Monday, October 29, 2007


Ma Beck is not on my blogroll, but part of being a member of St. Blog's Parish is that one often gets connected to stuff by other members. In this case, the salute goes to The Orthometer. Unlike him, I have nothing to add to Ma Beck's Obligatory Hallowe'en Post.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Going on about Markets

I just read an inspiring article on Catholic Exchange, regarding the growth and recovery of Liberia after being so thoroughly devastated by civil war. But the thought that it brought to mind was so far off-topic that I decided to post about it here instead. Here are the pertinent paragraphs:

Dickson is back in Sinoe assessing communities for agro-enterprise, which helps farmers find markets so they can increase their income. It's a field that he believes has the potential to lift Liberia out of poverty.

Dickson can't stop talking about agro-enterprise. He gets so excited his voice — in that beautiful, lilting Liberian English -- grows loud. He raves about its possibilities, about how it can heal Liberia.

"Our concentration has been on production," he says. "Agriculture should take a new direction with agro-enterprise, which is geared toward increasing not just production, but income."

Help farmers find markets. Not just production, but income. We see here a fatal blow to one of Karl Marx's many fallacies: that work is all that matters. It isn't enough to work hard. It isn't even enough to have great production. What is produced must get to people who want it and will use it, or it is worthless and a waste of time and other limited resources. In fact, because it is a waste of resources, it is destructive. Free markets do this with unrivaled efficiency. Command economies, be they socialist, fascist, or communist, do this poorly, if at all.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Regarding Doctrine

It amazes me that people gripe about the arrogance of Catholics and our infallible doctrine. They often claim it's a form of intolerance. But it's a necessary teaching of Christianity; it follows inevitably from a number of other doctrines that few mainline Christian denominations will do without. Here they are:

1. God loves us all.
2. God gave us free will.
3. We are separated from God by sin.
4. God devised ONE means by which that separation could be repaired (His plan of salvation), which includes the things we must believe and how we must live.
5. God desires that all of us be saved.
6. God can do all things.

From 2 and 3, we can conclude that God expected some of us to corrupt the One plan of salvation mentioned in 4. But from 1, 5, and 6, we can conclude that God would also ensure that His plan of Salvation in 4 would be preserved from corruption, and furthermore, that it would be widely available and widely recognized. In other words, God would ensure there was an authority on earth that would preserve and promote His one plan of salvation.

Incidentally, that describes the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on doctrine regarding faith and morals, the ones that describe what we must believe and how we must live if we are to be saved: that they are protected from human error or tampering by grace, also known as the power of the Holy Spirit. The technical term for this is infallibility.

To be infalliable, doctrine must be catholic, that is, universal. Both the teaching authority and the application must be universal. Thus, the marks of infallible doctrine are any of these:

1. The Pope, as successor to Peter, teaching the whole world, provides infallible doctrine.

2. Pontifical councils likewise teach infallible doctrine.

3. When all the bishops in Apostolic Succession who are in communion with the Holy See of Rome teach a doctrine, it is infallible.

Also, infallible doctrine always is teaching about salvation, which is why it is always only teaching about faith and morals. Nothing else is important enough for this sort of intervention.

If you look around for Catholic apologetics, you'll find all sorts of Biblical justification explaining how Christ gave authority over the Church here on Earth to Peter, and by extension, his legitimate successors. But if I'm going to post that here, it's going to be later.

edit: I want to thank Shakespeare's Cobbler for his expansion and clarifications.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

MORE blogrollin'

I keep a much larger roll of blogs in my bookmarks than on my blog. Me, I'm fond of converts; I'm nearly one myself, given how far afield into apostasy I wandered. And having read this post on Aimee Milburn's blog, I have to agree with her position regarding the pharisaical fragment of the Church wholeheartedly. Some of the stories in the comments have me gasping with horror and disbelief! I suppose the reason I found it so shocking was that it was so far beyond my experience and imagination.

It makes me so thankful for my tiny mission parish deep in Baptist territory, with her immigrant Third World pastor.

Writing Project Redux

If you liked my post on My Dad, you ought to consider reading the rest of the posts written in response to Jennifer F's challenge.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Dawkins Delusion

I found this comment on an article on Catholic Exchange that I liked so much that I am quoting it in its entirety.
I think we are being bamboozled by the Dawkins Delusion. I have never seen Mr. Dawkins, all I know about him is from a particularly inane book that has his name on the cover. How do we even know he is a real person, not some media creation like Milli Vanilli? No one has proved his existence to my satisfaction. I will not accept eye witness accounts of people who claim to know him or to have seen and heard him, nor will I judge him by the book associated with his name, because I have no proof it was issued on his authority. If I don't believe he exists obviously I don't have to believe anything the book says. The credentials claimed by this "author" include claims of associations with prestigious universities and top names in science. It is entirely absurd to suppose that anyone with those credentials could have propounded such an illogically framed and eratically defended thesis. No, I refuse to be deluded. There is no Richard Dawkins. He is a figment of your imagination.
Submitted by asquared on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 2:13am.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Truth Is Inconvenient for Al

Credit where it's due: Rush Limbaugh tipped me to this story yesterday.

