-based crypto coins can have all of those coins stolen in just a few minutes. That may be the least of your worries: if quantum computing becomes a thing, every bank account in the world can be broken into in just minutes as well. The whole world depends on asymmetric key crypto, and quantum will break all of it.

The problem is simple: quantum computing will be able to solve entire classes of problems very quickly, so many big organizations, including IBM, Intel, Google and most national governments, are working to create big quantum computers. When they do, all asymmetric algorithms suddenly become much, much more vulnerable. It will be a freaking nightmare for security experts. 

But, while quantum (when it is more fully developed) can take out asymmetric crypto, it can't do anything to symmetric crypto. That's still safe. So, all existing asymmetric applications, including cryptocurrencies will, at some point (probably within the next 10 years), have to switch over to symmetric cryptography for their basic security. There are technical reasons why this has not been done yet (for instance, the key-size for symmetric crypto is not small), but everyone can see that it is coming. We've got maybe a decade, and then the deluge.

Because it is hard to code, Bitcoin is very badly positioned for such a switch. Ethereum is better off. Cardano is, from what I can see, as close to optimal for such a switch as we are likely to get in the near future. For this reason, I consider Cardano a definite long-term buy and hold. As more people become more educated about crypto-currencies in general, I expect non-Bitcoin crypto-currencies to increase. Cardano should, if my assessment is correct, go up by a factor of at least 100.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What Is Natural Law?

Contrary to popular opinion, natural law has nothing to do with "nature red in tooth and claw". Darwin's theory, whether true or not, has absolutely no bearing on natural law theory.
Natural law speaks to morality, the nature of sin and virtue. Darwin's theory says absolutely nothing about morality, sin or virtue. In fact, Darwin's theory does not even allow for value judgements. You cannot say something is "more evolved" or "less evolved", you cannot call one adaptation "better" or another "worse." You can only speak of whether or not an organism's chances of survival are greater or less, given the circumstances. That's it.
Apart from using the generic concept of a thing having a "nature", natural law theory also has nothing to do with pagan Greek thought. Natural law is a purely Christian concept that supports the purely Christian concept which is personhood.
For an example of how natural law works, let us assume two couples. Each couple gives birth to a sickly child. The first couple takes the child out to the forest and abandons it among the trees, where insects, birds, coyotes and other animals eventually eat the child (either eat the child alive, or eat its corpse, because the child died from exposure).
The second couple take their child to the NICU, where a team of doctors and nurses spend days hooking the child to machines, artificial pumps, artificial temperature control, etc., in order to assure the child's survival.
Which couple acted according to the natural law?
Since God is love, and God is life, and we are made in God's image and likeness, the SECOND couple acted according to the natural law. They acted as God acts, assisting the little one in need. Meanwhile, the first couple acted contrary to the natural law by abandoning their child to certain death.
That's natural law. Natural law is not about the laws of nature. Natural law is about how men are meant to image, in their own bodies and their own actions, the very life of the Three Persons of the Trinity, the God Who Is Love and Life. Darwin simply isn't relevant. 

Natural law theory rests on our grace-empowered ability to image God's life of love. If God sends the grace (and He does), then we can live natural law - we can live according to our nature. If He does not, then we cannot. Our rational minds need grace to choose the good, our bodies need grace to do the good. Without grace, as St. Paul said, I know what is good, but I do not choose it, rather, I choose that which I know is not good. Natural law does not work without grace.
Liturgical Christians know that the Fall marred human nature, but did not totally destroy it. In order to believe in the concept of "inherent human rights", America's Founding Fathers had to implicitly repudiate Luther and accept liturgical Christian understanding of human nature: marred, but not destroyed. Thus, if the Founders were correct about inviolable human rights, it is only because they implicitly refuse to accept total depravity. It is only because they embraced the Catholic understanding of human nature.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

On Roy Moore

1917 Code of Canon Law - legal age of marriage for women is 12.
1983 Code of Canon Law - legal age of marriage for women is 14.
Even if the allegations are true, Catholics cannot really entertain a brief against Roy Moore.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Advent Play List

