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The Fifth Column

Orthodox Catholic commentary on current events.

Updated: 2018-02-20T02:52:46.021-06:00


Hepatitis C: We Pay More, Thank God


This is a popular meme floating around the Internet. Sometimes it picks India, sometimes Egypt, but the idea is the same. The US pays 84 times or 250 times or some ungodly percentage more than these lousy third world countries! Why are US citizens being gouged?Well, to put it bluntly, US citizens are NOT being gouged. When all things are considered, those prices are all pretty fair. To begin with, let us simply accept the numbers above without argument. For this analysis, we shall add some numbers of our own.Country Price / pill % of US costMedian Income % of US Income Hep C Prevalence  USA $1000 100%   $51,700  100%  3.2 million Egypt $    11     1%   $  5,680    11%  38 million India $      4     0.4%   $  3,800      7% 10-15 millionSo, the average American earns 10x as much as the average Egyptian and roughly fifteen time as much as the average Indian. One would think, based just on this, that the average Egyptian treatment would cost one-tenth as much. That is, it would seem the price should be $100 per pill in Egypt, for instance.But, then we have to factor in the prevalence of the disease. Egypt has 10x as many cases of hepatitis C, India has 3-5x times as many cases of the disease. So, we have to knock down the Egyptian price by another factor of ten (due to volume) and lo! The price is pretty much correct. When you factor in both India's disease prevalence and income, even the Indian price is not that far off.There's no reason to stop with the table above, though. Try factoring in the sub-populations that actually get infected with hepatitis C and therefor have to pay these different prices. The "disparity" becomes even more interesting. In the United States, hepatitis C is primarily the scourge of IV drug users and, to a lesser extent, homosexuals. Homosexuals tend to be richer than the average American. They are narcissists who have no children, and who claw their way up the corporate ladder quite efficiently, that is, they tend to get paid more. Conversely, in Egypt and India, hepatitis C most adversely effects the poorest of the poor. It is the poor in these countries who are the least likely to have access to clean water. So, let's summarize those numbers with fresh eyes. In general, American IV drug users and homosexuals are subsidizing the medical treatment of the poorest of the poor in the Third World. Personally, I can find no reason to object to this arrangement.Can you? [...]

On the Absurdity of IQ Tests


My daughter read this Huffington Post story, and asked me what the big deal was about IQ tests. Here's what I told her. What you are reading is one voice in a LONG argument that has extended for at least the last fifty years.IQ testing unquestionably has eugenics origins. It was invented by eugenicists, administered by them and normed by them.The whole point of IQ testing was originally to keep southern Europeans, Mexicans and Asians out of the country. This is bad. Eugenicists are not nice people. They say that some people are more valuable than others, they support abortion, euthanasia, yada, yada, yada. It is a very ugly philosophy. Unfortunately, a lot of interesting results have come from these eugenics-inspired tests. For instance, over the course of time, IQ has steadily risen across the board throughout every aspect of the population. No one is quite sure why this has been happening for the last century, but the suspicion is that improvements in nutrition and medicine, along with reductions in pollution (especially the removal of lead from gasoline and household paints, which greatly reduced the blood levels of lead in all populations, especially the poor) contributed quite a lot to this effect. No matter how the tests have been "fixed", on average, Asians always score the best, whites second, Hispanics third and blacks fourth. Women always cluster close to the mean, men always scatter out so that (a) their mean is lower and (b) there are more outliers at BOTH ends of the IQ scale. This doesn't speak to any particular individual, of course, only averages. During the 1950s and 60s, the argument was made that the IQ test was really a test of culture, not a test of IQ, so in the intervening 50 years, there have been many attempts to "fix" them so that they really do measure intelligence. The problem is, none of the "fixes" seemed to cause the various sub-populations to test the same. Some subpopulations always test smarter, other always test stupider.No matter how the tests have been "fixed", on average, Asians always score the best, whites second, Hispanics third and blacks fourth. Women always cluster close to the mean, men always scatter out so that (a) their mean is lower and (b) there are more outliers at BOTH ends of the IQ scale. This doesn't speak to any particular individual, of course, only averages. People who want the tests to reveal absolutely no real differences between different genetic populations always insist the tests are skewed, but they can't figure out how to fix them so that they don't produce these results. Psychologists have pretty much given up. They admit privately that there are real differences in the average IQ of various populations, but they can't say this out loud without being called "racist" or some such, so you get articles like the one you found, where people who don't like the results sob loudly for their lost cause, and psychologists shift uncomfortably from foot to foot, then state firmly that they are going out for a beer and does anyone else want them to pick up something while they are out?The major problem with IQ tests is that they only measure the ability to engage in rational thought. They don't measure a person's happiness in life, they don't measure how happy one person makes someone else. They don't measure artistic ability, musical ability, the ability to care for or empathize with animals, other human beings, etc.The original high-IQ society, Mensa, was envisioned to become a powerhouse of world happiness. Put all these really smart people together in a room, the reasoning went, and they would solve the world's problems. But the actual organization has never solved anyone's problems. None of the dozens of high-IQ societies that have been created since Mensa have done anything useful either. Each one seems to be a way for one smaller group of people to pretend to be superior to some other slightly larger group of people (the top 1% vs the top 0.1% vs the top 0.01% and so on).In fact, all IQ tests seem to do is produce high-IQ societies fi[...]

