April 25, 2018 § 23 Comments
A reader posted a link to the Usury FAQ in a Twitter discussion with HJA Sire, the author of The Dictator Pope. (I have a Kindle copy of the first edition of that book, written under a pseudonym. It is pretty interesting and worth your time to read). The screencap shows the response he got.
April 19, 2018 § 33 Comments
Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge. They hope to get both sentenced to a year in prison on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to: betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is:
If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge)
The thing to notice about the Prisoner’s Dilemma as a one-off situation is that each prisoner is better off betraying the other, no matter what the other prisoner does.
However real life does not consist of a single one-off choice, and the PD can be re-imagined as an ongoing game with repeated rounds, where years in prison are replaced by points in the game: “less years in prison” equals more points, if you will, and the more points you get the better you are doing in the game. Each round of the game a player chooses whether to cooperate or defect, and the game is played for an indeterminate number of rounds. The goal is to maximize how well you are doing “against the House” not against the other player: to minimize total years in prison, if you will.
In this iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma, wherein two players engage in the game repeatedly, actual human beings use the game itself to communicate with each other and collaborate. A very effective strategy in an iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma (played against another human being) is not betrayal but “tit-for-tat“: cooperate with the other player unless he defects; if he defects then ‘punish’ him by defecting on the next round. In this way a pair of “prisoners” can optimize their score against the house over time, by learning to cooperate.
Iterated “games” are fundamentally different from one-off situations. This is why intelligent decision makers learn, over time, not to negotiate with terrorists. Terrorist negotiations may (or may not) change the outcome in a particular case, for better or worse. (The choice there is ultimately up to the terrorist, not the negotiator, since presumably the negotiator is not proposing to do something evil himself).
But choosing to negotiate with terrorists in general is what gives terrorists power; and in an open-ended iterated “game” this means that in the long run the evil party wins. Each negotiation increases the power of “team terrorist”. If this goes on long enough morality will invert: “team terrorist” will be seen as victims rather than perpetrators; opposing their wanton slaughter of the innocent will come to be seen as oppressive tyranny; and the mountains of corpses will pile up to the sky. (I say “will” as if this were a future prediction rather than a retrospective).
January 28, 2018 § 79 Comments
Consider two college classmates, Bob and Fred. For a time they seemed to be friends; later they stopped being friendly.
Fred talks to a professor about his falling out with Bob. Fred claims that a year and a half prior Fred had driven Bob out into the Shenandoah wilderness to go hiking. He says that the two had disagreed about how far into the wilderness they were going to hike, and that when Fred insisted that they go no further the larger and stronger Bob attacked him, beat him up, and forced him to go all the way to Old Rag. Then Fred drove the two of them back to campus and said nothing about the incident for a year and a half.
The professor (correctly) tells Fred that if this story is true he was a victim of criminal assault and battery.
Bob denies that he ever threatened (criminal assault) or hit (criminal battery) Fred, and says that Fred was the one insisting that they go on a longer hike.
As an administrator at this small college with a very small campus and very limited resources, you have to decide what to do. Fred already has a psychiatrist/counselor, and in the course of investigating one of the things you do is ask Fred if you can talk to his counselor. The college is far too small, maybe a few dozen classrooms in total, to enforce a regime of strict separation every time two students don’t get along and accuse each other of wrongdoing.
Knowing all this Fred’s parents continue to send him back to the college, where his alleged attacker also continues to attend, because apparently they themselves don’t think he is in any danger. Bob is subjected to special scrutiny; is reprimanded and punished in a few cases where there is evidence of obnoxious behavior toward Fred.
Seven years later a flock of shrieking harpies descend, demanding justice for Fred’s victimization to “assault and battery,” carefully avoiding the inconveniently truthful word “alleged.” The form of justice they demand is to insist that the college must “take accusations seriously” — that is, the college must treat (some) gossip and rumor as if it were true for the purpose of making administrative decisions.
It is at this point that you, gentle reader, have to decide what sort of society you really want to live in: a civilization where public justice is carried out based on evidence available to third parties, third parties who out of necessity have to make authoritative decisions about what to do; or a banana republic in which public justice is carried out based on unverifiable gossip. It is indeed a weakness of evidence based justice that some people get away with wrongdoing; though of course this is also true, to an even greater extent, in a gossip-based system.
Be careful what you decide; because the most common refrain some time after saying “what could it hurt?” is “how were we supposed to know?” You are setting up your own daughters to fall victim to a future transsexual/non-cis gossip system of justice; since natural, surgically unaltered women are not at the top of the liberal victim hierarchy.
 The gossip and rumor which must be treated as authoritatively true are the gossip and rumor that the harpies favor. Other gossip and rumor is to be discounted. The criteria for accepting some gossip and rejecting other gossip is ambiguous, but definitely does not involve evidence.
January 19, 2018 § 133 Comments
Apparently an attention starved Catholic mommy blogger wrote a hit piece against Christendom College. I won’t link to the two part article itself because I’m not interested in driving traffic to trolls; but what follows is easily verifiable. As usual with hubbubs like this I have a few specific things to point out, and no intention of addressing everything that everyone is saying on the subject.