Courtesy of Jeff Miller

+ Adjuvabit eam
+ Alma Redemptoris Mater
+ Angelus Ad Virginem

+ A Maiden Most Gentle
+ Benedixisti Domine
+ Christ Whose Glory Fills The Skies
+ Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (18th Century)
+ Come, thou long-expected Jesus
+ Come Thou Redeemer Of The Earth
+ Comfort Ye My People (Messiah)
+ Conditor alme siderum
+ Creator Alme Siderum
+ Creator of the Stars of Night
+ Dies Irae - Tuba Mirum (Messa Da Requiem)
+ Every Valley Shall Be Exalted (Messiah)
+ Gabriel's Message
+ Hail to the Lord's Anointed
+ Hark The Glad Sound!
+ Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding
+ High O'er The Lonely Hills
+ Holy is His Name
+ I Sing of a Maiden
+ I Wonder as I Wander
In The Bleak Midwinter
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent
Lift Up Your Heads Ye Mighty Gates
Like The Dawning
Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending (Hymn)
Long ago, prophets knew
Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge
Maria Walks Amid The Thorn
Novissima hora est (The Dream of Gerontius)
O Come, Divine Messiah
O come, O come, Emmanuel
O Heavenly Word Eternal Light
O Magnum Magisterium
O Quickly Come, Dread Judge of All
O Radix Jesse
O Word That Goest Forth On High, Plainsong 7th Century Latin
On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
People Look East
Praeparate Corda Vestra
Prepare the Way
Regnantem Sempiterna
Rejoice All Ye Believers
Rorate Caeli
Savior Of The Nations, Come
Sleepers, Wake! (Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns Die Stimme )
The Angel Gabriel
The Cherry Tree Carol
The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns
The Lord Will Come And Not Be Slow
There is no rose of such virtue
Thy Kingdom Come O God
Thy Kingdom Come On Bended Knee
Veni Redemptor gentium
Veni Veni Emmanuel (Latin version)
Vox clara ecce intonat
Wake, Awake for Night is Flying
Watchman (Watchman, Tell Us of the Night)
Zion hört die Wächter singen - Choral: "Zion hört die Wächter singen" J.S. Bach: Choral

Thursday, November 30, 2017

In The Country of the Blind

Many people, including myself, have called Humanae Vitae a prophetic document. But, as I think about events, I suspect we are all wrong. It is not a prophetic document at all. Let me explain.

Everyone talks about the terrible social lapses caused by contraception. What most people don't realize is that the eugenics movement and its daughter, the contraception movement, were merely steps in an already existing problem. The problem was the demographic transition. The cause, as near as anyone can tell, was the Industrial Revolution and the improvements in housing and medical care that revolution made possible.

The demographic transition, that is, the loss in fertility rate below replacement levels, actually began in the early 1800s. Dropping fertility rates spread from France and England throughout the world, country by country, for the next two centuries right up to the present day. The current baby-bust is not the aberration, the post-war Baby Boom was the aberration.

But, because we all grew up in the post-Baby Boom years, we all think this is a post-1960s problem. It isn't. And, while the Church has never changed her teaching, while the Church has always taught that we should not exploit workers or women, Rerum Novarum, Casti Conubii and Humanae Vitae, were documents that were playing catch-up.  The Church was late in recognizing the nature of the problem in the sense that She was late getting a firm grasp of the cultural shift.

The Luddites understood that the machines were going to create a problem. They misunderstood exactly how. They thought machines would take everyone's jobs and make everyone poor. Instead, the machines took most people's jobs, but made everyone rich. They knew there was a problem, but they didn't understand the problem.

Marx saw it as well - he was wrong in an entirely different way than the Luddites. He thought the machines would allow a small group of people to exploit the workers. It never occurred to him that it would allow that small group of people to simply ignore the workers. Again, he knew there would be a problem, but he didn't accurately predict what the problem would be or how it should be resolved. Indeed, he thought the destruction of the family would be a good thing. He absolutely did not understand that the industrialized destruction of the family was the problem.  The worker-employer relationship was just a symptom. The central problem completely eluded his grasp.

The Church has always taught that people are subjects, not objects, and the larger Christian society had largely understood this, for over a millennia at least, by 1800. What the episcopate took too long figuring out, in re both workers rights' and contraception, was that Christian cultural attitudes towards those two issues were undergoing such a major and rapid shift that encyclicals were required.

Culture had already gone 70 years down that road before we saw Rerum Novarum, 100 years down it for Castii Connubi and 150 for HV. THAT is the sense in which the Church was late to the table.

Not that anyone else was much earlier - we would be hard-pressed to identify someone who pronounced earlier AND correctly, about what was coming. Lots of people pronounced earlier, but they all got something important wrong. Others got the essentials right, but largely by mimicking what the Church had already said.

The problem is precisely in the fact that, by the time the Church had articulated the problem correctly, in a way the culture was likely to understand, the culture had changed to the point that the Church was largely ignored.