Paying Tribute to America


In ancient times, any country conquered by Rome had to pay tribute to Rome. These vassal states had to spend their own resources to build up stores of grain, honey, and other trade goods in order to ship them to Rome for free, or at a greatly reduced price. This was how they acknowledge Rome's hegemony over them.

Today, countries acknowledge America's hegemony by doing the same thing. Other countries build up stores of trade goods at their own expense and ship those goods to us at a greatly reduced price, a price subsidized by foreign governments, in the hopes that we will buy those goods.

From an economic perspective, Trump's "Buy American" policy runs counter to his "Make America Great Again" policy. America proves her economic greatness when vassal countries ship us cheap goods whose manufacture has been subsidized by foreign governments. Whenever the foreign government throws government money at producing a good that will be sold in the US, that government has essentially sent us a check to help us prop up our economy. Foreign-subsidized goods that enter the US are as much free money as any cashier's check, grain shipment or oil shipment we send for cheap or free to a third-world country.

Americans frequently complain about the amount of free money we send to other governments, other countries. They almost never acknowledge that foreign-subsidized goods are free money that those foreign states send to us. Every dollar a foreign government spends to produce a good is a dollar in tax that they pay to America in exchange for the privilege of being allowed to sell to Americans. Foreign subsidies of goods are nothing more than tax dollars paid by foreign citizens, collected and paid, by foreign governments, as tribute to the United States.

Thus, forcing American government projects to "buy American" is absurd. We should be buying the least expensive material from whoever produces it. If we are lucky, foreign countries will subsidize the production of the steel, oil, etc., that we use in our projects. When we build American projects on American soil, any decent economist would much prefer the material in those projects come from companies that are subsidized by foreign governments. That's free money for us.The "trade deficit" is not a bug, it's a feature. It proves that America receives more money from vassal states than she sends out.
"It is no coincidence that the smallest American merchandise trade deficit since 1982, $74 billion in 1991, occurred during the period’s only recession."

To reiterate, foreign government subsidies of any industrial good we import is nothing more or less than a foreign country paying tribute to America. Foreign subsidies acknowledge American economic superiority. THAT is what I want. Do you want to Make America Great Again? Buy foreign goods. Make sure the world keeps paying its taxes to us.

Corporations and the American Dream


Libertarians, those political teenagers who want to have their cake and eat it too, always complain about government over-regulation and the imposition of other people's values. "We should have the right to live as we please, without government interference!" they cry. "Enough of government regulation!"But the absurdity of their position is apparent after a moment's thought. The government "over-regulates" - what a judgemental word! Doesn't that word impose libertarian values on others, wherein some random libertarian gets to determine what counts as 'over-regulation'? And what if large corporations WANT a lot of regulations? Shouldn't it be their right to try to get those regulations in place, if they want them? Corporations donate their executives to government and draw their executives from government. Corporations write and pay for the implementation of laws that will protect their business from competition. "Government" is just the word we use for corporations working together to protect their respective turfs. Large government and "over-regulation" is a natural result of a free market in which some people do MUCH better than others, and want to keep it that way. Has it never occurred to anyone that using words like "crony capitalism" and "over-regulation" is just as much an imposition of values on everyone as insisting on income equality is?And this is another point that libertarians don't quite understand. Yes, it is demonstrably true that income inequality has been associated with the largest improvement of the world's general welfare in human history. In 1800, everyone was equally poor: no matter how much money you had, you still got smallpox and polio, your cattle died of rinderpest, you couldn't buy air-conditioning, antibiotics, analgesics, laparoscopic surgery, a cellphone, or a 2017 Honda Odyssey. Now, you can be in the most extreme poverty, yet you won't die of smallpox, your cattle won't die of rinderpest, and you had, as of 2017, 16 chances out of 7 billion of getting polio. You may not have direct access to air-conditioning, antibiotics or a cellphone, but you likely know someone who could gift you any of those things in a heartbeat. Income inequality is real, and it is one of the hallmarks of a much less impoverished world. In short, it is demonstrably the case that income inequality has reduced poverty throughout the world. Income inequality arises because some people are much better at serving everyone's needs than other people are. The people who are best at serving other people's needs get physically rewarded. They are rich.I don't have any problem with people being unequally rewarded for having unequally served people's needs - those who do it better should be better rewarded. I am perfectly fine with income inequality. But let's not pretend that "over-regulation" and "crony government" is anything other than what it is: "over-regulation" is the capitalist system working as libertarians think it should. Big government is the result of successful corporations creating favorable turf for themselves out of a shared resource (government). According to libertarian theory, there should be nothing wrong with that, especially if it contributes to income inequality. And it will, because "over-regulation" and "cronyism" will keep out most entreprenurial upstarts, forcing those wannabees to endure poverty because they can't get past the government regulations. This allows corporations to continue to acquire massive wealth and increase the income inequality that ends up helping everyone. Just as jailers find it easier to serve prisoners if every prisoner is regimented in his own cell, so corporations find it easier to serve customers if all the customers can be trained to want the same thing and respond the same way to the same stimuli.You own a gun, corporations pretty much own law enforcement. You have pets, corporations have customers. You allow your pets to do what they want, as long as they aren't de[...]