I am universally suspicious of any looming crisis cited as irrefutably demonstrating the need for vast new interventions in the lives of ordinary people by gun-toting enforcers at the behest of self-anointed Gurus of Everything. Nor is it mere coincidence that most such gurus arise from the Left. It is on the Left that you find the belief that while you and I might possibly not need guidance, assistance, and control at all times, surely we can see that nearly everyone else does -- and that it is the Gurus who must provide it. Of course, even we who might be able to handle some limited aspects of our own affairs must also submit to the Gurus, in the name of "fairness."

Al Gore is such a self-anointed Guru. The cause for which he wants to put us all under the lash is, of course, man-made global warming. It's so important to him that he's willing to lie in order to put us there. In no way has he been balanced in his presentation of his case, and nowhere do any of his allies and backers tolerate any dissenting or challenging his views. That's not science, that's propaganda.

There is no such thing as established scientific theory. EVERY theory is subject to being overturned by new evidence. But when it comes to man-made global warming, contradictory evidence is always suppressed. That is never good. Suppression of information has been the hallmark of every repressive and murderous regime this poor world has ever seen. And the global warming movement hates humanity, and wants to see us culled and thinned. It chills me.

(This film gives a glimpse into the global warming movement, and it's well worth watching.)

The Television Ration

In my previous post on my Dad, I mentioned my parents' television rationing scheme. Each of us children was given a ration of an hour a week where we could choose the programming on the television. Our parents limited their own viewing in the main to documentaries on PBS and Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser.

I spent the next day at work thinking about the various effects this policy had on my life -- beyond the 20 point improvement in my IQ that I credit to having my TV viewing time severely limited.

It taught us that resources are limited and the wisdom of planning. Every Sunday, we'd all pore over the TV listings, planning where we'd spend our allotted time on the TV. We would carefully weigh the merits of all the shows we wanted to watch, and which was the very best on which to spend our time. It also taught us that most of popular telly is crap.

It taught co-operation and risk-taking. Most movies are broadcast over two hours, so in order to see an entire movie, we had to either obtain the co-operation of one of our siblings beforehand, or watch the first hour and hope that one of them (or one of our parents!) would be sufficiently engrossed to watch the rest.

And finally, it taught us that the recipient of a positive externality does not owe anything to the person who provides it. If my brother the Geek happened to choose in advance a program I was seriously considering choosing, that freed me to choose something else, without any concern over whether he'd like it or not.

This is a lesson that also applies to the rest of life, and far too few people seem to grasp this. As an example, suppose you live in a neighborhood with a neglected home that is such an eyesore that it has depressed the value of your own home, and those of your neighbors. I move into the eyesore, kill the rats, mow the lawn, fix the windows, scrub off all the graffitti, install fiber-cement siding, plant a garden, repair the sidewalk, and pour a new concrete driveway, making the former eyesore into a model home. The value of your home, and the others in the neighborhood, increase, along with the equity position of each of the homeowners. In short, you have benefited from my action. You will get more money from them if you choose to sell or obtain a second mortgage/ home equity loan. And you don't owe me a cent!

The same goes when the situation is reversed, however. If I were to sell that home to an avant garde artiste who painted it blaze orange and fuchsia and nailed assorted bits of trash to it and the trees I'd grown there, it could very well decrease the value of your home, perhaps even leaving you owing more on your mortgage than you could get from its sale. But just as you didn't owe me anything for making your home more valuable, neither does the artist owe you anything because its value has dropped.

The most splendid example I have seen of how to morally handle positive externalities, also known as the "free rider" question (i.e., 'how do we make free riders pay?), was from L. Neil Smith's libertarian novel, Pallas. The terraformed world of Pallas is populated by a libertarian society, that tolerates no coercion of anyone, particuarly gun control and taxes. But it suffers an orbital change, resulting in an ice age. There is a technological means to survive, but it is hugely expensive. The villain of the book promptly demands that an armed band be formed to demand "fair shares" of the needed money from others. The hero, who has become filthy rich from a couple of very GOOD inventions counters, essentially, "Don't bother. I'll pay for it all. Why shouldn't I? What good is all the money to me when I'm dead? And how is it any skin off my nose if, by saving my own life, everyone else lives too?"

