Sunday, June 16, 2019

A video interview of Fr. Gordon Macrae has surfaced.  Never before has he been allowed to speak, directly, for himself.  I embed it here.

Part 2:

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Mercy, Compassion, and the Prodigal

I am a huge fan of These Stone Walls.  Fr. Gordon Macrae has an entirely unique point of view in the blogosphere -- a priest sent to jail, probably for life, for crimes of sexual abuse he did not commit.  His voice is consistently one of justice, mercy, and compassion.  He deserves your attention and prayers.

In this post (go read it first.  Go read it now.), he takes Raymond Arroyo and Laura Ingraham to task for their expressed desire that soon-to-be nonogenarian Theodore McCarrick be sent to jail for his crimes.  They argue that because McCarrick has not repented, he deserves no mercy.

Perhaps he doesn't, Fr. G will admit.  But he is eighty-nine years old.  The elderly and frail are treated very badly in prison by the young and thuggish who make up the majority of its population.  Justice perhaps need not offer mercy to the unrepentant, but compassion says we should not put a man who will soon be ninety into a population that greets those like McCarrick with chants of 'Kill the priest!  Kill the priest!  Kill the priest!'  And if we are not going to kill McCarrick ourselves, then it is unjust to put him among those whom we can reasonably foresee will do so without our sanction.

Read the comments too, where compassion is likewise extended to Arroyo and Ingraham.

Monday, October 15, 2018

May God bless Mark Shea, who appears to have a beam in his eye

He starts with a quote from C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity:

"Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils."

Mark does so because his Usual Suspects are leaping all over Papa Francis, wailing and gnashing their teeth, and howling allegations of heresy, for things like his pious exhortation to stay close to one's guardian angel, perhaps by giving it a name (there is actually an instruction not to use names for angels, unless it's already mentioned in scripture; I reckon God has already given each angel a name of its own, and it is not important for you to know), his denigration of small-t traditions, and his use of a ferula-style crucifix.  Mark points out (rightly) that it's tendentious, and that the Christian thing to do is to love the Pope, and to interpret his actions in an empathetic and charitable manner.  He decries the drip, drip, drip of venom and hatred that these wrathful people actually enjoy pouring out on the Pope, and again, he is right to do so.  Nor is this the first time Mark has exhorted his foes to pray for their enemies, especially people he likes or feels sorry for; he once did the same for Lady Gaga.    But as I pointed out then, he typically ONLY does this for his allies.  When it comes to his enemies, he says this:

"[Their] goal is to destroy him [Papa Francis] and to remake the Church in the image and likeness of Christianist culture war Pharisees certain of their own righteousness.  They want that smaller, purer Church.  And by smaller, they mean not only “purged of all those we hate” but “purged of any teaching not in keeping with ideas solely convenient to the needs of the Party of Trump, the magisterium of FOX, and dogmas of Good White Christianists.  The goal is to whittle piety down to the Extraordinary Form, Purge the Gays and Liberals, and Magic Abortion Away.  Racism, misogyny, the worship of Mammon and Power, Pornocracy for rich white men, cheating workers of their just wages, death for all those whom the Party of Trump wants to kill, destruction of evangelism for all those the Pure wish to expel or block from access to grace, caging of brown children, nativism, enrichment of the rich at the cost of impoverishment of the destitute: these are the real goals of the Perfecti.  And they will hide behind the unborn and victims of sexual abuse to achieve those goals."

The vitriol, hatred, condemnation, and venom are palpable.  I cannot help but fear that Mark is determined to think his enemies are as bad as possible.  May God grace him with love for his enemies greater than any martyr of the Church.

P.S.:  Mark also recently wrote a piece on Pope St. Paul VI.  I recommend it highly; it is a great piece.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry

Things are getting weird and bad in Holy Mother Church.  People are fretting all over St. Blog's.  Anxiety is higher than I can ever recall.  I would be lying if I said it has not touched me, for it has.  But I say to all you who fret (including myself), "Pray, hope, and don't worry.  Worry is useless.  God is merciful and hears your prayer."

I've seen the posts, here and there.  They say things like, "This crisis is new and unprecedented!  Never before has Holy Mother Church taken such a blow!"

That may be so.  Some of this stuff may have never happened before.  That doesn't mean it has taken God by surprise.  If you have faith in Him, then you know it hasn't.  He knows what is going on, He has a plan, and He has people picked out who will be able, with His grace, to step up and fix whatever problem is besetting your thoughts.  God likes making His power evident by using weak people who can do nothing apart from Him.  That could include you, or me.  So be ready, and be of good courage.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Isn't His grace sufficient for us?

So, pray, hope, and don't worry.  Worry is useless.  God is merciful, and hears your prayer.