In that sense, Rerum Novarum, Castii Conubii and HV were actually not prophetic at all.  They were all three simply descriptive. After all, what those documents described was already well underway - it was just that the Church was the only one who saw it, because She was the only one who was still able to see.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Double Standards: The Church and Science

"Within the next week, two doctors cleared Geoghan for parish duty, according to an archdiocesan chronology that is in court files. It reads: “12/11/84 Dr. [Robert] Mullins - Father Geoghan `fully recovered.’ . . . 12/14/84 Dr. [John H.] Brennan: “no psychiatric contraindications or restrictions to his work as a parish priest.”

But, of course, NO ONE blames the medical profession for being wrong. Instead, everyone tells the Church, "You should NOT have followed SETTLED SCIENCE!"

And the science of the time WAS settled - according to the medical professionals then, they could cure it. They were experts, after all.

So, when the Church questions science, She's wrong, and when the Church accepts science She is wrong. Nice double standard you got there.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Usury and Capitalism (short version)

"Usury", in its simplest meaning, means "to charge for the use of a thing."  But Aquinas points out that the ACTUAL definition of usury is "to sell that which does not exist", i.e., to commit what we would now call "fraud."

In a subsistence-level society, money is functionally identical to consumption. In a surplus-goods society, money is NOT functionally identical to consumption.

Thus, as the monasteries were able to produce local areas of surplus goods, the function of money changed and the definition changed with it.

See Aquinas' commentary here as he explains why you can charge for the use of some things (e.g., you can rent a house), but not for the use of other things (you can't rent food).

Money was originally understood to be very much like food, but over time, the medievals began to realize that surplus food made it possible to think of money more like a house. It was this change in the understanding and use of money which allows one to "build a house of gold", i.e., accumulate capital.

I have a longer gloss here on his commentary which may (or may not) help to understand what he meant.

So, both capitalism and the industrial revolution are the result of Christian philosophy. The Catholic willingness to understand that the definition of money could change, and the affect this change had on the definition of usury was central to the development of capitalism. The Catholic development of experimental science was built off the high regard Catholics have always had for manual labor, and central to the industrial revolution.

Islam never understood the change in the definition of  "money" from the 600s through the 1500 years that followed. Christians, on the other hand, realized that the definition being used in their Scriptures was fundamentally different than how the word was being used even by the end of the first millennium. Thus, you see Aquinas drawing very fine distinctions in the Summa Theologica about what does and does not constitute usury.

Precisely because the definition of "money" changed, the definition of what it meant to "charge interest" also changed, and Aquinas recognized those changes. Usury is still a sin to this day, but Christians don't use the 600s AD broad-based definition still used today by Muslim banks, which inhibits capital formation in Muslim countries.

Instead, Christians recognized the elements of the underlying economy, distinguished them, and pointed out that many uses of this new "money" paradigm didn't actually violate any spiritual principles that had been put in peril under the old definitions.

The change then was almost as profound as the move from gold-based to fiat-based to crypto. Christians recognized, tracked and leveraged these changes without violating the spirit of the Faith. Muslims still haven't figured out that anything is different.



Thursday, November 09, 2017

SJWs and the Duty to Defend

The state legitimately defends its citizens against foreign invaders.

The biggest killers in time of war, e.g., invading armies, is not the military action itself, but the disease, malnutrition and exposure to the elements that these invading armies inflict upon the citizens.

So, arguably, when defending its citizens against an invading army the state is not primarily tasked with defending its citizens against a bloodless coup, but against agents that inflict disease, malnutrition and exposure on its citizens.

But, if THAT is true, then the state's duty to defend its citizens should also involve defending its citizens against those deleterious effects regardless of whether an army is invading.

Which means the state has a duty to make sure its citizens are at least somewhat protected against those three things under all circumstances. This means the state has the duty to conduct, say, nation-wide vaccination campaigns to wipe out smallpox and polio, mandate campaigns against vitamin-deficiency and malnutrition (which contribute to disease spread in addition to being threats in their own right).

You see where this is going.

IF we admit, as the Constitution does, that the state has a duty to protect its citizens, THEN arguments about the nation's duty to commit acts of social justice are really just variations on an argument over  where the "defense" line is drawn.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

"Green Energy" Kills Black Children


Al Gore, Barack Obama and Elon Musk support killing black children for personal gain.
Follow the bouncing ball:
  1. "Green energy", i.e., energy from wind and solar, is unreliable.
  2. Because it is unreliable (the sun doesn't always shine, the wind doesn't always blow), any electricity it generates that is not instantly transmitted and used must be stored. 
  3. The only way to store that electricity is to put it into a battery.
  4. The most efficient batteries use cobalt.
  5. Half the world's supply of cobalt is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  6. The companies in the DRC use small children to mine the cobalt.
  7. Because there is virtually no safety equipment, the children die.