Perversion on the Liberal Left


The left lionizes homosexuality, trans-sexuals and the whole LGBTQwxyz thing but is happy to label heterosexual interactions (men chasing women or women chasing men) "perversion".

Screaming Children: God's Blessing


Liturgy, it is said, is the life of the Church. The word itself means "work of the people." It originates in pagan Greek practice, where the wealthiest Greek citizens of a city-state would ritually donate warships, plays, public buildings and festivals to honor the city of their birth and give delight to its citizens.Christians began using, in their own buildings, the adaptations of Jewish Temple ritual that Jesus had taught them. Christians called their ritual "liturgy" to show that it honored the City of God. The rituals that Jesus empowered with the grace of the Crucifixion were performed by Christians in order to deliver the sacraments and the divinizing grace of those sacraments to the people. This makes the people holy and thereby builds up the City of God. Just as with the pagan Greeks, the divine liturgy" was the "work of the people", but unlike the pagan Greeks, Christian liturgy actually carried divine power. In part, the divine liturgy makes up what is lacking in Christ's suffering, for the sake of the Church, just as Colossians 1:24 promised to do. By using the pagan Greek word to describe God's work in their lives, the Christians helped pagans understand the Paschal Mystery and the Body of Christ.Jesus was both human and divine, so the liturgy is work done by human beings, but carrying divine power. The Mass is about the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, which are the four aspects of the Paschal Mystery. Each of the four aspects of the single act which is the Paschal Mystery is itself inexorably linked to one of the four reasons for Christ's Incarnation (CCC 457-460). God became man to To show us how much He loves us (Passion), To save us from our sins (Death), To give us a model of holiness (Resurrection), To divinize us (Ascension).Thus, the Mass is always about those four actions and those four reasons.So, what does a screaming toddler have to do with any of this?Does the toddler make you suffer? Ohhh.... poor you.Does the toddler force you to die to your self-perceived facade of holiness because you suddenly find less than serene thoughts floating through your mind? Oh... that must be terrible for you.Does the toddler give you the opportunity to rise above your petty selfishness? Good.Does the toddler give you the opportunity to again climb the mountain back into the liturgy, this time with a better understanding of your own failings in charity towards others? Why, this is most excellent!Were there screaming children watching the condemned men process up the road to Calvary? I bet there were. Did Golgotha have a cry room? Call me a skeptic, but I doubt it.The Mass is the life of the Church, and my life is my life before God. In both of these lives, there are screaming children, children acting out, children running up and down aisles, playing with toys instead of paying attention, children even trying (succeeding?) in running into the sanctuary during Mass. The difference between children in the life of the Church and the child in MY life, is that the child in MY life is ME.I scream when God offers me holiness, I ignore His call, I play with toys rather than pay attention, I run up and down my every day life without thought nor care of God. That child acting out in front of me is a visual representation of ME, every day, even AFTER I have had my morning coffee. That's why so many of us hate hearing children at Mass. Those kids are way, way too much like offensive little ole' me. If I don't want my own self-perception pierced, then I damned well can't have children around showing me off to myself.Get thee to a nunnery!Or a cry room.Or anywhere, really, but in front of me. This glass is not darkly enough, I can still see into it. I don't want face-to-face, I want the picture of Dorian Gray in front of me, so I can pretend it is my mirror. Let me have children about me that are fat, Sleek-headed children and such as sleep a-Mass. Yon screaming chil[...]

What is a Distributed Ledger?