Also, remember that Holy Mother Church belongs to our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Contrary to various Protestant histories, she wasn't stolen by Constantine (or anyone else) in the ancient world, and she hasn't been stolen from Him now.  He is ready, willing, and able to protect His own.  She remains the pillar and foundation of truth.  And the Gates of Hell will not stand against her.  If the situation seems beyond hope, remember that we have a saint for that, who is patron (among other things) of this blog, and my life.

So, pray, hope, and don't worry.  Worry is useless.  God is merciful, and hears your prayer.

And don't neglect the small stuff, like Eucharistic Adoration and church maintenance.  The volunteers who polish the brass on the altar, or repair Father's vestments, or mow the grass, or prune the bushes, do far more material good for Holy Mother Church than all the bloviation in the blogosphere, especially mine.

So, pray, hope, and don't worry.  Worry is useless.  God is merciful, and hears your prayer.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Minimum Wage Hikes Are Not Pro-Life

May God bless Mark Shea, who thinks he is helping.

Mark is calling for a $15/hr minimum wage.  He has done so many times before, and he's likely to do so many times again, no matter what havoc it wreaks upon the poor, or how much it entrenches us in our poverty.  He still believes it will help.

And a higher minimum wage does help, but not who he thinks, and probably not as much as it harms even them.  As I explained in an earlier post, it helps union workers, especially among unionized government employees, members of unions like the SEIU and AFSCME.  Their contracts specify wages not as $X/hr, but as $(minimum wage)+Y/hr.  Increasing the minimum wage to $15 will give all such employees a $7.75/hr raise that they don't have to negotiate for, and that all other government budgets must be built around.

The first victims of minimum wage hikes are people who have a hard time making money for their employers even when paid only minimum wage.  Redpanels has illustrated this:

What happens to those jobs?  Typically, they are either automated or turned over to the customer.  Why do you have to pay to use the air compressor to fill your tires?  Why do you think nobody pumps your gas, washes your windshield, and checks your oil for you, like Gomer Pyle did in 1962?  Why do fast-food restaurants, 7-Eleven, and convenience stores and gas stations, one and all, have self-serve beverage fountains?  Where are all the soda jerks?

I live is a small town, with a population under 1000.  It's rural; the closest shopping outside town limits not counting gas stations is at least eight miles away.  Why do you think the McDonald's in the small town where I live bought a robot to fill sodas for the drive through?

What happened is that the minimum wage has made it unprofitable to hire people to do these jobs.  My guess is that the total cost of hiring a minimum wage employee, including minimum wage plus the employer's Social Security and Medicare taxes on wages paid plus the workman's comp and unemployment insurance premiums employers are required to pay plus the cost of keeping track of hours and computing all these things and sending the various payments where they have to go plus all other labor costs, adds up to quite a bit more than $7.25/hr, probably at least $10/hr and could be as high $12/hr.  Anyone whose labor doesn't make his employer a profit after paying all these costs does not get hired.

In fact, my own job would go underwater should the minimum wage rise to $15/hr.  And that's why I got really mad at Mr. Shea.

I work as a certified nurse aide (CNA) in a skilled nursing facility (nursing home).  My job is to help the residents with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing, getting into and out of their beds and wheelchairs, moving to and from the toilet, eating, bathing, shaving, brushing their teeth and hair, taking their vital signs, helping them with other things as they need me to, and observing them for potential health issues, particularly pressure ulcers (bedsores) and other skin issues.  Almost nobody in this job gets paid $15/hr.  It's very rewarding in other ways, but it is hard work that doesn't pay well.  When I took the class to qualify for the Nurse Aide Certification Exam, the instructor told us that anyone able to read and write at a 10th grade level should be able to pass the class and the NACE.  And so it was.

The thing is, it takes about 1 CNA per nine residents to get everything done right and done well for all these residents during the daytime, and probably around 1 CNA per 15 residents at night.  You might get by with ratios of 1:12 during the day and 1:18 at night if you're willing to forgo things like oral hygiene (important for adequate eating, and preventing pneumonia and heart disease), proactive toileting, frequent bathing, incontinence rounds every two hours, and resident dignity, privacy, preferences, and safety.

When the minimum wage rises, every employer who pays less than the new minimum has to do one of three things:  increase revenue, increase productivity, or cut hours. Otherwise, they go under.  What this means for the nursing home administrator with about 90 residents is that if he's going to keep the same staffing level, he very likely will also have to come up with an extra $3900/yr in revenue for each resident, JUST for the increase in minimum wage, JUST for CNAs -- we aren't adding in rest of the labor costs for keeping those CNAs yet, let alone the suddenly-increased costs for staffing the dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, and laundry departments yet.

Most nursing home resident care is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.  They are not going to kick out the extra $5000+ per resident per year.  Remember, hiring and keeping employees just got a LOT more expensive, perhaps nearly twice as much.  When prices go up, it puts downward pressure on purchases, so hiring and employment will go down.  Because Medicare's single largest source of revenue is payroll taxes, the giant jump in unemployment is likely to prevent Medicare from getting any sort of increase in revenue; rather, revenue will likely decrease.  So too will reimbursement.  And that means fewer CNAs to help residents live healthy lives.  Rather, we can expect that one result of an increase of the minimum wage to $15/hr is that nursing home residents will face a lot more neglect, and for many, homelessness as their facilities are driven under by a misplaced desire to be generous with other peoples' money.

