Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. OBAMA AND ROMNEY

The conventional wisdom says that when a presidential incumbent has a bad economy he will lose. This is one of the shittiest economies this country has ever had, but Obama stands quite secure in his lead over Mitt Romney in the polls. Is Obama that good of a politician? Not quite. It is that Mitt Romney is just that bad.

All politicians are liars. We know this. These people disgust us. Mitt Romney pushes that disgust to its zenith. The only true and sincere thing he ever said was captured on a cellphone video where he effectively dissed half of the country into never voting for him. EVER. This wouldn't have been so bad since all Romney needs is for Obama voters to stay home. But this Mormon clown not only manages to piss people off, he does it so well that they will actually get off their asses to go to the polls just to vote against him. And Republicans will almost certainly sit this one out.

If John McCain were in Romney's place right now, he would be winning. This is how bad Romney is doing. I suspect that even Sarah Palin would have a better showing than Romney right now. How did this guy ever get the nomination? Who voted for Romney?

I am no fan of Barack Obama. I had tempered hopes when he came into office, but he managed to fail on the low expectations I had of him. Guantanamo Bay is still open for business. We are pursuing war in new nations. Big business and the banks know they can always get a bailout from this administration. Obama has been a terrible president.

Romney is no different than Obama. They are indistinguishable on the substantive issues. In that context, the voters aren't voting on the basis of the lesser of two evils so much as voting for the devil they know over the devil they don't know. That is some sad shit. I weep for this nation. It is going to be another long four years.

2. SMARTPHONE MADNESS

This article in the WSJ is just the latest evidence for what I am beginning to call the "smartphone bubble." Families are cutting back on luxuries and even necessities to pay for their smartphones. This isn't talking and texting on a dumbphone like I do. These are streaming data plans on Android and iPhone devices. This sort of thing can't go on forever, and it won't.

I sound like a Luddite when it comes to smartphones, but it is my contention that they are an expensive fad. They are the cellphone equivalent of the McMansion and the SUV. Recently, when the iPhone 5 hit the market, there was a crowd outside of a local AT&T here waiting for the place to open, so they could get one of the things. Yet, the reviews I got from people on the street were that the improvements over the iPhone 4 were marginal. People just want the latest phone to impress their friends.

We have become a nation of game playing idiots and constant Facebookers. You can't drive down a road without having to play Dodgecars with people on their smartphones texting and updating their Facebook status. I sound like such a crusty old man on this shit, but people clearly can't afford this crap. But they are making sacrifices and running up credit cards to buy these phones and pay for the data plans. The only advantage these people have over me with my dumbphone is that they can surf the internet while waiting in line at the DMV. I usually just bring a magazine.

I spent some time talking with a lady at the AT&T phone store, and she made the standard claim against my fad argument that everything was going to smartphones. It was merely the next step in the chain of evolution. She said that people use their cellphones now instead of credit/debit cards at the checkout lines. I have yet to witness one of these transactions anywhere. I'm sure you can swipe your cellphone at some trendy shops, but I don't ever go to those places. She said that the cellphone companies were "forcing" everyone to go with smartphones. Yet, I had no trouble buying a dumbphone less than a year ago.

The reality is that the cellphone companies like AT&T and Verizon are much like the banks and real estate companies during the housing boom riding the wave until it crests and crashes. People are now literally slaves to a device that fits in their pocket. They work harder and harder just to pay to enjoy a few moments playing Angry Birds. 

I am going to double down on my prediction and say it again. Smartphones are a fad, and they will end. People are going to get tired of paying for all that shit. Unlike dumbphones or laptops or even the Blackberry, smartphones are merely toys. They are really neat toys, but so are Jet Skis and motorcycles. At the end of the day, you stop playing with toys because they cost too much, or you simply get bored with them. Despite the big sales, Apple admits that the iPhone 5 has turned out to be a disappointment for the company with sales failing to meet expectations. When you can get an old iPhone for 99 cents with a service contract, that should tell you something.

3. ODDS AND ENDS

--Suicide has now surpassed car crashes as leading cause of death. I don't think this is because cars magically got safer.

--Parents get happy now when their kids choose not to go to college but get a job and work straight out of high school.

--Steve Jobs would not have allowed Apple Maps to suck so badly. Tim Cook apologizes. Apple's days are numbered.

--You can't be both Catholic and Libertarian. Neither the Bible nor church teachings allow it. "The worldly ruler bears the sword, and serves God with it, not as a terror to the good, but to the evil." (Romans 13:4.)

[SOC]

On Sunday, I took my wife to the First Baptist Church here in my town to give her a feel for the Bible Belt. She is a cradle Catholic not realizing exactly what goes on in Baptist churches here in the South, and she was nothing short of amazed/dazed/nauseated. They should have a word for that feeling when you go into a church like that.

The sermon was titled "Pray for the USA" which was basically an endorsement of Mitt Romney's presidency as we were all urged to pray between now and election day. I'm all for praying for the country because the country needs it. But I don't think this country needs Mitt Romney. But I digress. . .

I like when Catholic commentator Michael Voris talks about the Catholic Church being the true church of Christ with 30,000 knock-offs. When he says that, I think of street vendors selling counterfeit Rolex watches. That is what Protestantism is. It is a copy and a knock off of the real thing. Like the cheap shoes in Walmart, they are better than nothing, but they aren't the real deal.

I grew up with a lot of anti-catholic bashing here in the Bible Belt. I was taught from an early age that the Catholics worshiped the pope, and they were all damned because they believed their good works would get them to Heaven. This particular church we attended sends missionaries to Ecuador. Now, Ecuador like the rest of Latin America is heavily Catholic. They believe in God more vigorously than most of the people here in the USA. But in Baptistworld, they are damned because they do not possess the real saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel Billy Graham preached of "once saved, always saved" or OSAS.