Ask for a description of cryptocurrencies, and the reply will always involve the phrase "it's a distributed ledger..." They say it as if you are supposed to know what it means. Who the heck does? What on earth is a distributed ledger?The best thumbnail description I've seen is to think of an Excel spreadsheet. Lots of rows and columns, and it's good for adding numbers, right? That's a ledger - it's just a spreadsheet.  Saying it is "distributed" means that copies of the spreadsheet are held on hundreds or thousands or hundreds of thousands of computers at the same time. Any change made to one spreadsheet is automatically replicated to all of the others. Every computer that has a copy of the spreadsheet has to process or "vote" on whether or not to accept the change.Who can change the cells of the spreadsheet? Well, that's where "coins" come in. Think of each cell as a separate "coin". Access to the cell is granted only to the person who holds the cryptographic keys to that cell. In this analogy, the "blockchain" would just be the map of all the spreadsheet cells.Just as a spreadsheet can hold numbers or text, and the numbers can be currency or dates or anything else, so the "coins" in the spreadsheet can hold data. Most people simply buy access to the coins, as one would buy empty real estate. You don't necessarily intend to ever build anything there, but when you buy a coin, you are expressing the bet that someone else will one day want to build something in that spreadsheet cell. So, some people build on their coins - put data or programs into the coins (cells) they hold - but most people buy coins for the same reason you buy real estate. You're betting this blockchain is going to become a bustling city, and everyone will want to build there. So, you buy some empty cells ("coins", "land," whatever you want to call it), and wait for the property values to go up.The person who holds the cryptographic keys to a coin is the one who can stuff data or programs or whatever inside of that coin (land parcel). If you lose your keys, or your keys are stolen, then access to that particular coin is permanently lost.You prove that you have rights to make changes to the "coin" by supplying your password. You can sell your coin to someone else without ever telling them your password. When you sell, the blockchain recognizes the transfer of ownership - you get the cash, someone else now owns the access to that spreadsheet cell or "coin" in that spreadsheet (blockchain).Every time you want to make a change to the cell, either by putting data into it or transferring ownership, you have to pay a processing fee to all the computers that update their copy of the ledger for you. The computers that acknowledge and update their copy of the ledger are called "miners." The fee is generally magnitudes cheaper than you would pay a bank. Once enough miners agree to update their ledger, all the others than auto-update their copies as well. Generally, a transaction requires multiple "confirmations", three or six or nine or whatever, to initiate the auto-update on all the other thousands of copies.Every change to the "coin" or cell is permanently written to the cell and visible to everyone. So, every transfer of ownership, every content addition or change, all of it is permanently recorded in the cell, impossible to erase. Everyone can see the whole history of everything that happened in that cell and to that cell, right down to the last niggling little detail. Forever. So, if you want permanent records and don't mind them being publicly visible to everyone with access to a computer, this is a great feature. Every public record could be permanently recorded into a blockchain. Medical records could be put in a blockchain, instantly accessible by medical personnel anywhere. You might think "Good heavens! I don't want everyone to know I had my gallbladder out!" Not a problem - encrypt the[...]

A Discussion of Cryptocurrencies


A friend asked me to weigh in on the various crypto-currencies. There are now over 1000 of them, and I can't claim to know much about more than a handful. That said, here is my take.First, what is cryptocurrency? Cryptocurrencies are open-inspection distributed ledger systems. The value of crypto lies in the fact that these ledger systems put every transaction out in the open, essentially impossible to fake. Because the ledger is distributed across millions of computers, it is generally very difficult to corrupt or take down the system. If you need an accounting system with those characteristics, cryptocurrency does it better than any other accounting system. That is its value.Those characteristics are worth money. No one is sure exactly how much, but as time goes on, more and more people are coming up with things where this crypto-currency distributed ledger system might be useful. Tracking mortgage transactions and title to land is one area. Tracking stock market transactions is another (e.g., Australia is moving to a crypto-currency ledger system for its stock market).  Every day, more use cases are being created, thus every day, crypto becomes more valuable.While those are the general qualities of all cryptos, it is also the case that each of the thousand different ledger systems out there, i.e., each of the crypto-currencies, have slightly different characteristics. Some might be easier to program with, others may have faster transaction times, still others provide more guarantees of anonymity in every transaction. Thus different coins have different monetary values, based on whether the people investing think the characteristics of that particular coin are valuable.Bitcoin is the most well-known and hyped, but is the least likely to win any long-term races for a variety of reasons. Its problems include the fact that it has relatively long confirmation times for trades and low transaction speeds. It is extremely difficult to program (Bitcoin code looks a lot like assembler, if you know what that means), so it is difficult to build applications on it. It is literally first generation architecture, the very first attempt at creating an open-inspection distributed ledger. On the plus side, because it is first, it gets all the hype. In addition, if you want to buy other cryptos, you generally have to buy some Bitcoin first. You trade dollars for Bitcoin, and Bitcoin for the currency you REALLY want. This means Bitcoin prices aren't going to go down until that changes. That won't change until a whole lot of cryptocurrency trading platforms allow for easier direct conversion of US dollars to cryptos beside Bitcoin. This is already changing, but there's a lot of room for improvement here. Improving this aspect of crypto trade won't take forever... a year or two at most. If you invest in Bitcoin, be prepared to switch to a different currency within the next few months/years.What should you switch to?Ethereum is a good platform, widely adopted, much better suited for general use. It is much easier to code, much easier to build applications on, and currently has faster, cheaper transaction times. A lot of big-name companies are building on Ethereum. There is little question Ethereum's value will outlast Bitcoin. It is definitely a more intermediate investment that will hold value for, hopefully, the next several years.Monero's claim to fame is its privacy protections. It is very strong in that regard and those privacy protections are what drives the major value in this coin offering. Bitcoin claims to provide anonymous transactions, and that is kind of true, but not entirely true. While it is hard to do, it is possible to track a person's Bitcoin transactions. Monero takes "hard to do" and tries to turn it into "damned-near impossible." If you don't like having people all up in your business, then Monero is an appealing coin. There [...]