May the Infinitely Merciful protect my residents from that.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

You know, you could do worse

So we have the bad, instead of the worse.  That is only a bit of a relief.  In truth, I really have no idea how Mr. Trump is going to govern.  His current overview/summary is at is largely heartening, and it deserves its own post.  He may actually deeply love America with an agape love, as he has said many times over the years.  But given his failures of Christian charity that the Clinton campaign was so at pains to show us, and his lack of Christian humility, this is not a man who deserves our unqualified support.  His actual policies will bear close scrutiny, and I expect a number of them will merit fierce opposition.

While it's possible that his governance will be even worse than what we could have reasonably expected from Mrs. Clinton, I regard that as unlikely, just because her predecessor set the bar so low, and every indication suggests that she would have been Progressively worse.

If there's anything I really hope the Clinton supporters take away from this election, it would be that they notice and remember how wildly the mainstream network news shows and mainstream news networks lied to promote their candidate and demonize her opponent, and how hard the social network sites like Google, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter worked to suppress the voices of Trump supporters and interfere with their ability to collaborate.  They are nothing like objective, fair, or balanced.  They are in the tank for their side, and they are more than willing to resort to propaganda and lies, because they have no standards.

If there's anything I hope that Republicans take away from this, it is that they have to go a lot further from the Democrat party's platform than they have been of late (for that matter, since I've been old enough to vote).  Trump did a LOT better with traditionally Democrat voters like Blacks, Hispanics, and the poor than Mitt Romney did (see this video), and probably better than any of the others he faced in the Republican primaries would have.  He didn't win majorities of any of these groups, but well enough that they swung a lot of battlefield states to Republican red instead of Democrat blue.  This ability to appeal to groups that are regarded as solidly Democrat is something he shared with Ronald Reagan.

I am not particularly surprised that Mr. Trump went after the Deplorable vote, in addition to the Pro-Life vote.  We will see which group(s) he decides to throw under the bus.  While we Pro-Lifers are probably on the short list, Trump's sudden abandonment of his "Prosecute Crooked Hillary" rhetoric suggests that the Hillary Derangement Syndrome Voters are already there, and so too, perhaps, the Deplorables.

The very funniest thing I've seen, and it made me laugh out loud, was an item on David Warren's antiblogue:  "I will hope he [Trump] is sufficiently Machiavellian to nominate Ted Cruz for the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court."

Oh, what a BRILLIANT maneuver that would be!  Cruz is an actual constitutional scholar, a man who has a collegial relationship with the rest of the Senate, the man to present the largest number of oral arguments to the SCOTUS, and it takes him out of the running for President in all future elections!!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Is the Media Unfair to Mr. Trump?

So I'm watching this speech by Donald Trump.  John C. Wright has been going on about how the media is carefully and deliberately trying to hide anything about Trump that might appeal to voters, and only present those things which they will find frightening or repugnant.  I figured it behooved me to let the man speak for himself.

He opens with some solid statements that men like Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell have been making for years, to wit, that crime hurts Black communities most, and that riotous protests especially are hardest on the people who are already hurting most.  He points out that the results of Democrat party fiscal and domestic policy has been the opposite of progress.  All well and good, but it's been ridiculously difficult to convince the victims that they are in fact in an abusive relationship with the Democrat Party.

He also wants to reverse NAFTA and some other free trade agreements because one result has been that production of easy to manufacture goods (eg, textiles), has gone overseas, and the Americans who used to do those jobs no longer have them. 

If you only look at the jobs and production that has gone to foreign countries, it's easy to suppose that free trade is a bad thing.  What gets ignored is how free trade helps us be richer by lowering the prices we pay for easy-to-make goods, and makes those desperately poor people who have started making those goods richer, by becoming more productive.  The upshot/counter argument is that ending free trade is our way of saying that poor people in Third World nations don't deserve to have an industrial revolution, or wealth.

And then he makes the second half about how the election is his Personal Struggle against corruption, and attacks on his opposition (for results and policy, as well as for their personal characters).  Admittedly, our system of campaign and election laws is designed (or, as he says, rigged) to make sure that only the Demicans and Republicrats can win elections. 

He calls for an end to the crony capitalism which has made him rich.

Uh huh.

He says he's going to protect every American job.  For each job protected, we've found that eight others wither before they can be created.  He's going to cut taxes for all workers and small businesses.  Good for him.  He says he'll make it very expensive for a company to pull up stakes and go elsewhere.  Bad populism, there.  He plans to reform the regulatory regime to make it more business friendly.  I hope so, but good luck with that.  He continues to take a hard line on immigration.  The idea that we should have immigrants who want to be Americans, who hold American values of justice, hard work, self-reliance, and tolerance dear, appeals to me.  The idea that we ought to tighten immigration otherwise doesn't.  It is absurdly difficult to become an American citizen.  Unless you're already a millionaire, you'd be lucky to make it in even a decade.