The central ‘stage setting’ incident in part one of the hit piece took place in 2009. Apparently a young female student drove herself (she was the driver with the car keys) and her boyfriend away from the college, past the local town with its hundreds of businesses and thousands of residences, deep into the Shenandoah mountains, to an isolated location in a national park. A year and a half later she was talking about it with a professor and claimed she now realized that she was raped, in a classic “he said she said, long after the fact” scenario.
I find this story perfectly plausible. It is also manifestly unverifiable.
By all accounts the college did everything it could do in as professional, compassionate, and (nontrivially) legal a manner as anyone could reasonably expect. The young man was investigated and punished for actually verifiable behaviors on campus, etc — the details (putative and otherwise), again, are available elsewhere so there is no need to rehash them here.
At least one of the individuals cited in the article series claims, in the combox, that the blogger’s citation is a tendentious misrepresentation of what was said in the interview. So the veracity and fairness of the article is publicly disputed by one of its own sources. But even if we grant the entire factual situation as reported, the articles are a complete hash of emotive nonsense. The young woman who claims she was raped explains, as paraphrased by the blogger using her as clickbait:
But several former and current students say the school’s sheltered, highly structured campus culture actually facilitates sexual assault …
She says that the rules against romantic public displays of affection were so restrictive, it drove couples off campus.
So the central point of the article (its very title is “Are Women Safe in Christendom’s Bubble?”) seems to be that the College does such a great job enforcing decent behavior on campus that this forces students to go off campus to drink, engage in sexual debauchery, etc. Horrors! Christendom is so well-governed that it is virtually impossible, certainly in comparison to most colleges, to sexually assault women on campus!
And apparently in this specific case the mere proximity of the campus was so oppressive that it was necessary for the alleged victim herself – again she was the driver – to motor, not just a few miles into the nearby town, but to far off in the isolated Virginia mountain wilderness. How else to fully escape the aura of moralistic oppression at Christendom and make possible the campus rapeyness that everyone in the Current Year has come to expect?
The logic doesn’t get any better as the lengthy articles progress. The young woman’s father complains that students are punished for being drunk on campus but are not punished for “being a rapist” on campus:
“I always find it interesting they always try to punish students for drinking off campus, if you come back to campus drunk,” [the father] said. “I say, if you rape off campus, when you come back to campus, you’re still a rapist.”
In case the category error isn’t obvious, consider a different situation — streaking, say. Nobody would fault the college for punishing a student caught running around naked on campus. Everyone with any modicum of sanity would fault the college for punishing Student A with no evidence other than that Student B unverifiably claims to have seen Student A streaking deep in the Shenandoah wilderness after she drove him there. (“But women very rarely lie about streaking” come emotion-laden shrieks from the Estrogenic Cloud).
A commenter suggested that the risk men bear of being falsely accused of sexual assault or rape is analogous the risk that women bear of getting pregnant: that this somehow balances things out (which is the important thing). The obvious difference is that a man can be falsely accused of rape even if he did nothing wrong at all; whereas pregnancy only comes about in a very specific, concrete, well understood way. No woman needs to adopt the (at this point well vindicated) Pence rule to refrain from sexual intercourse and avoid pregnancy. But any man who doesn’t follow the Pence rule is taking on the risk of being falsely accused of sexual harassment or worse.
The question of actual evidence and its relation to “victim blaming” gets to the heart of the matter. If this young man in fact legitimately raped this young woman, as demonstrated by actual solid evidence, by all means punish him in the harshest manner as a rapist. There is no statute of limitations on rape, and nobody is responsible for an act of rape itself except the rapist.
But punishment in this case – indeed public rendering of the truth at all – is not (as reported at least) possible, because there isn’t any evidence. The only people who actually know what actually happened are the two people who were there at the time: he said, she said.
A more pertinent question then is, who is responsible for there not being any evidence? Who put us in this situation? Was it Christendom College with its overbearing and oppressive institutional success, when compared to pretty much all colleges everywhere, in keeping rapeyness and even consensual debauchery off campus; or was it someone else?
The most proximate person responsible for the impossibility of determining the truth in an objective, public way is the person in the literal driver seat who chose to drive the two of them, alone, deep into the Virginia wilderness. And in close proximity to that person – perhaps carrying the greater responsibility, because responsibility comes along with age, wisdom, and authority – are parents who give driver’s licenses to young women and send them off to college hundreds of miles distant without any inkling that a seventeen year old driving deep into the wilderness with a random boyfriend is every bit as imprudent as a ten year old getting into a car with a stranger offering candy.
Close behind are trolling mommy bloggers who write self-serving hit pieces against an obviously well managed Catholic college precisely because of that college’s undeniable success, versus all of its peers, in keeping rape at the status of an off campus problem rather than an on campus problem.
UPDATE 1/21/2018: Added the sentence “So the veracity and fairness of the article is publicly disputed by one of its own sources. ” Corrected the word “estrogenic”.
