Monday, September 13, 2021

Remember when ...

Do you remember when leftists cared about liberty?

It was 1999.  That's the date on this George Carlin concert.

It's George Carlin, so of course he uses filthy language.  But he opens by yelling at his audience for giving up essential liberties in exchange for a little safety.  Leftists don't do that any more.  They're all about power.  Their patience is wearing thin.  The threat they mean to present to those who value liberty over obedience is self-evident, and meant to be.

Make no mistake, the establishment Republicans are no different, or we wouldn't have former President George W. Bush comparing the Jan 6 riot UNFAVORABLY to 9/11, when Muslim terrorists did their best to destroy the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U. S. Capitol, and batted over .500, murdering nearly 3000 people in the process.

And remember what L. Neil Smith said -- the perfect X-ray into a politician's mind, to see whether they value your rights and liberty, is where they stand on gun control.  If they are for any kind of gun control, they are against every right and liberty that God has granted you, or at least for the government being able to take them away from you.  

 The battles at Lexington and Concord were not fought over muskets.  We attacked the British there because duly appointed Royal government officials, authorized by law, came to seize Colonials' private artillery pieces (cannons) and gunpowder.  May God grant that our current government does not seek to tread that same, tyrannical path.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

 Ludwig von Mises once said, "Rulers do not like to admit that their power is restricted by any laws other than those of physics and biology. They never ascribe their failures and frustrations to the violation of economic law."  My entire series, "Supply, Demand, and Price" is a catalog of sad examples of our rulers creating failures and tragedies by ignoring the laws of economics.

Unfortunately, these days our rulers are no longer content with pretending that only the laws of economics are subject to their control and revision.  They are trying to make the laws of biology subject to their will, as well.  And, like ignoring laws of physics and economics, this leads to tragedy and disaster.

Copybooks were the manuals used to teach children writing.  Back when Kipling wrote the poem referenced in my title, the exercises were basic moral doctrines.  

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Reflecting on Father's Day

 I originally composed this in response to a group writing challenge posted by Jennifer Fuwiler, "What are three things your parents did right?" It's mainly about my Dad, rather than both of my parents, because I've come to realize that he did in fact lead our family in nearly every respect. The older I get, the more like him I want to be. Of course, I've rambled on beyond three things.

The most difficult, and the most important thing he did right for me was that he threw me out of his house. I could visit any time I wanted, but I wasn't allowed to sleep there.  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 from the age of seven, 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 from both of them to use and respect reason and logic, and I'm grateful that they attended Marquette back when that was part of the curriculum.

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 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. It helps to explain why I had no real anger or resentment when my dad decided to throw me out.

Another example 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.

But the ways we benefitted from it do not stop there.  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 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.  It also taught us that most of popular telly is crap.

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 a postmodern "artiste" who painted it blaze orange and fuchsia and nailed assorted bits of trash to it and the trees I'd grown there, and pruned the trees into phallic topiaries, 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, and especially not gun control, fiat money, or 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 too? 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.

Surely there's more; they both 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. And Dad 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.

Happy Father's Day to all men who are fathers of any type, and may God bless you and all those under your paternal influence.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Not my usual thing

I don't do hot takes. I first saw this video yesterday, and it made me mad enough to fisk it today.

This video was posted to TikTok by Lexi Nimmo, who is billed as an actress, Instagram influencer, and plus-sized model, and from there was posted to Twitter. I'm going to post her spoken words in purple.

Let's start with her presentation. She's well groomed, has regular features, and has a friendly, attractive smile. Aside from morbid obesity (i.e., a BMI greater than 40kg/m^2 (e.g., 5'5", 240lbs) or weight more than 100lbs over ideal for height), she appears to be healthy. She has nice skin and long hair, both markers of good health.

Note the opening word balloon: "Reply to mellcannon's comment
Or he isn't attracted to bigger girls like how some people arnt attracted to smaller girls. Everyone is entitled to their own preferences [Very startled, wide-eyed emoji.]

"Heyy Bestie! [giggle]"

subtext: I like you and am your friend.

[serious]"You're wrong."

subtext: Aaaannnd there goes the friendliness. She's let the mask slip, and revealed, if only for a moment, the rage.

