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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

EWTN: A Sad Tale

That's essentially the headline from EWTN's daughter publication, the National Catholic Register. A priest who was fired from his job at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is pissed off, so he is demanding the Church fix his crisis of faith.

Why is EWTN running anti-papal crap hit pieces like this?

Sadly, the answer is very simple: at this point, EWTN and its purchased daughter publication, NCR, have been captured by badly catechized older American Catholics.

American Catholics have always been about ten inches from full-blown Protestantism. Remember, it was the bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas who led the charge AGAINST the declaration of papal infallibility at Vatican I. It was the American Catholic presbyterate and episcopate who endorsed the American heresy of the separation of church and state. In fact, the very heresy of Americanism is named after this country, the first heresy named after a specific geographic region in centuries.

The United States has never been a reliably Catholic country, and it still is not. Unfortunately, EWTN relies almost entirely on elderly American Catholics for its revenue stream, so it cannot afford to report the news in a way that will alienate it from the wealthy old people who help it make bank each month.

One of the reasons VC II was called was precisely that Catholic catechesis already sucked rocks in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The council was called because the state of the world's catechesis had almost uniformly descended to the wasteland that American catechesis had always inhabited.

The pre-VC II catechesis in America was, in fact, so bad, that the minute the 1960s American MSM began reporting that VC II heralded a "change" in Church teachings, most American Catholic laity, and quite a few of the religious and the priests, bought the MSM's reporting hook, line and sinker. If we had been well-catechized, the conciliar teachings could never have been successfully twisted, the majority of American Catholics would never have been taken in by the nutcase "theologians." If adult Catholics had known their faith, they would have known the teachings of the Faith do not change. The very fact that nearly every American adult did buy into the post-VC II heresies is itself proof that the previous thirty years of pre-conciliar catechesis had miserably failed. 

So, it is now 2017, forty-five years after the council. EWTN's audience is primarily elderly retired folk who grew up in the pre- and post-conciliar wasteland. Since this is the SAME audience that was never properly catechized to begin with, either before or after the council, and since EWTN has to keep these para-Protestants happy in order to keep its revenue stream, EWTN's reporting skews more and more weird. The organization has been captured by the people who pay it - badly catechized American Catholics.

Whatever EWTN may have been in the past, it isn't that thing anymore.

To be fair, this is pretty much true of all the Catholic media in the United States. It's all about click-bait now, and the best way to get clicks is to appeal to the Protestant American undercurrent in American Catholicism - brand the Pope seven kinds of heretic, and America's Protestant Catholics will richly reward you. Dan Brown's Protestant history of the Catholic Church demonstrated that in spades. EWTN is following in Brown's grand example, and so are all the other "Catholic" outlets that bash the Pope.

But that's Catholic media for you.
It is now indistinguishable from the MSM.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Body, My Spectacles

The question has been asked - are feelings or emotions sinful?

Feelings are generally either factually correct or incorrect. Feelings summarize a whole situation into a single, compact experience. That summary is either essentially correct, or essentially incorrect. But "factually correct" is different from "morally correct."

I am not morally responsible for misapprehending the facts.

The reaction of the intellect to the fact of the emotion is what determines right or wrong, just as the reaction of the intellect to anything the world sets before us determines right or wrong. Feelings are the result of a hormone surge within the body, emotions are a chemical reaction in the brain.

But so is sight, touch, hearing, etc.

We are not responsible for what the world puts before our eyes. We are responsible for what we seek out in the world in order to see. The same goes for emotions - I am responsible for what I seek out, knowing what emotion will be provoked by what I seek.

If I deliberately seek out things to see, touch, feel, that I should not seek, that is sin. But, if I see, touch and therefore feel as part of my work or as part of what the world has placed before me, that is not sin.

When St. Francis encountered the leper and threw up, he did not sin. He didn't mean to throw up - his body just did it. When he used his intellect to deliberately over-ride his body's rejection of the scene, he was able to embrace the humanity of the leper. His intellect allowed him to see what the leprous scabs partially hid. His body saw the scabs, his mind saw the person. His body reacted to the scabs, his mind reacted to the person. Vomiting was not a sin, but embracing the leper was a virtue.

Perhaps a different way of thinking about it will help.

To a certain extent, our bodies are a summary of the whole universe. Our bodies are the bit of the universe we drag with us everywhere we go. The universe presents us with all kinds of things to examine. Because we drag them with us everywhere, our bodies are often the things we spend the most time examining. What our five senses perceive, how our emotions bubble forth, our brain's chemical reactions, these seem central to us, if only because these things are the part of the universe that are always present to us. As Buckaroo Banzai said:

But our bodies are not only a constant part of what the universe presents to us to examine, they are also the part of the universe that serves as a lens through which we view the rest of the universe. Most of the time, I look through my glasses, not noticing the way they balance on my nose. But sometimes, I look directly at my glasses, to see what is on them, and to determine whether or not I am seeing clearly.

My body is the pair of eyeglasses that bring the universe into focus for me. Sometimes, they have specks the size of logs. If we are to see clearly, we need to keep them clean.

Star Wars is Wrong

The rise of the emotional snowflake is part and parcel of the destruction of our old culture and the creation of a new one. This transformation affects everything, even the law.  Today, Matt Lauer tells us there is an "emotional definition of obstruction of justice". Which is true, in a certain sense.

