The Niggardly Son: A Leftist Parable

Apparently, according to leftists and New Keynesians, being prodigal is a virtue. So if being prodigal is a virtue, what of its opposite? And if Jesus really were a socialist, how different would the parable had been?

The Parable of the Niggardly Son.

Once upon a time, there was a man who had two sons. One day, he decided it was time to give each of his sons their share of the estate. So he divided all his property between them.

“While he’s been selfishly inhibiting circular flow, have I not been helping it along with my drinking and debauchery?”

The first son was prodigal, and immediately set about spending his newfound wealth. This greatly pleased his father, as it meant that the resulting increase in GDP would stimulate the economy. But the second son was niggardly. He selfishly liquidated his assets and placed them in sound interest-bearing investments, greedily hoarding his wealth and decreasing aggregate demand through the Paradox of Thrift.

He went out from his home and spent many years away, amassing a great fortune, placing himself in the hated 1%. Until finally, one day, he returned.

As he approached his boyhood home, his father saw him, and ran to him and put his arms around him. The first son, the prodigal son, who initially didn’t realize what was going on having been in the middle of a particularly raucous night of economic stimulus, saw his brother returning, and became angry.

“Father!” he shouted, with a prostitute on each arm. “All these years I have obeyed you! I have given up selfish greed and avoided recession and sticky prices by spending whatever money I could at the time. I have renounced Say’s Law. I have sacrificed greatly by going into debt to help keep enough inflation going to grow the economy. I have given token amounts to the poor so that they may eat for another day. I have obeyed you in all things! But now this son of yours comes home, and you just welcome him, despite the fact that he has forsaken all that you have taught us?” Continue reading

2014 Just Isn’t Realistic

Hi, um, it’s Ian, uh, Ian Kilhansel of Bogus Publishing Group, and, uh, I got your manuscript in for your futuristic novel, 2014, set 30 years in the future.

“I mean, you’d have to be pretty dumb to fall for that.”

And, don’t get me wrong, we are wanting to work with you and we think you would be a good novelist for us and we could make a lot of money publishing your novels, but this manuscript as you’ve sent it to us, well, frankly, it needs a lot of work.

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Question for Stimulus-Believing Statists

We’ve heard over and over again that the state can stimulate the economy by creating money out of thin air. Doesn’t matter where it goes, they say (although it usually seems to go to their cronies), just create that money and you’ll be out of the recession in no time! Isn’t that what we’ve been told ever since the financial collapse? Well, I have a question about that, one I’d really like the statists to answer:


Transcript below the fold.

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An HONEST State of the Union Address

Tonight, President Obama will give his fourth State of the Union address. As usual, we can expect platitudes, spin on how well the economy is doing when it isn’t, how well government programs have worked when they haven’t, and claiming credit for things the government had nothing to do with. I’ve often wondered what it would be like if the person in the White House were actually honest, and told the Congress and the people what we really need to know. So join me in this alternate universe for the REAL State of the Union Address. The transcript follows, or you can listen to the audio here:

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9/11 Follow-Up

Well, my 9/11 commentary sure drew a lot of negativity from listeners, but I guess that’s to be expected when you have an internet full of people who each want to blame their own personal boogeyman for these horrendous attacks. And it seems that if you proffer any different motivation for the attacks, no matter how reasoned, no matter how much the facts agree with it, no matter how many intelligence experts agree with the conclusion, then you’re a horrible person who loves the terrorists and wants to make excuses for them.

These people seem to fit into one of three categories. The first is the jingoistic “America First!” crowd. To these people, America is absolutely perfect and wonderful because we have freedom and the terrorists hate that, and that’s why they attack us, and no other reason. Point out that there are other countries that are freer than America in many respects, such as Switzerland and New Zealand, and they aren’t anywhere close to being the terrorist target that we are, and you’ll receive loud screeds about how you hate America.

The second category is the Alex Jones conspiritard “truther.” I think the less said about them the better.