What Is Natural Law?


Contrary to popular opinion, natural law has nothing to do with "nature red in tooth and claw". Darwin's theory, whether true or not, has absolutely no bearing on natural law theory.Natural law speaks to morality, the nature of sin and virtue. Darwin's theory says absolutely nothing about morality, sin or virtue. In fact, Darwin's theory does not even allow for value judgements. You cannot say something is "more evolved" or "less evolved", you cannot call one adaptation "better" or another "worse." You can only speak of whether or not an organism's chances of survival are greater or less, given the circumstances. That's it.Apart from using the generic concept of a thing having a "nature", natural law theory also has nothing to do with pagan Greek thought. Natural law is a purely Christian concept that supports the purely Christian concept which is personhood.For an example of how natural law works, let us assume two couples. Each couple gives birth to a sickly child. The first couple takes the child out to the forest and abandons it among the trees, where insects, birds, coyotes and other animals eventually eat the child (either eat the child alive, or eat its corpse, because the child died from exposure).The second couple take their child to the NICU, where a team of doctors and nurses spend days hooking the child to machines, artificial pumps, artificial temperature control, etc., in order to assure the child's survival.Which couple acted according to the natural law?Since God is love, and God is life, and we are made in God's image and likeness, the SECOND couple acted according to the natural law. They acted as God acts, assisting the little one in need. Meanwhile, the first couple acted contrary to the natural law by abandoning their child to certain death.That's natural law. Natural law is not about the laws of nature. Natural law is about how men are meant to image, in their own bodies and their own actions, the very life of the Three Persons of the Trinity, the God Who Is Love and Life. Darwin simply isn't relevant. Natural law theory rests on our grace-empowered ability to image God's life of love. If God sends the grace (and He does), then we can live natural law - we can live according to our nature. If He does not, then we cannot. Our rational minds need grace to choose the good, our bodies need grace to do the good. Without grace, as St. Paul said, I know what is good, but I do not choose it, rather, I choose that which I know is not good. Natural law does not work without grace.Liturgical Christians know that the Fall marred human nature, but did not totally destroy it. In order to believe in the concept of "inherent human rights", America's Founding Fathers had to implicitly repudiate Luther and accept liturgical Christian understanding of human nature: marred, but not destroyed. Thus, if the Founders were correct about inviolable human rights, it is only because they implicitly refuse to accept total depravity. It is only because they embraced the Catholic understanding of human nature.[...]

On Roy Moore


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

Advent Play List


Courtesy of Jeff Miller+ Adjuvabit eam+ Alma Redemptoris Mater+ Angelus Ad Virginem+ A Maiden Most Gentle+ Benedixisti Domine+ Christ Whose Glory Fills The Skies+ Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (18th Century)+ Come, thou long-expected Jesus+ Come Thou Redeemer Of The Earth+ Comfort Ye My People (Messiah)+ Conditor alme siderum+ Creator Alme Siderum+ Creator of the Stars of Night+ Dies Irae - Tuba Mirum (Messa Da Requiem)+ Every Valley Shall Be Exalted (Messiah)+ Gabriel's Message+ Hail to the Lord's Anointed+ Hark The Glad Sound!+ Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding+ High O'er The Lonely Hills+ Holy is His Name+ I Sing of a Maiden+ I Wonder as I WanderIn The Bleak MidwinterLet All Mortal Flesh Keep SilentLift Up Your Heads Ye Mighty GatesLike The DawningLo, He Comes With Clouds Descending (Hymn)Long ago, prophets knewLord, Thou Hast Been Our RefugeMaria Walks Amid The ThornNovissima hora est (The Dream of Gerontius)O Come, Divine MessiahO come, O come, EmmanuelO Heavenly Word Eternal LightO Magnum MagisteriumO Quickly Come, Dread Judge of AllO Radix JesseO Word That Goest Forth On High, Plainsong 7th Century LatinOn Jordan's bank the Baptist's cryPeople Look EastPraeparate Corda VestraPrepare the WayRegnantem SempiternaRejoice All Ye BelieversRorate CaeliSavior Of The Nations, ComeSleepers, Wake! (Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns Die Stimme )The Angel GabrielThe Cherry Tree CarolThe King Shall Come When Morning DawnsThe Lord Will Come And Not Be SlowThere is no rose of such virtueThy Kingdom Come O GodThy Kingdom Come On Bended KneeVeni Redemptor gentiumVeni Veni Emmanuel (Latin version)Vox clara ecce intonatWake, Awake for Night is FlyingWatchman (Watchman, Tell Us of the Night)Zion hört die Wächter singen - Choral: "Zion hört die Wächter singen" J.S. Bach: Choral[...]