"Your eyes can deceive you. Stretch out with your feelings!"
You see, for people raised on images, my FEELINGS form reality.
"Trust your FEELINGS, Luke!
FEEL the Force!"
Here is the problem. The snowflakes are attempting to apply the following Aristotelian logic:
What I feel is a fact (which is true - it is).
Facts are infallibly correct. (also true - facts, by definition, cannot be controverted)
Therefore, feelings are infallible.
Unfortunately, what seems to be unassailable logic is corrupted by a confusion of terms. What goes unnoticed by most people is that the subjects have been swapped out. We confuse the existence of facts with the content of facts.

Catholic faith distinguishes between the fides quae creditur ("fides kway") and the fides qua creditur ("fides kwa"). The fides qua is the power by which we believe, it is an individual person's ability to believe, it is subjective. The fides quae is the content of what is believed, it is objective. If we were to use an analogy, the fides qua is the shipping pier that holds piles of cargo, the fides quae is the content of the boxes on the pier. The syllogism above confuses the two and treats them as one.

As already indicated, emotions are, indeed, facts. If we consider the facts of any situation, we have to consider the emotional response those facts engender, because it is a fact that people feel emotions, and those emotions can color how they perceive the facts. However, while it is a fact THAT I feel something, the CONTENT of what I feel can definitely be wrong, my emotions can wrongly summarize the situation at hand.

So, while facts are infallibly correct, feelings are not.

Einstein famously said, "Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed."

Emotions constitute a type of theory. If I encounter a beggar or leper and feel disgust or distaste, I may allow my emotional "theory" to influence my reaction to the leprous beggar. I may throw up, run away, scream at him in order to force him away from me, etc.

My emotions have summarized the situation, but have they done so correctly? Are my feelings infallible? Are my feelings always right? Obviously, I know they are not always right. First impressions say a lot, but first impressions can be, and often are, wrong.

If my rational intellect allows me to recognize that my emotional reaction is often wrong, then, even as I feel the emotional tide, my rationality would attempt to overcome it. If my intellect recognizes that my emotions have incorrectly assessed the beggar's worth, I might still throw up. Emotions are still facts, and my body still reacts to them. But, I would attempt to remove my emotional bias, wipe the bile from my lips and then respond by helping the beggar. I might give him alms, embrace him, care for his wounds, discuss his life's difficulties with him, etc.

Christianity's great leap forward was precisely the emphasis it put upon discounting one's feelings. Any emotionally functioning person is going to reject the image of a flagellated, crucified corpse impaled upon crosspieces of rough-hewn timber. Seeing this sight in real life would be living in a horror movie - we would all be screaming at each other to run away.

Christian rationalism tells us to do precisely the opposite. It tells us not to run away, but to gaze all the more closely. It tells us to investigate and, ultimately, to embrace what looks to all the world like a horror (if you ever wanted to know why horror movies work, it is precisely because they are often a shallow re-telling of the Gospel story).

So, the Christian response is quite simply the reverse of George Lucas' advice: "Your feelings can deceive you. Stretch out with your whole being, your personhood. Don't allow your feelings to become your interpretive theory. Instead, allow yourself to recognize and assist a fellow human person who is in distress."

Dispassionate analysis, objective study of the facts of the case, acknowledging emotion while refusing to allow it to rule the analysis, these are Christian values, founded upon the crucifixion. To say that there is an "emotional definition of obstruction of justice" is true, but that does not make the emotion, or the fact of the emotion, relevant to the analysis of whether or not there actually was an obstruction.

Emotions are facts, but emotions are not infallible, nor are emotions always even relevant. While hate is an emotional response, love is not an emotion. Thus, the lesson of Christianity is precisely to stop trusting your feelings, and start trusting rationality.
God is Pure Reason
God is Love
So, the only reasonable thing to do is to Love

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Accidental Pregnancy

Well, you see, I enjoy driving.
I just love driving - it's great fun.

I wanted to go on a long drive and really enjoy myself, so, I got an AAA Triptik for Washington DC,

I got in my car, followed the Triptik directions, and was having a wonderful time driving. But, after awhile, I must say I was completely shocked to find myself in Washington, DC.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

You, Too, Can Be English Royalty!

Now that the Charlotte Observer has breathlessly reported, yet again, on some woman who claims she was successfully ordained a Catholic priest, it is incumbent upon me to notify all the MSM news outlets that I have accomplished a similarly historical feat.

I have crowned my Catholic Hispanic wife Queen of England.

Now, I know this takes many people by surprise, but it was not a step we took lightly. We considered the historic discrimination instituted by the Act of Settlement 1701, passed by the Parliament of England, stating the heir to throne must not be a "Papist" and that an heir who is a Catholic or who marries one will be excluded from the succession to the throne.

That struck us as terribly discriminatory. Now, certainly, we can understand the English being a bit peeved about the whole Spanish Armada incident, but that was a step too far. So, in order to right the wrong done to Catholics by the English Parliament, and in order to make amends for the Spanish attempt to invade England, we thought it only proper that a Catholic Hispanic should become Queen of England.