"I think it's time for another adult pre-k lesson, what do you think?"

Note Ms. Nimmo's wide, fake smile, and the contempt evident in using baby talk to tell her bestie that she has a pre-k level of consciousness and/or morality. And she's about to crank that contempt up to ELEVEN.

"Aaaall right, turn your listening ears on! Zhoooop! Catch a bubble in your mouth! [gasp] Good jo-ob!"

Subtext: Not only does Bestie clearly deserve to be told to shut up and listen, it is necessary to do so in a manner appropriate for a toddler, which is why Ms. Nimmo is doing so. And she does so often enough to have created a Tiktok hashtag for this practice, #adultprekwithlexi.

I would like to suggest to Ms. Nimmo that perhaps contempt is not the best way to keep friends, let alone persuade them. I would readily suggest to my wife that any one who treated her like that did not deserve my wife's friendship at all, let alone to be my darling wife's best friend.  In truth, such advice is appropriate for any human being.

"Okay, here's the thing. Having a preference is something like, 'I'm looking for a partner who likes kayaking, or wakes up early in the morning, ooooor, loves pizza.'" [giggles]

Those are in fact examples of preferences, but it's hardly an exhaustive list. Maybe one of the preferences of the man in question is, "I'm looking for a partner who will run five miles in half an hour with me before breakfast twice a week."

"But when your preferences exclude an entire group of marginalized people, that's problematic!"

Remember, "problematic" is to the woke as "blasphemous" is to Sharia law. It is something to be punished always, and never, ever forgiven, except perhaps by dying in the struggle to advance the faith.

"Okay, that's not nice, that's not a preference."

Sure, it may not be nice, but it IS a preference.  Maybe it's just a preference Ms. Nimmo opposes, because it excludes her. Remember that when we're talking about attraction, romance, dating, and marriage, the whole biological purpose of all that stuff is for people to start families and have babies. And that is ABSOLUTELY somewhere that each person's preferences should be honored. I'm sure there are plenty of men whom Ms. Nimmo has turned down, and perhaps harshly, when they pursued her with too much ardor, on the basis of preference.

"If you love [sic] all fat people in one group together as though they are not very different individuals, that's fat-phobic. Just like lumping all black people together and saying 'I don't like black people' is racist. And just like lumping all disabled people in one group and saying, 'I don't think people in wheelchairs are hot' is ableist. Do you understand what I'm saying? [giggle]"

One of the things that's built into the First Amendment's guarantees -- freedom of religion, of speech/ press/ opinion/ expression, of association, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances -- is the right to be an obnoxious hateful bigot.  Ms. Nimmo has the right to dislike such people, all she wants.  She can even hate and loathe them if she wants. She can even choose to BE one, all she wants. What she does not get to do is demand that they change their views to suit her.

Nor is commanding others how to think the only thing I can think of that might make Ms. Nimmo unattractive to a man. He might find her religion, Wokism, offensive. Or perhaps he cannot cope with her smug self-righteous moral supremacy. Or maybe it's her habit of treating people of differing opinions like toddlers, especially when they have a point. And given our society's supine willingness to let adherents of Wokism oppress others at will, I would not blame any man in the slightest if he declined to inform Ms. Nimmo if this was his reason for dropping her.

And I'm going to share a hard truth with Ms. Nimmo, and all other unmarried women: There are lots of men who will regard you as good enough to use for uncommitted sex, but NOT good enough for marriage, family, and children. Such a man is very likely to dump all the women he's used, once he's found one he's willing to marry -- or even, just one who's sufficiently better for use.  If you had been wise, you would never have let any such men have sex with you.

And, to go off-topic just a bit, it can reasonably be argued that glorifying obesity (I saw the banner on the set of one of Ms. Nimmo's Tiktok videos) poses a public health hazard comparable to glorifying smoking. Obesity contributes to hypertension, deep vein thrombosis, congestive heart failure, obstructive sleep apnea, pulmonary embolism, shortness of breath, neuralgia, asthma, arthritis (especially of the knees and hips), back pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, hypercholesterolemia, coronary artery disease, leg swelling, varicose veins, cerebrovascular accidents, chronic kidney disease, and physical disability. As Ms. Nimmo is created in imago Dei, she is as deserving of compassion, respect, and understanding as anyone. Obesity does not change that. But she also deserves to have her errors called out, as much as anyone else does.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Improving the Constitution

 I've been mulling over the apparent shortcomings of our federal government, and a couple possible constitutional amendments have come to mind.