SO, anyone who supports green energy tacitly supports killing small black children to make their money and/or their political point.

Now, Tesla (Elon Musk) has publicly and specifically said he refuses to source cobalt from the DRC.  Oddly enough, it seems Elon Musk is a liar.
"Human rights charity Amnesty International also investigated cobalt mining in the DRC and says that none of the 16 electric vehicle manufacturers they identified have conducted due diligence to the standard defined by the Responsible Cobalt Initiative."
Even if he does eventually succeed in not using DRC cobalt directly (which is highly unlikely, given world cobalt demand), his use of all the other cobalt supplies in the world will drive up the price of DRC cobalt so that DRC's child-mining operations become even MORE profitable than they are now. Supply and demand, and Elon still ends up contributing to the deaths of small black children.

As for Gore and Obama always nattering about "green energy", both seem (as you do), oblivious to the fact that "green energy" REQUIRES battery backup for off-peak power, and those batteries currently REQUIRE cobalt, which is mined by small black children who are worked to incapacity and death.
"Cobalt is up 150% in the last year, but it's likely to see far higher prices due to a severe deficit. According to Macquarie Research, the deficit for the next year will be 885 tonnes. In 2019, that number rises to 3,205, and by 2020, we are looking at a 5,340 tonne supply shortage!"
So, Gore, Obama, and Musk are deliberately blind to the fact that they are essentially advocating the death of small black children. "Green energy" can't avoid killing small black kids until it can avoid using the DRC's cobalt. It can't avoid using the DRC's cobalt until new cobalt-free battery technology comes on-line. That battery technology is not projected to come on-line for years, if ever.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Is Technology Pro-Worker?

Technology gives EVERYONE a better life, 
but EVERYONE has fewer jobs available, 
and HALF the population has dramatically fewer jobs available.
Why?
Tech improves everyone's life. 
Tech destroys old jobs. 
Tech creates new jobs.
Tech creates fewer jobs than it destroys, so there is a net loss of jobs, but a net increase in living standards for everyone. Tech takes the low-hanging job fruit, so it automates the simplest jobs, leaving only complex jobs and, when it creates jobs, creating relatively complex jobs.
In 1800, everyone from age 5 to dead worked 12 hours a day, six days a week.
In the intervening two centuries, we have eliminated jobs for:
• essentially everyone under 18, 
• most people over age 65, 
• anyone going to college (30% of the working population), 
• reduced the number of workdays to five, 
• reduced the number of work hours to 40 
• Obamacare tries to reduce that number to 30.
By the standards of 1800, everyone today job shares. 
So, tech brings very much increased standards of living, greatly reduces the number of jobs, and right-shifts the jobs it DOES create to the right-hand of the bell-curve. While 50% of the general population by definition always has an IQ below 100, the jobs tech creates tends to be best-suited for those in the 100+ IQ curve.
Janitors and 40-year old fast food workers generally cannot retrain as IT network administrators.
So, EVERYONE gets a better life, 
but 
EVERYONE has fewer jobs available 
and 
HALF the population has dramatically fewer jobs available.
Is that pro-worker? 
Depends on how you define it. What happens is fewer to no jobs, but higher standard of living. If that fits your definition of "pro-worker", then it is. Otherwise, it isn't.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pope Francis and the Death Penalty

Pope Francis recently announced that capital punishment “is in itself contrary to the Gospel.”

Traditional Catholics, whose failure to understand the Gospel is legendary, began caterwauling precisely on schedule.

So, let's review the basics of moral theology again.
Sigh.

We can inflict a natural evil (e.g., the pain of surgery) if we have legitimate hope that a natural good will result that is greater than the natural evil. However, we cannot inflict a moral evil at all.

Thus, we cannot take a human life (commit murder via euthanasia or abortion), even if this would restore a natural good (e.g., financial well-being to the family, health of the mother). We cannot torture another person, even if we have legitimate reason to hope that the tortured person will give up information that will prevent a great physical catastrophe. John Paul II pointed out that, given the current cultural climate, there were virtually no circumstances under which capital punishment was legitimate. Pope Francis merely stands with JP II.

Christ came to give life, and that abundantly.
He didn't come to take it.

In that sense, capital punishment has always been against the Gospel. And, it is worth keeping in mind that the Church has never, herself, imposed the death penalty. At most, she handed heretics over to the secular authority. Sometimes, the secular authority chose to execute the heretic, reasoning that anyone who was willing to rebel against God would have few cavils about rebelling against a human monarch. Other secular authorities (I'm looking at you, monarchs and princes who protected the likes of Jan Hus, Martin Luther and John Wycliffe) decided they liked what the heretic had to say and either left him alone, or actually supported him. But the death penalty was always and only a secular affair, never a sentence imposed by the Church.