If you do yourself some good, be glad! If that means you do somebody else some good, be glad! If the good you do yourself is good enough by itself to get you to do it, how on earth does it hurt you if that helps somebody else get ahead? The idea that just because somebody else gets ahead means you must have been put behind is silly at best, counter-productive or even evil at worst. Besides, if the other has any sense, he'll be grateful and kindly disposed to you for the incidental good you did him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Novus Ordo

I know there are a lot of people out there who think the Novus Ordo Mass is as close to crap as anything promulgated by the Magisterium and the Holy See can be. But it isn't, really; celebrated properly, without the improvised innovations brought about by the Permanent Liturgical Revolutionary Cadres, and mostly in Latin, ad orientam, it is perhaps even better than the Mass of the Missal of Pope Blessed John XXIII.

This letter, written to a new pastor who was replacing a priest of marvelous fidelity and grace, tells a lot more about that (look for the recollection of a Novus Ordo as I describe above, near the end). This is precisely what I hope the traditionalists will do for us: get us wider use of traditional forms in the Ordinary Form of Mass. Salute to Cavey for the link.

If anyone does it better....

I haven't seen it in a long time. I'm speaking of this article originally posted on Catholic Exchange, by Mark Shea. His satirical skewering of Professionally Aggrieved Grievance Professionals is utterly hilarious! Nor does he spare William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Favorite bits:

It turned out the protestors were what the dominant Europhallocentric Hegemony calls "wrong"...

Here in the US, this peculiar willingness to scrape before the sensitivities of the Professionally Aggrieved has created a rich mulch of bureaucrats, pundits, and various members of the Chattering Classes who have shown themselves singularly well-disposed to lick the hand of violent Muslim thugs in spaniel-like obsequies even as they piddle on the floor in outrage over the imminent imposition of theocracy at the hands of some bogeyman compact of damp-handed bishops, Evangelical soccer moms, gun-toting members of the Hallelujah Bible Church of NASCAR and a couple of Republican Jews.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Can you tell?

Less World of Warcraft, more reading. Salute to Cathy_of_Alex over at The Recovering Dissident. She brought to my attention this excellent post by Angela Messenger, pointing out how distorted our priorities often get.

Yeah, more recognition of my own weaknesses and failings. Those always make it here, eh? And I'll be asking St. Jude to pray for my improvement in this matter.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

My Dad, the Hero

I'm composing this in response to Jennifer F.'s group writing challenge, What are three things your parents did right? Yes, it's mainly about my Dad, rather than both of my parents. I didn't deal with him much. I have only come to realize that he did in fact lead our family in nearly every respect very recently. The older I get, the more like him I want to be. So I'm likely to ramble on well beyond three things. If not, it's merely the first three things to come to mind that he did right, rather than the greatest.

He threw me out of the house. (Whaaaaaaaat?) That's right, he did, and I grew to be very grateful for it, and I was glad to be able to tell him so before he died. I was a selfish, sessile, immature ingrate of twenty-three years when he did it. It put me through some hard times, but I would not ever have become self-sufficient had he not compelled me to do so. The number of blessings which have come from this are beyond counting, believe you me, and thankfulness is foremost of them.

He always resolved his disagreements with my mother. It might have taken time, involved obnoxious debating tactics and yelling, and been difficult and trying, but not one of us ever for a moment imagined that either of them would leave. Somehow, in spite of reading dictionaries to relieve boredom, the word "divorce" never entered my vocabulary until age 10. He may have been motivated by the fact that my mother was the only woman he met who actually liked his rotten sense of humor. From this I've taken the lesson to be absolutely faithful and committed to my marriage. I also learned to use and respect reason and logic.

They set limits and made us responsible. They didn't compel responsibility, but rather enforced consequences when we overstepped the boundaries or failed in our responsibilities. One example of this, that I think deserves wider application, was the TV ration (though they didn't call it that). We were each given one hour a week where we could tune the telly to whatever we wanted (of the 3 major networks, CBC, PBS, and the three independent stations that they had in Detroit at the time). One of the by-products of this was that I read a lot, learned a lot from reading, and listened to a lot of good music. In fact, I credit about 20 points of my Intelligence Quotient to this policy alone. Another such policy was that after about age 10 or 12, I forget which, each of us was expected to earn our own spending money; this was before the near elimination of minors as paper carriers. And it probably explains why I had no real anger or resentment when my dad decided to throw me out.

Surely there's more; they encouraged me at all times to seek to do and be better; they brought me to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation for at least the ten years from age 5 to Confirmation at 15; they demonstrated by example that what we could prudently afford was always good enough. He left his copies of The Freeman around for me to read, so that I learned to love liberty. The list goes on and on. But I won't.