In The Country of the Blind


Many people, including myself, have called Humanae Vitae a prophetic document. But, as I think about events, I suspect we are all wrong. It is not a prophetic document at all. Let me explain.Everyone talks about the terrible social lapses caused by contraception. What most people don't realize is that the eugenics movement and its daughter, the contraception movement, were merely steps in an already existing problem. The problem was the demographic transition. The cause, as near as anyone can tell, was the Industrial Revolution and the improvements in housing and medical care that revolution made possible.The demographic transition, that is, the loss in fertility rate below replacement levels, actually began in the early 1800s. Dropping fertility rates spread from France and England throughout the world, country by country, for the next two centuries right up to the present day. The current baby-bust is not the aberration, the post-war Baby Boom was the aberration.But, because we all grew up in the post-Baby Boom years, we all think this is a post-1960s problem. It isn't. And, while the Church has never changed her teaching, while the Church has always taught that we should not exploit workers or women, Rerum Novarum, Casti Conubii and Humanae Vitae, were documents that were playing catch-up.  The Church was late in recognizing the nature of the problem in the sense that She was late getting a firm grasp of the cultural shift.The Luddites understood that the machines were going to create a problem. They misunderstood exactly how. They thought machines would take everyone's jobs and make everyone poor. Instead, the machines took most people's jobs, but made everyone rich. They knew there was a problem, but they didn't understand the problem.Marx saw it as well - he was wrong in an entirely different way than the Luddites. He thought the machines would allow a small group of people to exploit the workers. It never occurred to him that it would allow that small group of people to simply ignore the workers. Again, he knew there would be a problem, but he didn't accurately predict what the problem would be or how it should be resolved. Indeed, he thought the destruction of the family would be a good thing. He absolutely did not understand that the industrialized destruction of the family was the problem.  The worker-employer relationship was just a symptom. The central problem completely eluded his grasp.The Church has always taught that people are subjects, not objects, and the larger Christian society had largely understood this, for over a millennia at least, by 1800. What the episcopate took too long figuring out, in re both workers rights' and contraception, was that Christian cultural attitudes towards those two issues were undergoing such a major and rapid shift that encyclicals were required.Culture had already gone 70 years down that road before we saw Rerum Novarum, 100 years down it for Castii Connubi and 150 for HV. THAT is the sense in which the Church was late to the table.Not that anyone else was much earlier - we would be hard-pressed to identify someone who pronounced earlier AND correctly, about what was coming. Lots of people pronounced earlier, but they all got something important wrong. Others got the essentials right, but largely by mimicking what the Church had already said.The problem is precisely in the fact that, by the time the Church had articulated the problem correctly, in a way the culture was likely to understand, the culture had changed to the point that the Church was largely ignored.In that sense, Rerum Novarum, Castii Conubii and HV were actually not prophetic at all.  They were all three simply descriptive. After all, what those documents described was already well underway - it [...]

Double Standards: The Church and Science


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

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

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

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

Usury and Capitalism (short version)