OSAS is not in the Bible. There are many verses about God's promises and assurance of salvation, but there is no such thing as OSAS. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." This guy was as much a believer in Christ as anyone can be. He even wrote the bulk of the New Testament. Yet, he talks here of nothing less than losing his salvation. This is not OSAS.

King Saul lost his salvation as well as Judas Iscariot. King David was in peril of losing his salvation when he committed adultery and murder. This sort of thing is what Catholics call "mortal sin." If that frightens you, it should. There are a lot of people who believe OSAS who will be shocked to find that what they thought was true just ain't so. Jesus says in Matthew 7:23, "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’" That verse comes from the New American Standard translation which I think gets it most correct. The Greek uses the term ἀνομίαν or "anomian" which means "without law." Other versions translate it as "iniquity," but that word doesn't capture the depth of the original Greek. OSAS is fundamentally "anomian."

The heresy OSAS embodies is called "antinomianism" which means "against the law." Basically, it teaches that Christians are exempt from the moral law. If good works cannot earn your salvation, it stands to reason that evil works cannot cost you your salvation. Protestant Christians will balk at this, but this is the essence of OSAS. The Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say:

For this reason it is not always an easy matter to determine with any degree of precision how far certain forms and offshoots of Calvinism, Socinianism, or even Lutheranism, may not be susceptible of Antinomian interpretations; while at the same time it must be remembered that many sects and individuals holding opinions dubiously, or even indubitably, of an Antinomian nature, would indignantly repudiate any direct charge of teaching that evil works and immoral actions are no sins in the case of justified Christians. The shades and gradations of heresy here merge insensibly the one into the other. To say that a man cannot sin because he is justified is very much the same thing as to state that no action. whether sinful in itself or not, can be imputed to the justified Christian as a sin. Nor is the doctrine that good works do not help in promoting the sanctification of an individual far removed from the teaching that evil deed do not interfere with it. There is a certain logical nexus between these three forms of the Protestant doctrine of justification that would seem, to have its natural outcome in the assertion of Antinomianism. The only doctrine that is conclusively and officially opposed to this heresy, as well as to those forms of the doctrine of justification by faith alone that are so closely connected with it both doctrinally and historically, is to be found in the Catholic dogma of Faith, Justification, and Sanctification.

I doubt that your typical Baptist would encourage people to go out and sin wildly. Yet, this is what Luther said to do when he told his followers to "sin boldly." This is not the Gospel that the Apostles preached in the first century. Luther claimed to oppose antinomianism, but it is hard to see how antinomianism is not the logical outcome of justification by faith alone. Luther would tell us of the importance of going on to do good works. Likewise, Catholic teaching does not say that our good works earn our salvation.

There is a lot of controversy over the doctrine of justification, but I think I can make it clearer for everyone as I am someone who has seen the issue from both sides. The problem with OSAS is the phrase "once saved."  The error is the belief that salvation happens once and remains effective forever. This is not what the Bible teaches. This is a later error.

Imagine the guy who walks forward to confess his sins at a Billy Graham crusade, says the sinner's prayer, and receives Christ as his Savior. This is a good thing. As my priest put it to me, this act is fundamentally the same as when a pentitent goes to confession in a Catholic Church. The difference though is that the evangelical will leave that Crusade thinking he never has to do that again. He is saved. Period. Then, he goes home, beats his kids, jerks off to some internet porn, slaps the piss out of his wife, and falls to sleep in a drunken stupor. Hey, this is OSAS.

You are not saved once. Salvation is a PROCESS. Even Luther and Calvin understood this and called it "sanctification." Evangelicals limit salvation to a single event while sanctification is a bonus which usually involves refraining from dancing, drinking, swearing, and watched R-rated movies. I wish it were so easy, but it isn't. Jesus is explicit and clear in John 3:36 when He says, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

Jesus expects us to bear fruit. John 15:4-5 says, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." James 1:25 goes on to say, ". . .one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does."

OSAS is nothing more than a fruitless tree. This is why you get a certain sick feeling when you go into a Protestant church. Having grown up in it, I never knew any better in much the same way that people who live in a town with a paper mill don't notice the rotten egg smell that permeates the air. But Catholics get the whiff every time they visit, and it makes them want to puke. I feel it now as well.

Jesus is explicit with his imagery about being fruitful. He cursed a fruitless fig tree. He talks about seed that produces crops while other seed withers and dies. There is a definite demand that we abide in His grace and become like Him. The OSAS crowd merely says that this fruit is just responding to the Gospel with belief, but belief is just one fruit. James is explicit. We must be effectual doers.

Both Luther and Calvin would decry OSAS. Yet, it is their teaching that was the foundation of that doctrine. They baked the cake and were surprised that people took a bite from it. They should not have been surprised. Once salvation is confined to a one time event, it stops there. But that isn't salvation anymore than a life preserver tossed to a man drowning in icy water is rescue. It is the first step in a process, and if you don't complete that process, you will die. Jesus, Paul, James, and the Catholic Church all agree on this.

Imagine a guy that is out of shape. He is fat and flabby like yours truly. So, he decides to get in shape with physical exercise. He goes to the gym and signs up for a membership. Then, he leaves to never return again. Or he might go once in awhile like during New Year's resolution that lasts a week or two. Nothing changes in his life, but he does belong to a gym. Then, one day, the doctor tells him that he has diabetes, heart disease, and the rest. Our gym member replies, "But I belong to a gym!" That is when the doctor says, "Depart from me, you fat ass. I never saw you at the squat rack."

This analogy may seem a bit much, but it is precisely the one St. Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 9 that I referenced earlier. He uses athletic analogies about runners and boxers who train their bodies. The Church is the gym of your soul. It is the means of grace needed to not only save you from damnation but to also perfect you for everlasting life. This is why Christ gives us the Word and the Sacraments. Our souls become whole by His grace, and that grace comes to us through Mother Church.

