Thursday, September 29, 2011
- "CSI Paleolithic": Prehistoric burial sites show rates of violent death averaging 15%, against 3% in the twentieth century and 0.3% in the twenty-first. (So far.)
- Europe's homicide rate has plunged since 1300: "So a contemporary Englishman has about a 50-fold less chance of being murdered than his compatriot in the Middle Ages. (By the way, [the high point] of 100 per 100,000 per year comes from Oxford.)"
- Fewer atrocities: Pinker looks at major events -- war, man-made famine, and so forth -- measured as a proportion of the world's population throughout history. He finds that "World War II just barely makes the top ten. There are many events more deadly than World War I. And events which killed from a tenth of one percent of the population of the world to ten percent were pretty much evenly sprinkled over 2500 years of history."
- The Hobbesian Leviathan: "a state and justice system with a monopoly on legitimate use of violence, can reduce aggregate violence by eliminating the incentives for exploitative attack; by reducing the need for deterrence and vengeance (because Leviathan is going to deter your enemies so you don't have to), and by circumventing self-serving biases."
- "Gentle Commerce": "Over the course of history, improvements in technology have allowed goods and ideas to be traded over longer distances, among larger groups of people, and at lower cost, all of which change the incentive structure so that other people become more valuable alive than dead. To be concrete: I doubt that the United States is going to declare war on China (though there's much that we don't like about that country), because they make all our stuff. And I doubt China will declare war on us, because we owe them too much money."
- The "Expanding Circle": (The term is borrowed from Peter Singer, the idea from Darwin.) "[E]volution bequeathed us with a sense of empathy. That's the good news; the bad news is that by default, we apply it only to a narrow circle of allies and family. But over history, one can see the circle of empathy expanding: from the village to the clan to the tribe to the nation to more recently to other races, both sexes, children, and even other species. This just begs the question of what expanded the circle. I think one can argue that the forces of cosmopolitanism pushed it outward: exposure to history, literature, media, journalism, and travel encourages people to adopt the perspective of a real or fictitious other person."
- The "Elevator of Reason": "As literacy, education, and the intensity of public discourse increase, people are encouraged to think more abstractly and more universally, and that will inevitably push in the direction of a reduction of violence. People will be tempted to rise above their parochial vantage point, making it harder to privilege their own interests over others. Reason leads to the replacement of a morality based on tribalism, authority and puritanism with a morality based on fairness and universal rules."
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The position of the Republican establishment in Washington is not to convert Social Security from a financial house of cards into an actuarially sound retirement program that would improve everyone’s retirement income, but instead to scrub its rolls and transform it into a real welfare program by means testing it, reducing benefits and making people work longer.
Trying to make Social Security a better deal for government by making it a worse deal for workers as the Republican Establishment wants to do is the ultimate exploitation of the people by the government.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Saturday, September 17, 2011
... Mattingly’s piece reminded me of the day I sat in the back pew of a Catholic church on the eastside of Austin, Texas, with my friend Rose, who is Tejana and Catholic. Pointing to a gorgeous mural of a dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe that spanned the cathedral chancel, Rose smiled at me conspiratorially and said, “I bring my kids here to see God as a big, brown-skinned woman.”
Don’t tell Rose that she doesn’t worship Mary, or that she doesn’t “get” Catholicism, as heretical as her feminist Tejana take on it might be.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The first righteous men, as Abel, and [Noah], called as it were at the first hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection.
Other righteous men after them, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of their age, called as it were at the third hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection.
Other righteous men, as Moses, and Aaron, and whosoever with them were called as it were at the sixth hour, will receive together with us the blessedness of the resurrection.
After them the Holy Prophets, called as it were at the ninth hour, will receive together with us the same blessedness.
In the end of the world all Christians, called as it were at the eleventh hour, will receive with the rest the blessedness of that resurrection.
[Some] were called at the first hour, who begin to be Christians fresh from their mother's womb; boys are called as it were at the third, young men at the sixth, they who are verging toward old age, at the ninth hour, and they who are called as if at the eleventh hour, are they who are altogether decrepit; yet all these are to receive the one and the same denarius of eternal life.
[T]wo things [that] are the death of souls: despair, and perverse hope. For as a good and right hope saves, so does a perverse hope deceive.
And so again many lethargic ones are healed. For to such are they like, who are not violent against Christ, nor malicious against Christians, but who in their delay are only dull and heavy with drowsy words, are slow to open their eyes to the light, and are annoyed with those who would arouse them.Get away from me,says the heavy, lethargic man,I pray you, get away from me.Why?I wish to sleep.But you will die in consequence. He through love of sleep will answer,I wish to die.And Love from above calls outI do not wish it.
The Lutheran order of worship underwent some radical changes in the eighteenth century under the influence of Rationalism; the spirit of worship cooled down; the weekly communion was abolished; the sermon degenerated into a barren moral discourse; new liturgies and hymnbooks with all sorts of misimprovements were introduced.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
In case you haven’t noticed, hysteria is what the terrorists want. In fact, it’s the only win a decapitated, weakened al-Qaida can get these days. The only hope that these eschatological conspiracy theorists possess for success lies in compelling the U.S. to spend its way into oblivion and pursue ill-conceived wars. That’s how Osama bin Laden transforms from a cave-dwelling psycho into a world-historical figure — not because of what he was, but because of how we reacted to him.
Former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke has an answer. “There’s going to be a terrorist strike some day,” Clarke told Frontline for its “Top Secret America” documentary this week. “And when there is, if you’ve reduced the terrorism budget, the other party, whoever the other party is at the time, is going to say that you were responsible for the terrorist strike because you cut back the budget. And so it’s a very, very risky thing to do.”
The risk, in other words, is a political risk.
Friday, September 09, 2011
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
The king in our parable is owed 10,000 talents, or about 150,000 years worth of income ...
The slave in our parable is owed 100 denarii. ..
One talent is equal to 5,475 denarii. In the backwards thinking of the king the equation looks like this: T x 104< FS; where FS is the life of the forgiven slave, and T is the talent, the wages of sin. In the kingdom of heaven forgiveness is exponentially powerful. Even 10,000 talents worth of guilt and debt are counted as nothing compared to the new life of the forgiven sinner.
In the backwards thinking of the unforgiving servant the equation is reversed when it is applied to someone else: US < d x 102; where US is the life of the unforgiven slave, and d is the denarius, the debt the first slave clings to as his right. To put the comparative equation simply, in the eyes of the sinner 100 coins are more precious than the life of another human being; in the eyes of God 54,750,000 coins (the equivalent value of 10,000 talents in denarii) are nothing to be considered next to the fate of the sinner. Forgiveness, as laid out in this parable, is extravagant in the extreme, and more precious by far than the wages of sin.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.
The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.