He wants educational reform -- school choice, charter schools, merit pay, tenure reform.  Jeb Bush did do some of that at one point in FL.  Perhaps he can be Mr. Trump's Secretary of Education.  He wants more police, more enforcement, and better judges and prosecutors.  He's out to take down cartels and gangs like was attempted with the Mafia in a previous generation.  But at what price for the innocent?  Will he bear in mind Blackstone's Formulation that it is better for many guilty to go free than that one innocent be punished?

In healthcare, he's out to repeal the PPACA, better known as Obamacare.  While not every clause of that law is bad, it's not worth it to try to save what was beneficial.  He intends to improve consumers' ability to choose the healthcare they want.  Well and good.  

He says he'll restore honor and reduce corruption.  That requires giving more teeth to the federal government's equivalent to internal affairs.  Didn't Mr. Obama also promise us the most transparent administration ever?  A particular policy, though:  no speaking fees paid to spouses of high-powered administration officials and bureaucrats.

He finishes with more populism, promising to fight for average American people.  There's a fair bunch of conservative virtue-signaling in his speech.  I find myself agreeing more and more that conservatism is just the liberalism of the previous two generations.

So far, I'd say the media probably aren't trying to be fair to him.  There are a few more recent speeches posted by the same Youtube account I can watch to see.  And I probably ought to revisit Mr. Trump's campaign site to see what his particular policy recommendations are.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Should the strong kill the weak?

I've discussed this issue before. 

The foremost issue in every election is this: should the strong kill the weak?

I say, NO. I say that our government should always prohibit the strong from killing the weak. If the government fails to protect the lives of ANYONE within its jurisdiction, it has failed us all. It has diminished our humanity. If the government draws a line to separate one group, which can be killed legally, from the rest, then be assured that the government can move that line at any time, to include any other group in the list of who can be killed, for any reason or no reason at all.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they are brawnier than their victims, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they are angrier than their victims, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they have better weapons than their victims, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they outnumber their victims, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they have more money than their victims, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they have more votes than their victims, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are of the preferred race and their victims are not, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are given legal privileges that their victims are not, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they are healthy and their victims are not, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they are legally competent and their victims are not, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they are photogenic and their victims are not, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they have no genetic or developmental abnormalities and their victims do, the strong should not kill the weak.

It doesn't matter if the killers are strong because they have been born and their victims have not, the strong should not kill the weak.

Believe it or not, this is NOT a settled question at this time. In the previous century, numerous governments have adopted a variety of positions on the issue.

All governments have prohibited the strong from killing the weak in SOME cases. But that is not the full story.

Some governments have prohibited the strong from killing the weak in all cases.

Some governments have sometimes merely inhibited the strong from killing the weak.

Some governments have sometimes permitted the strong to kill the weak.

Some governments have sometimes aided the strong in killing the weak.

And some governments have actually REQUIRED the strong to kill the weak.

If you think the last ended with the fall of the Third Reich and the liberation of their death and concentration camps, you are in error.  Both Stalin and Mao demanded that their political opponents be slain; in Mao's case, by their neighbors when enforcing the One Child Policy. 

You can escape that lowest tier here in the US if you're very careful to delve deeply into the coverage provided by your healthcare insurance company, and you have enough money to opt out.  Regardless of whether your plan covers abortion, if any of the plans offered by your insurer do, you are contributing to that coverage.  And certainly if your state's Medicaid coverage includes abortion, then your state government is helping the strong kill the weak.  This is why local elections areas or more important than national elections.

And when you vote, remember that the most important issue is whether your governments will prevent the strong from killing the weak.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Whaddaya know?

Years ago, I wrote a piece comparing vampires to the Culture of Death.  I even linked to it in my sidebar.  I thought it was pretty good.

And what do you know?  Father Dwight Longenecker has come to much the same conclusion.  Regarding him as a writer far superior to myself as I do, I suppose I can regard this as a bit of validation of my earlier opinion of the piece.

Monday, June 2, 2014

TrueCrypt and Reset the Net

I was reading comments at DistroWatch Weekly, which carried a little blurb about TrueCrypt shutting down. There was a comment about speculation that TrueCrypt had received a National Security Letter.

I don't know. It's certainly possible. I tend to doubt it. Their stated purpose in directing people to use BitLocker, to warn people not to use unsupported security software, does ring true. Their reasons for shutting down .... are impenetrably unknown.

That's all speculation. But it brought out a thought for me. The Internet provides any right-thinking surveillance state secret police type administrator the tool of his dreams: a way to get tons of secrets disclosed to his agency without having to depend upon unreliable secret informants.