The Catholic Church teaches that it is a mortal sin to miss Mass each week. This might seem like a trick to get your butt in the door, but it isn't. Trust me, Gold's Gym and Bally's love it when you don't show up to use their equipment. But they would ask that you to not wear their branded T-shirt with a beer gut sticking out from beneath it either. Mortal sins damage your soul, and the longer you continue in that state the more flabby you will get in the spiritual sense. Eventually, your salvation itself is forfeit.

Salvation is easy. Avail yourself of what the Church offers. This would be the sacraments and the Scriptures. Get baptized. Go to confession. Take the eucharist. Listen to the Word. These things work. They will change you. As Jesus put it in John 6:56, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." This is the Real Presence. God's grace will be in you, and it will bear fruit. It will work just as certainly as lifting heavy objects repeatedly will make those muscles bigger.

Protestant churches deny the Real Presence. I don't see this as an accident. In addition, they claim to be about Scripture, but it is barely read in the services of a typical Baptist church. When I sit in Mass, I hear a passage from the Old Testament, the Epistles, and the Gospels. I have to laugh when Baptists talk about "Bible preaching." I don't think it means what they think it means. I get Bible preaching every week from a guy who doesn't crack three worn out jokes to get a laugh from the congregation and takes a single verse and extrapolates that into a condemnation of South America, homosexuals, and the need for national repentance in order to keep our God given status as the country with 50% of the world's bathtubs. (Yes, that was the gist of the Sunday sermon. Plus, you need to vote for Mitt Romney because at least he ain't Muslim like Obama.)

Those Baptist churches and many like them are gyms more interested in getting people to sign up rather than work out. This is what OSAS is all about. Granted, you can get in shape in a crappy gym, and you can be flabby in a great gym. But you should want to be in the best gym possible. When it comes to the gym of the soul, the best one is the Catholic Church. And if you need to see results, look no further than the saints. Grace works.

Q & A

Q: With your recent changes in thinking, do you worry that you might piss off your readers?

A: No.

I don't know if the C-blog has a theme or a core set of beliefs or anything. I have written lots of manifestos, but I have also been committed to rethinking everything in the light of new information and evidence. My biggest worry is that people may consider me to be some kind of flip flopper on these things.

The two biggest things I have been known for over the years have been atheism and libertarianism. Both of those viewpoints went together as a secular ethic also demands a secular political philosophy. But as I have demonstrated in previous posts, you can't have atheism and also not be a nihilist. People embrace atheism because they think it brings them freedom, but it really brings them tyranny as the rules are made not by reason but by the strong.

Freedom is not the ability to do whatever you want but to do those things that are right. If right and wrong are merely the opinions of whoever has the most power, there can be no freedom. And you can't insist that those in power do the right thing without an appeal to God. But I digress. . .

I change my mind when I see that I am wrong or when I see a better way. Others may disagree with me, and I am fine with that. I like to hear contrary viewpoints because they help me on my journey. St. Thomas Aquinas practiced a similar mindset by exposing himself to all the thinkers of his day including those who were not Christian.

I am not the first atheist to be converted, and I doubt that I will be the last. This may make some of my atheist readers want to vomit, but I can't help this. As for my libertarian readers, the change is much less severe. I believe in liberty, but I just don't base it on Enlightenment thinking anymore. Freedom comes from natural law, and natural law comes from God. I think Ron Paul and Judge Nap would agree with me. I can only call myself conservative these days though I still can't vote for anyone other than Ron Paul at this stage. But I do understand a guy like Rick Santorum a lot more now.

I am doing a lot of reading on Catholic Social Teaching and distributism, so I may change a bit in those areas. Forewarned is forearmed.

The only guarantee I can give going forward here at the C-blog is that I will continue writing blog posts. These changes usually happen every decade, so when I hit 50, I will probably become a Buddhist monk or something. I don't know. But the blog endures. You can count on that.

[SOC]

I have been rethinking a lot of things in my life, and one of those things is libertarianism. The catalyst for this rethinking is something very unusual, but it is the public restroom. Public restrooms are a real pain in the ass for merchants and the like to keep and maintain. Yet, most of these places are required by law to have these things. Any libertarian will tell you that these requirements violate the non-aggression principle or NAP. Libertarians on principle are supposed to oppose the mandatory public restroom facility. In addition, they are also supposed to defend things like pay toilets. But it struck me that pay toilets just lead to shitty sidewalks. This shitty sidewalk argument shows the inherent flaw with libertarian thinking.

In case you didn't know this, I will remind you of a very basic fact of life. Human beings shit and piss. We seem to forget this when someone else has the bubble guts from last night's meal at the Mexican restaurant, and we act as if defecation and urination are things that afflict other people. But they are the most common of bodily functions. Everyone has to take a leak and take a dump. This inescapable fact of life should automatically make us charitable in regard to others. We might pull the liberty card when it comes to providing a toilet to someone else, but we immediately want to revoke it the moment when we have the shits.

Public restrooms tend to be filthy and nasty as a result of the tragedy of the commons. But this is preferable to people urinating and defecating in the streets, alleyways, and doorways. You can see the disease that would run rampant as a result of this last resort of people desperate to relieve themselves. Pay toilets are one answer, but they don't do anything for the guy in desperate straits who lacks change for the door. As such, restrooms are public goods provided at private expense, and they have to be. Even state created and maintained toilets still require taxes collected at the point of a gun. Like it or not, we have a public restroom welfare state going on.

Public life as we know it would be impossible without the public restroom. You couldn't travel anywhere because you wouldn't have anywhere to go potty. Plus, you would probably be too sick from hepatitis and cholera to do anything. Libertarianism can't handle this sort of thing. The arguments I hear to the contrary are weak compared to the reality.

I am someone who regularly uses public restrooms. The ones I count on are the ones required by law. This would be the restrooms at fast food places and convenience stores that serve hot food. The worst ones are the locked ones at stores run by Indian skinflints who would charge for the air you breathe in their stores if they could. The world is a better place for everyone because of that law requiring public restrooms, and the world is a worse place because of the free market response on this matter.