One of the issues is that of gerrymandering.  The re-election rate for incumbent members of Congress is over 90%.  State legislatures draw districts in very partisan ways.  I recall a Reader's Digest article on gerrymandering that described a district that stretched in six long narrow psuedopods across half the state, and another that was two residential districts connected by several miles of interstate highway.  Somebody tried to get a district that was actually two areas completely separated from each other, but courts shot that down.

My proposed correction:  "1.  Congressional districts shall be drawn so that each can be enclosed within a rectangle with an area no more than 120% of the area of the district.  2.  If the geography and population distribution of a state make doing so impossible, then congressional districts of that state shall be drawn to minimize the total area of rectangles enclosing all congressional districts.  3.  States with only one district shall be exempt.  4.  A rectangle shall be a geometric figure with four sides and four equal vertices."

A second issue is that the states have been rendered subservient to the federal government, which was never the intention of the Founders who wrote the Constitution.  That was the original function of the Senate, to give the States a voice in the legislative process.  A third is that getting rid of bad laws is far more difficult than it ought to be.  As James Madison warned us, ""It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be to-morrow."  To correct these, I propose the following amendment:

"1.  The House of Relief is hereby established.  2.  Members of the House of Relief shall be called Relievers.  3.  The legislatures of each State shall appoint three Relievers, who shall serve at the pleasure of their respective state legislatures, which may recall or replace them at any time, and for any reason, or for no reason at all.  4.  The House of Relief shall only  have the power to pass bills that repeal federal laws and regulations of the United States, and to terminate federal departments and offices not established by the Constitution of the United States.  5.  Any such bill which receives votes of one-third of Relievers currently in office shall be passed to the President of the United States without review by the other houses of Congress, and will become law upon his signature, or fail if the President should veto the bill.  6.  Any bill which receives votes of one-half of all Relievers currently in office shall become law immediately, overriding any Presidential veto, without review by any other branch of government."

While I think these are more-or-less good ideas, I'm sure they could use some polish.  Any ideas anyone may have for their refinement would be most welcome.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Policy Review: A vs. E:

 Let us consider an imaginary university system, the Generic State University System.  Their board of regents is trying to decide between two policies for admitting students to degree programs whose graduates typically become wealthy professionals such as (but not limited to) engineers, scientists, lawyers, accountants, and the like.  Their foremost goal is to increase black participation in these professions, where they are underrepresented.

Policy A will result in a mean of 60 out of every 100 black applicants to these college programs being admitted, and about 16 of those sixty graduating and joining these well-paid professions.

Policy E will result in a mean of 30 out of every 100 black applicants being admitted, and about 24 of those 30 graduating and joining these well-paid professions.

Now, which of these policies is better for the black community?  I would argue that Policy E is better for the black community, because it results in 50% more blacks entering these well paid professions where they are currently underrepresented.

Which policy is better for everyone else?  That's also Policy E.  The number of available slots for admission to the GSU system is limited.  With Policy A, more freshmen in the GSU system will never graduate.  Those freshman slots are wasted when the students who filled them drop out.  They represent people of all other races who could have entered those professions and provided services to the rest of society, who now are stuck in lower-paid, less valuable work.  With Policy E, fewer slots are taken up by people who won't graduate, instead of more.  And with policy E, there are more highly qualified professionals providing valuable services to the community, both among blacks and among everyone else.

Policy A is affirmative action.  Basically, the rule is that a black student doesn't have to be as good as others to be ADMITTED to a university, but still has to be as good to graduate.  Blacks who would have a very good chance of graduating from (e.g.) University of California at Irvine or UC Santa Cruz, because they're smarter than 80% of the general population, and going on to a successful career, instead would be admitted to (e.g.) UC Berkeley or UCLA, which are geared to challenge students smarter than 99% of the population, where most people only(!) in the 80th percentile would fail, regardless of race.