The third is the one I want to talk about, because that’s where I’ve gotten most of my criticism. As an atheist skeptic, it stands to reason that I’ve attracted a lot of atheist and skeptical listeners and subscribers, and many of them took great issue with what I was saying. How could I not be shouting from the mountaintops that this was due to religion, how religion poisons the minds of otherwise-good people, and makes them commit these kinds of atrocities? It just had to be Muslim extremists who believed in 72 virgins because there’s just no other way you can get people to kill themselves and others by flying planes into buildings.

Here’s a sampling of some of the comments: “Terrorist want to rule the world so the resistance to this regime and its religion is inevitable.” “We need a world free of religions once and for all.” “Religious prophecy has predicted the end of the world, and work very hard to make sure that prophecy comes true.” “Such reactions are not only fueled by religious dogma, they are a direct result of it.” “Even if we stopped meddling there’s not much can be done against a religion that hates us.” “Sorry, it is Islamic ideology, first and foremost, that drives people like Bin Laden to commit such pernicious suicide attacks.”

Well, there’s a very good reason why I didn’t say that, and that is, quite simply, it just isn’t true. Continue reading

9/11 Commentary

We have just passed the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. This should be a good time to go back and reflect on that great tragedy, what it means, and where we should go from here. Unfortunately, so many people are using it as a platform for their opinion on separation of church and state—on both sides. Of course, the real lessons of 9/11 once more go unlearned.

The lessons of 9/11 go to the unintended consequences of our foreign policy, as every intelligence expert has concluded but politicians continue to ignore and deny. They just don’t want to admit that our meddling in foreign affairs, our sending the military to police the world and topple governments and kill thousands of foreigners just might not be welcomed with open arms by some.

What’s worse is there seems to be a feedback loop. Supposedly we have to go over there to teach those terrorists a lesson. Reagan bombed Libya to teach Qadaffi a lesson. Shortly afterwards, Libyan terrorists destroyed a TWA plane over Lockerbee, Scotland. It seems that the lesson just doesn’t get learned—instead, it results in even more violence, which causes us to go over there again and try and teach another lesson…with similar results.

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It starts early…

My daughter came home today and, as usual, I checked her schoolwork. She had made a self-portrait, and above it, she had written, at the teacher’s direction, “Aleena has five senses.”

If you’re wondering what’s wrong with that, you’re probably not alone. You could probably even get this answer from any given skeptic: five senses, no more. What? A sixth sense? What kind of paranormal newage woo-woo is that?

But the truth is, our bodies are much more magnificent than that. Instead of being limited to seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching, we have a much greater experience in sensing both ourselves and the world around us.

What about when you go outside and feel how cold it is? And come back inside to the warmth? That’s not touch; you can’t touch heat. It’s thermoception.

What about when you get hurt, or in near danger of being damaged? That pain you feel isn’t touch; it’s pain, and it’s extremely useful. This is nociception.

There’s also equilibrioception, which helps us balance and gives us a sense of acceleration. If this sense is damaged (by, say, an ear infection) it can be as debilitating as losing a limb.

Proprioception, the kinesthetic sense, lets you know where the parts of your body are and what position they’re in. When you wake up, you haven’t been keeping track of how your body has moved in your sleep, but you still know exactly what position you’re in–where your arms and legs are, what side you’re lying on, what direction your fingers are going, etc. Again, people who lose this sense (generally through nerve damage of some kind) realize how much we rely on it.

Those make up our nine basic senses, but there are more besides:

Do you like spicy food? That’s due to special cell receptors which are completely different to taste. Although it activates the same nerves as for temperature, it is a different sense, and one can easily tell the difference between spicy food and food that has been heated.

You have sensors in your lungs telling you how much air is in them and how much you need to breathe.

You have sensors in your gut alerting you of gastrointestinal distress.

Your stomach has sensors that give you a feeling of hunger or fullness.

Ever felt tired or achey? That’s a response to the body dealing with some extra task such as fighting a disease.

For that matter, getting sleepy is the result of a sense, too.