This may seem like a humorous and silly argument, but it cuts to the crux of much deeper issues. We can apply the same logic to roads and other public goods. Like it or not, we owe our fellow human beings a certain minimum of things required to function and live. The libertarian world is not the sleek shiny clean shitter of a fast food place but the disease ridden shithole with no toilet paper and a locked door at the back of the Indian grocery.

This argument extends to accommodations for handicapped people. Not everyone is handicapped, and it probably makes no sense to have handicapped spaces at the climbing gym. But everyone could potentially become handicapped at any time, and it is nice that those accommodations are there. But would they be there if there was no law mandating them? Probably not.

Libertarians like to argue that businesses love to do the right thing because doing the right thing is good for business. This isn't the case. The fact that Walmart would have dozens of cameras and a greeter in their stores to go after shoplifters but not a single security measure in their parking lots to protect customers against rape, assault, and theft shows that companies largely don't give a fuck until they are either forced or shamed into doing the right thing. Walmart does have those handicapped spaces though.

So much of our quality of life depends on human decency. Governments don't create racism. It has been largely government in the USA that has worked against racism. Libertarianism is fundamentally an Enlightenment philosophy, but the Enlightenment was largely a secular affair. It is individualism elevated to the realm of politics. The Catholic Church teaches that all people have individual rights and worth even down to the fetal level. But the Church also teaches that people have individual responsibilities, and it is this part that makes libertarians howl.

I admit that I chafe against this responsibility aspect of moral teaching. The idea that I am supposed to care for the sick or feed the poor is one that I have grown to hate mainly because of freeloaders and moochers on one end and moralists on the other. But then there is that public toilet thing. I'm sorry, but I think we need to make sure people have a place to relieve themselves. Otherwise, it would be a really shitty world in the most literal sense.

The Allegory of the Long Spoons applies here as well. Even the most ardent of libertarians will admit that freedom depends largely upon the goodwill of others and also on the efforts of other libertarians to not only strive to achieve liberty for themselves but also for others. This is selfless activity on the part of people dedicated to a selfish aim. There is an inherent contradiction here. It's like an ethical vegetarian that feeds meat to his or her pets.

Burke said that we remit some liberties, so that we may enjoy others. In addition, there is no freedom without some subsequent duty and responsibility to go with it. As such, I think the freedom and human rights we see in Western Civilization owes more to the Christian ethic than to the Enlightenment ethic. So many "isms" came out of the Enlightenment like utilitarianism and communism. Every single one of them has been a disastrous failure. The Enlightenment has been nothing more than a secular detour in human history.

You can't make a good society out of bad people. You can't make good people out of bad people without God. There is no liberty without charity. There is no charity without love. God is love.

How the Rich Got Rich (And Why You Will Never Be One of Them)


It is a story we hear many times. It is part of the American mythology. If you work hard and save your dough, you can be rich. The corollary to that myth is that the rich worked hard and saved their dough to become rich. The rich are somehow better than the rest of us simple lazy peasants. But these myths are simply bullshit. Work ain't got nothing to do with it.

Before I begin, it is helpful for me to accurately designate who are the rich and who are not the rich. If you are reading this in a Western country such as the USA or the UK, you are automatically better off than 97% of the rest of the planet. Congratulations! You won the birth lottery. You stood a high likelihood of being born into poverty and squalor like the vast majority of the rest of the world. But you lucked out, and God made you rich just by putting you in a great country instead of a corrupt third world shithole. From the global perspective, it is helpful to keep this in mind as you envy the 1%. You are part of the 3%. While you envy the millionaire with his yacht, there are millions who envy your indoor plumbing and electricity.

Rich is a relative concept, and most people's ideas about being rich is born more from innumeracy than reality. People are shocked when I tell them that only 5% of the US population make over $100K per year on a single person basis. Here is the source for that stat in case you don't believe it. The six figure income has always been the benchmark for being a successful person in our society. If you make six figures, you have arrived. You are living the American dream. You definitely aren't eating Alpo or shitting in a bucket.

The next benchmark is the millionaire. Being a millionaire is a huge deal for most people. A person who makes a million dollars in a year is equal to 10 of those six figure earners. But here is where I lose a lot of people. Being a millionaire is just not that big of a deal. A millionaire is closer in status to the rest of us with our five figure incomes than to the real big cheese in all of this discussion about wealth. This person is the billionaire. A billionaire is equal to 1000 millionaires. The disparity between a millionaire and a billionaire is vast compared to the disparity between a millionaire and a six figure earner. In the world of the billionaire, that successful doctor or lawyer making six figures is a speck of fly shit. Poor old you making five figures is less than that speck of fly shit, and the guy shitting in a bucket in Zambia may as well not even exist in the world of the billionaire.

There is one myth we need to dispense with right here and right now. We must dispense with the myth that hard work and great wealth are related in someway. They aren't. To tell a subsistence farmer in sub-Saharan Africa that he can attain the same level as a typical Westerner through diligent hard work is unrealistic and cruel. That guy is already working hard merely to keep flesh and soul together while you are wolfing down that grilled chicken salad from Wendy's in the vain hope of fitting into your old pants. Put a typical American in the same situation as our subsistence farmer, and that American is dead in a year after the last of his or her fat stores have melted away. We are lucky. Damn lucky.

The greatest rags-to-riches story of our era is the unpredictable rise of author J.K. Rowling. Rowling is the creator of the Harry Potter series of books, and she was living on welfare in the UK before fortune found her and made her one of the wealthiest women in Britain. We can't say that Rowling became rich through hard work as her workday was essentially collecting a government check while writing a fantasy novel. Let's be blunt here. Rowling was a dreamer and a bum. But a lucky bum beats a diligent worker any day of the week. But luck does not explain her success as much as another word does. That word is scalability.