I don't participate in sedition, or recommend the violent overthrow of our government. But I think that if I did, I would probably use The Amnesiac Incognito Live System, or TAILS Linux, for all clandestine communications -- probably on a device that I never used for anything else. But that may be a bit much at this point. I can readily recommend Reset the Net and the tools they promote for internet privacy and encryption.

Bear in mind, that the more secure and private your communications network is, the more difficult, time-consuming, and unreliable (in the sense of getting all messages through) it becomes, and apply privacy tools to meet your needs.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Popes of Christian Unity

There's a video that's been making the rounds; I came across it via the Anchoress.

Fr. Z has been calling Papa Ben "the Pope of Christian Unity" for many years, because of his initiatives to bring back into the Church every Orthodox, Anglican, and SSPX member, both lay and clergy. I have been tremendously excited by it all. As these people return, they will help make all things liturgical new, something the Church desperately needs, and I ask God that those initiatives continue and bear much fruit.

But this video demonstrates that Papa Francis, too, is a Pope of Christian Unity. And though it is not my intention to disparage any of the more mainline Protestant denominations, I think that Papa Francis is reaching out through the Charismatic Catholic Renewal (and between Rev. Know-It-All (who wrote a 15 part series on it) and Oswald Sobrino, I'm convinced the CCR is God's work) to invite back into the Church the most dynamic and energetic of our separated bretheren. This is really exciting to me. While I have no doubt that we need a renewal of the liturgy, we also need a renewal of evangelical zeal. After all, "both/and" is the typical Catholic way to go /|;^)

One final thing. The only people who would deny that great evil has been abroad in the world for many years -- since Pope Leo XIII penned his famous Prayer to St. Michael in 1886 -- are fools and collaborators. But where evil abounds, grace does also. God is sending us the grace we need, particularly through our popes. Be not afraid. Or if you prefer, "Pray, hope, and don't worry."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blogrollin' 112

If, for some bizarre reason, you prefer my writing to that of David Warren, what's wrong with you?

His latest essay, Breeding Instructions, describes with empathy and beauty the joy found in a large family united in their struggle against poverty. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

It also describes (and refutes) a few of the lies population planners tell themselves about large families in desperately poor times and places. These lies are embedded deep within their worldview, and implicit in their expectation that poor people must join the rich in not having children. Why do they tell (and believe) these lies? Do they hate the poor? Or perhaps they suffer from acedia (on which both Max Lindeman and Darwin have recently written)? Or perhaps I fret too much; surely their hatred and self-deception arise from the mystery of evil.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Science! versus God

Science, history, and logic (of which math is a subset — logic applied to numbers) are all tools for discovering truth. They complement each other. The scientific method depends on logic and often also on math, both of which precede it, and neither of which it can prove. Using the scientific method to prove logic or math is is to pretend that a structure supports its foundation, rather than the other way around.

There is not one scientific (or historical) theory which cannot be disproven with sufficient contradictory evidence. In fact, disprovability is one of the prerequisites of a scientific theory or hypothesis. Contradictory evidence has proven huge heaps of scientific theories wrong. I fully expect many more to be proven wrong in the future. Current scientific theory is always only our best understanding of the natural universe, based on the logical examination of the evidence we’ve collected. The same cannot be said of logic or math.

Science cannot prove history. It can only support historical evidence, by demonstrating that it has the properties of an artifact of a given time, or impeach it, by demonstrating that it does not. The primary forms of historical evidence are and will always be documents and testimony. The methods used to measure the reliability of conflicting testimonies and documents are not, strictly speaking, scientific.

I have no problem with the idea that science can’t explain &/or prove everything. In fact, I have no problem with science depending on unproven axioms, e.g., the law of non-contradiction. The scientific method is meant to discern the laws governing the physical, natural universe. It was originally an outgrowth of theology. The thinking was, “We have a reasonable and logical god. The universe is the work of his mind, and so it, too, should be reasonable and logical. By exploring how it functions, we can hope to better understand the mind which created it.”

Then Roger Bacon came along and declared that if science couldn’t make us immortal, it was worthless. He is the one who changed science from a field of pure inquiry into one where you looked for things you could engineer into wealth and power.

I don’t believe in a god of the gaps. I believe in one God who is three persons, one of which became an entirely human man and entered the world he’d created as such while retaining his full divinity, and then submitted to death at our hands, to pay for our crimes against him which separated us from him, so that we could experience, share, and return his love for eternity. I believe in a God that is Love and Truth and Beauty, whose essence, powers, abilities, methods, and means are beyond the ability of limited human minds to ever fully imagine, let alone understand.

Scientific inquiry will never affect the doctrines or dogmas of the Catholic Church. The scientific method is as useful in theological inquiries as a freight scale is in measuring distance. If you want logical evidence for the existence of God, I refer you to St. Thomas Aquinas and his Summa Theologica. If you're looking for historical proof, I refer you to C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. If you want personal, experiential proof, do as atheist John C. Wright did. But don't ask for scientific proof. Science is as useful in exploring the existence of God as a Harley Davidson is in exploring the Marianas Trench.