It is time for a change, and we are at the forefront, leading the charge. We expect that, eventually, everybody is going to follow us. Indeed, I do very much recommend EVERYONE crown their wives/husbands English royalty. After all, the English have that discriminatory law against Catholics being King or Queen over England, and that really must end. If you are not married, then have a nice ceremony in which you get yourself crowned. When it comes to ending discrimination, there is no need for anyone to on formality. This is the 21st century, after all.

However, when planning your ceremony, I strongly urge you to get a German to do the crowning. Indeed, since I am German, and given the Hanover connection to the English throne, I definitely have more authority to crown my Catholic Hispanic wife Queen of England than anyone has to ordain a woman as a Catholic priest.

And, as I pointed out to the Charlotte Observer five minutes ago, when I submitted the above as a news story, we ALL have as much power to crown each other English royalty as anyone has to ordain a woman as a Catholic priest.

So, I'm sure the Charlotte Observer is going to cover this ground-breaking event. If enough of us start doing it, the English government will HAVE to recognize us. In the immortal words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's (Planned Parenthood vs. Casey): "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Thanks to the Charlotte Observer and SCOTUS, we now know the truth: all that stands between Catholics and English royalty is the will to make a change!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Why No Job Is Safe

Pretty much all commentators are agreed: automation is going to eat a lot of jobs in the coming two decades. Between 38% and 50% of all jobs in the US will be automated by 2050. Mark Cuban  insists that social and creative jobs are safe. He's wrong.

By the very definition of IQ, the average is 100. 68% of the population fall within the gray area above. The simplest jobs are the easiest to automate. The simplest jobs are also held by the people with the lowest IQ.

If 38% of the jobs get automated, most of the automated jobs will be stripped from the population to the left of the center line. The jobs to the right of the center line are held by more intelligent people, those jobs are more complicated. Finding people to do complicated jobs is hard, which is why jobs to the right of the center line generally pay more. But some of the jobs to the right of the line will also be automated. For instance, anesthesiology is generally considered a pretty hard job, rather complicated, definitely a high-IQ position, but it also turns out that we have computers which are able to do that job very, very well.

So, the people to the left of the center line will lose their jobs first. The ones to the extreme left will be rendered unemployable. Even if we can train them for a job that is a little more complicated than the one they currently hold, nearly all the jobs on the left will be taken by robots. That is, we would only be able to retrain them for a slightly more complicated job that has ALSO been automated. They can't be moved far enough up the curve to get any of the non-automated jobs.

But, as we move to the right on the curve, the job situation changes. The closer we get to the center-line, the less likely it is that the next higher job will be automated. Worse, the closer we get to the center-line, the larger is the population that could, theoretically, be retrained for the slightly more complicated jobs that remain non-automated. And, keep in mind that many of the jobs on the right, even jobs on the extreme right, can be automated.

You can immediately see the problem. Everyone who has even a small shot at getting a non-automated job will be forced up the conga line to that next available job. Positions that the marginally qualified would, in the past, have ignored as not worth the extra effort will now become the only game they have left in town.

Every remaining job position will be sought after. This will drive wages down across the board. The wages associated with even non-automated positions will be driven into the dirt as everyone re-trains to try to snag one of the remaining places left in the job market.

This has already begun. I have already heard anecdotal stories of 2016 companies re-posting job descriptions that were originally written in 1996, complete with the original 1996 salary. And they fill those positions with that 20-year old salary cap because there is nothing else for job-seekers to do.

People, like Mark Cuban, assert that some industries will weather the automation storm better than others. That is literally impossible. Automation will batter and destroy EVERY nook and cranny of the job market. It will drive EVERYONE'S wages into the dirt. Even if the job is impossible to automate, the wage will drop to pennies on the current dollar, if only because everyone will be retraining and competing to get it.

On the bright side, automation will make superior products, and it will make them much more cheaply. On the down side, fewer and fewer people will have work wages to buy the products. They will have to get their incomes from something else.

Arguing that people will be able to pursue their dreams doesn't help. They may be able to do so, but it won't pay them when they do. Art, creativity, it won't matter what it is, nothing a human being can produce will be worth as much, if only because EVERY human being will be forced to at least attempt to engage in the non-automated activities that remain. The "nearly-good-enough" will drive down the value of the awe-inspiring perfect work of art, if only because there will be so many more "nearly-good-enough" pieces to choose from, and so much less money flowing in from wages, making the "perfect" unaffordable for nearly everyone at current prices.

Human beings have dealt with the problem of scarcity for our entire history. We are good at it, we have a system (capitalism) that is about to whip the scarcity problem permanently.

We have virtually no experience with the problem of perpetual surplus. That is where we are headed, and we have no system for dealing with it. Like the dog that chases the car, we have been chasing perpetual surplus for our entire existence. What happens when the dog catches the car? We don't know.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

How the Rich Murder the Poor

When mobs rioted in Ferguson, MO and burned down their own neighborhoods, commentators were aghast. They wondered how anyone could engage in such self-destructive behaviour.