Scalability is the ability to maximize output with a minimal input. Rowling's success owes less to her work on a novel as it does the fact that her novel can be reproduced a million times through a printing press and electronic mediums like the Kindle. This is why you are more likely to become a billionaire through writing children's books than you will practicing medicine or law. Medicine and law are not scalable. Even the best doctors get paid one patient at a time. But I'm not recommending you give up medicine to be a novelist. Hard work will get you six figures. It takes luck to create something popular like Harry Potter.

Entrepreneurship is where you create something in the hope that a sizable portion of the public will like it enough to actually buy it at a profitable price to you. Entrepreneurship is essentially a massive guessing game because the public taste is fickle. You will most likely lose on this score. The only sure way to win is to provide something everyone already wants. There is only one product that has this universal guaranteed appeal, and this product is money.

The public may or may not like your children's fantasy novel, but they always like money. Money buys everything else, so being the provider of money removes the guesswork from the process. If you combine the certainty of money with the concept of scalability, you have the financial services industry. Basically, you provide what everyone wants without having to lift heavy objects or break a sweat. It takes the same effort to lend a million dollars as it does to lend ten dollars. You write a check. Your pay is determined purely by the percentage of whatever financial service you provide. This requires less of you than writing a Harry Potter novel or even reading one. In the financial services world, work is for suckers.

The easiest and most certain way to become filthy rich is to work in financial services. If you are grinding away on that law degree or trying to get through med school or making a go of that Chinese-Thai-Mexican combo eatery idea you had, you are an idiot. All of these things require work and/or luck. Financial services merely requires the use of money, and the best money is other people's money.

The financial services industry takes other people's money and gives it to other people while taking a percentage or a fee on the transaction and management of it. For instance, banking takes depositors' cash and puts it back out as car loans and mortgages and consumer loans. Suckers work to make the money while other suckers work to pay that money back. Insurance takes the float from premiums and achieves the same effect usually by lending it to the government. Mutual fund companies and hedge funds charge a percentage on the billions they mismanage to achieve below market return for their idiot investors. We can go on and on. Your payday as a financial services person is determined not by your hard work but how much cash you have to play with. The hard work is not in managing the suckers' money but in getting those suckers to give it to you in the first place. This requires that you have the ability to lie and steal.

Financial services people lie all the time. You don't have to wonder about this. Merely look at a financial services agreement and notice the small print and obscure language they use in the contract. This is deliberate on their part. Those people aim to confuse and beguile you. They are inherently slimy. It is their nature. If they were honest people, they would write everything in text that didn't require a magnifying glass. If you want one regulation that will make all other regulations unnecessary, outlaw small print. That one change alone would end much of the fraud we see in the financial services industry.

It is hard to pry money from suckers in order to lend it right back to them at interest. This is where our friends in the government help out our overworked financial services people. The most blatant way they do it is by printing up cash at the Federal Reserve and giving it to these slimebags. This debases the currency in your pocket, so they don't even have to go through the trouble of securing your consent to get your money. They already have it anytime they want it. And if they mismanage it in a really bad way, they only need to get a government bailout which you also pay for because our friends in the financial services industries are just too big to fail. Yes, all of this shit is immoral as hell, but here's the clincher. It is all LEGAL. Theft is still theft, but legalized theft lets you stay out of jail. Unfortunately, it doesn't keep your conscience clear which brings us to our next point which is the reason why you are never going to be rich.

The reason you are never going to be rich is because you have a conscience. It isn't because you aren't smart or hardworking. Your morality and sense of honor are the greatest hindrances to your ability to become wealthy. All of these facts that I just shared with you are known to virtually every economist, yet the bulk of them abstain from cashing in on a certain payday. You know these facts now since I shared them with you. What is stopping you? What is keeping you from working in the financial services industry? What is keeping you grinding away in your present occupation when you can have the cushy hours, the easy math, and the buckets of cash available in financial services?

Morality is a handicap to the person who wants to get rich. If you are are unable to deprive a sucker of his money, you are unfit for the kingdom of the rich. You are condemned to work hard for the rest of your days providing real goods and services to other people. If you are poor or have to work hard to make a living, it really is your own damn fault. Just remember, rats may not sleep well at night, but they always eat well. Conscience is just a pest.

People see something fundamentally immoral in the activities of an outfit such as Goldman Sachs. This is why they can't find it in themselves to work at that place or other similar outfits despite the money these firms are able to make. This is because these outfits don't actually make money. Money is only valuable to the extent that it buys real goods and services. If you doubt this, put yourself in the middle of a desert with a ton of gold and see what happens. You would trade it all for a single glass of water. Similarly, if everyone stopped working in order to join the financial services industry, we would be in the same scenario as the gold in the desert. Money is not the same as value. Money is merely a medium of exchange that is handier than a barter system.

People have an intuitive grasp of this relationship between money and value. If they didn't, we would all starve in a world of paper dollars as greater amounts of cash chased after declining amounts of goods and services. Wealth does not come from a printing press, but you can steal with a printing press which is what our banking industry does.

There are honest people who are wealthy. Despite being very lucky, J.K. Rowling deprived no one of anything by force. She crafted a story people were willing to buy. Similarly, many businesses provide real goods and services that benefit us all. But the real wealth goes to the shysters in financial services who provide nothing more than an exchange of wealth. This is not inherently immoral except they lie, cheat, bribe, and steal to grow their business at the expense of others. That is inherently immoral. The only economic justice is when that financial sector grows so large that it collapses like it did in 2008. It will happen again. The injustice is when Uncle Sugar gives them sweet cash to keep their schemes going.

There will be a day of reckoning on all of this bullshit. It is coming. Things can't go on like this forever. If the collapse of 2008 was bad, you haven't seen anything yet. Even the federal government won't be able to bail out this coming collapse.

9.11



Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

ST.FRANCIS OF ASSISI

[SOC]

I had a really nice weekend. The details of that weekend are rather boring, but that's because it was nice. Good stories come from trouble and conflict. They don't come from pleasant days spent with friends and family. Boredom is the mother of conflict. Most shit gets stirred up by people with nothing else better to do.