November 5, 2017 § 94 Comments
Since 1999, I have directed a pastoral counseling agency that conducts over 12,000 [hours] of pastoral counseling per year. That means that, over the last 18 years, I have either personally conducted, or been directly responsible for, over 216,000 hours of pastoral counseling, which is all about asking how one can apply the teachings of our Catholic faith to some of the most complex situations one could encounter in life. Our agency’s services are delivered in English and Spanish to Catholic couples, families, and individuals across North and South America, Europe, Asia (primarily Hong Kong and India), Australia, and Africa, which has given me a uniquely multi-cultural lens through which to view this question of pastoral practice. I am a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, and I serve as the Chair of the Education Committee for the Catholic Psychotherapy Association, which is responsible for the professional development of the next generation of pastoral psychotherapists. I also direct a graduate program in pastoral studies which is forming the next generation of pastoral ministers. I have written over 20 books and programs on a host of serious, practical, faith-based topics that have been translated into at least 7 languages.
The idea that the laity are doomed to be spiritual also-rans strikes me as a particularly pernicious failure of pastoral practice. I am, frankly, appalled that what appears to be driving the progressive advocacy of an interpretation of Chapter 8 of AL that supports communion for Catholics who are remarried without the benefit of annulment is that lay people are just too weak to live holy lives. It seems to me that some 50 years after Vatican II, lay people deserve a little better than “we think we have to lower the bar because, well, you suck.”
… I happen to work with an awful lot of people who have been heroically bearing the cross of living faithfully in their irregular marriages for years and who are a testament both to the fact that the current teaching bears real personal and relational fruit AND the fact that heroism is for the average Christian (thank you very much). On their behalf, I can only say, “How dare you.” to anyone, who out of their misguided approach to pastoral practice would seek to demean the witness of such faithful, courageous, godly, and yes, heroic people.
(HT: LMS Chairman)
November 23, 2016 § 25 Comments
Apparently Elton John is going to sing at the inauguration of America’s first unapologetically pro-gay-rights president, who is simultaneously – because of Current Year distortion in political spacetime – so right wing that he is Literally Hitler.
Huffington Post publishes a denial from the Rocket Man’s publicist. Apparently EJ finds Trump personally nice yet politically horrifying ; something that is bound to happen in the closely confined space inside the Event Horizon, which naturally gives birth to ‘personally opposed but politically supportive’ and ‘personally supportive but politically opposed’ doublethink. Maybe that makes Trump’s rainbow flag waving and ‘settled law’ statements about gay ‘marriage’ just fine, as long as we aren’t subjected to a live rendition of “Tiny Dancer”.
November 1, 2016 § 210 Comments
Liberalism survives and thrives over many generations of men by asserting unprincipled exceptions to deal with its own excesses. In a world where Marxist professors are being pilloried for their cisgender whiteness and right wing wrongthought, this gives rise to movements like (what the Current Year labels) the alt right.
The alt-right is a noisy (on the Internet) anti-establishment and – typical of anti-establishment liberalism – deliberately offensive minority part of the new conservative synthesis, which we might call Trumpism. Rather than seeing the 1950’s as America’s cultural high water mark, Trumpism sees the 1990’s as America’s cultural high water mark.
Some parts of the alt-right explicitly repudiate equality, so it is fair to ask why this repudiation does not in fact constitute a principled exception to liberalism. The answer is twofold.
First, the equality at the foundations of liberalism is equality of rights among the superman. Failure to specify that what is explicitly and unequivocally repudiated is liberalism’s assertion of equal rights allows the principle itself to sneak in by the back door, as a principle which still obtains among the superman.
Second, equality is not the most fundamental commitment of liberalism. Equal rights inevitably follow from liberalism’s fundamental commitment to political liberty, and when denied by right-liberals simply reassert themselves under other guises.
The most fundamental commitment of liberalism as a political philosophy is right there in its name: liberty. As long as the alt-right is going on about free speech and freedom of religion and the like it is simply policing liberalism’s worst excesses: preserving liberalism’s unquestioned rule for future generations.
It is fair though, given the ubiquity and existential necessity (to liberalism) of unprincipled exceptions, to ask what principled opposition to liberalism would look like. Obviously we can tell all sorts of fictional stories that might or might not resemble the unfolding of history if certain things are or are not done; but that kind of storytelling is not what I mean. Those kinds of things are always in the hands of Providence, and the idea that we can choose how history unfolds in some pilot-the-machine way is wrongheaded as an idea.
What I mean is simply characterization of principled opposition to liberalism, not a surround sound IMAX movie plot of the future.
Principled opposition to liberalism would repudiate political freedom unequivocally, without making excuses and without trying to sneak it in by some back door rationalization.
It would be willing to call sodomy a punishable crime, and would not promote flaming homosexuals (however talented and amusing) as thought leaders and rhetorical champions. As with all punishable crimes, there is plenty of room for argument over the appropriate range of specific actions balancing mercy and justice: but as a matter of category, sodomy would be a punishable crime.
It would be willing to admit that offensive speech can be a punishable crime.
It would be willing to call public religious heresy a punishable crime, and would acknowledge Catholic Christianity to be the true religion.
Examples can be multiplied. But we can certainly know a principled exception when we see it. And the exceptions we see on the alt-right specifically, and in the new Trumpist conservative synthesis more generally, are not principled.