Actually, the "change" in the teaching on the death penalty is virtually identical to the "change" in the teaching on usury or the Church's stance on slavery. Sure, usury is intrinsically evil, but the definition of money changed, so the phrase "interest on a loan" no longer means what it meant in the 12th century. Thus, when we say "charging interest on a loan is a mortal sin", the phrase doesn't mean now what it meant in the year 1000 AD.

Similarly, the Church permitted enslavement in the subsistence-level society of the Middle Ages, precisely because a subsistence-level society cannot afford to have many people in jail. A subsistence-level society requires that every able-bodied person work, so that the entire community does not starve. Useless moouths in jail couldn't be sustained. Prisoners either had to be killed, put to work or banished (which was equivalent to a death sentence). In justice, slavery was the only decent way to treat someone who offended against society. But, by the late 20th-century, we no longer have a subsistence-level society. We can afford to house legions of prisoners (and we do). The word "slavery" no longer means what it did. Thus, Pope John Paul II uses Veritatis Splendor #80 to pronounce "slavery... intrinsically evil."

In the same way, the circumstances which made the death penalty legitimate for state actors in the 12th century simply no longer obtain in the 21st. We aren't a subsistence-level society anymore, we have many more means to contain violence now than we did in the 12th century, so the reasons of self-defense which the state could use in the year 1000 simply don't exist anymore. The death penalty can no longer be legitimately referred to as a kind of self defense.

If the Church has permitted the death penalty, She has permitted it in the same way that Aquinas and Augustine were willing to permit prostitution, and the same way God Himself permitted divorce - not because it is a legitimate right, but because they were dealing with stiff-necked people.

"Stiff-necked people" ... That would be us.

By grumbling against Christ's mercy, shown forth in the Holy Father's words, we are acting like Korah and his associates. That didn't work out well for them.

Now, I don't expect this article to sway traditionalists. After all, when the people were told by Moses, "Look, I'm going to let God judge between me and Korah. If the ground opens up and swallows Korah and all his people in a flaming crack, then maybe you will admit that I was not entirely wrong." And when the ground opened up in a flaming crack and swallowed Korah, along with all his followers, the people - remembering Moses' warning - instantly responded, "See? Moses killed Korah."

Because that's how people are.
They don't like to admit that they are ignorant or idiots.
But for the rest of you - people who can be reasoned with, that is - these words should be sufficient.



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Self-contradictory Evolutionists

"One of the best-known segregation distorters is the so-called t gene in mice. When a mouse has two t genes it either dies young or is sterile, t is therefore said to be 'lethal' in the homozygous state. If a male mouse has only one t gene it will be a normal, healthy mouse except in one remarkable respect. If you examine such a male's sperms you will find that up to 95 per cent of them contain the t gene, only 5 per cent the normal allele. This is obviously a gross distortion of the 50 per cent ratio that we expect. Whenever, in a wild population, a t allele happens to arise by mutation, it immediately spreads like a brash fire. How could it not, when it has such a huge unfair - advantage in the meiotic lottery? It spreads so fast that, pretty soon, large numbers of individuals in the population inherit the t gene in double dose (that is, from both their - parents). These individuals die or are sterile, and before long the whole local population is likely to be driven extinct. There is some evidence that wild populations of mice have, in the past, gone extinct through epidemics of t genes."
The quote above, taken from Richard Dawkin's book, The Selfish Gene (p. 236), should be combined with Dawkin's theory of memes, described on p. 192:
Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain. As my colleague N. K. Humphrey neatly summed up an earlier draft of this chapter:’. .. memes should be regarded as living structures, not just metaphorically but technically.* When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn't just a way of talking — the meme for, say, "belief in life after death" is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.' 
When these two ideas are combined, we see the idea that contraception is a "good" thing is simply a meme which burns through the human population in much the same way that a t gene burns through a mouse population. Both the meme and the gene drive the afflicted population towards extinction.