"Usury", in its simplest meaning, means "to charge for the use of a thing."  But Aquinas points out that the ACTUAL definition of usury is "to sell that which does not exist", i.e., to commit what we would now call "fraud."In a subsistence-level society, money is functionally identical to consumption. In a surplus-goods society, money is NOT functionally identical to consumption.Thus, as the monasteries were able to produce local areas of surplus goods, the function of money changed and the definition changed with it.See Aquinas' commentary here as he explains why you can charge for the use of some things (e.g., you can rent a house), but not for the use of other things (you can't rent food).Money was originally understood to be very much like food, but over time, the medievals began to realize that surplus food made it possible to think of money more like a house. It was this change in the understanding and use of money which allows one to "build a house of gold", i.e., accumulate capital.I have a longer gloss here on his commentary which may (or may not) help to understand what he meant.So, both capitalism and the industrial revolution are the result of Christian philosophy. The Catholic willingness to understand that the definition of money could change, and the affect this change had on the definition of usury was central to the development of capitalism. The Catholic development of experimental science was built off the high regard Catholics have always had for manual labor, and central to the industrial revolution.Islam never understood the change in the definition of  "money" from the 600s through the 1500 years that followed. Christians, on the other hand, realized that the definition being used in their Scriptures was fundamentally different than how the word was being used even by the end of the first millennium. Thus, you see Aquinas drawing very fine distinctions in the Summa Theologica about what does and does not constitute usury.Precisely because the definition of "money" changed, the definition of what it meant to "charge interest" also changed, and Aquinas recognized those changes. Usury is still a sin to this day, but Christians don't use the 600s AD broad-based definition still used today by Muslim banks, which inhibits capital formation in Muslim countries.Instead, Christians recognized the elements of the underlying economy, distinguished them, and pointed out that many uses of this new "money" paradigm didn't actually violate any spiritual principles that had been put in peril under the old definitions.The change then was almost as profound as the move from gold-based to fiat-based to crypto. Christians recognized, tracked and leveraged these changes without violating the spirit of the Faith. Muslims still haven't figured out that anything is different.[...]

SJWs and the Duty to Defend


The state legitimately defends its citizens against foreign invaders.

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

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

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

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

You see where this is going.

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

"Green Energy" Kills Black Children


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

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

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

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

Is Technology Pro-Worker?


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

Pope Francis and the Death Penalty


Pope Francis recently announced that capital punishment “is in itself contrary to the Gospel.”Traditional Catholics, whose failure to understand the Gospel is legendary, began caterwauling precisely on schedule.So, let's review the basics of moral theology again.Sigh.We can inflict a natural evil (e.g., the pain of surgery) if we have legitimate hope that a natural good will result that is greater than the natural evil. However, we cannot inflict a moral evil at all.Thus, we cannot take a human life (commit murder via euthanasia or abortion), even if this would restore a natural good (e.g., financial well-being to the family, health of the mother). We cannot torture another person, even if we have legitimate reason to hope that the tortured person will give up information that will prevent a great physical catastrophe. John Paul II pointed out that, given the current cultural climate, there were virtually no circumstances under which capital punishment was legitimate. Pope Francis merely stands with JP II.Christ came to give life, and that abundantly.He didn't come to take it.In that sense, capital punishment has always been against the Gospel. And, it is worth keeping in mind that the Church has never, herself, imposed the death penalty. At most, she handed heretics over to the secular authority. Sometimes, the secular authority chose to execute the heretic, reasoning that anyone who was willing to rebel against God would have few cavils about rebelling against a human monarch. Other secular authorities (I'm looking at you, monarchs and princes who protected the likes of Jan Hus, Martin Luther and John Wycliffe) decided they liked what the heretic had to say and either left him alone, or actually supported him. But the death penalty was always and only a secular affair, never a sentence imposed by the Church.Actually, the "change" in the teaching on the death penalty is virtually identical to the "change" in the teaching on usury or the Church's stance on slavery. Sure, usury is intrinsically evil, but the definition of money changed, so the phrase "interest on a loan" no longer means what it meant in the 12th century. Thus, when we say "charging interest on a loan is a mortal sin", the phrase doesn't mean now what it meant in the year 1000 AD.Similarly, the Church permitted enslavement in the subsistence-level society of the Middle Ages, precisely because a subsistence-level society cannot afford to have many people in jail. A subsistence-level society requires that every able-bodied person work, so that the entire community does not starve. Useless moouths in jail couldn't be sustained. Prisoners either had to be killed, put to work or banished (which was equivalent to a death sentence). In justice, slavery was the only decent way to treat someone who offended against society. But, by the late 20th-century, we no longer have a subsistence-level society. We can afford to house legions of prisoners (and we do). The word "slavery" no longer means what it did. Thus, Pope John Paul II uses Veritatis Splendor #80 to pronounce "slavery... intrinsically evil."In the same way, the circumstances which made the death penalty legitimate for state actors in the 12th century simply no longer obtain in the 21st. We aren't a subsistence-level society anymore, we have many more means to contain violence now than we did in the 12th century, so the reasons of self-defense which the state could use in the year 1000 simply don't exist anymore. The death penalty can no longer be legitimately referred to as a kind of self defense.If the Church has permitted the death pen[...]