In 1996, Californians passed an amendment to their state constitution, forbidding use of race in choosing how to fill any sort of government opportunity, including college and university admissions.  

That resulted in Policy E, or Equal Opportunity at the University of California system, in which people get opportunities based on how well they perform against a set of objective criteria, like SAT and ACT scores, high school grades and transcripts, and extracurricular load.  This is also what happens in sports, where the NFL, NBA, and MLB, not to mention track and field, all see blacks outperforming whites, and they do so according to objective criteria.

Four years after this amendment was passed, when the blacks who entered the UC system under this policy first started graduating, the number of black graduates increased by 55%, and they graduated with higher grades and in more challenging fields than under affirmative action.  

Unfortunately for the blacks and everyone else who benefited from equal opportunity, the California state legislature is trying to get the equal opportunity amendment to the California state constitution repealed.

Don't do it, California!

Monday, January 11, 2021

We Are Tin Ducks in a Shooting Gallery

 Even some liberals and Democrats are aghast at what has hppened, lately, to President Trump.  In the aftermath of the demonstrations and riots in Washington, DC, President Trump has been deplatformed and (for all practical purposes) censored, banned from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and his alternate platfrom, Parler, crushed in what certainly looks like action coordinated between Twitter (Parler's competition), Amazon (who owned the computers that Parler leased), and Google and Apple (Parler's distributors).

One liberal put the reason for her discomfort front and center:  "If they can do this to the most powerful man in the world, who or what can stop them if they decide to do it to us?"  And given how the revolution eats its own, it's a reasonable fear for those on all sides, not just those on the right.

So what do we do now?

First:  Get a copy of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein.  While his speculations about alternate marriage systems have been shown to be incompatible with real human nature, it contains a description of the best sort of network for a revolutionary (or counter-revolutionary) organization devised yet to date.  

Second:  Download the latest version of The Amnesiac Incognito Live System, also known as TAILS Linux.  This will boot from a thumb drive on most hardware, connect to the Internet via multiple clients, using The Onion Router (TOR) to ensure that connections are anonymous.  It will also make sure that nothing you do is stored on the hardware you use.  It also bypasses any malicious software that may be on the system you use, but it would not bypass any malicious hardware, like keyloggers.

Third:  Learn and use GNU Privacy Guard, a free implementation of PGP.  Bear in mind the security-privacy axis:  The more secure your communications, the less likely they will be received quickly and accurately.

Finally:  If we do wind up with a Constitutional Convention, there's another idea that RAH put into The Moon is a Harsh Mistress -- governments need to make deregulation and removal of bad laws easier, and to make the hasty passage of laws more difficult.  One suggestion that I rather like is an elected antilegislative body, whose members are only empowered to send repeals to the President's desk for signature or veto, and perhaps on less than a majority vote.  Another is to require at least a 60% supermajority to pass a law.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Some random thoughts on the passing scene.

One of the most infamous events in the rise of fascism in the previous century was Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.  A bunch of German brownshirts went around in a planned riot, smashing the windows of their target minority group.  No doubt they said it was a righteous protest.

When somebody tells you "I am totally anti-fascist," while acting just like a fascist (for example, smashing windows and setting fires in an oppressed minority neighborhood), they are not just telling you a breathtaking, bald-faced insolent lie.  They are gaslighting you.  They are trying to make you lose hold of reality.  When they do this, you ought to ignore everything they say, and concentrate solely on what they do.  By their fruits you will know them.

When people start smashing windows and setting fires, you do not have a peaceful or even non-violent protest.  You have a riot.  When the window-smashing and fire-setting starts, it is time for all people of good will, who care at all about the community they are in, to leave and go home.  Leave the murderous, thuggish criminals out in the open, with no crowds to hide in, like a cockroach on a plate.  Let the cops round them up.  If they are smashing windows and setting fires, that proves that they hate you and everyone in your community.  They are your enemies.  Give them no aid and no comfort.  Let the cops have them.  Better yet, help the cops get them.

If President Trump is our first Jim Crow president, as Rebecca Hamilton says, he is doing a really bad job at it.  After all, the point of Jim Crow is to keep Blacks poor, disenfranchised, separated, and downtrodden. 