So, I have a mini-debate with an agnostic friend where I put out the moral argument. He didn't do so well because like all unbelievers he resorted to inconsistency. The moral argument I make is fundamentally no different than something Nietzsche and Sartre would say, and those cats were atheists. In a world without God, there are no transcendant standards of right and wrong. As such, all morality is merely tradition or the whim of some stronger agent. For the existentialists, the issue was how to live in such an empty world.

The upside of a world without God is that you have unfettered freedom to do whatever you want. The downside of that world is that everyone else has the same freedom, and they will exercise it. For most godless, they attempt to retain freedom for themselves while insisting on moral restraint for everyone else. The absurdity of this position should be plainly evident.

You can't slip God in the backdoor after you have thrown Him out the front door. Either you believe and obey, or you do not believe and accept the consequences that no moral claims exist apart from the barrel of a gun. Might makes right. The weak are meat for the strong, and they will be devoured.

PRINT-The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens

Atheists love and adore the late great Christopher Hitchens. Hitch pulled no punches when it came to his viewpoints whatever they may have been, but his most famous and most defended viewpoint would be his atheism. The best argument against atheism would be Christopher's own brother Peter.

Peter Hitchens was fundamentally no different than Christopher in his earlier days. He was a strident atheist and a Marxist. But being a journalist in the old Soviet Union made him rethink that atheism. Hitchens's book, The Rage Against God, will make you rethink your own atheism. It is one of the best arguments I have heard against atheism.

Peter does not go into a lot of scientific stuff since he doesn't care to refute Dawkins. Instead, Hitchens makes the moral case that I found so persuasive in my own conversion. Here is Peter:

I do not loathe atheists, as Christopher claims to loathe believers. I am not angered by their failure to see what appears obvious to me. I understand that they see differently. I do think that they have reasons for their belief, as I have reasons for mine, which are the real foundations of this argument. It is my belief that passions as strong as his are more likely to be countered by the unexpected force of poetry, which can ambush the human heart at any time.

It is also my view that, as with all atheists, he is his own chief opponent. As long as he can convince himself, nobody else will persuade him. His arguments are to some extent internally coherent and are a sort of explanation - if not the best explanation - of the world and the universe.

He often assumes that moral truths are self-evident, attributing purpose to the universe and swerving dangerously round the problem of conscience - which surely cannot be conscience if he is right since the idea of conscience depends on it being implanted by God. If there is no God then your moral qualms might just as easily be the result of indigestion.

  Yet Christopher is astonishingly unable to grasp that these assumptions are problems for his argument. This inability closes his mind to a great part of the debate, and so makes his atheist faith insuperable for as long as he himself chooses to accept it.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1255983/How-I-God-peace-atheist-brother-PETER-HITCHENS-traces-journey-Christianity.html#ixzz25rR8LWl2

Peter touches his finger directly on the heart of atheism which is its internal conundrum of positing a transcendant moral truth without appealing to a transcendant source. This moral argument comes from St. Paul and C.S. Lewis. Our morality to a greater or lesser degree is inspired by God. God is the moral center of the universe. Hitchens goes on to show how moral decay inevitably follows on the heels of atheism as he recounts how the Soviet Union went to shit as a direct consequence of atheism.

The other thing I like about Peter is how he hits on Christopher with arguments I had when i was an atheist. Atheists desperately wish to disavow Stalin, Mao, and their ilk as somehow not belonging to the atheist camp. But this is self-denial on their part. If the Catholic Church has to answer for the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, then atheists have to answer for the millions killed by atheists. On sheer numbers alone, atheism has a higher body count than religion. Now, this is clearly ad hominem territory here, but it never stopped Christopher Hitchens from making his ad hominem attacks on religion. If the fruits of belief and non-belief are considered, Christianity comes out the winner every time. But this is not the best argument. Here is the best argument.

Why were Stalin and Mao wrong to kill their millions? A Christian will simply appeal to the imago Dei and the commandment to not murder. What does the atheist appeal to? Reason? It was reason that led those men to slaughter millions for the greater good. And there is no rational basis to contradict their conclusions that does not require an appeal to the divine. In short, without God, all things are permissible.

Morality is not proof that God exists. But without that morality, existence itself is impossible. As such, every atheist acts as a theist with every moral judgment he or she makes. Without God, you have no morality. The best you can do is posit game theory and tradition that is mutable. In this world of strategic morality, we can't say that Stalin and Mao were wrong. We can only say they were merely mistaken on the outcomes of their choices and reasoning. They simply lost a chess game.

Atheism leads to nihilism and moral evil. Show me a good atheist, and I will show you someone living inconsistently as an atheist. They may throw out some tripe about morality being "self evident." Some things are just inherently wrong. But this is stupid. If we can abort an unborn baby because it has no soul, why can't we slaughter one or millions on the same basis? If it serves some greater good, why not do it?

I highly recommend that people read the Peter Hitchens book and deal with the issues that he raises.


Reagan Democrats


I have watched none of the Republican convention and only a slight bit of the Democratic convention. From what I have read and heard, both parties seem very much out of touch. Republicans pander to the privileged rent seeking rich while the Democrats suck up to freakazoids wanting lots of abortion on demand and welfare for unwed mothers. The group that is squeezed out of both parties are those Reagan Democrats.

Reagan Democrats were those northern blue collar guys who tended to be Catholic and union members that found a lot to like in Ronald Reagan back in the 80s. These were your hard working types who earned a living by real work. They didn't burn their draft cards during the war, and they didn't drive BMWs. They weren't rich, and they weren't poor. And they had moral convictions and care for the unfortunate. Those folks still exist. They are just homeless in the political sense.

Working class people are not in a good place. They are suffering under a crappy economy and asked to vote again for a president that cares more about solar panels than real jobs while the challenger is just some rich guy wanting more privileges for so-called wealthy "job creators." For some reason, these job creators are able to make big profits while people are out of work. How is this possible? Who is buying the stuff these people make? And who is producing the stuff these people are selling?