Science is only a tool, created by men and like all our creations, prone to failure. It is not a god. Do not let it become one for you.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Citizen vs. Subject

One of the reasons that gun controllers tend to wind up on the left is that they think that the masses should be subjects. They won't say it that way, but time and again, you'll see on the left an attitude that most problems should be handled by way of people ceding control to the government.

For example, when ordinary people can go to anyone they want for medical services, they can choose quacks or other incompetents. Thus, to protect people from quacks, the government should forbid anyone from practicing medicine until they get a license (permission) from the government.

The same principle may also apply to child care, electricians, taxi drivers, barbers, hairdressers, lawyers, plumbers, or any of as many as a hundred or more professions. Or it may be a matter of prior restraint because of the potential for endangering the public, as for truck drivers, pilots, and so forth.

And if somebody has any sort of trouble meeting basic needs, then it is incumbent upon the government to allocate resources to them. Examples include public housing, Women, Infants, and Children, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, and public schools, which have the additional benefit -- cited by the likes of John Dewey and John D. Rockefeller -- of giving the government the opportunity to mold young people like plastic.

This also applies to owning and carrying guns. The basic Leftist attitude towards gun ownership is that when ordinary people own guns, that causes problems, so they shouldn't.

Thomas Sowell would put it a bit differently, as far as the internal thinking on the Left tends to go. In his estimation, the left would tend to think that if they were in control, they could make everyone else into the sort of good people they know themselves to be. All they need to transform human nature is enough time and enough power. How much of each?

They'll let you know when they're done. Until then, the answer is "more."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Marketing the Escape from Software Captivity

Not having gained employment in health information technology, I've gone back to school for business administration. One of the required courses is an introduction to marketing. It is easily the most engaging class I have this semester.

What's one of the first things I got from it? Desktop Linux fails in no small part because of poor marketing and a complete lack of marketing management. To be fair, most of the things which make desktop Linux awesome, by which I mean community and freedom, prevent it from being marketed effectively as a desktop OS.

Linux is an IT pro's playground. If there's anything such a person wants to play with, Linux is just about the best place to go. In some ways, Linux is like Protestantism. Any time any portion of a community is unhappy with how things are going, he (or they) can split off to start another. In Linux, this is not automatically a bad thing. After all, unlike Jesus, Linus Torvalds never prayed that all in his Kingdom would be one. And it leads to all sorts of nifty innovations, like CrunchBang Linux (still one of my favorites), PCMan File Manager and Terminator terminal emulator (both originally one-man projects, and largely they still are). But it does prevent a unified or even coordinated message.

On the other hand, never have the disadvantages of captive software, and entrusting your computer and your information (like what software you install), to the likes of Microsoft's butterfingers been so evident. So what am I asking of the Linux community at large?

Tell people interested in keeping the control of their computers in their own hands to start with a mainstream starter distro with broad support and friendly forums (e.g., Linux Mint, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu, Mageia, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Korora, Zorin, Sabayon). Assure them that if there's something they really dislike, it can probably be changed. Ask them whether software should be stable and mature or up-to-the-minute. Ask them which version of Windows they liked best, and why. Ask them what applications they absolutely must have, and if the open source alternatives will meet their needs. And apply their answers to the distro you recommend to them -- if any. There are people for whom total escape is not worth the effort. (And yes, I am one of them. I run Win7 to play Need for Speed: World, League of Legends, and Warframe.) Let them keep it.

I am of the opinion that nearly anyone intent on escaping the control that Microsoft has over their computer, and regularly gives to the likes of the RIAA, the MPAA, and the NSA, would do well to use KDE as their desktop environment. This isn't a knock on Unity, GNOME Shell, XFCE, LXDE, or any other UI. It's an opinion, based on my assessment of KDE's usability, maturity, stability, and familiarity to people used to Windows XP and Aero. I would only point them at distros with interfaces that use the start menu, task bar, and desktop paradigm that Windows has used since 95. I think there is absolutely no point in talking with potential new users about Ratpoison (a GUI that does not use the mouse), Fluxbox, or whether GNOME Shell, Unity, Cinnamon, XFCE, or MATE will become the predominant GTK+ 3.x environment. Sure, they're out there, and useful, and interesting, but not to somebody who has only ever used Windows.

Nor does any good come from trying to indoctrinate them to hold your position with regards to vi vs. emacs vs. nano, init vs. SystemV vs. Upstart, or whatever other dispute or controversy you are absolutely sure has only one correct position.

A fair number of popular projects have elitist communities which are actively hostile to newcomers and people who aren't interested in learning a lot about their computers. And it's possible for new projects to spring up with little or no quality control, and/or promise a lot more than they deliver. Either experience will gravely hinder or derail anyone's Linux adoption. No matter how much you may love such a distro or project, don't suggest it to a newcomer.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why Big Government is the Big Threat

A recent poll suggests that around 3/4 of Americans think Big Government is a bigger threat to the American way of life than Big Business or Big Labor. And they're right, if no other reason than because the threats posed by Big Business and Big Labor depend on using Big Government as their heavy. Whenever possible, Big Business and Big Labor buy favors from Big Government. Without Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor have a much harder time with competition.