Thus, it is a commonplace that evolutionists who claim to promote evolution, show by their lack of child-rearing that they don't actually believe in evolution:


This is the great lesson of the movie Idiocracy.
The idiots portrayed in the movie weren't the ones who had children.
The biggest idiots in the movie were the ones who did not.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Why Corporations Back Wealth Redistribution

This lament about Obamacare from a website that celebrates the free market is deeply ironic. No one on the website realizes that government does not distort the free market, rather, government is a legitimate market actor whose purpose is to enforce the wishes of the corporations that engage in free market activity. The sentence above summarizes why corporations write laws requiring wealth redistribution AND why corporations pay legislators to pass and enforce legislation that redistributes wealth. 
When it comes to the health care industry, the principle is quite, quite simple:
Sick people spend health care dollars on themselves.
Healthy people do not.
If medical corporations want to tap into the wealth healthy people have, that wealth must first be redistributed to the only people who would spend it on health products, i.e., sick people.
But what is true for medical corporations is true for EVERY corporation. Corporations need to get at hidden wealth in order to keep growing. So, it is in every corporation's interest to encourage wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor. Warren Buffett is unlikely to spend $2 billion dollars in 24 hours. But, take that $2 billion, divvy it up among a half million relatively poor people, and all that money will be spent on corporate products in a single day with hours to spare.
Corporate owners want to grow their stash of cash. The corporations they run need to tap all locked up cash stashes. So, the corporate owners want laws that touch other people's stash, but not their own. And this is the kind of law they direct their lobbyists to write, get passed and have enforced. That means the wealth redistribution will always happen among the 99%.
This is the purpose of government in a free market: to grow corporate owners' cash piles while stripping money from everyone else. Welcome to the free market.

Real free market capitalists point out that natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, seem to increase GDP, but actually don't. The money that goes into rebuilding is, in a sense, wasted. Instead of using that money on new ideas, new products, new processes, it has to be plowed into rebuilding existing infrastructure. That's why most economists consider natural disasters a drain on the economy, and not a boon: we have to pay for the same window twice, once when we put it in, and again when the storm breaks it.

From the corporate point of view, ending subsidies is identical to enduring a hurricane. The end of subsidies for insurance companies is good for you and me, the little guys who get paid to replace the broken window, but it's bad business for the businesses that were getting the subsidies. They just lost revenue stream.
Now they will have to buy a whole new raft of legislators to get that revenue back. The hurricane has struck their coast. The money the corporations have to spend on re-buying all those legislators and all that legislation is, from their point of view, wasted. It is money that could have been spent elsewhere. Now the corps are going to have to re-buy what had once been a settled stream of revenue. This is very destructive, from the corporate point of view.

We cry for them. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why College Students Hate America

Elite colleges train their students to be corporate and government executives. Corporations write the laws and pay the legislators to pass and enforce the laws. Government is an extension of business.

International corporations cannot afford nationalism.
It cuts into their profits.

So, colleges, which are bought and paid for by corporate America, train the future leaders of business and government to deprecate nationalism and patriotism. Corporate capitalism can't afford those value sets.

Plato and Aristotle taught the importance of ethics for the sustenance of the city-state, developing one's personal virtues in order to support the state.

Christianity taught the importance of morality for the Kingdom of God, developing one's personal virtues in order to better reflect the image of God in one's own person.

Today, corporations teach corporate values. This includes being "open-minded", being tolerant, being ignorant of history, culture and art. Cultural diversity is prized because it decreases solidarity and reduces political involvement while increasing spending. Hedonism is encouraged, responsibility discouraged. Our colleges teach this because they, like government, are a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America.

Just follow the money, folks.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

On the Error of John Cardinal Newman

Blessed John Cardinal Newman outlined his belief in an active laity as follows:
“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.”
Given that literally half (50%) of the population has an IQ below 100, it is also literally impossible for the laity to ever achieve such a lofty vision. Newman, of all people, should have understood that to different people are given different gifts, and that not all gifts are intellectual.

The beauty and strength of the Catholic Faith does not lie in how intelligent it is (though it is intelligent), nor how defensible it is (though it is eminently defensible).

Rather, the beauty and strength of the Catholic Faith rests only and completely in the fact that through it, any man breathing can be saved.

The rest is, as they say, gravy.

Cardinal Newman cannot want what cannot be. What he describes cannot be, for not all have the particular gifts that he holds up for admiration in the passage above. Rather, as Aquinas points out, the greatest grace lies in the uneducated peasant who can do none of the things Newman outlines, yet remains in the Faith because he cannot, in his bones, do anything but cling to the Truth which shines forth in his very being. It is not only the heavens that tell the glory of God. His glory shines forth in the simple and achingly beautiful existence of every human being. Human existence alone gives an account of the Faith, perhaps incomplete, certainly somewhat inchoate, but ultimately compelling nonetheless.

And that is the only laity Cardinal Newman, or any other ordained man, will ever truly have.
It is enough.

Why Same-Sex Marriage is Nonsense

What is the etymology of the word marriage?

Marriage, and the related word "matrimony" derives from the Old French word matremoine, which appears around 1300 CE and ultimately derives from Latin mātrimōnium, which combines two concepts: mater meaning "mother" and the suffix -monium signifying "action, state, or condition".