Self-contradictory Evolutionists


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

Why Corporations Back Wealth Redistribution


"It was never a program for improved medical coverage. It was a program for redistributing wealth by force from the healthy to the sick. "This lament about Obamacare from a website that celebrates the free market is deeply ironic. No one on the website realizes that government does not distort the free market, rather, government is a legitimate market actor whose purpose is to enforce the wishes of the corporations that engage in free market activity. The sentence above summarizes why corporations write laws requiring wealth redistribution AND why corporations pay legislators to pass and enforce legislation that redistributes wealth. When it comes to the health care industry, the principle is quite, quite simple:Sick people spend health care dollars on themselves.Healthy people do not.If medical corporations want to tap into the wealth healthy people have, that wealth must first be redistributed to the only people who would spend it on health products, i.e., sick people.But what is true for medical corporations is true for EVERY corporation. Corporations need to get at hidden wealth in order to keep growing. So, it is in every corporation's interest to encourage wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor. Warren Buffett is unlikely to spend $2 billion dollars in 24 hours. But, take that $2 billion, divvy it up among a half million relatively poor people, and all that money will be spent on corporate products in a single day with hours to spare.Corporate owners want to grow their stash of cash. The corporations they run need to tap all locked up cash stashes. So, the corporate owners want laws that touch other people's stash, but not their own. And this is the kind of law they direct their lobbyists to write, get passed and have enforced. That means the wealth redistribution will always happen among the 99%.This is the purpose of government in a free market: to grow corporate owners' cash piles while stripping money from everyone else. Welcome to the free market.Real free market capitalists point out that natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, seem to increase GDP, but actually don't. The money that goes into rebuilding is, in a sense, wasted. Instead of using that money on new ideas, new products, new processes, it has to be plowed into rebuilding existing infrastructure. That's why most economists consider natural disasters a drain on the economy, and not a boon: we have to pay for the same window twice, once when we put it in, and again when the storm breaks it.From the corporate point of view, ending subsidies is identical to enduring a hurricane. The end of subsidies for insurance companies is good for you and me, the little guys who get paid to replace the broken window, but it's bad business for the businesses that were getting the subsidies. They just lost revenue stream.Now they will have to buy a whole new raft of legislators to get that revenue back. The hurricane has struck their coast. The money the corporations have to spend on re-buying all those legislators and all that legislation is, from their point of view, wasted. It is money that could have been spent elsewhere. Now the corps are going to have to re-buy what had once been a settled stream of revenue. This is very destructive, from the corporate point of view.We cry for them. [...]

Why College Students Hate America


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

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

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

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

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

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

Just follow the money, folks.

On the Error of John Cardinal Newman


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

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

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

The rest is, as they say, gravy.

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

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

Why Same-Sex Marriage is Nonsense


What is the etymology of the word marriage?

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

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

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

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

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

A Second Amendment Problem


As regular readers of this blog know, I have no issue with private citizens owning weapons. Both the Second Amendment and the body of the Constitution itself, by dint of the Letters of Marque, arguably allow private citizens to own any weapon they can lay their hands on, up to and including nuclear weapons.So, if you want to carry guns to go hunting, for self defense, or just because you really, really like guns, I have no issue with that. The problem arises with the people who insist that they have the right to own guns in order to protect themselves from the government. That particular reading of the Constitution is essentially impossible to make.The first problem in such a reading resides in the Constitutional text itself: both the "Letters of Marque" in Article 1, and the "well-ordered militia" of the Second Amendment imply that citizens may own weapons in order to defend their local group/community or the country at large. There is no hint in the Constitution that widespread gun ownership by citizens should be allowed in order to facilitate the government's overthrow.The reason is quite obvious: if that meaning were contained within the Constitution, then every patriotic American should always be fully prepared to shoot Americans in the head. Specifically, we have the right to shoot American politicians, American soldiers and American police officers in the head. But the Constitution says no such thing: indeed, Article I, Section 8 specifically says the militia exists to put down insurrection, not to start one. Now, you might argue that any government official who violates the letter or the spirit of the Constitution is himself engaged in insurrection. But who gets to determine how that works?If this reading were accurate, then we should see quite a bit of commentary from the Founding Fathers encouraging the killing of American politicians, law officers and soldiers. And, while we see lovely sentiments about the Tree of Liberty being refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots, the Founding Fathers were silent about the specifics of when and how that was supposed to happen.In fact, George Washington himself seems to have been something of a hypocrite on the point. After all, when private citizens treated American whiskey taxation as an illegal government intrusion into their lives, President Washington refused to advocate that these poor, overtaxed Americans go out and kill American government forces and officials. Instead, Washington personally led an army of American soldiers into the hill country to put down the "Whiskey Rebellion". This was the first (and last) time an American President led American troops into battle, and he did it against American citizens, no less.Now, notice what Washington did not do. He did not, he never, argued that American citizens should be disarmed. But, neither did he expect American citizens to shoot him out of his saddle for trampling their rights. Nor did they. They melted away before Washington and his army ever encountered the armed opposition.But therein lies the nub of the real problem with the popular revolutionary reading of the Second Amendment. Many today argue: "If government officials are violating their own oaths to uphold the Constitution, then shoot them. They won't be 'American soldiers' then, they will be just another gang of thugs. The first and foremost duty both of American government and American military is to uphold,[...]

We Already Have UBI


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