For example, Patricia Woertz (CEO of Archer Daniels Midland) could hire privateers to blockade or sink sugar freighters from Australia, the Caribbean, and Latin America, leading American soda bottlers to use ADM’s corn syrup as a replacement. Or, she could hire lobbyists to drop $10k-$50k into the campaign chests of a few legislators on the House and Senate agriculture committees, and have them set legal import quotas, which has the exact same result, is a lot cheaper, and a lot more politically palatable. The congresscritters also get the public appreciation of American sugar cane and sugar beet farmers, who get to charge four times the world market price for their crops. And almost nobody ever notices when production of hard candy, which absolutely requires sugar, goes to Canada or Mexico, because they don’t have sugar import quotas.

Big Labor could send legbreakers to threaten poor, low-skilled workers who ask only for low wages, and the businesses that hire them, to keep those low-wage workers from competing for their jobs. Instead, they buy increases in the minimum wage with campaign contributions to legislators on Labor and Commerce committees, which has the same result (explanation here). It's also popular with union membership because their contracts specify wages not as $X/hr, but $(Minimum Wage + Y)/hr. As a side benefit, they can (falsely) claim that they are helping the poor, who find their jobs being automated out of existence because, once minimum wages rise high enough, it’s clearly cheaper to automate, or get customers to do the work, than hire the poor.

Big Labor and Big Business could not do these things without Big Government. Big Government is a cudgel that any pressure group, on any point in the political spectrum, can use to either extort an entitlement out of others, or regulate their competition out of business. If you want to cut down on extortion and increase competition, you have to cut down the size and scope of government. If there is any organization or pressure group that concerns you, your first priority should be to reduce the size and scope of government, because unless they can use the government to reach their ends, they cannot impose their will on you, and so they are no real threat.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Further Proof That I'm a Nerd and a Geek

I put on another John Woo action film, 1993's Hard Target, starring Lance Hendriksen, Arnold Vosloo, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. This is Hendriksen's favorite movie, because Woo did not cut any of his character development scenes. Hendriksen runs a human hunting ring, and Vosloo is his number one heavy. Van Damme is a Cajun drifter helping Yancey Butler, whose father was one of Hendriksen's earlier trophies.

I laughed every bit as hard at this one as I did Mission: Impossible II. One of the set pieces demonstrates that Woo has been doing the absurd gun and motorcycle stunts that he put in M:I2 and made me laugh out loud and compare him to the Marx Brothers. It involved the hero standing on a motorcycle while shooting a pistol and driving straight at an SUV with a gunman returning fire, using a submachine gun, and leaping to vault over the SUV as it runs over the motorcycle. There's also a bunch of pigeons flying around at the climax, aparently another John Woo hallmark. The hero clearly has the Rambo Effect going for him (90% of shots fired at Short range or closer automatically miss), and he regularly pulls off all sorts of impossible shots himself. Woo's bullet squibs are impossibly pyrotechnical. Every single shot sends showers of magnesium sparks flying from the sets and props. Many of them send bits and pieces of the scenery flying around like rockets. As I said, absurdly funny.

So, have you ever had an inappropriate reaction to a movie? Would you like to tell me about it in the comments?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Replace Windows, Not Your Computer

Microsoft is going to drop support for Windows XP in April 2014. That's about four months out. An upgrade to Windows 7 will probably cost you at least $120US, and could easily require a hardware upgrade. But there are alternatives to upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7.

I like to recommend that people try a Linux distribution (or distro) before buying a new computer to upgrade from Windows XP. There are a lot of benefits.
  • Better security than WinXP: A lot of popular software won't run in WinXP unless you violate some really basic security principles; few Linux distros encourage that kind of behavior
  • You have more control over your computer: The more modern your version of Windows, the more control is put in the hands of the MPAA, RIAA, and similar groups; Linux is licensed in a way to ensure your computer is under your control alone
  • You help the environment: your computer, which includes a lot of toxic chemicals, can work for you for many more years under Linux than Windows, and so stay out of landfills for many more years
  • You save money: you spend less for hardware and usually nothing for software.
Trying Linux is pretty easy with a live system. This is a version of Linux designed to run from a CD-ROM, DVD, or USB drive without affecting your computer. Because it's on removable media, it's going to load programs much more slowly than it would if you installed it, but once loaded, the programs should run pretty quickly. You can try the programs that are included by default, and you can use the package manager to see what you could download for free if you installed.