But, to be fair to the impoverished people of Ferguson, they were merely imitating the rich and politically powerful as best they could. A new study shows that those who work to help the poor by raising the minimum wage have, in fact, been burning down poorer neighborhoods and destroying the businesses. Instead of using gasoline and a match, they use the law, but the effect is the same.
"Local minimum wage hikes cause restaurants to leave or shut down and deter new ones from entering, according to a new Harvard Business School study of the San Francisco Bay Area restaurant industry that contradicts the orthodox liberal view that steeply raising the cost of unskilled labor will not affect jobs or hiring.
More interesting, though, are the study’s findings about which restaurants are forced to leave by the higher wage floors. The authors compared rates of departure of restaurants across different Yelp ratings, and found that the policy hit low and mid-quality restaurants much harder than top-tier restaurants. “Our point estimates suggest that a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to an approximate 14 percent increase in the likelihood of exit for the median 3.5-star restaurant but the impact falls to zero for five-star restaurants.” 
While a restaurant’s Yelp rating doesn’t correlate directly with its price range, this differential effect suggests that it’s easier for rich people to ignore the deleterious effects of minimum wage hikes. Virtually all of the most expensive restaurants in San Francisco have four or more stars; the city’s business and professional elite are unlikely to see many of their favorite high-end destinations pushed out of the city. Poor or middle-income workers are less likely to have the luxury of only frequenting top-rated establishments, not to mention that they are more likely to work at the restaurants that the hikes put out of business.
Similarly, the tax burden on the poor is far too high. Now, you may say, "Wait a minute! You always say the bottom 50% pay essentially nothing in taxes!"

That's true. The bottom 50% do pay almost nothing in taxes. But it isn't quite nothing. Study the chart below. Even a glance shows the bottom 20% of the nation pays 0.6% of the taxes. But, when you consider how much wealth the bottom 20% own, that 0.6% is way, way more than they can afford.

The top 40% pay over 88% of the taxes. And when you consider how much of the nation's wealth that top 40% owns, they still don't pay enough of the taxes.

Notice something about the graph. Even though the top 20% pay 85% of the taxes, the percentage of taxes paid as a ratio of wealth owned flips for everyone below the top 20%. The top one percent of wage earners pay 24% of the nation's taxes, but they own 34.6% of the nation's wealth. That's not a bad deal. Similarly, the top 20% pay nearly 68% of the nation's taxes, but they own 85% of the nation's wealth - they're still doing fine.

But then it flips. Everybody below the top 20% of wage earners actually pay a larger percentage in taxes than the percentage of national wealth they have access to. The second tier pays, in percentage terms, twice as much in taxes as they have in wealth. The third quintile is slightly worse: they pay, in percentage terms, more than double in taxes as they have in wealth. The fourth quintile only pays 2.5% of the taxes, but that's about a thousand times higher than they should be paying, when their wealth portion is considered.

And for the poorest of America's poor, the bottom 20%, Lord have mercy. They may only pay 0.6% of the nation's taxes, but they own absolutely none of the nation's wealth. That is, the bottom 20%, are actually suffering under an essentially INFINITE tax burden once you consider the fact that they own zero percent of the nation's wealth. The table below shows the problem. The bottom 20% has a divide by zero error.

% Taxes Paid % National Wealth Owned Ratio of Taxes Paid to Wealth
Top 1% 24 34.6 69%
Top 20% 68.7 85.1 81%
2nd 20% 19.3 10.9 177%
3rd 20% 8.9 4 223%
4th 20% 2.5 0.2 1250%
Bottom 20% 0.6 0

"But, wait! Don't the poor get a lot of money from the government?" Well, that depends on what you mean by "a lot". They bottom 40% get between 50% and 100% of their total income from government transfers, but even so, they actually get less government money than the rich do. As I did with the graph above, the graph below is simply a visual representation of the 2011 CBO data that I presented a year ago.

The rich and powerful control the commentary, so we hear a lot about how much the rich pay. And they do pay a lot - there's no question of that. But the poor aren't making out like bandits. They're barely making by at all.

Friday, March 24, 2017

On Irish Slavery

So, the New York Times now tells us that the story of the Irish being enslaved by the English is just a myth. The linked story has these two illiuminating paragraphs:
"Not all of them entered servitude willingly. Some were political prisoners. Some were children...."
Get that? The experts in the article acknowledge the Irish did not enter service willingly. Many were essentially prisoners in a political war between Ireland and England. And the English willingly traded in children who were, by definition, incapable of giving consent.

But, we shouldn't read what the NYT admits, and then conclude that the Irish were enslaved, for in the very next paragraph, the experts are enlisted:
“An indenture implies two people have entered into a contract with each other but slavery is not a contract,” said Leslie Harris, a professor of African-American history at Northwestern University. “It is often about being a prisoner of war or being bought or sold bodily as part of a trade. That is a critical distinction.”
OK - so, the first paragraph admit the Irish did not enter into a free contract, some were political (war) prisoners, some were children (thus incapable of consent).

Then the next paragraph says the Irish were NOT slaves because slavery involves not entering freely into a contract (check), slavery involves being a prisoner of war (check) and slavery involves being bought/sold as part of a trade (check).

Thus, we are meant to conclude that because the Irish fulfilled all the conditions of slavery, they were clearly not slaves. Sure - that's obvious. No matter how many of their conditions you fulfill, you aren't a slave unless the privileged college elites decide you are.

According to the elites, the Irish aren't good enough to be slavery victims, therefore they aren't. What could be simpler to understand?