In ancient Rome, a man who entered into this state with a woman was, by that act, promising to confer upon her the title of "mater" or mother, especially a mother who bears children who can inherit. Children who can inherit property are said to have "legitimate" rights to property, in contrast to "bastards", who are defined as children without even theoretical rights to inherit property. If a legitimate heir died, the family property would go to a cousin or other near relative, but could not be given to a bastard child, if only because the man had not conferred legal status to inherit upon the mother he conceived with or her children conceived by her.

The state of matrimony was a legal state that concerned children's rights of inheritance. Love had no necessary standing in that legal relationship. While many other meanings have been added to the word "matrimony" over the millennia, this basic meaning is still retained, and is still foundational.

So, to put it simply, matrimony/marriage is the gift of legitimate children bestowed by a man upon a woman. By impregnating her within a legally binding agreement, the man confers upon the woman the title "mother" and confers upon their children the right to property.

Once this is understood, it is easy to see why "same-sex marriage" is a nonsense phrase.

Friday, October 06, 2017

A Second Amendment Problem

As regular readers of this blog know, I have no issue with private citizens owning weapons. Both the Second Amendment and the body of the Constitution itself, by dint of the Letters of Marque, arguably allow private citizens to own any weapon they can lay their hands on, up to and including nuclear weapons.

So, if you want to carry guns to go hunting, for self defense, or just because you really, really like guns, I have no issue with that. The problem arises with the people who insist that they have the right to own guns in order to protect themselves from the government. That particular reading of the Constitution is essentially impossible to make.

The first problem in such a reading resides in the Constitutional text itself: both the "Letters of Marque" in Article 1, and the "well-ordered militia" of the Second Amendment imply that citizens may own weapons in order to defend their local group/community or the country at large. There is no hint in the Constitution that widespread gun ownership by citizens should be allowed in order to facilitate the government's overthrow.

The reason is quite obvious: if that meaning were contained within the Constitution, then every patriotic American should always be fully prepared to shoot Americans in the head. Specifically, we have the right to shoot American politicians, American soldiers and American police officers in the head. But the Constitution says no such thing: indeed, Article I, Section 8 specifically says the militia exists to put down insurrection, not to start one. Now, you might argue that any government official who violates the letter or the spirit of the Constitution is himself engaged in insurrection. But who gets to determine how that works?

If this reading were accurate, then we should see quite a bit of commentary from the Founding Fathers encouraging the killing of American politicians, law officers and soldiers. And, while we see lovely sentiments about the Tree of Liberty being refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots, the Founding Fathers were silent about the specifics of when and how that was supposed to happen.

In fact, George Washington himself seems to have been something of a hypocrite on the point. After all, when private citizens treated American whiskey taxation as an illegal government intrusion into their lives, President Washington refused to advocate that these poor, overtaxed Americans go out and kill American government forces and officials. Instead, Washington personally led an army of American soldiers into the hill country to put down the "Whiskey Rebellion". This was the first (and last) time an American President led American troops into battle, and he did it against American citizens, no less.

Now, notice what Washington did not do. He did not, he never, argued that American citizens should be disarmed. But, neither did he expect American citizens to shoot him out of his saddle for trampling their rights. Nor did they. They melted away before Washington and his army ever encountered the armed opposition.

But therein lies the nub of the real problem with the popular revolutionary reading of the Second Amendment. Many today argue: "If government officials are violating their own oaths to uphold the Constitution, then shoot them. They won't be 'American soldiers' then, they will be just another gang of thugs. The first and foremost duty both of American government and American military is to uphold, preserve and protect the Constitution of the U.S. Consequently, an American soldier who refuses to do so or who accepts orders contrary to the Constitution ceases being an American soldier at that point and becomes a war criminal."

If that theory is correct, if the armed Americans opposing Washington's whiskey tax were correct, then those American citizens had a Constitutional right, nay, a Constitutional duty, to shoot Washington out of his saddle and kill every man-jack he led into battle along with him. Now, anyone who insists the Constitution implies an American right to engage in armed conflict against America's government officials can have no serious problem with the Battle of Athens. The tale of young American soldiers taking up arms against a corrupt local Tennessee government after World War II is well-known, or should be. But, can they have any philosophical problem with the shooting of Gabby Gifford or Steven Scalise? For, if the Constitution enshrines a right to violently overthrow a rapacious government, then the Second Amendment not only gives me the right to bear arms, it also gives me the right to be judge, jury and executioner of government officials. After all, I have to have the right to determine exactly when the government has become so rapacious that I must need take up arms.

