Monday, December 24, 2012

What are you doing here?

Close this window.  Shut off your computer.  Go hug your family, sing some carols, eat too much and open your presents.  And don't forget to go to church some time in the next 24 hours.  Have a blessed, blessed Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What if the world had come to an end yesterday?

Well, that was awkward, too ....

So ... apparently the magic apocalyptic decoder ring doesn't work so well with either Christian scriptures or Mayan calendars.  If it were me, I'd put it back in the Cap'n Crunch box and send it back to General Mills.

Send them your copy of The Prophecies of Nostradamus, while you're at it.  And I'm still waiting on my Jetsons car and Dick Tracy two-way wrist TV.

I can't rag these people too much.  After all, I'm prone to fits of the-end-is-near prophecy as well.  I'm still convinced that the economy will irretrievably tank by 2030 (I qualify for full SSI benefits in 2031, of course), triggering the second collapse of Western civilization.  If it's not inevitable, I find it a lot more likely than Ray Kurzweil's "Singularity" and the childlike belief that advances in medicine will help "us" (read "the rich") achieve "actuarial escape velocity" (yes, in 2045 the most happy state will arise).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Re-doing the math

Bill O'Reilly gets on my nerves.

Okay, I understand that the pressures of the instant media make it difficult to do a lot of research before one has to put on makeup and get in front of the camera for a thirty-second thinkpiece.  Which is one reason why these segments should be rotated between two or three people, no more than one segment per day (through the miracle of recording, it can be replayed ad nauseam), so the commentators can have plenty of time to look up the facts for their next piece.

But Bill O'Reilly illustrates well exactly what Alexander Pope meant by the poem, "A Little Learning".  Consider his December 6th rant on "entitlement spending":

Right now an estimated 66 million Americans are receiving food stamps and/or Medicaid. In addition, there are 21 million folks working for the government.  That means that 87 million people in America are being subsidized by we [sic] the taxpayers.  But there are only 109 million Americans working in the private sector.  Doing the math, it's impossible for 109 million workers to support 87 million people. It can't be done. No matter how much you tax the workers.

Hold on a moment, Mr. O'Reilly.  The 21 million people working for the government aren't being "subsidized" ... they are being compensated. The money and benefits they receive are wages in return for labor, and is their just due (and just to make it clear, that 21 million covers all government workers — federal, state and local).  Ironically, they too get taxed; who in the private sector contributes to his employer for his own wages? We can certainly talk about whether each and every job done by a civil servant needs to be done.  However, if they work for us, then we're obliged to pay them fair, honest wages.
Next issue is the 109 million in the private sector: this seriously misrepresents the number of people paying taxes out of their income.  As of November, 143.3 million civilians were employed, along with about 1.4 million men and women in the armed forces.  While these numbers include government workers, as I pointed out above, they too pay taxes.  And, by the way, so do many of the people on food stamps and Medicaid: the government giveth, and the government taketh away.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wake up, sleepyheads!

© 2012 Sarah Webb/Catholic Standard and Times
If a Catholic "Great Awakening" can happen in France, it can happen here, too.

That, at least, is what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops believes, and is trying to get moving.  San Francisco's new angel, Abp. Salvatore Cordileone, says that the USCCB's new five-part pastoral strategy is "not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which engages the New Evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith.”

Talk about engagement:  The plan, as currently laid out, envisages five ways to participate that, taken together, constitute a pretty thorough spiritual workout:

  1. Host or attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour (an hour spent in prayer and reflection in a chapel in which the Holy Eucharist is displayed;
  2. Pray a daily Rosary;
  3. Include prayers for life, marriage and religious liberty in the Prayers of the Faithful at daily and weekly Masses;
  4. Fast and abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year;
  5. Participate in the 2nd annual Fortnight for Freedom (June/July 2013).

 Not all the details are completely worked out, but they're forthcoming; see the USCCB website here for further details, and be sure to bookmark the page!