We have a mild (in comparison to other animals) electroception. We can feel electric charges of a certain voltage (like static-electric shocks), and strong electrical fields (just ask anyone who’s played an electric guitar outside in the rain). We can’t use it to navigate like birds can, but it is there.

Humans have been found to have a form of echolocation, although we can’t produce any sounds other than verbally. But verbal noises, as well as attached devices that send out an audible ping, have been used in tests of blindfolded subjects to help them navigate around a dark room. It isn’t yet known how much we use this in real life.

We have pressure-detection senses, which helps us when we move from a low to a high altitude (or vice-versa).

The list goes on. There is universal agreement among scientists for the nine basic senses; whether the rest should be included, and as how many senses, is a matter of debate. By some counts, there are as many as twenty-three senses.

Why make such a big deal about this? Because the five basic senses come from Aristotle, who also said there are four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. What if we taught our children there were only four elements? Would you feel good about that? So why teach them only five senses?

What, is it because it’s easier to teach? Well, why not teach that the Sun goes around the Earth, since that’s easier for kids to understand? You shouldn’t be giving kids misinformation just because it’s easier.

I think the answer is, because the teachers just don’t know any better–and that’s a shame.

But now you do.

Liberals/skeptics are VERY selective about the Constitution.

I’ve seen this a lot in the past couple of months from
my fellow skeptics, mostly from the liberal side (the libertarian
skeptics don’t seem to have this problem). They make a big deal out of
the First Amendment, particularly the establishment clause, and rightly
so; but when it comes to other parts of the Constitution, it seems to
be okay to ignore it if it goes against what they want.

Tenth Amendment completely forbids Congress from doing anything not
mentioned in Article I Section 8, and that includes forcing schools to
teach evolution, setting a religious education policy for the schools
(as Dennett wants to do), as well as many provisions of the Civil
Rights Act (and just about everything else done by Congress, for that
matter). Sorry, guys, but that’s a state/local battle, not a Federal

Article III Section 2 completely forbids the Supreme Court
from deciding matters internal to a state and its citizens. It lists
everywhere the Supreme Court and the lower Federal courts created by
Congress has both original and appellate jurisdiction, and that’s not
one of them. The only exception is if it’s a direct controversy under
the Constitution. Shooting down Intelligent Design in the Dover trial
is therefore 100% Constitutional; setting the abortion policy for the
states based on the stages of pregnancy as Roe v. Wade did is not.

Constitution only specifies three Federal crimes: treason, piracy, and
counterfeiting. You might be able to use the Necessary and Proper
Clause to add certain other crimes related to the powers in Article I
Section 8 such as tax evasion or stealing the mail, but not any kind of
fraud, even if it is committed by psychics. If murder is a state crime,
then so is fraud.

No matter how much you feel religious stuff
should be taxed, Article I Section 9 specifically prohibits the Federal
government from taxing goods and services that cross state lines
(Section 10 likewise prohibits the states, with some very specific
exceptions). That would include religious communication.

that matter, Sections 9 and 10 prohibit both the states and the
Congress from passing Bills of Attainder. This means you can’t pass any
laws that target any person or group of people. And that includes religious groups.

Just as the Constitution does not allow
Congress to ban gay marriage, neither does it allow Congress or any
other Federal entity to require citizens, companies, or groups to
recognize gay marriage. Deal with it.

There are lots of other
examples, but this should give you the idea. The Constitution either
means something, or it doesn’t. And if you agree with even one of the
above actions, or any action that is repugnant to the Constitution,
then you have no cause–either legally or morally–to speak out against
anyone else violating the First Amendment or anything else.

As I
always say: if you want to be free to do what you want, you have to set
others free to do what you don’t want. Otherwise, you just want a
tyranny that agrees with you.

Thoughts on the Nobel Peace Prize

This is something I’ve been wondering about for years, and it’s really begun to seriously bother me lately: what do you actually have to do to win the Nobel Peace Prize?

The science prizes I can understand. Make a discovery, something that either adds greatly to what we know, or overturn something we thought we knew that ends up being bogus.