Ignore contemporary accounts. Those poor fools aren't as educated as our enlightened elites. Only stupid priests and racists (but I repeat myself) would mis-characterize simple involuntary contracts as slavery:
"in 1699 Father Garganel, S.J., Superior of the island of Martinique, asked for one or two Irish Fathers for that and the neighboring isles which were 'fill of Irish' for every year shiploads of men, boys and girls, partly crimped, partly carried off by main force for the purposes of slave trade, are conveyed by the English from Ireland."

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Luddites Were Right

No one argues against the idea that automation improves our lives. Clearly, automation improves our lives. The very fact that 7 billion people are all living better lives today than ANYONE did when there were only 1 billion people alive (1804), speaks to that. But, similarly, no one can argue against the idea that automation takes jobs. In 1804, when the earth's population was 1 billion, everyone between the ages of roughly 8 years old and dead worked a minimum of 6 days per week, 12 hours per day. There were no 40-hour work-weeks, no retirements, precious little time spent in education, and child labor was the norm. The population is now 7 billion. If everyone were correct about how technology and jobs interact, then all 7 billion of us would still work our 6-day per week, 12-hour per day jobs from the age of eight until death, with essentially no breaks for education or retirement, just like we did in 1804. But, we don't do that. We can now afford to have child labor laws, education that takes 30% of the population out of the workforce for decades on end, retirement, and a 40-hour work week, headed towards a 30-hour work week. In fact, the very fact that this isn't what we do now is precisely why we call machinery "labor-saving." Machinery saves labor. That is, the Luddites were correct. Machinery takes jobs, and doesn't give back as many jobs as it takes. The Luddites were wrong on one point - machinery doesn't hurt us, it helps us. They were right about the other point. The number of jobs relative to the population size do, indeed, go away as a result of machinery.
In fact, computers, in the form of robots and other automation, are taking jobs at an increasing rate, and are making jobs at a decreasing rate. One-half of the population has an IQ below 100. Their jobs are generally simple to automate. So, machinery is eating the low-IQ jobs. The few jobs machinery creates are jobs only high-IQ people can perform. The new, few jobs cannot possibly be done by one-half of the population. Indeed, even many jobs requiring high-IQ are disappearing. For instance, the computer industry does not need nearly as many server admins per server or computer techs per desktop machine as it did 20 years ago. As computer design improves, the need for all those highly intelligent support people disappear. The same future looms for lawyers and doctors. Well, and pretty much everyone else. So, one way or another, at least one-half of the population, possibly more, is being rendered completely unemployable. Unfortunately, these people still need food, clothing, housing and medical care. They also need self-respect. Automated machinery is the new slave labor. It doesn't need food, clothing, housing or medical care. All the profit the machinery produces goes to the person who owns the machines. That person will become very wealthy, everyone else will not. Thus, the income gap will steadily increase. As Hans Rosling has pointed out, increasing income inequality is not necessarily a bad thing, unless there are unemployable people who do not get the food, clothing, housing and medical care they need, or the self-respect every person deserves. If there are such people, then something has to be done to get them the basics they need, including basic self-respect. You may not like the idea of universal basic income. You may be strongly opposed to the idea of taxing robots. You might (correctly) argue that a tax on automation is a tax on efficiency, and efficiency is how we got to be rich. Taxing efficiency does not seem a very bright idea. Strong arguments can be made against both of the above ideas. But, if you dislike these ideas, you have to come up with an alternative way to take care of the people who can no longer be employed. The machines have eaten their jobs. This group will have smart people, stupid people, capable people, deficient people, but they will all have one thing in common - they cannot be retrained to take the jobs that are left, either because they can't be retrained or because there simply aren't enough jobs left. These unemployable people will need help. Either they need help now, or they will within a decade or two. The pool of unemployables will grow every year. The next unemployable person could be you. The next unemployable person could be your child. Or your grandchild. Or your nephew, your niece. So, consider carefully how you want this problem handled.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pledging Corporate Allegiance

It is a commonplace in Catholic theology that there is no necessary disagreement between being a Catholic and being a patriot. Following the example of Socrates, who chose death rather than disloyalty to the state that had raised and nurtured him, Catholic theologians have long held that we have a Catholic duty to be patriots.

But that raises an interesting question. If we owe loyalty to a country because of the laws and benefits it gives us, a la Socrates, then do we owe loyalty to a corporation for all the laws and products it gives us?

For it is certainly the case that corporations give us at least as much in this culture as our country does. Sure, the country lays down basic laws (speed limits, zoning ordinances and the like), but corporations also lay down laws concerning how to handle their products. If we don't change the oil in our cars according to the owner's schedule, the product will wreak it's due punishment on us as surely as the state would for violating a speed limit.

Socrates had the benefit of living in a simple world, wherein no corporate entities existed. Chesterton lived in England, where the international corporation really got established, but his life was not nearly as dominated by international corporations as are our own. Given that most of the original US colonies were founded by corporate business entities, did the British colonists properly owe loyalty to corporation before country? Given that most US laws are put into place through the lobbies of corporate America, do we owe loyalty to business corporations first and foremost, for having conceived and pushed through the great bulk of our laws?

When the international corporation that has paid my mortgage, fed and clothed my family and bought my car requires me via its by-laws or internal policies to do something that is contrary to the laws of the country I happen to currently reside in, which loyalty should hold sway, and why? For, certainly, the business corporation has fed and clothed me at least as much as the state - probably more so. Am I being unpatriotic when I quit my company for a higher-salaried position in another business entity? Am I disloyal when I whistle-blow on my company to the state? Am I a traitor, a treasonous individual, when I choose Walmart vs. Kroger as the patron who feeds and clothes me in exchange for my monetary allegiance?