When an administration provides historically black universities and colleges with record funding (and at record durations), and oversees the lowest unemployment rates for blacks in decades, and sees blacks open 400% more small businesses in its first year than they had owned in the year prior, none of that helps keep blacks poor, ignorant, separated, disenfranchised, and downtrodden.  If that's a try at Jim Crow, it's a yuuuuuge fail.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

When's the last time you were this happy?

Behold, a girl who picked up the sticks at two, and has played the drums like a rock star from the age of eight.  And that's not just me, that's Robert Plant, watching her play Led Zeppelin's "Good Times, Bad Times."  (Her full video is here.)  

And she's gotten even better.  check this out from 3:10 to 3:20:

But this is where she just radiates such exultant joy that I go back to see her do it again, and again, and again:

Seriously, when was the last time you were doing something that made you this happy?  I was never this happy singing, or writing, or playing trumpet, and I loved Purcell's trumpet concertos.  She just loves percussion, and I hope and pray that nobody ruins it for her, so she can continue to love it like this for the rest of her life.  

Saturday, March 14, 2020

You Are Probably Washing Your Hands Wrong

Most people do not adequately wash all surfaces of their hands.  This visual guide (my source) is almost adequate:

Large format PDFs can be downloaded from this page
Between washing your thumbs and scrubbing your palm creases with your fingertips, you should also wash your wrists, at least a hands-width down your arms.  Total time from "Give us this day our daily bread" through "Holy Mary, Mother of God," including your wrists, should be about 25 seconds.  And your hands should be wet and soapy for that entire 25 seconds.  I'd do an alcohol-based hand rub the same way.  It's the combination of friction and either soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer that actually gets rid of the germs.

Finally, once you're done, don't touch the bathroom faucet or door with your hands.  Use a dry paper towel.  It's almost certain that those surfaces have been contaminated by some person who washed their hands inadequately, or not at all.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Carrot and the Stick

It is a truism of political science that there are two ways to get a mule to do what you want:  to use the carrot, or the stick.  These approaches are also applied to people, as broad terms to denote various enticements or threats.  Dale Carnegie pointed out that for the carrot to work, you must also be able to "arouse within another an eager want," that is, engage in salesmanship, and also that sticks are generally ineffective in the long term.

Bill Clinton was regarded as a master of offering carrots.  Better observers of political science than I have said so.  They also mention his reluctance to use the stick.  It really is no wonder that he got elected, as American electioneering is largely a matter of offering various carrots to people. 

The carrots that Donald Trump offered the electorate were largely tax cuts, deregulation, improved border security, and returning patriotism to a socially acceptable stance (something the Common Core standards for history largely make untenable).  The only sticks he really had to wave during the election were the policies of Barack Obama, and the history and character of Hillary Clinton, who was promising to expand them.

What I've observed about Donald Trump, especially when it comes to his foreign policy, is that he makes ready use of not only the carrot and the stick, but also salesmanship and showmanship, in order to get what he wants (e.g., an end to Chinese protectionism, which I support, as well as an end to Chinese dumping, which I do not), and often in rapid succession or even simultaneously.  He's done so in the contexts of NAFTA renegotiations, the China trade deal, and his attempts to get North Korea to denuclearize.  I don't care for all of his foreign policy goals, but I have to admire how straightforward and how effective he is in pursuing them.  And I think that part of that is due to his salesmanship and showmanship.

It hasn't always worked.  Many people were aghast when President Trump lavished praise and offered status to Kim Jong Un, but I saw it as an offer of some carrots (and fairly cheap carrots at that), combined with salesmanship and the possible offering of more carrots in the future. 

Admittedly, Iran has thus far mostly gotten the stick from President Trump.  The closest he's come to offering a carrot is to announce that he's ready to negotiate for peace, but only on his terms, particularly verification of their denuclearization.  But given the pallets of cash that the previous US President lavished upon the Iranian government, while getting very little for his constituents, Trump may have quite reasonably concluded that they were feeling too entitled to getting carrots from us while fomenting (at gunpoint, when necessary) demonstrations demanding "Death to America!"

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.