But the Peace Prize? Peace isn’t exactly a term you can define scientifically or objectively–which is really the crux of the problem. Nonetheless, I think it can be demonstrated that the Peace Prize just isn’t reliable as an award.

Certainly there have been worthy recipients–Albert Schweitzer and Norman Borlaug being among the greatest. But what about the fact that Mohandas Gandhi never received one? Could there have been a greater man of peace in all of history?

And what about the numerous unworthy recipients? How did they give it to Cordell Hull, when his actions helped deny the saving of over 900 Jewish refugees, many of whom went on to die in concentration camps? How did they give it to Henry Kissinger, because he gave “peace” to Vietnam after the Cambodia bombings, the kidnappings and murders of Operation Condor, and the invasion of Cyprus?

For that matter, why was it given to Yasser Arafat, whose crimes are well-documented? What, you can get the Nobel Peace Prize if you simply stop killing people? A serial killer could get it by not killing anyone else? And that argument doesn’t even apply to Arafat–he deliberately violated, continuously, the very peace agreement that supposedly merited him this award.

And now, this year, it was given to Al Gore. This, in my opinion, makes the Nobel Peace Prize nothing more than an irrelevant joke.

Let’s not get into the controversies around Global Warming here. For the sake of the argument, let’s assume that every single thing in An Inconvenient Truth is absolutely 100% factually correct. How, by any possible definition of the word, has it achieved even an iota of peace? How many people has it saved from the horrors of war, famine, and hatred? How many people, fearfully huddling under makeshift shelters, now get to step blinking into the sun once again because of this movie? How can the same goodness and peace brought to billions of people (yes, billions) by Norman Borlaug in any way be appropriately applied to a cheesy movie based on a bad PowerPoint presentation?

Can anyone explain to me how this isn’t just a bunch of people, who happen to be on the Nobel committee, trying to prop up their political hero? How is this in any way anything other than politics?

I say that this sullies once again the name of the Nobel Peace Prize, damages the good name of Alfred Nobel, and denigrates the work done by the real peacemakers of the world and the legacies they have left behind.

The Evil Creationist Kent Hovind

There’s just no way around it. Kent Hovind, of Creation Science Evangelism (one wonders how it can be science when it’s evangelism), is evil. If the fact that he pretends to have a doctorate degree that he didn’t earn isn’t enough, and if the fact that he’s currently spending ten years in Federal prison on multiple charges isn’t enough, this certainly should be:

He’s silencing his critics by having their YouTube videos critical of him taken down. He’s also had entire accounts pulled, including that of the Rational Response Squad. How has he done this? He’s claiming copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This, after years of saying his videos aren’t copyrighted. See for yourself:

Why is Kent Hovind now claiming copyright infringement? For no other reason to silence his critics. That, and he’s a liar.

Don’t blame YouTube for this. Once the complaint is made, they by law have to take down the videos until the controversy is solved (can anyone say, “guilty until proven innocent?”). The blame rests squarely on Hovind and the people running CSE. They’re a bunch of liars. I would say they’re a bunch of creationist liars, but that would appear to be redundant–I’ve never met a creationist yet who wasn’t a liar. Really, it’s the only way they can pretend their insane ideas have any legitimacy.

And while you’re at it, you might also blame the politicians who passed the disgusting piece of corporate protectionist trash known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I and many others said at the time that the DMCA would be used for exactly this purpose–to abuse the law and virtually eliminate Fair Use.

See, the thing is, even if Hovind’s videos were copyrighted, what these users have done would still be legal as Fair Use under Title 17 Section 107 of the United States Code. The DMCA gives corporations, not to mention liars like Hovind and the rest of the CSE, a legal battleaxe to wield against the legitimate rights of others.

Fight evil Hovind, fight the evil CSE, fight the evil creationists (at the very least, send them a copy of the Ninth Commandment; it’s obviously missing from their Bible), and fight the evil DMCA.

And to everyone at the Rational Response Squad, as well as RabidApe and the other users who have had videos removed or accounts suspended, stay strong. You are in the right.