If I am not a traitor by switching allegiance between corporations, why am I not? Given how intertwined corporation and country are, and apart from the paperwork, how is changing countries different from changing corporations?

At the behest of various corporations, our forefathers gave up allegiance to their home country in order to immigrate to America. Is their decision to switch country allegiance a sin, a moral shortcoming, a lack of virtue? What would be wrong with us switching national allegiance according to how we like different sets of national laws in the same way that we switch allegiance to which cars we drive or which supermarkets we frequent or which house we choose to buy and inhabit?

Why should choosing national allegiance be so much more of a difficult thing than switching allegiance between sports franchises? In such a world, would we look down upon or punish people who wanted to join our team?

Given our current economic and legal situation, in what does patriotism consist?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Trump Lied, America Cried

Notice the nearly complete lack of overlap between the presence of unauthorized immigrants and actual, you know, crime. It's almost like Americans are responsible for most criminal activity, not illegal aliens. The data for the cities with the most illegal immigrants comes from a Drudge link to Pew Research. The numbers on the most dangerous cities comes from this link:

All Roads Lead To Rome

At the beginning of the video, a minute-and-a-half long, the Pope cites the fact that the majority of the earth’s inhabitants profess some sort of religious belief. 
This, he said, “should lead to a dialogue among religions. We should not stop praying for it and collaborating with those who think differently.” 
The video goes on to feature representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, who proclaim their respective beliefs in God, Jesus Christ, Allah and Buddha.
Some people are upset that Pope Francis recently taught yet another truth of the Catholic Faith: all religions ultimately lead to God. Many Catholics mistakenly believe this is an error. It is not.

Keep in mind that Jesus Christ is THE path to God - no one can come to the Father except through Christ. Likewise, the only way to fully know Christ is through the Catholic Church. But the point the Pope wanted to stress was simple: all roads lead to Rome.

Every pursuit of truth, no matter where it starts, if followed deeply enough, leads to Catholic Faith.

When I taught RCIA, I used the example of math to show how this worked.
When we are first learning math, we begin with arithmetic and progress through algebra, geometry, trig, calculus.

So, let us keep that in our hands as we recall some basic truths:
  1. All creation was made for, by and through Christ,
  2. The heavens, in fact, all created things, are telling the glory of God.
  3. Thus, anyone who starts to believe in God as a result of observing the natural world (as pagans do), has come to believe in God through the evidence provided by Jesus Christ.
That conclusion is a point of Catholic Faith. If you accept the first two points, you cannot deny the conclusion. Now, there are three ways to know God:
    1. Nature - the heavens are telling the glory of Christ. 
    2. The prophets - Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc.,
    3. Christ Himself. 
The natural world is not a person, so it doesn't explain much beyond "God exists and He rewards those who love Him." That's why pagan religions tend to have a lot of empty spots.

Prophets are persons, so they explain Who God is much more thoroughly, but like a matchmaker describing the Bridegroom to the Bride, even the prophets cannot explain all of it.

Ultimately, the Bride can only know the Bridegroom, through meeting Him. Only Christ Himself reveals the fullness of Himself.

Theology is formal science just like math. Since we have now laid out the basic truths, we can marry these truths to the formal science of math and see how all of it ties together:
  1. Pagans only understand the theological equivalent of arithmetic, and nothing beyond it.
  2. Islam is a haphazard conglomeration of Judaism, Christianity and paganism. It can get to theological algebra. It knows that God is All-Merciful, All-Compassionate. It knows that Mary is a sinless virgin mother. It knows Christ is sinless and the Judge on the Last Day. Islam knows that we are to submit ourselves totally to God, become a "slave of Christ" as Paul says, although Muslims would say "Allah" instead of Christ. But beyond these basics, Muslims cannot go. 
  3. The Jews understand geometry, they first gave us the theological measure of the universe. They know God is the Lawgiver, that God does not deceive, that He wants us to choose life, so that we and our descendants might live. Through the Jews, God revealed the importance of liturgy,  even though the Jewish liturgy was just "practice" and has no real effect. They taught us the central truth that is monotheism. 
  4. Non-liturgical Christians, like the Protestants, can do trigonometry. They know God is three Persons in one divine Substance, but they don't get any farther. They have two sacraments,baptism and marriage, but they don't understand very much about either of them. They don't understand liturgy at all. So, we can say they know a lot about triangles, but they don't know much about other geometric shapes or how everything fits together. 
  5. Liturgical Christians, such as the Eastern Orthodox and the Coptics, have access to the full spectrum of liturgical and sacramental life. Through the power of the seven sacraments, they plumb the measure of the infinite Godhead, doing the equivalent of single-variable calculus. That is, they understand how the Son works (to teach us), how the Spirit works (to sanctify us), but they don't fully understand how the Father works (to govern us).
  6. Only Catholics can plumb the divine infinity to its depth, only Catholics have mastered not only calculus but all the other branches of the theological spectrum as well. We understand, as fully as men can, the relations between the Father, Son and Spirit, we understand the full spectrum of how He has always intended to govern us (Father), to teach us (Son) and to sanctify us (Holy Spirit).
Thus, it is not that all the other religious faiths are wrong. Rather, none of the other faith systems can provide the comprehensive knowledge of Christ that only Catholic Faith can.