As I said, I have no problem at all with the right to own weapons. But, at what point do I have a right to open fire on American government representatives? We can invoke the problem faced by the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, but that is precisely the point. If the government is harassing a lone individual, does he have a right to open fire? How are we to distinguish such a lone individual from a lone psychopath?

He will be shooting a police officer or soldier or politician who has a family, a spouse, children, a cute little dog. Sure, the man was being harassed, but he should have gone through the proper channels. And what if he had done? Now does he have the right? Or do we have to wait until the government oppresses groups of people? How large a group must be oppressed before the individuals in that group have a right to open fire? What rights need to be trampled before we break out our private arsenals: our handguns, rifles, tanks, fighter jets, aircraft carriers and nukes? Can I start shooting if I believe the rumors of the gas chambers? Or do I have to personally see the shower rooms and the bodies? And what if there turns out to be no gas chambers at the internment camps where FDR sent the Japanese? Was I still right to start shooting?

Invoking Constitutional rights becomes even more problematic when we remember that, technically speaking, the Constitution is an illegal document. According to the Articles of Confederation, the Articles could not be replaced except by unanimous consent. So, technically, by September 13, 1788, eleven states had illegally seceded from the Articles. If North Carolina and Rhode Island had had the military capacity, they could legally have declared the Constitution a rebellion and forced the eleven ratifying states back into the Articles in exactly the same way Lincoln forced the Southern States back into the Constitution eighty years later. In fact, the states arguably had more legal support to treat the Constitution as a rebellion than Lincoln had to treat the Confederacy as one.

Legal is not the same as moral, of course. The national socialists in Germany were always very careful to pass an enabling law before they inflicted any harm on anyone. As more than one commentator pointed out, the camps and their processes were all legal. Everything was perfectly in order in that respect. But this was also true of the American interment camps. Both Hitler and FDR took care to satisfy the legal niceties, but gave little thought to the moral niceties.

There is no legal support for the idea that the Second Amendment empowers American citizens to take up arms against the government for either perceived or real grievances. While the Constitution empowers Americans to own and use weapons, it does not empower a typical American citizen to be judge, jury and executioner. There are some who would argue that we may not have the legal right, but we do have the moral right. Fine. But that is also the argument of the Unabomber, a man now considered an eco-terrorist.

Stand by your right to keep and use arms. But, if you want to base your right in full or in part on your right to overthrow the government, do not be surprised if many people on the left find it difficult to distinguish you from James T. Hodgkinson, Jared Loefler, or Ted Kaczynski. The left produced these men, so they can be forgiven for seeing echoes of their rhetoric in yours.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

We Already Have UBI

Many people say a Universal Basic Income would destroy the fabric of the nation, turn people away from jobs that increase their self-esteem, yada, yada, yada.
I have three words in reply: "Wooster and Jeeves." 
If I were the child of a wealthy man, and inherited his income, I would have my basic income supplied by my inherited wealth. No one would argue with my lack of employment.
Would I be a better or worse man for it?
Well, that's up to me, right?
Whether we like it or not, every person alive today has inherited a vast sum of wealth, the accumulated knowledge of generations, all of it employed so as to make our lives easier. I don't know how my HVAC works, how my food is grown and harvested, how antibiotics are manufactured, but I benefit from all of it. We live on this inherited largesse every day, just as Bertie Wooster survived on his inherited income and the wisdom of his gentleman's gentleman, the illustrious Jeeves.
We ALREADY HAVE UBI.
We just call it A/C, antibiotics and grocery stores.
Now, we are being told that further UBI will destroy us.
A larger non sequitor would be hard to imagine.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Schismatics Teach the Pope

Differences in admonitions 

directed towards 

Pope John XXII (1333) 

vs Pope Francis (2017)



Pope John XXII (1333)
Pope Francis (2017)
Teaching being debated
Not formally defined (a question concerning the Beatific Vision)
Formally defined (the status of married persons)
In reference to what papal statements?
A few private sermons made both before and after the papal coronation
An apostolic exhortation
Public Papal statement regarding the controversy
Pope said theologians were free to disagree with him, as the teaching was not formally defined
None
Theologians summoned to meet by?
King Philip VI of France
No one
Under whose direction did the group meet?
Dominican patriarch of Jerusalem
No one 
Who created the document?
No one of particular note or unusual standing
In whose presence did the theologians meet?
Kings, bishops and priests
No one of particular note or unusual standing
Document contained?
Profession of faith
No profession of faith
What did the theologians ask the Pope for?
Apostolic sanction to their decision
Nothing. They don’t ask for apostolic sanction of their assertions. 

In fact, quite the opposite: they claim to teach the Pope.