By the way, if you don't know which distro to choose, I would suggest Linux Mint 13 if your computer predates 2012, Lubuntu if your computer is really limited (say, 512 MB of RAM or less), or the most current Linux Mint if your computer is less than two years old and version 13 doesn't work with it. They are all pretty easy to install, act lot like Windows on the surface, and have friendly communities and forums where you can get help. Some distros, such as Zorin OS, are designed specifically to make the transition from Windows easier. Other popular desktop distros suitable for beginners include Fedora, Ubuntu, Xubuntu, openSUSE, Kubuntu, NetRunner, PCLinuxOS, Point Linux, Mageia, Pear Linux, KWheezy, Pinguy OS, SolydXK, and Korora.

There are basically three ways to get a live system. You can borrow one, buy one, or download one. Borrowing involves finding a local Linux Users Group (or LUG), which will probably be full of enthusiasts happy to help you get going with their favorite Linux distributions. (They may not share my preference for Linux Mint. Try their suggestions anyway.) There is probably one in your area, and many colleges and universities have them. Search Google for "Linux Users Group" (in quotes) with where you live, and see what comes up. A LUG is especially helpful no matter how good you are with computers. In fact, switching over to Linux is probably easier for somebody who is not very knowedgeable about Windows than it is for a Windows expert.

The best way to buy is from; they sell most of the big desktop, server, and rescue distros on CD or USB key. This may be a better option than downloading, especially if you have limited bandwidth and/or limited faith in your ability to create live media.

Downloading is easy, especially if you have plenty of bandwidth. If you do, and your computer will boot from a USB drive, and you have one that holds 1GB or more, you can go to Pendrive Linux, which has a nifty tool to load any of scores of Linux distros onto a thumb drive. Or, if you can only boot from CDs or DVDs, download burning software like CDBurnerXP, and then download a live ISO (like Lubuntu which fits on a single CD-R), use the burner to put Lubuntu onto a CD, use it to boot your computer, and try that.

Now, there are reasons for not even giving Linux a try. In no particular order:

You already have Windows Vista or Seven

Windows Seven will have mainstream support until January 2015, and extended security support until January 2020. Windows Vista will have extended security support until April 2017. You're not up against the clock, like an XP user is.

You would rather spend the money for the upgrade

You think it will be easiest to buy a new computer to try a very different Windows system (that is, Windows 8 or 8.1) instead of not spending money on a new computer, and trying a Linux system that acts more like XP in the day-to-day, if much less like XP when it comes to adding, removing, and updating software.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

I've heard people say that if you are going to try Linux, you can expect to have to compile your video drivers from source. I've used several desktop Linux distros for about six years, and I have never compiled anything from source. (Edit: Unless using Slackbuilds counts, which I tend to doubt; they are thoroughly documented scripts that download, configure, and compile the source tarball for you.)

I've heard that you will only be able to use vastly inferior software. If you absolutely cannot stand to be without the very latest and greatest in Outlook, Adobe Photoshop CS, or Microsoft Office, that could very well be true. If you use Firefox or Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, Thunderbird instead of Outlook, VLC instead of Media Player, and LibreOffice instead of Microsoft Office, then you are already using default Linux software for those tasks. But search the Wine HQ Application Database before deciding that Linux will prevent you from using your pet application. If it's running Platinum, chances are that the WINE software will let you can use it without any issue at all.

I've heard that it's impossible to get help. If you're using XP, the sort of support you get for Linux is the sort you're getting for Windows XP: searching the web. There are communities full of elitists who will treat you badly if you don't meet their expectations. But there are also communities full of helpful friendly people who are very happy you're trying Linux and want you to do well with it, and the Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and CrunchBang communities are definitely among them. In any case, reading documentation (which is easily searched if you include the distro name) before starting is always a good idea.

I've heard that you will have to master the command line. This depends a little on which distro. I know that at least Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Mageia, and PCLinuxOS all have a lot of graphical, point-and-click tools for the vast majority of system administration tasks. Barring some bizarre video issue or the like, you probably would never need the command line for any of those distros.

But a lot of help will recommend using command-line tools, because the graphical tools can depend on your desktop environment, while command line tools do not. And they will work even if the entire graphical environment dies. The command line is your emergency fallback toolkit. It is very powerful and can do serious damage if used carelessly. But it can also save your bacon if everything goes wrong. Don't be afraid. It's like driving a Ferrari Testarossa or Lancia Stratos: you can do it if you're careful and don't try to push it to its limits. If you google the entire command in quotes before you use it, that gives you a basic simple sanity check.

Before Starting

If you decide to install Linux and you want to keep Windows XP, there are some things you absolutely should do first, no matter what distro you elect to use.
  1. Defrag your hard disk. Auslogics Disk Defrag Free is an excellent freeware program.
  2. Back up your data. Include any software installation files you have downloaded. There are a lot of ways to do this; find the one that works for you.
  3. Ensure that you can restore from backup. There are many IT professionals who are very sorry they did not do this.
  4. Read documentation. Learn about disk partitioning and partitioning schemes. This can help you prepare for future upgrades.