This country needs another Ronald Reagan. Mitt Romney is not Ronald Reagan. He will try and sound like Reagan, but he is just a liar. But Obama is definitely Jimmy Carter reincarnated. No matter who gets elected in November, the working class is going to take it in the shorts.

[SOC] Labor Day Edition

I have had an eventful long weekend so far. Yesterday, I went to the only tea plantation in North America right here in Charleston, SC. I found out that the difference between black, oolong, and green tea is the length of oxidation after it has been shredded. The other thing I discovered is that tea has more caffeine than coffee per pound, but coffee has more caffeine per cup. I also learned that drinking copious amounts of tea makes you have to pee really bad. All in all, it was a nice adventure.

Today is Labor Day where we celebrate hard work by not working. I don't really have much of anything to write about work except that I love working, but I hate working for rats. I'm not sure why it is like this, but it seems that the prerequisite for moving up in management is to have a blunted conscience and no moral sensibility. I think people with a moral sense will have a difficult time in the Machiavellian corporate structure.

For myself, I struggle with severe anger and hatred. It is the leftover of 10+ years of atheism. It is really simple when you consider it. Hitler was undoubtedly the most evil person who ever lived. He murdered millions and felt not a trace of conscience or remorse for any of it. Yet, how did he die? He committed suicide in a virtually painless act. At most, he was emotionally upset over losing World War II, but he found a more merciful end than millions of his victims. He escaped. This is what death is for the atheist. It is merely the end of sensation. With the right drugs, your death can be entirely blissful. As such, there is no justice in the world.

The antidote to anger and hatred is a belief that life does not end at the grave. If you do not believe in God, you realize that Hitler and others like him get away with their crimes. If you believe in the God I believe in, you manage to muster a small bit of sympathy for someone like Hitler because God's punishments are more severe than anything we could ever imagine. As much as I despise evil people, my imagined punishment of them is relatively benign in comparison to what God will do to them. Divine justice will be served.

I have been meditating on this for a bit. Universalists will decry this doctrine of Hell as being cruel and incompatible with a loving God. But if God were not just, there would be no need for the Cross. There would be no need for repentance. And God would be indifferent to the sufferings of the innocent. There is a Hell. There has to be.

I can't be too harsh on the universalists because their error comes from a deep and profound appreciation for what Hell actually is. It is profound and eternal torment. Fundamentalists are rather flip about the concept, but their viewpoint is too one dimensional to appreciate the seriousness of it. This usually happens when you limit the divine law to not drinking, dancing, or chewing tobacco.

When I contemplate Hell, it changes me. It makes me more patient and forgiving. I contemplate the possibility that I may find myself there. And I feel sorrow over the bad people that will certainly go there. When I read of Christians suffering tortures and martyrdom in this life, they held fast knowing both the joy that would be theirs for holding fast to the Lord but also a contemplation of how much worse God's punishments are in comparison to this world's punishments.

Anger and hate come from a belief that there is no justice in the world. But there is justice. There is also mercy. God's mercy is patience for the time being. This time of mercy will not last forever. While it is here, we must all repent. As for our sufferings in this present life, they will be made right in eternity. Both God's love and His justice will be seen. As such, I can give up the hatred in my heart. I will forgive those who trespass against me.

Capitalism: Moral and Immoral


A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.
STEVE JOBS

Apple is the biggest company in history. I don't know if it will remain that way, and I would bet that it would not. That is not the important question. The fundamental question is this. How did Apple go from being on the brink of bankruptcy to being the most successful company in US history? And the bigger mystery remains. How did they do it without also becoming the most hated like Microsoft and Walmart? And why are those companies hated so much? I will answer those questions and others as well.

I am a free market person. I have always been for free markets. This is because I came of age during the Reagan era, and I remember the Soviet Union. I know that communism does not work. Capitalism works even if its fruits are unequal. I would rather live in unequal prosperity than equal misery. I have never wavered on this outlook, and I never will. Capitalism works.

The problem these days is that capitalism has gotten for itself a profoundly bad name. We have auto companies getting government bailouts. We have big box stores securing government favors denied to small business owners. We have companies that pay parasitic layers of managers to fellate one another all day while squeezing the last bit from their workforce that actually makes the goods and services that the company sells. Then, there are the banks. The banks are the black hole of evil in this economy. How did things get this way?

The belief is that if communism is inherently evil then capitalism must be inherently good. This simply isn't the case. Communism is inherently evil because it denies to people a basic human right. This is the right to own property. Under communism, your property belongs to the collective. Your right to that property is relative to your need. Under capitalism, you own your property. You get to exchange that property for something of greater value to you. Where capitalism fails is when you exchange something of greater value for lesser value. This is usually the result of fraud, extortion, and theft. As such, there are two types of capitalism--moral and immoral.

Immoral capitalism is all about making a buck. Moral capitalism is about creating value. There is a fine distinction here but an important one. It is relatively easy to make a buck. You buy low and sell high. Just go out and make a profit and quote some Ayn Rand to make it seem moral. It is quite hard to create value. Creating value is difficult. But it is worth it. This distinction is what makes the difference between being an Apple or a Goldman Sachs.

It is my belief that most people prefer stealing to trading. To get money without earning it is the dream of many. This is why a company like Enron ends up like it did. This is why people want a welfare check, a government subsidy. or a bailout. It is also why companies want to to stick it to their workers while the workers want to stick it to their companies. The free market merely restrains this vice as theft is not a long term winning strategy in a truly free market. Even the mafia will provide a valuable product to consumers because drugs and prostitution are more lucrative than theft and extortion. But the mafia still keeps stealing and extorting.

Government interference is what allows immoral capitalism to flourish. My libertarian friends will argue that this isn't true capitalism, and I agree. Where we will disagree is the belief that immoral capitalism disappears when you get government out of the way. It doesn't. If you have ever done business with a shyster car salesman, you realize that his sliminess is not the result of government favoritism. People really do try and con  you and get over on you in a free market. It is stupid to do this, but this is simply the story of the frog and the scorpion. It is in the nature of the scorpion to work against his own best interest. Likewise, many capitalists often undo themselves because they would rather con and steal than make a fair exchange.