All religions, pursued deeply enough, lead to Catholic Faith.
The study of truth always leads to Truth.
Every ladder we climb, every road we walk, leads us to Rome.

That's why the Pope wants dialogue among religions. He wants the various peoples to help each other forward on the journey to Rome. We are supposed to help him get that done.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Porn and Rape

A lot of Catholic commentators want to connect porn and rape. I understand their wish, but it ain't happening.

Consider the facts:
On August 6, 1991, Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup, inviting collaborators....By January 1993 there were fifty Web servers across the world; by October 1993 there were over five hundred... The Web was first popularized by Mosaic, a graphical browser launched in 1993 by Marc Andreessen's team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)...

Now, look at this:

Given the explosive growth of the internet and the access to free porn that it makes available (statistics here), can anyone honestly argue that the incidence of rape increases as porn use increases? Seriously?

Two of the greatest doctors of the Church would take issue with the argument many modern Catholics make. As St. Augustine pointed out, and St. Thomas Aquinas agreed:

“If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.”

Their opinion was given well before erotic imagery was widely available, yet their point seems to be borne out in today's rape-porn statistics. As porn use increases, rape decreases.

Sorry if you find this offensive, modern Catholics, but that appears to be the reality. Being Catholic is all about being in contact with reality. Stop pretending something is true when we know perfectly well it isn't.

If we, as Catholics, wish to argue against porn, we will have to find a better argument than "It causes rape!" Because it doesn't cause rape. In fact, it arguably reduces rape, as our own theologians predicted it would.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Should We Ban Chicago?

According to the FBI statistics referenced by US News and World Report, violent crime overall remained near 30-year lows last year (2016), even as Americans' concern about crime hit a 15-year high in March. Most Americans believe the fake news reported by the mainstream media, they have no idea what the reality is. After all, 7 in 10 Americans last year erroneously said crime was rising.

Despite making up just 13% of the population, blacks have committed half of homicides in the United States each year for nearly 40 years (1980 to present). That number doesn't change much. But, 90% of all homicides, black or white, are committed by men, and not just any men, but men between the ages of roughly 16 and 30.

According to the US Census Bureau the black male population in the United States was 21.5 Million in 2013. Murders are almost always committed by men between the ages of 16 and 30. Roughly 24% of that 21.5 million, or 5.3 million black men, are in between 16 and 30. According to USA Today, nearly half of black men have been arrested by age 23. Or, to put it another way, half of all American black men have had a travel ban imposed on them until they are no longer of a dangerous age.

So, out of a population of 330 million, about 5.3 million citizens contain within itself the malcontents that are responsible for 50% of the murders each year. Those same black men are also generally the victims of the crime. Half of all murder victims are likewise drawn from that same 5.3 million person pool.

5.3 million out of 330 million: that means that this 1-2% of the population is responsible for 50% of all murders (and 50% of all murder victims) in America.

According to Pew Research, Muslims make up about 1% of Americans. According to Vox, Muslims accounted for about one-third of one percent of all murders in the US. We don't know how atrocities would scale. If Muslims made up 30% of the population, would they be responsible for 10% of the murders (one-third)? Or would it be more?

Before Hitler seized power (in 1933) only 850,000 out of 66 million Germans were card-carrying Nazis. After the Nazi seizure of power, there was a big surge in membership. At its peak, Party membership reached 8 million out of 80 million Germans in 'Greater Germany' or about ten percent of the population. What percentage of Germans actively participated in, or even knew about, the mass murders?

It's hard to say. After all, FDR rounded up the Japanese and sent them to internment camps. If he had begun ordering their deaths, would American soldiers have refused? Probably not - it was war-time, and people trusted their president. If ordinary civilians heard about mass slaughters of the interned Japanese, would the stories be believed? If the stories were believed, how many Americans would simply assume that the Japanese had it coming? After all, didn't their cousins attack Pearl Harbor? Would Americans really have complained if FDR sent those of Japanese ancestry into the ovens? We don't complain about abortion today. Why would we complain about we would be told was a necessary war-time measure against the invidious enemy in 1941?


We know, for a fact, that a distinct sub-population in the United States causes 50% of the murders. Oddly, no one is talking about putting a travel ban on all Chicago residents, or even just the residents from the South Side. But that would make at least as much sense as banning refugees from Syria.

Would your neighborhood accept refugees from Chicago, Detroit or Baltimore? Couldn't gang-banging murderers be hidden among such refugees? Couldn't they be just waiting to establish drug-running gangs in your neighborhood, where the pickings are easy, and the cops sleek and sleepy? Don't we have a lot more reason to believe it? Why wouldn't we instantly suspect that Chicago's murderers are fleeing to our city to escape the wrath of some home-grown drug lord?

There is an answer to every question: simple, easy, and wrong.
Trump is good at giving us these answers.
Why are we willing to accept them?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why Creationism is Wrong

When it comes to creationism, the guiding principle of subsidiarity applies. Subsidiarity is the organizing principle within Catholicism. It states that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. In particular, political decisions should be taken at a local level if possible, rather than by a central authority, but in general all decisions should be taken at the most local level which still resolves the problem.

So, here's the problem.

Experimental science was invented by the Catholic Church. There has been no lack of good Catholic scientists, centuries and centuries of them, who would have been happy to demonstrate that the Bible is a good experimental science textbook - if that were true.

Experimental science is unquestionably good at discovering physical truths. We have clearly undergone tremendous scientific progress over the course of the last two millennia, and absolutely explosive progress in the last two centuries. Most of this progress was due to experimental scientists who were priests, bishops, a few Popes, more than one Doctor of the Church and even a few saints. These gentlemen would have liked nothing better than be able to show that the Bible is a superb science text.

But, they were GOOD CATHOLIC scientists, who followed the evidence of natural revelation and came to the conclusion that, even though the Bible gives us many examples of how to run a scientific experiment, it is not actually any good as a science textbook. They tried to show it for centuries. But, as Galileo and Cardinal Bellarmine (a doctor of the Church) both agreed, the Bible tells us how to go to heaven. It does not tell us how the heavens go.

The Catholic scientists who invented experimental science, who showed the world how to do experimental science, these are the men who tell us the Bible cannot be used that way.

Following the principle of subsidiarity, and the clear evidence of my senses that these gentlemen know what they are talking about - for I have benefited from their knowledge of the natural world in the physical comfort these generations of Catholic scientists have given my family and myself - I am not going to second-guess them. The Church says the Bible is not a science textbook, the Catholic scientists say the Bible is not a science textbook, and I believe both of them.

So, I reject Creationism.

Why Creationism is Dangerous

Indeed, I would argue that the Creationists are the major drivers behind atheism and have been for centuries. As St. Augustine pointed out nearly two millennia ago:
"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. 
The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?  
Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. " 
-- Augustine of Hippo, The Literal Meaning of Genesis. vol. 1, Ancient Christian Writers., vol. 41, Translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J. New York: Paulist Press, 1982
That is, by insisting the something is Catholic doctrine when it definitely is not, Creationists have brought into doubt points of Catholic doctrine that the Church actually DOES teach. Their refusal to accept subsidiarity, their refusal to submit to the authority of natural revelation ("the heavens are telling the glory of God") is a model of disobedience. Creationists refuse the authority of natural revelation, so those who study natural revelation refuse the authority of supernatural revelation (the prophets, the apostles and Christ Himself).

Catholics embrace "both-and". Truth cannot contradict truth. Both natural AND supernatural revelation are true. But creationists force men into a duality, "Accept our understanding of supernatural revelation OR accept natural revelation, but you can't have both!" Worse, by claiming to judge those who actually do study natural revelation, the creationist claims a level of expertise in regards to natural revelation that they really do not have. When creationists mis-represent or misunderstand the natural world, is it really much of a leap for someone to conclude that they also cannot be trusted to correctly represent supernatural revelation?

As the priest, bishop, Father and Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, noted above, this is not a recipe for success.

What does the Church Teach?

Catholic teaching is on faith and morals. Experimental science describes the mathematical, quantitative relationship between objects. Catholic theology describes the quality of the relationships between persons, human, angelic and divine. Quantity vs. quality. Objects vs. persons. These are two different areas of expertise.

What, exactly, is "faith and morals"?

"Faith" is about the trust relationship between persons, how one person can have trust in another person. If I have faith in you, then I trust you to do something, because I know you. Faith requires evidence. It is based on the evidence of my past interactions with you. Faith is not blind, it REQUIRES evidence.

So, in Christianity, "faith" is a shorthand way of asking the following questions: "Does God exist? if He does, Who is He?"

Put yet another way, "faith" is the same as asking "What evidence do I have to show that He exists and/or Who He is and what characteristics does He possess?"

"Morals" is likewise just a shorthand way of asking, "If He exists, do I relate to Him at all, and if so, how do I relate to Him?"

So, faith answers the question "Do I trust Him?" and morals answers the question "How do I relate to Him?"

In order for Young Earth creationism to be part of God's self-revelation in faith or morals, that is, in order for creationism to be integral to Catholic teaching, then creationism would have to tell us something about Who God is or how we relate to Him that can be known in no other way. Further, what creationism tells us about God would have to be non-contradictory with the other aspects of God's self-revelation.

But creationism doesn't do any of these things.
Thus, creationism is not a part of either faith or morals.

What creationism DOES tell us - God created everything, and He loved us into existence - can be equally told to us via evolution and the Big Bang theory. Creationism doesn't really say anything special.

Creationism might be true - Catholics are not forbidden from being creationists if they really believe that's where the evidence leads - but, since it isn't part of faith and morals, Catholics are not bound to believe it, and most post-industrial Catholics who have looked at it don't buy it. That said, a lot of pre-1900s Catholics did buy into creationism. But that isn't relevant to the Catholic Faith.

Pre-1900s Catholics believed a lot of things about the natural world that turned out to be incorrect. Priests, bishops, popes, doctors of the Church, even saints, had wrong theories about human conception (they did not know about the human egg), human nutrition (they did not know about vitamins), germ theory (did not know about cells), etc. Their wrong theories on these subjects are not part of faith and morals any more than creationism is. Pointing to their wrong theories in order to buttress creationist assertions is pointless at best, deliberately misleading and wrong at worst.

St. Augustine had the right of it.
Would that we followed his advice.