The genius of Apple was the genius of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs wasn't out to steal. He simply wanted to make great products. The making of money was secondary to making awesome stuff people would want to buy. Steve Jobs practiced moral capitalism. He wasn't out to sucker his customers into buying some overpriced crap. Instead, he pushed his company to make the best devices that it possibly could. Apple did not always succeed in this endeavor as they will be the first to admit. But they did capitalism in the right way. If you create value, you are literally making money in the original sense of making money. Ayn Rand would be proud. This is how Apple became so successful. Wealth is about value.

A bank like Goldman Sachs is not about value. This doesn't mean that all banks and financial firms are inherently evil. BB&T refused to engage in subprime lending during the housing bubble because it was bad business because it hurt customers. BB&T wasn't out to merely make money but to make prudent decisions with the capital deposited in their bank. This is the creation of value. You don't have to make an iPhone to create value.

Creating value is a simple proposition. Make the goods and provide the services that you would want to buy at the best possible price. This is moral capitalism. When moral capitalism is done right, both parties in the exchange feel that they got the better part of the deal. In immoral capitalism, one party exults in the suckerdom of the other party.

The fundamental pathology of immoral capitalism is the same one with communism. It is the zero sum game. In order for me to win, someone else must lose. Immoral capitalists believe that profits are the result of conning people out of their hard earned cash. If you doubt this, read some of the emails from Goldman Sachs where they discuss "shitty deals" and sticking it to people. You won't see emails like this at Apple. Instead, you get Steve Jobs blowing a gasket and delaying the shipment of products because they do not meet his exacting requirements for quality.

The world would be a better place if people practiced moral capitalism on a universal scale. Workers would give honest labor, and companies would be loved by families instead of hated. Customers would display fanatical loyalty to quality goods and services, and the best advertising would be word of mouth. Commercials would list the virtues of a product instead of showing scantily clad bimbos or eye candy in some sort of psychological trick. This is the way advertising used to be. Customers were rational consumers not Pavlovian animals responding to a dinner bell.

The irony of our times is that the best capitalists are the ones who distrust capitalism the most. Steve Jobs was a pot smoking hippie who despised IBM. Left wing types make the best entrepreneurs whether it is Ben and Jerry's or the Grateful Dead. The reason for this is simple. Despite being Marxist in their leanings, they believe in creating value, and the market rewards this with lots of money. Ayn Rand would not be proud of this, but there it is. Hippies are moral capitalists. This ethic of value creation is all you need to be a successful entrepreneur.

How do we restrain immoral capitalism while letting moral capitalism flourish? This is very difficult to determine, but I think it would help a lot if the government stop bailing out the immoral capitalists like Goldman Sachs. Prosecuting fraud and theft would also help. Instead, the government directly helps these shysters while indirectly hurting the good guys in its efforts to make things better. The reality is that if companies are corruptible then government is even more corruptible. So, I don't believe government is the answer.

The real answer is you. You can champion moral capitalism by being a moral capitalist yourself. This means giving honest work at your job. That is a small start, but you have to remember that Apple started in a garage. Don't worry about making money. Just focus on creating value. If your company is too stupid to see this value, shop your services to other companies. Don't lie on your resume. Just tell your next employer about the value that you can create for him or her. Focus on the value not the money. The money will take care of itself. If a company can't appreciate the value you create, they are the fools and not you. When companies are this foolish, you can start your own company and hire people just like you that care about creating value. This is what Steve Jobs did. He created value, and the world opened its wallet.



Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION

I have watched none of the convention. Everything I have gotten from it has come from NPR during my morning and evening commutes. From what I have heard, Clint Eastwood is succumbing to senility, and Romney is sounding Reaganesque when he asks the nation if it is better off now than it was four years ago. The untold story is how Ron Paul was snubbed. They can let some crazy guy like Eastwood speak but not Ron Paul. Amazing. Meanwhile, anything Romney says is so much bullshit because the guy is virtually identical to Obama.

It will be fun to watch what the Democrats do. Bullshit or not, Obama is doomed this November. It is the economy, stupid. I know that I am not better off now than I was four years ago except for that whole getting married thing.

2. CHEMEX

My brother-in-law sent us a Chemex coffeemaker as a wedding gift. I was a skeptic considering it nothing more than a Mister Coffee for coffee snobs. But I started using it, and I must say that I am simply amazed. It is the best coffee I have ever had. It even works on cheap coffee from Walmart. It removes all the bitterness from the coffee. I am currently drinking some sludge from my old Mister Coffee, and it is nasty as hell. That same brand made through the Chemex is like coffee heaven. Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The only drawback to the Chemex is that it is not as convenient as a regular coffeemaker. It takes time to heat water and prepare the coffee. As such, I still do the Mister Coffee for when I need a quick fix of caffeine before work. The Chemex is the preferred choice for my evening coffee when I have the time to make it properly.

3. MORMONISM

The wife is on a bit of crusade against Mormonism as they are certain to ride Mitt Romney's presidency to greater popularity. Mormons are not Christians. You won't even find a cross in their churches. Instead, they are a crackpot murderous cult that was the brainchild of an adulterous con artist from the 19th century. Imagine Scientology with a hundred year head start. All of the good things you hear about Mormons come mostly from the LDS PR department, and they have scrubbed their church a bit for the sake of Utah statehood and for winning converts. But this is a church that literally teaches its members to "lie for the Lord." This may explain Mitt Romney's slippery hold on the truth.

If the Catholic Church is the most brutally honest church out there, then the Mormon church is the mirror opposite. Mitt Romney may portray himself as a "person of faith," but this designation applies just as equally to a member of a satanic death cult. Neither evangelicals nor Catholics should be fooled into believing Mormonism is legit. It isn't. This video gets it right: